Applying for a New Passport:
Apply several months in advance as it could take up to six weeks to receive (expedited services are available in emergencies).
Application form DS-11 is available at your local Post Office, many public libraries or download from the internet.
You will need 2 identical photographs taken by a professional photographer, 2x2 in size on white or light background, proof of citizenship e.g., Certified Birth Certificate or Certificate of Naturalization issued by the Department of Naturalization, your Social Security Number and a Valid Drivers License.
Age 16 and older: The passport application fee is $110. The execution fee is $25. The total is $135.
Under Age 16: The passport application fee is $80. The execution fee is $25. The total is $105.
The passport application fee includes the $12.00 Security Surcharge, which became effective March 8, 2005.
All minor applicants, including renewals, must apply in person.
To Update Your Current Passport:
Your current passport must have been issued within the last 12 years and you must have been at least 16 years old when passport was issued.
Obtain Application Form DS-82 from your local post office; submit form, your old passport and 2 identical photographs taken by a professional photographer, 2x2 in size on white or light background. Fee for renewal/update is $40.00.
**When traveling abroad, make copies of the identification page of your passport. It's also a good idea to carry 2 passport-size photos. Replacing it will be easier should you lose your original. Report lost or stolen passports immediately to local police authorities and nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
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Buying On-Line? Things You Should Know!
IF YOU'RE PLANNING ON BOOKING YOUR NEXT FLIGHT WITH AN ON-LINE BROKER AND NOT A TRAVEL AGENT OR AIRLINE OWNED AND OPERATED WEB SITE, THESE TIPS WILL HELP YOU KNOW WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: Surfing on-line can be a confusing and exhausting process. Lowest/best fare lists usually provide all fares pertaining to your selected cities. This DOES NOT necessarily mean those fares are available. Lowest or sale fares are offered on a limited basis and often have significant restrictions i.e., specific days/dates, times/flight numbers, advance purchase or minimum/maximum stay requirements. A lot of time can be wasted chasing fares only to find out they don't apply to your specific travel needs or are sold out.
*Your local travel agent can quickly offer alternatives or assist you in meeting these requirements. Further, some airlines may not participate with certain sites, which could mean lower fares are available elsewhere.
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE PAYING: Before booking that "best fare", read the fine print (if you can find it!). Look for "terms and conditions", frequently asked questions (FAQ's) or "customer service". What may appear to be the "lowest fare" could cost you in the long run.
Most tickets cannot be cancelled, are non-refundable and non-changeable, which means if you make a mistake entering your dates or destination, get stuck in traffic, have a medical illness, or simply over sleep, you forfeit your ticket. Purchasing a new ticket at the last minute can triple the cost of your original fare.
Make sure your quote includes all applicable state and federal taxes, surcharges (including fuel), shipping/handling and processing fees. Passenger facility charges/federal segment taxes can range from $3 to $29 per domestic ticket and be as high as $115 for international itineraries. You may not see these additional costs until your credit card has been charged. Some are even charging fees to issue paper tickets. If you think an electronic ticket is more convenient, ask yourself this question: What will I do if the airline computer goes down?
Keep in mind; airline prices change frequently, most often due to demand and can change within the few minutes it takes to enter and submit your payment information. Therefore obligating you to pay the higher fare.
DISCOUNTS AND SPECIAL SERVICES: If like many, you qualify for a discount, don't look to get it on-line. Few sites offer upgrades, discounts for seniors, companion, military personnel or infants, and using that travel voucher or discount coupon, probably won't work either. The mere mention of frequent flier miles is usually followed by a referral to the airline.
Special services such as seating preferences, assistance boarding or departing the aircraft (wheelchair, carts, etc.), those traveling with oxygen, unaccompanied minors, or pet reservations will most often require the services of your local travel agent or the airline.
BIDDING WEBSITES: Bidding websites usually require your credit card information prior to submitting your bid. Essentially, they choose your airline, flight times and your connections. In some cases this could result in 2-3 stops to get to your destination. What would normally be a short flight could end up taking all day. Flight times in some cases can range from 12:01am to midnight depending on your destination. By the time you receive your itinerary, your credit card has been charged and you cannot change or cancel your reservation.
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WHAT IS JET LAG?Jet lag is a common complaint of airline passengers worldwide and can occur with any air travel, even short flights. Changes in time zones affect our "circadian rhythms" better known as our body clock. Symptoms can range from mild to severe; wreaking havoc on even the most experienced traveler. Altitude, humidity, stale air and general health are all factors of jet lag. While no one remedy "cures" jet lag, there are several things that may help to lessen the effects.
SYMPTOMS CAN INCLUDE:
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Bowel Disturbances
- Swelling of the Feet and Hands
PREPARE BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT: When planning a trip, allow yourself time to rest upon arrival. Avoid jumping into a meeting or tour immediately after arriving at your destination. If possible, plan a day of rest on your return, before facing your regular work schedule.
DURING YOUR FLIGHT:
- Reset your watch! Help your body and mind adjust to the time zone you are traveling into. Reset your watch as soon as you board the flight.
- Re-hydrate! Cabin air is extremely dry; dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag. Drink water before, during and after your flight. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, smoking, and overeating.
- Start Adjusting Now! If you will be arriving at your destination in the evening, plan to stay awake during your flight. Snacks high in protein can help! Try isometric exercises and stretching to keep things circulating.
If your itinerary has you arriving in the morning or early day, plan to sleep on your flight. Snacks high in carbohydrates can help make you drowsy. (Don't forget blinders and earplugs!)
AT YOUR DESTINATION: If you arrive in the afternoon, take a walk in the sunshine. The position of the sun will help re-adjust your body clock; the exercise will help with circulation and energize you. Taking a shower will help too! If you arrive in the evening, go to bed! Adjust your eating and sleeping schedules to that of the locals.
Some believe diets and food supplements can help, but knowing what to take and when, are crucial to their effectiveness. Some can actually make jet lag worse if improperly used. Consult your health care provider and follow his/her instructions exactly.
FORGET ABOUT IT! Try to block it out and maintain a positive mental attitude. The less time you spend thinking about jet lag, the faster your body will adjust.
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What parents need to know: Today, children traveling alone are commonplace in most airports. Many airlines offer supervised or escorted services that help children with their departure, connection and final destination.
The following information should serve only as a guideline; policies for handling unaccompanied minors vary and are usually strict. Check with your specific airline before booking your child's flight. Children leaving the country may need special documentation, contact the Bureau of Consular Affairs for further information. Knowing how the process works will help your child have a safe and fun experience.
Who Can Travel Alone? The minimum age for unaccompanied minor services is usually 5 years with most airlines offering the service through 17 years.
What Will It Cost? In addition to airfare, fees range from $50-$100 each way but can double if a connection is necessary. Fees are payable to the airline by phone with a credit card or at the airport upon checking in.
Making The Reservation: Always advise your travel agent or airline representative that the passenger is a child, is traveling alone and ask about their unaccompanied minor policy. Find out what paperwork you'll need and what identification will be required. If your child will be making a connection, ask about protocol for flight delays or cancellations. Will your child be kept at the airport or will local authorities be called in i.e., police or child welfare department.
In addition to the child's information, have available the name, address, relationship to your child and contact telephone numbers of the person picking him/her up at the final destination. Remember, the name you provide must match their identification or the child will not be released.
Talk With Your Child: Discuss in detail what your child can expect when flying alone. Roll play and review safety measures including the difference between strangers and good strangers. Take your child to the airport prior to the departure date to familiarize him/her with the procedure and identifying uniformed airline personnel. Advise your child of what to do in the event of an emergency, tell him/her not to wait in line if help is needed.
Departure Day: Contact the airline to confirm flight times. Make certain everyone involved has correct flight information including connection flight times and numbers. Your child should carry two copies, one with him/her and another in a carryon. Provide cash and identification for your child in case of an emergency, flight delay or cancellation and for snacks/meals in between connections.
Advise your child of who is picking him/her up at the final destination and to wait for airline personnel before exiting the aircraft. I.D. will be required by the designated guardian and must match the carrier register. Ask the person picking up your child to get there ahead of schedule in case the flight arrives early. If no one is there, local authorities may be called in.
Provide reading materials, games, earphone type CD player (use of a radio is not permitted during flight) and a snack to keep your child occupied. Consider hanging a whistle around your child's neck to use only in an emergency. Although few, there have been reports of children being abused by passengers seated next to them.
Introduce your child to the airline representative and make sure they know the child is flying alone.
Finally, stay at the gate until the flight departs, in case of an equipment failure, the aircraft may need to return.
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Traveling to Europe?
Make your vacation a success! The better prepared you are, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Pick up a guidebook for the specific country you intend to visit and keep these tips in mind when planning your European vacation.
Passports/Visas: U.S. Citizens WILL need a passport. Apply now! It can take up to six weeks. Visas are not normally required, however that may change in Eastern Europe. Check with the consulate of the country you intend to visit.
Be sure to carry a photocopy of important documents e.g., passport, airline tickets, traveler's checks, etc.). Another option, scan them! Save as .jpg files then email them to your Hotmail, Yahoo or similar account. Most web browsers recognize the format and you can access the documents any time. If you lose or have your documents stolen, just find the nearest Cyber Café!
Money Matters: Traveler's checks (American Express is recommended, there are offices all over Europe) are the safest and most convenient to use but if you need to make an exchange for local currency, there may be a fee. Additionally, exchange rates can vary by proprietor and language barriers can create an opportunity to overcharge. To be sure of getting the best rate, plan to pay for purchases such as dinner or souvenirs with your credit card. Your bank will automatically do the conversion at the current rate.
Carry-On: When packing your carry-on, consider what you would need to get by on should your checked baggage be lost or stolen. Having items such as tickets or important documents, medication, a change of undergarments and clothes, cosmetics or shave equipment, etc. in your carryon will ease an already tense situation.
Getting Around: Eurail (train) is an inexpensive and efficient way to get from city to city. Buy a pass, it'll save you money over individual tickets, you won't have to wait in ticket lines and can go anywhere you want! Aside from walking, The Tube or Metro (subway) is the easiest way around town. Be wary of taxis. They're usually expensive and language barriers can be a problem. To avoid getting ripped off, negotiate the fare prior to getting in.
Hotels: European standards differ from those in the U.S. Rooms are usually smaller; many do not have air conditioning and may require you to share a bathroom with other guests. Towels are usually furnished but washcloths and toilet paper may not be, plan to take your own.
Converters: If you use a curling iron, hair dryer, electric shaver or other small appliance you'll need an adaptor for the outlet AND a 220v/50Hz voltage converter. Most U.S. appliances are 110-120v; adaptors alone will not change the voltage unless your appliance is a dual-voltage product. Laptop users, check with the manufacturer of your specific unit for details on adapters/converters.
Phones: Using direct dial to call home is very expensive. Buying a phone card for the country you intend to visit will save a lot of money. If you don't use all of the minutes, donate the card to a local youth hostile or a friend you've met along the way.
Bathrooms: For those who haven't heard, bathrooms or toilets/WC (wash closet) as they're called in Europe, can be a bit different from those Americans are used to. Don't be surprised to find a coin box on the stall door or an attendant asking for payment (the equivalent of a quarter is sufficient). Many are co-ed and a "squat toilet" is exactly what it sounds like, on the floor! No seat, just a place to put your feet. Toilet paper and water are not always available; carry a small travel pack of tissue paper and hand sanitizer gel that doesn't require water. Some are poorly lit; a small flashlight is a good idea too. Take advantage of the WC at hotels, museums, and American fast food restaurants. Most are well kept and some are free!
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Baggage Tips: Most airlines charge for checked baggage. The fees vary by airline, and range from $20-$35 each for the first and second bag. You are allowed to bring one personal item (purse, briefcase, etc.) in addition to one carryon bag aboard your flight.
While the following are general tips to consider when packing, airlines differ in their policies regarding baggage allowances, check with your travel agent or airline for specific guidelines.
Baggage Allowance: Carryon bags must fit in overhead bins or under the seat. Typical dimensions are 9x14x22; some are as small as 6x15x18.
In most cases, the first piece of checked luggage must not exceed 62 linear inches (length + width + height) with second and third pieces not exceeding 55 linear inches. Checked bags should not exceed 50 pounds. International flights may base luggage allowances on weight rather than number of pieces.
Safety Issues: Checked baggage should be unlocked and labeled with an identification tag on the inside as well as on the outside. Self-stick address labels work well for the inside.
Never place anything of value such as money, jewelry, cameras, medication or important documents in bags you intend to check.
Damaged or Lost Luggage: Some wear and tear on luggage is to be expected. Cuts, dents, scratches, damage to handles or wheels are normal effects of baggage handling. If your luggage suffers more than normal wear and tear or doesn't show up at all, do not leave the airport with out reporting the loss. Many airlines have policies in which lost or damaged luggage must be reported in person and within a few hours of the aircraft landing, leaving the airport could cause you to lose your right to compensation. Keep in mind, any claim you make to the airline must be proven, be prepared to provide receipts.
Baby Items: Checked car seats and collapsible strollers usually do not count towards the luggage allowance. They may however, count if used as a carry-on.
If an infant flies free or at a reduced rate, he/she may not have a luggage allowance which means carry on diaper bags, strollers, car seats, etc., could count against the person flying with the child. Contact your airline for specific details.
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Staying Healthy On Your Trip
Travel Healthy: Imagine planning the vacation of a lifetime, arriving at your destination and losing your eyeglasses or worse, becoming seriously ill. Would you be prepared to replace your glasses or know where to find a competent physician? Staying healthy while traveling abroad is easy with a little preparation.
Vaccinations: Contact your physician or the Center for Disease Control for required shots/vaccinations. Get them early; it is possible to develop an allergic reaction.
Think Two: Take two pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses and ask your physician for two written copies of your medication prescriptions that include both brand name and generic name. It is especially important for those carrying prescription narcotics, or needles for insulin, to have written documentation of medical necessity.
First Aid: Make room in your carryon for a first aid kit that includes items for:
- Upset stomach
- Mild pain
- Motion sickness
- Insect repellent
- Tooth/mouth pain
- Prescribed medications in original pharmacy bottle
- Water purifier/iodine tablets
- Antibiotic cream
Medical History: Obtain a medical card from your physician that includes your medical history, diagnosis, medications, allergies and immunization record. If you have special health concerns, consider a medical alert bracelet, it allows physicians to retrieve your medical information quickly, from anywhere in the world.
Check Your Insurance: Chances are your medical coverage is limited while traveling abroad. Policies such as Medicare/Medicaid will not reimburse for any medical expenses outside of the U.S. and of the policies that offer coverage, most do not cover medical evacuation should you become seriously ill or injured and need to return home. To bridge the gap, purchase supplemental travel/medical insurance from your travel agent.
Finding Medical Help Abroad: Before leaving, ask your physician and dentist for a list of practitioners in the area you will be visiting. Otherwise, look for the nearest university teaching-hospital emergency room or contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate for assistance.
Travel Safety Tips
Trip Safety: Begin taking safety precautions while still at home, give a friend a copy of your itinerary, and a copy of the first page of your passport, authorities will be able to track you easier in the event of an emergency.
Find someone to house sit or at least pick up your mail and newspapers, use light and appliance timers, and arrange for lawn maintenance or snow removal to give your home that lived in look.
Check with your travel agent or visit http://travel.state.gov/ for information on travel advisories, i.e. civil unrest or threats of terrorism.
When packing, don't take anything you cannot afford to lose, especially jewelry. Pick up inexpensive imitations of your favorite pieces, i.e. cubic zirconia or gold plated chains and leave the good stuff at home. Also consider using a body belt for money and important documents or wrap a rubber band around your wallet, doing so will make it difficult for pick pockets to slide it out.
At the airport, use caution when going through security, do not place your purse or laptop on the conveyor until the person in front of you has cleared the metal detectors. A common scam involving 2 thieves occurs when one person goes through security without a problem, the accomplice follows and triggers the metal detector which causes a delay, his partner then makes off with valuables on the conveyor. Never take your eyes off of your belongings, looking away even for a moment can cost you.
When retrieving luggage from baggage claim, position yourself in front of the opening of the carousel so thieves don't have the opportunity to take your bag.
When you arrive at your hotel, request a room that is between the second and fifth floor, first floor rooms are easiest to break into and floors above the fifth will be difficult to escape in the event of a fire. Deposit any valuables in the hotel safe and get a receipt. Ask hotel security to escort you to your room if you arrive late. Check the room to be sure it's in working condition, plumbing, TV, and most importantly, all door and window locks, if there is a problem change rooms immediately to avoid having to change late at night or in the early morning hours. Hang the do not disturb sign on the door and leave the television on even when you are not in the room.
If an unexpected person knocks, even if they claim to be the police, do not let them in! Call the front desk for assistance.
If there is a fire, check the door for heat, if it is hot don't open it, stay inside the room, place wet towels under the door and in the vents. Fill the sink and bathtub with water and rewet the towels to cool hot doors and walls. Remove the curtains, crack open the window and place a wet towel over your mouth and nose.
Around town, use common sense, don't do anything you wouldn't normally do at home and listen to your instincts, if it feels unsafe avoid it. Don't use alleys or wander around alone after dark and be alert in crowded places, it is common for thieves work in teams of three or more, one to distract, one to be a look out and one to rob the victim. Don't accept unsolicited help from anyone and if someone throws something at you or spits on you, move away quickly holding tight to your bags. If you are mugged, cooperate and don't look your assailant in the eyes, resisting may only lead to injury.
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Preparing for Takeoff
For travel tips from the TSA: www.tsa.gov/travelers.
American Society of Travel Agents' Tips
For travel tips from the American Society of Travel Agents, please follow this link: www.travelsense.org/tips.