Tips for Traveling During Winter Storms

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

When winter weather hits, here are some top tips to help travelers get to their destinations safely.

Skip the first and last flights. If you’re traveling during seasons with a high likelihood of inclement weather, you may want to avoid the first or last flight of the day since these flights have a higher frequency of being canceled, depending on the start and end time of the storm.

Reroute a connecting flight. There are times the weather in your departure city and at your destination is clear, but weather in your connecting city is less than desirable. If that happens, a travel advisor can help you reroute your connection flight through an airport with no delays.

Take advantage of travel waivers. Often airlines will issue travel waivers that allow you to re-book your ticket away from the affected dates at no additional charge. You should take advantage of these when they post. Your travel advisor monitors these, but you can, too.

Avoid booking flights at the ticket counter. If you must buy a new ticket, avoid doing so at the airport ticket counter, or else you will likely pay a higher rate. Call a travel advisor to book you, even if you are standing in an airport.

Consider larger airports and travel light. If you suspect there may be severe weather threats during your time of travel, consider flying from a larger airport. Larger international airports will have a greater chance of more alternate flights, and they are also better equipped to clear runways faster or with de-icing of a plane.

Pack carry-on with necessities. If you travel with only a carry-on, you’ll be in a better position to change flights quickly in the event of a cancellation. If you must check luggage, make sure your carry-on has essential necessities, such as all of your prescription medications and a couple of changes of clothes. If you’re flying to a warm-weather destination, include your swim wear so you can relax by the pool or on the beach while the rest of your luggage catches up with you.

Hotels offer cancellation waivers. If severe weather will keep you from arriving at your destination hotel, your hotel management is often quite accommodating by offering cancellation waivers to help you avoid no-show or late arrival fees. However, do notify your hotel as soon as possible if you will not be able to make it to your destination, or contact your travel advisor who can reach out to all of your reservations, from car rental to hotel or group tours to let them know.

Book a room early if you’re facing an overnight delay. If it seems weather conditions will keep you from getting to your final destination that same day, it is important to make a room reservation for an overnight stay as soon as possible. A travel advisor who has built relationships with hotels should be able to help find you a room so that you’re not sleeping on an airport cot with stranded travelers.

Sign up for travel insurance. For those instances where you may miss a flight because you were stuck in traffic or your ship sailed without you when your flight was canceled or delayed, travel insurance can be your saving grace to recoup all or part of your travel investment. Your Travel Consultant can help explain your various options for the different types of travel insurance.

Get travel advisories or weather alerts delivered to your phone. There are several apps that allow you to receive email or text message notifications from your airline about your flight’s status. A weather.com app can keep you updated about conditions.

Stay on the main roads. If you’re driving between destinations, stick to major highways or well-traveled roads to facilitate other people coming to your rescue easily should you need assistance. Travel also during daylight hours or when car repair shops or convenience stores are more likely to be open. If you’re stranded in your vehicle for an extended period, run your engine for only a few minutes once or twice an hour to stay warm and conserve gas. While the car is running, be sure to slightly roll down a window to keep carbon monoxide from building up inside.

Pack an emergency travel kit. Whether you’re driving, flying or traveling by rail, prepare for possible delays with a few essentials. Pack a small bag with an extra sweater, gloves or small throw, as well as water and high-energy or high-protein foods such as granola bars or beef jerky. You may also want to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste, a change of underwear and any needed prescription medications. Remember also a flashlight, extra batteries, or phone charger, a first aid kit and a good book.

Book with a travel advisor. Weather-related travel delays inevitably happen at times, from heavier traffic on the highways to delayed or canceled flights. However, the unexpected challenges need not stress out travelers with a little added planning and some advice from a seasoned travel agent. You travel advisors are trained to monitor situations like winter weather that may impact their clients’ travel plans. As result, they can work on alternative travel plans and can likely have those in place with the airline, hotel or car and driver the moment the need arises.

Lost Luggage? What to do before and after.

The following post is based on a Travelers United article by Charlie Leocha.

Three categories of lost luggage rules … before, during, and after travel.

Every traveler needs to be aware of the luggage rules that should be followed prior to traveling, during check-in and subsequent travel, then finally, upon discovery that their luggage has been damaged, delayed, or lost. Leoca suggests that, “Passengers who follow these rules have far fewer lost and delayed baggage problems and get top compensation from the airlines.

How can travelers reduce the chances of lost luggage? What should a passenger do if their luggage doesn’t arrive on the expected baggage claim carousel?

The basic lost luggage rules follow:

Plan for potential problems

Particularly for longer trips, travelers should use their carry on for essentials: a change of clothes (top to bottom), all prescription medications, and travel-size toiletries in a ziplock bag.

In most cases, airlines typically recover and deliver lost luggage within 24 hours.

Take photos

Travelers should take photos of the items they packed in their luggage to help provide evidence of loss if their luggage goes missing.

Verify that luggage will be transferred at connecting cities

This is typically a problem if the traveler is using airlines that partner with different alliances or are traveling on separately ticketed segments. For example, if your flight includes segments on both Delta and American, there is a good chance that you will need to claim your luggage at the end of the Delta segment and re-check it with American. Additionally, if you are continuing on with the same airline (same day, same city), but the segments are ticketed separately, you will likely need to claim your luggage and recheck it for the second segment. Ask the agent at check-in whether your luggage will be transferred or you will need to claim/re-check it.

Verify the destination

At check-in (whether curbside, self-service kiosk, or with an agent), visually verify that all your luggage is ticketed (or tagged) to the correct destination. Since the bag-tags will use a 3-letter code for the destination airport, make sure you know the correct letters for your intended airport. For example, the two airports in Dallas, Texas are Love Field (DAL) and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). A traveler who is not aware of the 3-letter codes, can easily confuse DAL with DFW because DAL clearly means Dallas and he is going to DALLAS Fort Worth Airport.

Submit your luggage on time

Be aware of your airport’s guidelines for luggage submission. Frequently, travelers that use smaller airports think “My airport is small; an hour is plenty of time.” While that might be sufficient most of the time, it may not always be enough, and certainly doesn’t meet airline/airport guidelines. Also, keep in mind that TSA may randomly pick your bag off the belt, adding additional delays for your luggage.

Identify luggage inside and out

Few travelers put identification and destination information inside their luggage, but this small effort will be amply rewarded if your luggage tag gets torn off. Especially if you don’t know exactly what your luggage looks like — and many travelers do not (ask anyone who has stood in a lost-luggage line). So take a moment to note the luggage maker (TravelPro, Samsonite, Delsey, American Tourister, etc.). Also, take a good look at the color. Is it dark blue or is it black? Is that a stripe or a wavy line? Better yet, if you have a camera phone, take a picture of your bag before you hand it over.

Know the compensation limits

Compensation for lost/delayed/damaged baggage is $3,500 per passenger, not per bag. Be aware that you will not be compensated more than $3,500 even if the value of your contents is higher. Be thoughtful in how much you pack.

Fill out all forms at the airport

If your luggage doesn’t arrive at the designated carousel, know the next steps. Contact the airline personnel, who may be able to locate the item(s) through their tracking system. At that point, the airline representative should be able to estimate the time of arrival of your property. If you can wait, do so. If not, complete all the necessary forms so that the airline may deliver your property to the appropriate location.

Ask what the airline can do for you

Depending on the airport, the lost luggage representative may be able to do different, and typically unknown, things for you. For example, if the agent can see that your bag(s) will be delayed for an extended period (i.e., some hours or a day or more), they may be able to give you petty cash to get some necessities. If you are on your way to the ski lodge, you may be able to get coupons for rental clothes for the mountain so that your vacation isn’t delayed.

In the case of damage, the airline may be able to have it repaired during your stay … if you let them know of the damage.

Make a claim

If your luggage is actually lost, which is pretty rare, the airline’s liability in domestic cases is $2,800. In international cases, their liability is less. Be aware of any benefits that you may have through a travel insurance policy, your credit card, or your homeowner’s/renter’s insurance. It’s not a bad idea to make an itemized list (even photograph) of the contents of your luggage in case you need to make an insurance claim.

Again, though completely losing your luggage is rare, it does happen. More often, your luggage may be delayed. In either case, your plans will be disrupted, and the disruption may cause you financial harm. The better prepared you are and the more closely you follow the above suggestions, the more likely your damages will be reduced.

Visiting Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity?

The star marks the traditional location of Jesus’ birth in the basement of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com/Todd Bolen

Over the last several years, the number of visitors at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem have grown to unmanageable sizes. This growth has caused many visitors to the church to leave before actually getting to visit the basement, the most desired destination in the church.

As a result of the growing numbers of disappointed travelers, The Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Tourism is developing a reservation app that is supposed to help reduce the wait time at the church.

For a more complete report on this development, see this article.

Going to South Africa?

AMENDED GUIDELINES SIMPLIFY FAMILY TRAVEL TO SOUTH AFRICA

These regulations are easing family travel and allowing the diverse natural scenery and wildlife of the country to be explored by children of all ages and their parents. The variety of sites and events in the country are ideal for multi-generational travel and now the whole family can easily visit! Witness the big 5 on a safari and experience the infamous penguins on Boulder Beach. Round out your trip with scenic hikes and tours through the varying city scapes and discover the history of the country and celebrate the influence of Nelson Mandela.

South Africa is becoming more accessible for traveling families through updated regulations. The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced on December 1st, 2018 that they are relaxing some of the regulations for children traveling to South Africa. The announcement comes at a pivotal point for family travel as the Festive Season, a time when many families travel with their children, is fast approaching.

Amended Guidelines for US & CAN Child Travelers to South Africa

As visas are not required for US & CAN travelers visiting for less than 90 days, generally, children (under 18) travelling with both parents will experience no additional questioning and will not be requested to provide any additional documents, over and above a valid passport.

However, if it may appear that you are not the parents of the child for any reason, such as different surnames, same sex marriages, significant age differences, or different nationalities, documentation may be requested. It is suggested that you consider carrying a birth certificate which features the details of the parent or parents, or other documentation that might assist to prove the parental relationship such as a marriage certificate, adoption certificate etc.

If only one parent is travelling with a child, or a child is travelling with another adult (or adults) who is/are not the child’s parent, you may be asked a few questions to establish your relationship with the child, the reason the child is travelling with you and/or the reason the other parent is not travelling with you.

Such travelers are strongly advised to carry evidence of their relationship with the child and/or the reason why they are travelling with the child, and evidence of consent to travel with the child from the absent parent or parents, together with their identification and contact details. However, should officials ask for documents you are not carrying with you, you will be given some time after arrival to source the relevant documentation requested.

This additional documentation could include:
* A copy of a birth certificate of the child with the parent or parents’ details;

*Written consent (which need not be an affidavit or notarized) from the absent parent or parents, or legal guardian of the child, authorizing the child to travel to the Republic with the adult he or she is travelling with;

*Copy of the passport of the parent or parents or legal guardian of the child;

*The contact details of the parent or parents, or legal guardian, of the child;

*Where applicable, copy of an adoption order;

*Where applicable, a copy of a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or legal guardianship in respect of the child, if he or she is the sole parent or legal guardian of the child;

*Where applicable, a copy of a death certificate of the deceased parent or parents of the child.

For more details visit the Department of Home Affairs website here.
For more information on South Africa’s rich and diverse offerings visit www.southafrica.net, follow @SouthAfrica on Twitter and @VisitSouthAfrica on Instagram and Facebook.

Most Common Travel Related Accidents and Injuries

Travel Guard has published their list of the most common travel related accidents and injuries.

*Renting and using vehicles such as mopeds, Segways, jet skis or scooters without proper instructions.

*Drinking alcohol: Falls cause numerous injuries, and poor judgement in any situation can lead to an accident.

*Going beyond physical limits: If your knee hurts while walking the dog, it will hurt even more on when you attempt to cover Paris in one day.

*Falling during transfers on and off the tour bus, from dock to boat, etc.

* Riding or approaching animals.

*Ignoring existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Getting ill. (Wash your hands, a lot.)

*Taking selfies: Watch where you walk and remember that circumventing safety measures to get better pictures can lead to injury.

*Eating exotic cuisines that can cause stomach problems. Engaging in adventurous or strenuous activities with no experience—rock-climbing, challenging hikes, zip lines.

A travel insurance policy may be very helpful if you find yourself in one of the above situation.

To compare policy benefits or to purchase insurance click on the Travel Guard banner below.