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Thursday, 13 February 2014

Travel at Your Own Risk


Tip heavy? Remember just one bag

DEDICATED TO R.W. 'JOHNNY' APPLE JR.
 
PhiladelphiaJunto@ymail.com
GETTING TIPSY
BY RICHARD CARRENO
[WITERSCLEARINGHOUSE NEWS SERVICE/BIO]

A GUIDE TO
TRAVEL SURVIVAL
AVOID RENTING CAR AT ARRIVAL
Sure, sometimes, it's a must. If you do, rent from the same company worldwide. Better yet, try for a driver, if you have the means. Public transport is generally safer, faster, cheaper, and more convenient. Even if your public ride is more expensive, refer to other factors. Never, ever, rent a car in a lawless country. Or one where the legal system is tipped against Westerners -- ie. Arab countries. You don't want to know what happens if you kill someone in a vehicular accident, say, in Saudia Arabia.
 
JOIN LOYALTY PROGRAMMES
All of them. Not just airlines. But car rental companies and hotel chains, as well. That said. Stick, whenever possible, with one vendor in each travel field. Loyalty really does count. And why not exploit the bennies? Some vendors have special loyalty programmes for businesses. Join these as well. Even if you have create a bogus business.
 
JOIN GLOBAL ENTRY/PRE-CHECK
These are the federal TSA and Custom Service programmes that allow for swifter movement through TSA and Custom queues. They really make a difference, and worth the $100 fee (for 10 years). Joining Global qualifies you for Pre-Check. Of course, you must reveal all to the authorities. No privacy. But, really, haven't you done that already?
 
CARRY A FLASHLIGHT
 
PREPARE FOR TSA WRINGER
Now that you're in Global/Pre-Check, you no longer have remove shoes and belts. And your laptop doesn't have to be removed. (By the way, who really carries a laptop anymore? Your smart phone is all you need. Otherwise use the computer at your hotel). But other stuff still still needs to be scanned. Carry a light-weight cloth pouch, and before you even smell TSA, put these items in the pouch and stow in your carry-on.


THAT'S RIGHT, A CARRY-ON
Always use a roll-aboard. Losing your luggage is the least of your worries. (Furthermore, it rarely happens today as all pieces are computer tracked). What does happen -- albeit not often -- is theft. By TSA and baggage handlers. Carry-on and hand luggage are important for convenience. Moreover, what is important -- documents, medicine, business papers -- should never be out of your sight. if you are forced to gate-check, make sure nothing of importance is in your carry-on. Clothes are not important.
 
ONE BAG?
You got that right. No matter where you go, it's one carry-on bag. OK, go ahead and check a bag (often free depending on your loyalty status). But remember that nothing important ever goes anywhere where you don't have in hand/in sight. If you think you really need more than one bag, you are probably under the mistaken belief that they don't sell socks, underwear, and other stuff at your destination. Yes, Maude, even toilet paper. Really, it's just like at home.
 
AVOID HARD-SHELL BAGS
For overnight, not a problem. For longer trips, make sure your roll-aboard expands, expands, and expands. Pack all pyjamas, underwear, socks, etc., for your trip. Toss them before you repack for your journey home. That's right! Throw that nasty stuff in the rubbish bin. Makes room for your new purchases. Maybe even some new socks!
 
DOWNLOAD BOARDING GATES
For all your flights. At all airports.
 
USE SELF CHECK-IN AT AIRPORTS
Unless you have issues. Don't have issues.
 
CARRY A SMART PHONE. ONLY A SMART PHONE
Forget lugging Ipads, laptops, and your mother's tape-recorder. And make sure you're connected while overseas with an unlocked phone. Do it the cheap way. A local SIM card will do. (Also see T-Mobile for alternative answers).
 
FIRST CLASS. BUSINESS CLASS
This a tricky one. Who can afford it, right? If you can, don't be a piker. Get your business to pony up. Gets you out out of the middle seat. And you know what that means. (Refer to Weight-Watchers for answer).
 
AVOID USE OF DEBIT BANK CARD
Use a no annual fee credit card with good points/rewards system instead. Never ever give a band card to a hotel, car rental company (see above), or any other open-ended fee vendor. Once you've given them your bank card, they have carte blanche to drain your bank account. Does it happen? Not much. But it has. Moreover, always ask the vendor what will be the amount of their hold (larger than your actual charge). (Some companies place an exact-amount hold. Patronise these vendors).
 
NEVER 'TAMPER' WITH A BILL
In other words, do not hand insert a tip to a restaurant bill, etc. Pay tips in cash. Always. (If you adjust a printed bill, that opens the charge to be adjusted (tampered with) by the vendor. You might wind up paying a 50 percent tip).
 
AVOID TEXAS
See Texas for answer.
 
USE PORTERS AND SKYCAPS
Seek out these services at airports, hotels, train stations, etc. This is not the time to be skinflint. Never lug your stuff. Unseemly. Difficult. And tiring. If you want to save, have a cheap lunch. Skip dinner. Don't watch porno movies on the hotel TV.
 
NEVER ARGUE WITH AIRPORT PERSONNEL
Pretty much the same at hotels, and with TSA cowboys, etc. Resolve issues politely. Don't try to throw your weight around. Don't bully. You're just another road warrior. They know it. Don't try to behave differently. Otherwise they'll get even. You won't know when. But they will get even.
 
DON'T WIMP OUT
Know your airline rights. If you don't think your taxi driver took you by the shortest route, stiff after you left the cab. He can't get even at that point. Also, always have your rez on your smart phone, or in printed form. Confirm your agreed-upon rates during check-in. On check-out get on-line or paper receipts! Remember, 'If you don't ask, you don't get.' If you're delayed at a airport, ask for freebies. A distressed hotel rate. A meal voucher. An upgrade. But don't overdo it. And be courteous. Not demanding.
 
BUILD IN EXTRA TIME
Travel is not seamless. There are screw-ups. Planes break and often are late. (They're machinery, after all). Pilots and stews are sometimes late for their flight. Wildcat strikes happen. Your cab can get a flat tyre. Why many airline travellers expect a level of unrealistic high-performance service they would never demand from other forms of public transportation is puzzling. Who demands a free ride if your bus is late? Airline travel is often unpredictable. Get used to it. And don't, for God's sake, tell the airline agent that you need priority service because you will perform/undergo heart surgery 'tomorrow.' You'll probably be the tenth passenger to have said that on any given day.
 
TIP, TIP, AND TIP SOME MORE
When you arrive at the hotel, tip everyone you've had contact with. Make eye contact. Palm the tip. Coins are OK for out-door services. Notes inside. At check-in drop a note on the counter as soon as it seems right. Check in with the concierge first thing. Drop a tip. Tip the guy that brings up your bags. That's right. That's a job. Let him do it. Within fifteen minutes at the hotel, you've made friends. They know that you're not Rockefeller. But they also know you're not a piker. Do similar routines at restaurants, etc. On the other hand, don't tip for shoddy service. Resto service was awful. Lowball. Taxi took you long way. Stiff the driver. But always do this as you're about to leave the resto, or stepped out of the taxi. 
 
KEEP COPIES
Keep copies of your reservations and receipts on your phone or in printed form. Don't rely on any clerk to tell you needn't worry. You do. Buying tickets from the concierge? Find out the charge. It will be more, for obvious reasons, than the printed charge. Tip anyway. Compare and reconcile your final bill.
 
ASK FOR DISCOUNTS
At museums, theatres, concerts, ask for discounted tickets based on your status, if qualified. A senior? A student? A teacher? Unemployed? Depending where you are, these and other status markers grant a discount or free admission. Again, ask. Also be be prepared to show ID.
 
PHOTOGRAPH YOUR DOCUMENTS
ID? Photograph your passport, driver's license, professional IDs, etc., to your phone. These photos do not replace the real thing. But they are evidence that you have them, or used to have them if they lost.
 
JOIN A LOUNGE OR AIRLINE CLUB
If you're stranded, you'll find an oasis at airport lounge or club. Priority Pass tends to be the best bet since it provides access to multiple airline lounges worldwide. Like first class, the idea is to get away from crowds -- and the middle seat.

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