Frequently Asked Questions
I can book all my travel plans online, why use a professional travel planner?
That may be true if you are looking for a flight to Chicago or a three day Ensenada cruise, but if you really want a great vacation you should get help especially when it does not cost you any more, and in some cases less. There is a difference between a “travel agent” and a “professional travel planner” You can be a travel agent with no experience and no great knowledge of the travel industry, you just have to work for a company that can book tours, hotels and cruises. A professional travel planner has years of experience and knowledge of different places in the world, hotels, tour companies and cruises that are not necessarily the most common but may be far superior or offer things a little different. The internet is basically nothing but ads for travel. A professional travel planner interprets those ads to find ther best trip and value for you, taking into account your needs and desires. Things can go wrong on a trip and with a travel planner you at least have someone to contact to help you.
What are the best apps when heading to the airport?
Airports are getting busier. According to the Bureau of Transportation Studies, 2017 was the busiest year ever for U.S. airlines, and 2018 looks to end just as busy, by more than 3 percent. With the highest number of passengers in history, anxious travelers have more on their minds as they head to the airport, but there are tools that they can use to ease their concerns, including some that are accessible right on their cell phones.
Here are five apps that will help to smooth out the difficulties of air travel today.
My TSA App
The official app from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is a good addition to a traveler’s digital toolkit. The app’s features allow travelers to see status reports at airports around the country, including delays, traveler volume, and PreCheck lane statuses, along with a travel checklist and a database of most TSA rules.
The app also includes a good list of approved and unapproved items — called “Can I Bring?” — that travelers can use when packing, although the list could be more comprehensive. It also gives travelers access to AskTSA, which is the department’s question-and-answer system that is operated through Facebook Messenger and Twitter, where travelers can typically get a quick response to their questions.
The idea behind Loungebuddy is to produce a crowd-sourced guide to lounges at more than 80 airports around the world while also giving travelers a chance to score discount passes.
Travelers can download Loungebuddy and search by airport and then terminal to see what each lounge offers (food, drinks, internet, business services, TVs, and more) and where they are located in the terminals. Each lounge is sorted into four different rankings — basic, solid, fresh, and luxe — depending on the amenities and the user reviews.
Travelers can also get day passes through the app, sometimes at a discount rate, and can pay by credit card or Apple Pay. Not all airports are included in Loungebuddy (a search for local airports in New York showed that LaGuardia Airport was not available).
FLIO calls itself the “Global Airport App,” because it offers information on more than 900 airports, including dining options, parking prices, flight schedules, hotel options, attractions nearby, and more.
FLIO does a really nice job of putting together everything that a traveler will need to know, but the most impressive feature might be its automatic WiFi activation that makes all trips, but especially those with multiple stops at several different airports, just a bit easier. FLIO will take a traveler’s information and use it for a login at all airports under its umbrella, saving them the hassle of going through an activation or validation process each time.
For a lot of travelers, there’s way more to think about than just aisle or window seat when it comes to choosing where to sit on an airplane. SeatGuru might be the best app for finicky travelers to have on their smartphone. It allows you to see the inside of an airplane and shows exactly where a seat is positioned, so you can choose one that lets you get close, or far away, to the bathroom or kitchen or galley or emergency exit rows.
SeatGuru also includes a feature that allows travelers to check on flight status by number or route.
CBP Mobile Passport
Officially authorized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for U.S. and Canadian travelers for use at three cruise ports and 26 airports, and counting, Mobile Passport can help travelers expedite their entry into the U.S. by storing passport and declaration information on their phones.
The app is free to use and does not require pre-approval (nor does it replace a passport), but it does allow you to forget about filling out that customs declaration paper form with a golf pencil before heading to the customs line after your flight lands.
Mobile Passport is also fairly easy to use — the app will grab and store your info through your smartphone’s camera and will allow you to use that camera to take a selfie to store on your profile. You can fill out the trip info once you land. Once you submit the info to CBP, you’ll get a QR code that can be scanned by a CBP officer at customs.
What is Basic Economy on flights and what should I know about it?
Although it is the cheapest way to fly it is not for everyone.
Here is an example
Excited to begin their long-awaited vacation,a family got to their gate early but were surprised and somewhat miffed to learn that they would be in the last boarding group.
When they finally attempted to board, the gate attendant let them know that Basic Economy did not allow carry-on luggage. The family wase stunned as they only brought carry-on luggage in an effort to save money. What were they supposed to do? The flight was leaving in 25 minutes, so their only option was to pay a checked bag fee PLUS a $25 gate handling fee, not to mention the awkwardness of feeling the condescending stares of everyone in line behind them.
The nightmare was just beginning.
With a knot forming in their stomachs and their faces red from the embarrassment, the family finally boarded the plane. Because Basic Economy on this airline does not allow for any pre-assigned seating, their seats were arbitrarily assigned just before boarding from the leftover vacancies. The husband squeezed into his seat, 29B, a middle seat near the toilets. His wife discovered that she was also in a middle seat, in row 32.
To her horror, her children were also in middle seats, one in row 34 and the other in row 35. Try as she might, no one was interested in swapping seats with her so she could sit by her kids. And with the flight ready for takeoff she had no choice but to settle into her seat and hope for the best. Needless to say, the rest of their vacation was tainted by this experience and with the dread of doing this all over again on their return flight home.
With Basic Economy, there are some important restrictions. Restrictions can vary by airline and some of those rules are changing as the airline gets feedback from travelers. But here are some areas to watch out for:
· Potential charges for carry-on baggage
· No seat selection options
· No upgrades allowed
· Possibly no changes allowed
· Likely the last to board the plane
For whom is Basic Economy best suited?
· Short flights
· Traveling with friends
· Solo travelers or people that don’t mind sitting alone
· Individuals with only a personal item
For whom is Basic Economy not suited?
· Long flights
· People who like to choose their seat
What To Expect From The New EU Registration Requirements For U.S. Travelers
While it’s not a visa, U.S. travelers will need to begin pre-registering for travel to 26 countries in Europe starting in 2021. Travel Agent spoke with Ryan Amizi, editor for etias.com, a website dedicated to spreading awareness regarding the new European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), to learn more on what to expect.
“To enter European member countries right now, [U.S.] travelers can just hop on a plane and go through customs,” says Amizi. “With ETIAS they need to be cleared to travel by applying at least 72 hours prior to boarding.”
The new rules apply to European Union (EU) countries that are part of the Schengen area (The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.), for travelers from the United States and other countries offering visa-free travel to Schengen members. There will be a 7 Euro per person processing fee, although processing will be free for travelers under 18.
While the minimum requirement for an ETIAS application is 72 hours in advance, Amizi advises travelers apply at least a week beforehand. “Processing should be instant, but if someone has a hit – say, their name matches someone on an Italian criminal database – it’s likely there will be some additional processing to see if this person is ok,” Amizi says.
Importantly, third parties – including travel advisors – will be able to fill out an ETIAS application on behalf of their clients. “They will need to disclose on the form,” Amizi says.
The new ETIAS was established last July to improve security following the introduction of similar programs in the United States and Canada.
“After the terrorist attacks in France and Germany over the past two years, they just want a better understanding of who’s entering their borders, and one area they looked at is visa-free travel,” Amizi says. “It’s reciprocating American and Canadian programs that are already in place.”
Finally, Amizi recommends those traveling in early 2021 apply well in advance. “There will be some hiccups as there always are when deploying systems like these.”
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