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9 Travel Kits That Will Make a Long Flight Bearable

Before you resign yourself to suffering through your next red-eye or long-haul flight, consider packing something that can make the experience better: a comfort travel kit. With multiple travel essentials in each kit, it’s like opening a gift to yourself mid-flight.

The Best Travel Kits for Your Next Long Flight

Here are nine travel kits that will make your next flight more bearable.

Cashmere Travel Set

If you take frequent long-haul flights, consider investing in an ultra-soft cashmere travel set. Jet&Bo’s comes with a blanket, an eye mask, socks, and a carry-all case that doubles as a pillow. Bonus: You can use the blanket as a scarf if you’re headed somewhere cold. 

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Pinch Provisions® Tech Kit

Containing eight essential items to ensure you’re bringing everything you’ll need on your next trip, the Pinch Provisions® tech kit is an easy-to-pack bestseller that’s designed to be thrown in your carry-on bag.  From earbuds and charging cables to a phone/tablet stand and microfiber cleaning cloth, being bored and accessory-less for a long flight will be a thing of the past with this compact kit.

Perricone MD The Jet Set Kit

Because a full-on skin-care routine can be quite the burden in the air, the easiest way to keep your beauty regimen in check is to have it all in a single kit. The Jet Set Kit from Perricone MD features a collection of its best-selling and top-rated formulas, so you can make sure your face, neck, and eyes are getting the treatment they need on your flight.

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Scentered Aromatherapy Travel Kit

Scentered makes one of the best aromatherapy travel kits for long flights, especially if you get claustrophobic or are prone to headaches. This travel-friendly set includes one of each of its aromatherapy balms that have various uses, ranging from stress alleviation to inducing good moods. They all come in an easy-to-pack tin that you can toss in a carry-on or personal bag.

Pack Simply Customized Travel Kits

Make a DIY travel kit with Pack Simply. Choose from hundreds of products to create the ultimate in-flight kit that suits your particular needs. With everything from toiletries to hair ties to Advil, you’ll love the convenience. Select your products and the company puts together your travel kit and ships directly to you.

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Tisserand Essential Survival Kit

Essential oils are a popular natural remedy to fight everything from jet lag to insomnia—which is why roll-on oils can be a frequent flyer’s best friend. I love Tisserand’s Essential Survival Kit; this vegan oil kit comes with a de-stressing oil, an energizing oil, and a sleep-improving oil.

Snack Packs

Check out Amazon’s snack packs for when those stale peanuts just won’t do. Options include everything from energy bars to gourmet trail mixes.

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The Laundress Travel Pack

Designed to combat wardrobe malfunctions on the go, the travel pack from The Laundress has everything you need for fast-acting attention. Containing crease release, stain remover, air freshener, and even a special detergent for delicate fabrics, stains don’t have to be the travel-wardrobe ruiner they used to be.

The Carry-on Cocktail Kit

You’ll get to a different level of comfort with this Carry-on Cocktail Kit. Its tin case is filled with everything you need to make an Old Fashioned: a muddler, bitters, cane sugar, and a recipe card. Order the booze from your flight attendant, mix, then sit back and relax.

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Airport Health & Wellness Passenger Rights

Travel in the Time of COVID-19—What You Need to Know

The 2020 coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, has been a moving target when it comes to travel. Nobody knows how long it will continue, whether and which areas it might hit next, when and where it will plateau and start to ease off, or when the travel world might return to something like normal. The time frame for cases to begin diminishing is unknown. And even once a decrease occurs, it’s worth considering that the virus could return.

The first place travelers should look to for advice on the virus as it relates to travel plans is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) via this page on destinations with COVID-19 alerts or warnings in place. It’s a good idea to bookmark it for updates, as the situation changes frequently.

Governments and travel suppliers have reacted by imposing rolling responses, with new cancellations and rule changes often. And with the U.S. State Department assigning a Global Level 4 Health Advisory (do not travel), existing travel plans for the next several weeks (or possibly months) poses a major quandary for many consumers.

SmarterTravel.com and its sister sites are regularly updating the following resource guides to travel companies’ COVID-19 responses:

The Main COVID-19 Travel Dilemmas to Consider

Travelers face three main areas of risk to think about:

  • Getting quarantined: If you need to travel, you almost certainly face the possibility of immediate quarantine of up to 14 days. If you’re lucky, it could be at home. But it could also place you in a strange city. U.S. citizens returning home from affected areas are being funneled to 13 airports where they will be screened and then asked to self quarantine.

Many countries have halted at least some flights, or closed their borders entirely. There are no indications about when normal activities will resume. The U.S. State Department currently assigns a Global Level Four Health Advisory (do not travel) for all international travel. The State Department also said Americans “should not travel by cruise ship.”

Many areas have taken actions that effectively work to deter tourism. Large public gatherings have been canceled or postponed, including the Tokyo Olympics. In many places, 14-day quarantines have been mandated for anyone entering the country; some nations have halted all visa requests. The list could go on: Check the State Department alert for any country you have travel planned to, and enroll in State Department STEP Alerts to receive updated information often.

Travel Industry Responses to COVID-19

If an airline cancels your flight(s), no matter what the airline proposes you can get a full refund on any ticket (see our guide to air passenger rights here). But if you have a ticket for a future flight that is not canceled or you haven’t yet bought a ticket, most major domestic and international airlines are offering some combination of postponement and refund options. Again, see our sister site Airfarewatchdog’s breakdown of airlines’ waiver options during the pandemic for more.

Generally, the options for canceling airfare will include:

  • Waiving change penalties for existing tickets—but in many cases, only for flights scheduled within a few weeks.
  • Waiving change penalties for newly booked tickets, with booking time frames ranging from a few weeks to a full year.
  • Rebooking a ticketed itinerary with no change in fares, but usually for rescheduled departures within a month or two.
  • Rebooking a ticketed itinerary with no change penalty, but at then-current fares, for up to a year.

Deadlines for making such changes are rolling; they’ll change from week to week and month to month depending on how the pandemic progresses. See our sister site Cruise Critic’s guide to cancellations for more.

Major hotel chains Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, and Wyndham are refunding travelers and waiving change fees. Travelers who booked through third-party online travel agencies (OTAs) will likely need to go through those agencies’ websites or help lines for refunds. Travelers who booked through independent hotel-type properties will need to go to those properties for refunds. See our guide to which hotels (and airlines) are changing their points and loyalty membership terms to accommodate the pandemic.

What to Do About Travel Plans During COVID-19

If you haven’t yet made any payments and set up any firm arrangements for a spring or summer trip, one obvious choice is to refrain. Given the elevated chance of complications for older COVID-19 victims, if you’re 65 or over and/or have an existing medical condition, according to the CDC it’s smart to wait out new COVID-19 developments at home.

If you need to travel, even domestically, despite the pandemic, you can protect yourself physically by taking CDC advice about hand washing, wearing a mask, employing general hygiene like washing your hands often, and avoiding crowds. You can protect yourself financially by:

  • Avoiding as many nonrefundable bookings as possible—or at least making sure that any such bookings are with suppliers that have agreed to waive change penalties. Among other things, that means book direct rather than through agencies. That strategy works pretty well for hotels, but not air tickets. Refundable fares are usually a lot more costly than nonrefundable ones these days.
  • Considering the possibility of a 14-day quarantine: Take enough of your necessary medications to cover an unexpected/extended time away from home, or at least arrange for somebody at home to be able to send you what you need if you’re delayed.

If you can’t use or don’t like the refund/reschedule options your suppliers offer, your rights to legal recourse are limited:  

  • Airline: If your airline’s offer doesn’t work for you, but your flight is still currently scheduled to operate, wait until a week or so before scheduled departure. If the airline cancels any ticketed flight, you’re entitled to a full refund.
  • Hotels: If you have a prepaid hotel, your best bet is to wait for the hotel to set a policy. You have essentially no legal and easily enforceable right.
  • Cruises: As with hotels, cruise passengers have very few enforceable legal rights. You’re pretty much limited by what the cruise lines offer.
  • Travel insurance: If you bought travel insurance before your insurance company’s stated date for the outbreak—January 21 through 27, for most companies—you’re probably due the full benefits of your policy. If not, your recovery is likely to be limited. Check your policy to see just what it covers, and figure you won’t get any more than that.

In general, any refund you’re due should typically come from the agency where you made your arrangements. Getting refunds from some suppliers may be tough—especially those in foreign countries that don’t have a presence in the U.S. or Canada. Don’t be surprised if you lose some money when you cancel; that loss might be better than the risk of traveling.

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Stay safe and healthy this travel season with the following recommended travel gear:

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Editor’s note: This story is updating as new information becomes available and is current as of the publish date.

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Airport At Home Health & Wellness Miles & Points Money Passenger Rights Peer-to-Peer Travel Travel Trends

How Hotels and Airlines Are Helping During the Pandemic

I sometimes get so used to bashing travel suppliers—especially airlines—for the many ways they abuse travelers’ rights, that I often overlook the good they do. Especially during this global pandemic, travel suppliers are doing a lot of good.

From providing free hotel stays for health workers to donating huge sums of money, here are some of the ones we’re seeing step up.

Hotels Stepping Up During the Pandemic

Hotels are offering free or low-charge rooms to communities for housing both caregivers and non-COVID patients. Standout individual hotel offers in hard-hit New York City include those from the Four Seasons Hotel, which was the first hotel in New York City to begin providing free stays to healthcare workers responding to the pandemic.

The Plaza Hotel, Room Mate Grace Hotel, Palace Hotel, St. Regis Hotel, and Yotel are now counted among the hotels hosting health care workers and non-critical patients free of charge. More broadly, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a major hotel trade association, notes that more than 6,500 hotel properties that are adjacent to medical facilities across the country are offering temporary housing for health care workers, noncritical patients, and/or the homeless:

“To help match and streamline the process, the [AHLA] is working to create a Hotels for Hope database at the federal level with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as at the local level with industry partner state associations. Local, state and federal government officials will be able to search willing properties based on geographic location.”

Very few are doing it for free, but many are doing it at very-discounted rates. Some are providing food or other support to medical communities. Examples include:

  • The Sophy Hyde Park Hotel in Chicago has opened its rooms at no charge to medical staff respondiong to the pandemic at nearby University of Chicago Medical Center.
  • Caesars Entertainment has donated more than 250,000 pounds of food to a variety of food banks and charities, along with gloves, masks, and hand sanitizers.
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air have provided hundreds of meals to first responders and medical personnel.
  • The Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon has arranged with Multnomah County to serve as a homeless shelter.

Airlines Doing Good During the Pandemic

Airlines are also doing their part in fighting the pandemic. As befits their status as the generally top-rated U.S. airlines, Delta has offered free transportation to Georgia, Louisiana, and Michigan for medical professionals, and JetBlue has offered free transport for medical personnel and some stranded college students. JetBlue has also donated a million frequent-flyer points to the Red Cross for travel to support its vital work. United is offering free travel to health workers heading to New York. Airlines around the world have removed seats from regular passenger planes, providing added cargo capacity to ship medical supplies where they are needed.

Airlines around the world have also notably intensified their cleaning and disinfecting procedures to keep their fewer operating planes free of the virus. They’re also rightfully ensuring travelers maintain safe physical distances from each other: A few lines, including American, have stopped assigning middle or every-other seat to maintain social distancing.

And keep in mind that the travel industry is taking a big financial hit from the pandemic. Much of what individual suppliers are doing to minimize effect is as much public relations as it is a public benefit. But, in a difficult time, travel companies are clearly stepping up to help the effort. Kudos to them.

Our Favorite Items for the Home

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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Airport Fashion & Beauty Packing Travel Technology

9 Most Stylish Laptop Bags for Travel

Laptop bags aren’t just for the business traveler anymore—and they’re no longer relegated to the humble padded messenger bag. Stylish laptop bags now range from trendy backpacks to designer tote bags, and the best ones will protect your hardware as much as they complement your style.

They’re also the best underseat personal item for the plane if you plan on plugging in to watch a downloaded movie or get some work done; you’ll still have plenty of space for all your other in-flight necessities.

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Stylish Laptop Bags for Travel

Here are the laptop bags to consider, according to how you travel and what your personal style is.

Dagne Dover Ryan Laptop Bag

Dagne dover ryan laptop bag

Redefine the standard messenger bag by opting for one made of high-performance fabric that stands out. Dagne Dover’s Ryan Laptop Bag is equal parts work and play. Its neoprene outer is strikingly stylish, and practical features include a back luggage-handle sleeve, two main zippered compartments, organizing pockets and elastic straps, a key leash, a cross-body strap, and two long tote handles that make it a shoulder bag to boot.

STM Goods’ Myth Backpack 18L

STM goods myth backpack

A sleek unisex backpack and laptop bag that’s not bulky, STM Goods’ Myth 18L has a 15-inch “slingtech” laptop sleeve—which means it suspends your laptop to shield it from potential bumps and pressure. And it has several more cool features: hidden cable feeds so you can charge your electronics, AirPod and non-tangle headphone compartments, a water-repellent outer coating, and a luggage-handle sleeve.

VASCHY Water-Resistant Waxed Canvas Laptop Tote

VASCHY water-resistant waxed canvas laptop tote

For an affordable water-resistant laptop bag that’ll fit all the necessities, VASCHY’s Vintage Leather Laptop Tote is made of waxed canvas and real leather. The refined materials plus shock-proof padding and a reinforced bottom make it a sturdy bag that’s a steal—it’s under $50 at the time of writing.

DELSEY Chatelet Soft Air Shoulder Bag

DELSEY chatelet soft air shoulder bag

A smaller laptop bag that would definitely fit in with business class, DELSEY’s Chatelet Soft Air Shoulder Bag looks like a luxe designer purse but packs two electronics sleeves. Its interior measures 16 inches wide, 12 inches tall, and six inches deep. Vegan leather, studded bottom “feet,” and a soft-padded lining make it durable, and it also includes a removable matching pouch for smaller items. It comes with a 10-year warranty.

KELTY Ardent 30L Laptop Backpack

KELTY ardent 30l laptop backpack

A cool and affordable soft-sided laptop bag that comes in several colors, KELTY’s Ardent 30L Backpack can fit a 15-inch laptop in its rear back-panel sleeve—which also has an added secret passport compartment and a plush-lined tablet sleeve. The main compartment is huge, so you can keep clothes or gear separate from your protected valuables, and a smaller front compartment is full of pockets for organizing small accessories like your phone, sunglasses, and medications. This bag easily goes from day hikes to plane rides for super-organized travel.

TETHY Unisex Backpack Diaper Bag

Traveling with kids? TETHY’s Unisex Diaper Backpack suits new parents with its hidden diaper-changing pad and roomy inner organizing pockets designed for bottles, diapers, and wipes. It looks less like a diaper bag and more like the stylish laptop bag it also happens to be. Thanks to the padded tech sleeves, it can fit a 14-inch laptop and an iPad, plus the outer water-resistant nylon and leather trim give it a chic, stylish look.

Osprey Arcane Large Laptop Backpack

Osprey arcane large laptop bag

A large, light daypack that’s a workhorse for planes or commuting to the office, Osprey’s Arcane Large Laptop Backpack has a main compartment sleeve for a 15-inch laptop. Its soft back panel provides plenty of support, and the internal organization will help you keep everything where you can find it.

Lux and Nyx Bella Laptop Bag

If you’re willing to splurge on a travel bag, make it one you can use for everything—and I mean everything: work, gym, travel, and any other packing occasion. Lux and Nyx makes fashionable luxury bags with shoe compartments, laptop sleeves, and comfortable shoulder straps. The Zoe has more than 18 compartments, with space for clothes, a pair of shoes, a water bottle, a laptop, and a tablet. It even has utility straps at the base to secure a yoga mat or tripod.

Fjallraven Kanken

Fjallraven kanken laptop bag

Even if you’ve never heard of Fjallraven, you’ve still likely seen the Swedish outfitters’ on-trend tote backpacks at the airport. The Fjallraven Kanken’s roomy main compartment has a 15-inch laptop sleeve and makes it an ideal day pack, weekender bag, or personal item. SmarterTravel’s Ashley Rossi says, “It’s great for storing a laptop and all your essentials during a short or long flight, and it doubles as a great daypack for walking around a destination.”

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Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Editor’s note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at editor@smartertravel.com.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.

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Airport Booking Strategy Budget Travel Credit Cards Passenger Rights Travel Technology Travel Tips & Advice

14 Booking Sites’ COVID-19 Cancellation Responses

If you booked a trip between the mid-March start of the epidemic (now pandemic) and sometime later this spring, current travel bans and shutdowns mean you face the requirement to reschedule or cancel your trips. And future trips later in the year still might meet the same fate of a COVID-19 cancellation.

SmarterTravel has already shared the major airline and hotel players waiving fees for travelers who booked directly—but what if you booked through a third-party online travel agency (OTA) such as Expedia? The general recommendation is typically that you contact the OTA for rescheduling. But the situation is a bit more nuanced than that.

Two major parent companies, Booking Holdings (also known as Booking.com) and Expedia, control around 86 percent of the worldwide OTA business through their many subsidiaries. Here’s which company ultimately owns each of the following third-party booking sites:

COVID-19 Cancellation Policies by OTA

Here’s a rundown of policy statements from OTAs that focus mainly on air travel and accommodations regarding a COVID-19 cancellation. Most start out with instructions to go to the OTA’s app or website and select the trip(s) you are canceling for more information about the conditions. Whether or not you’re eligible for a refund or credit will typically depend on both the third-party site in question and the company that the stay or service is with.

Agoda (Booking)

According to Agoda: “If your booking is eligible for free cancellation, you will see the message: ‘This booking may be affected by a current emergency or developing situation. Due to these exceptional circumstances, Agoda will waive all fees on cancellation for your affected booking.’ You may then proceed to cancel through this self-service option without contacting customer service.”

Booking.com

Booking.com states: “We understand you may need to change your travel plans. To get the latest info, contact the property you booked to check if they can accommodate you. You can also visit our Help Center for support with making changes to your booking.” The posted statement applies to accommodations bookings only; selecting “airfare” redirects users to Priceline (see more below).

Cheapflights (Booking)

Cheapflights says only that: “Airlines and travel providers are continually updating their policies and will be a go-to resource for up-to-date information regarding changing upcoming travel plans. Please contact them directly for the latest information. Many are waiving cancellations fees.” You can find a detailed airline-by-airline summary of COVID-19 cancellation policies here via Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site.

Expedia

For air tickets, Expedia suggests that you first try to cancel online from within your trip record. If a fee applies, the website provides two airline dropdown menus: (1) links to the airlines you’re most likely to use and on which you can cancel through Expedia, and (2) a longer list of airlines less used that you have to contact directly.

Expedia contacted SmarterTravel with the following updated hotel cancellation policy on April 2: “For customers that booked and paid for a non-refundable rate prior to March 19, 2020 using Expedia for a stay between March 20 and April 30th 2020, an email will be sent their way providing them with an option to keep or cancel their existing booking. If the customer decides to cancel, they will be eligible for a full refund, or in some cases, a voucher allowing them to rebook the original property at later dates. There is no need to call Expedia, however you must cancel your booking a least 24-hours before check-in to be eligible for this offer. For customers who booked a property with a refundable rate, they can visit our customer service portal to change or cancel a reservation.”

HomeAway and VRBO (Expedia)

The Expedia-owned rental sites state: “To cancel or change an upcoming reservation due to travel restrictions, you can do so right from your traveler account. If you are making changes outside the cancellation policy window, please contact the property owner or manager to discuss their cancellation and refund policies. If you don’t see a button to cancel your reservation, please contact the property owner or manager directly for assistance.”

Hotwire (Expedia)

Hotwire states: “The fastest path to canceling your booking is through one of our self-serve tools” which can be found here. “Hotwire follows the policies of our partners, which means any credit, refund or change is at the discretion of the airline, hotel, cruise line or other travel provider. The quickest way to find out if travel plans can be changed without a penalty will generally be to check the airline, car, or hotel website directly.”

The site goes on: “Many of our partners are updating their policies to align with changing travel restrictions, so make sure to check back regularly. Note: Some suppliers, like American Airlines, are also providing self-serve capabilities on their website. If your booking qualifies and you are able to submit a self-serve claim through a supplier directly, you will not need to also cancel your booking through Hotwire.”

Hotels.com (Expedia)

The Hotels.com COVID-19 “travel advice” page states “we are waiving change fees for many hotels based on where you are traveling to or from. For international bookings in the following countries (and domestic bookings, where noted), you are eligible for a full refund. Please click the blue Contact Us button above to speak to an agent … Except for travel to/from the destinations listed below, we follow the policies of our travel partners.” The listed destination countries are many, and available here.

KAYAK (Booking)

KAYAK’s COVID-19 page generally points travelers to the individual airline or hotel where they have bookings. It also posts links to policies by individual airlines, hotels, and car rental companies.

Momondo (Booking)

The Momondo website simply states, “The COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak may impact your trip. Look for alerts on our site indicating certain destination-specific travel warnings.” The Momondo help page is here.

Orbitz (Expedia)

The Orbitz website duplicates the information posted by Expedia (see above).

Priceline (Booking)

For flights, Priceline urges you to complete your COVID-19 cancellation online if you can. “Your ability to change or cancel your ticket depends on the type of ticket you purchased and varies by airline. If a cancellation is permitted, you will see a link within your itinerary. Express Deals-Priceline deals, in which the full itinerary is revealed only after you book, are non-changeable and non-refundable.”

“Other reservations may be more flexible. You can view your flight’s fare rules on the contract before you book, and on your itinerary after you book. You can find your itinerary by going to check status on the Priceline homepage. If your flight’s fare rules allow changes and you’re ready to make a change, please refer to Exchange Guidance for additional information.”

Priceline provides further information here.

Travelocity (Expedia)

The Travelocity website duplicates the information posted by Expedia (see above).

Trivago (Expedia)

As a metasearch provider that only provides price comparisons and not bookings, Trivago advises users to check with the OTA that actually handled your booking. The same general wisdom goes for other price-comparison OTAs that don’t handle bookings, including Tripadvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company).

General Information on OTAs and COVID-19 Cancellation Policies

Clearly, the general advice to get a refund through the OTA is not always correct. Although the final money transfer might come through the OTA, they urge travelers to use whatever online COVID-19 cancellation systems they have to deal directly with hotels and airlines.

If you’re booking a future trip rather than adjusting existing bookings, most major OTAs direct you to airlines and hotels with flexible refund policies. Keep in mind, however, that if you book a nonrefundable service (even with a company that has a liberal refund policy) the supplier has your money and the full-value refund or credit may limit your future choices.

All the OTAs suggest that anyone traveling within 72 hours can use the agency’s phone; other travelers should refrain from calling for now, and stick to the Internet or an app to get information and make changes. All OTAs also seem to recognize that the travel restrictions are a moving target, and travelers should therefore check often to make sure they have the latest information.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Categories
Airport Packing Travel Etiquette

7 Things You Should Never Pack in a Carry-on Bag

Your carry-on bag is typically where you pack the most valuable and important items—or everything, if you hate checking a bag. But there are some things that should never go in a carry-on. Read on to find out what they are.

Smelly Snacks

Hey, we’re all about packing healthy and cheap snacks. But spare some consideration for the rest of us packed into a confined space with you and leave behind any stinky or strong-smelling foods. (We’re looking at you, guy eating the tuna sandwich in the middle seat.) Anything garlicky, vinegary, hot, or pungent can bother other passengers—even if it remains in your backpack or purse for the whole flight.

Battery-Operated Items

Packing your electric toothbrush or razor in your carry-on? Make sure you either take the batteries out or tape the item’s switch in the “off” position. Battery-powered devices can easily turn on after being jostled around in a carry-on, which can in turn draw the attention of security (not to mention drain your battery before you even make it where you’re going). Play it safe and pack your batteries separately from your battery-powered items.

Weapons

You’d think it would be obvious not to pack weapons in a carry-on, but judging by the number of guns, knives, and explosives the TSA confiscates, it seems we all need a reminder. In 2019, the TSA confiscated 4,432 firearms at U.S. airports, as well as knives, box cutters, and grenades. Don’t forget about self-defense items like stun guns, small knives, and mace. These aren’t allowed in the cabin, so be sure to double-check your purse or that rarely used backpack to make sure you haven’t forgotten about anything in there before you fly.

Liquids Over 3.4 Ounces by Volume

You might think everyone knows the 3-1-1 rule by now, but the trash cans full of water bottles and oversized shampoos at every checkpoint tell a different story. Anything in liquid, aerosol, or gel form must be 3.4 ounces or less. Invest in some reusable travel-size bottles and decant your favorite toiletries into TSA-approved containers before packing your carry-on.

Meats, Cheeses, and Chocolate

Packing a hunk of cheese, block of chocolate, or rope of meat? Leave it out of your carry-on. Some X-ray machines cannot tell the difference between a wheel of cheese and a plastic explosive. (They have similar densities.) If you do bring one of these items, be prepared to unpack your carry-on for a bag search.

Sports Equipment

When in doubt—check it. If you’re unsure about whether you can bring something in your carry-on, you’re probably better off putting it in checked baggage instead of getting delayed at security. Most sports equipment, for example, is not allowed in carry-on baggage as it could potentially be used as a weapon. Examples of prohibited items include baseball bats, golf clubs, pool cues, ski poles, and hockey sticks. You can, however, bring aboard smaller items like baseballs and basketballs.

Inert Weapons

Just because your weapons don’t work doesn’t mean you can bring them onboard. It seems that many of us like to bring fun items like replica Claymore mines, inert grenades, simulated explosives, and other non-working items back from vacation. Unfortunately, the TSA doesn’t know if these items are the real deal or not until they call in the bomb squad—which pretty much guarantees you’ll be missing your flight (and possibly heading to jail).

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Airport Security

Everything Travelers Need to Know About the REAL ID Act

Are your days of flying domestically using only your driver’s license numbered? They could be, if you don’t have a new type of license. As the deadline for the REAL ID Act looms, it’s vital for you to know if your current driver’s licenses doesn’t meet the new criteria. If you are without a REAL ID come October 1, 2021, (previously October 2020, until the global pandemic pushed off the deadline) you might not be able to fly in the U.S. with just your state-issued ID.

Here’s a quick and easy primer with everything you need to know about the REAL ID Act, about when to use a REAL ID vs. a passport, and about the Department of Homeland Security’s hard deadline on the changes.

What Is the REAL ID Act?

In 2005, the REAL ID Act established nationwide requirements for state IDs as a post-9/11 security measure. States had well over a decade to make the changes: The deadline is now October 2021. Some states struggled to make the switch to issuing the new, compliant licenses; having trouble finding the budget for the new licenses, or lacking other logistical means to enact the changes until as late as mid-2020. This made for a short deadline that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ultimately pushed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused many governmental agencies to close indefinitely. If you don’t have a REAL ID come October 2021, you’ll need a passport or alternate form of identification for domestic air travel.

[st_related]6 Passport Rules for Faster Renewal[/st_related]

REAL ID Changes Timeline: When to Worry About Invalid IDs for Flying

The original deadline to implement the new regulations passed in 2016, but all non-compliant states were granted extension periods and the REAL ID deadline was pushed back multiple times to accommodate them. The Department of Homeland Security provides an up-to-date map on its website showing which states are compliant.

October 1, 2021: According to the DHS website, by this date “every air traveler will need a REAL ID-compliant license, or another acceptable form of identification, for domestic air travel” as well as to enter federal government buildings. If by this date your state license is not a REAL ID compatible one, you will need to bring another form of ID to the airport, like a passport.

How Do I Get a REAL ID?

The process for getting your REAL ID is a little more difficult than the last time you renewed your license: You’ll probably have to visit a DMV and provide paperwork, like proof of residency and proof of lawful presence in the United States. You can, however, submit this paperwork (which you’ll still need to bring with you) online ahead of time for approval: Check your state’s DMV requirements online for more information.

If you’re a non-citizen or you think getting your ID might be more complicated for any other reason, check the Department of Homeland Security’s DHS REAL ID FAQ page for more information on your particular case.

REAL ID vs. Passports

If your state is unable to provide REAL IDs or if you don’t acquire one yourself before October 1, 2021, you’ll need to bring a passport or another TSA-acceptable document with you to the airport in order to pass through security. The DHS reminded travelers often of the looming deadline, in part because if everyone rushes to get a REAL ID at once, there could be long wait times in many states.

If you don’t have a passport, there’s also some urgency to get one before late 2021: the State Department has warned of longer-than-usual passport processing times in recent years. This first happened in 2017 after a large number of passports expired (10 years after the U.S. first required passports for Canada and Mexico). The REAL ID fervor could cause another spike in passport applications close to October 2021, so it’s best to renew early.

Also, keep in mind that some destinations require six-month passport validity to enter the country—so you should be thinking about renewing your passport early regardless of your ID type.

Does a REAL ID Replace a Passport?

The short answer: no. You’ll need a REAL ID at minimum for domestic travel come October 2021, and your passport can work in place of a REAL ID for domestic travel—but a valid passport will still be required for international travel. So whether you have a REAL ID or not, a passport will always get you through airport security. And whether you have a REAL ID or not, a passport will always be required for international travel.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016 and has been updated to reflect the most current information. Shannon McMahon and Jamie Ditaranto contributed reporting.

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Airport Security Travel Technology Travel Trends

REAL ID Documents Can Be Submitted Online

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has pushed its REAL ID deadline back once again, this time to October 1, 2021, due to complications created by the coronavirus pandemic. This may seem like a long way off, as most people procrastinate going to the DMV for as long as possible, but the months can fly by quickly. And if put off, you might not be able to fly domestically with your ID.

But if you still don’t have REAL ID-compliant form of identification (more on that in a moment), good news: DHS will now allow you to submit your documentation electronically beforehand. Your state’s DMV website should have more information when you go online to complete the process.

This should save time when you visit the DMV (or AAA office) to complete your application. That’s good news, since Chad Wolf, the acting DHS secretary, has said two-thirds of Americans still don’t have a REAL ID-compliant license.

“Ensuring every state is REAL ID compliant by October is one of the department’s top priorities,” Wolf said. “While progress has been made, the real work is still ahead.” 

If you do submit electronically, you’ll still need to bring hard copies of your documents with you, but submitting them online will save time at the DMV and mitigate the risk of showing up with invalid or incorrect documents and having to start over. I saw this happen to someone when I got my own REAL ID at the RMV, and rest assured, the only thing worse than spending time at the DMV is having to go home and do it over.

What Is REAL ID, Again?

The REAL ID Act of 2005 essentially established nationwide standards for the issuance of identification. Why? Because up until now, Americans have carried a hodgepodge of IDs, mostly issued by states, each their own differing standards. Each state sets its own criteria for acquiring an ID as well as its own rules for what information is included on the ID itself.

Post-9/11, the government decided this was less than ideal, passed a law fixing the situation, and gave states what turned out to be about 15 years to comply. (The original, actual deadline was in 2016, but non-compliant states received extensions.) And so, here we are.

The primary implication of the law concerns travel. Starting October 1, 2021, all domestic travelers must bring a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or other form of identification when they fly. This includes passports, but few people use their passport when traveling domestically, so the government has been working to raise awareness of the change and the deadline.

Readers, are you ready for the REAL ID reality?

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7 Great Water Bottles for Travel

Whether you’re going through security, hiking up a mountain, or exploring a new city, there’s one essential item you should take everywhere: a good water bottle. Anyone who has ever paid too much for bottled water at the airport knows how convenient and cheap it is to bring your own water bottle and fill it up after passing security. But not all water bottles are created equal. Some leak, others are too bulky, and some are just plain ugly. Below are some of the best water bottles to keep you happy and hydrated on your travels.

Kor Nava

The Kor Nava is a stylish bottle that filters water through a built-in straw and replaceable filter. With a sleek design and a comfortable handle that makes it easy to carry, this water bottle is great for walking around a big city or waiting it out at the airport. The click-open cap ensures that the bottle won’t leak in your bag and protects the straw from outside contaminants.

Vapur Element Anti-Bottle

If you’re tight on space, the Element Anti-Bottle from Vapur is a convenient solution. When empty, it’s totally flat and easy to roll up into a very small package. And because it’s so flexible, it’s easy to pack even when it’s full of water. The spout is covered by a cap that will keep your water free from dirt. Despite its appearance, the bottle is extremely durable, dishwasher-friendly, and BPA-free.

LARQ Bottle

LARQ

If you’re worried about the drinking water in your destination, you can save money on bottled water with the self-cleaning LARQ Bottle. LARQ uses UV-C LED technology to sanitize water as you go, killing bacteria with a powerful ultraviolet light. Simply fill up the bottle, press the button on the cap, and give it a shake. At $95, the LARQ is on the pricier side for a water bottle, but having safe water to drink is worth the investment for frequent travelers.

S’well

S’well makes fashionable bottles that promise to keep your cold drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot drinks hot for up to 12. The bottles come in a multitude of designs, perfect for every personality, and though they’re on the pricier side, some of the proceeds go to charity.

CamelBak Chute Mag Water Bottle

The Chute Mag Water Bottle comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes, and has a magnetic cap that prevents leaks when you’re not using the bottle. The plastic is lightweight, durable, and BPA-free.

Klean Kanteen

If you’re going to be spending time outdoors, this metal canteen is durable enough to survive the most rugged adventures. Its slim design will fit easily into your backpack, and insulated siding helps keep drinks cold or hot. Made of steel, this is a tough bottle that’s sure to last.

ValourGo Collapsible Bottle

This collapsible water bottle is made of a durable silicone material, which makes it leak-proof but also very flexible. For easy storage, roll it up and secure with the rubber strap. The sleek bottle also comes at a fair price.

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Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer who is always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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11 Important Rideshare Safety Tips for Travelers

If you use Uber, Lyft, or other rideshare services while traveling in new places, there are a few specific safety tips you should keep in mind to avoid dangerous situations. Uber lists some of these on its website under Rider Safety Tips, but the list is incomplete. Here’s what you need to do before, during, and even after your ride to ensure rideshare safety for you and others.

Rideshare Safety Tips for Travelers

Make these 11 rideshare safety tips part of your routine, whether you’re traveling around your hometown or in a new and unfamiliar destination.

Share Your Trip

When traveling alone, especially at night, always share your trip with others. It’s the easiest and quickest way to let someone track your whereabouts in case something happens during your ride. The person you share your trip with will get a notification to their phone and be able to follow along via GPS. To do so, hit the “Share trip status” option with Uber and “Share ride details” with Lyft.

Give Feedback

This is an often overlooked part of rideshare safety, but an important step to take once your ride is complete. Post-trip, make sure to rate your driver and leave helpful feedback so you can keep good drivers on the road and bad ones off.

Keep Your Personal Info Confidential

There’s no harm in exchanging pleasantries with your driver, but avoid giving him or her any personal information, like how long you’re traveling for, where you live, your phone number, or any other contact information.

Request Your Ride While Inside

If you can, request your ride while indoors to avoid lingering outside too long with your phone out, which may attract thieves or pickpockets.

Confirm Your Driver and Car Before Getting In

There are some reported cases of scammers posing as rideshare drivers, so always confirm the license plate and name of your driver before getting in, and check their appearance against the photo in the app. And, if you’re getting picked up in a popular area, like an airport, this will also avoid accidentally taking someone else’s ride. 

Pro tip: Always ask a driver for the name of the passenger before you get in the car instead of saying your name first. This way, you can be 100 percent sure that person is your driver.

Wear Your Seatbelt

Just because you’re in someone else’s car or riding in the back seat doesn’t mean you’re at less of a risk of being in an accident. Always buckle up—drivers appreciate it. Under Uber’s description of “Your Rating” you’ll find that wearing your seatbelt is listed as an item that helps your passenger rating. 

Sit in the Back Seat

If you’re traveling alone, always choose the back seat. According to Dave Sutton, spokesperson for Who’s Driving You?, a public safety campaign from the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association that promotes for-hire vehicle safety, “Many of the incidents that we’ve seen … have happened to passengers riding up front.”

Check Your Driver’s Rating

Both Uber and Lyft allow passengers to rate drivers on a scale of one to five Always double-check that your driver has prior experience and a rating as close to 5.0 as possible (over 4.8 is generally pretty good). Uber and Lyft may deactivate drivers whose ratings fall below a certain standard.

Never Pay Cash

A driver should never ask you to pay cash for your ride. Both Uber and Lyft give you an option to tip through the app after your trip, so there’s no need to have your wallet out during a rideshare.

Know Your Surroundings

If you’re in an unfamiliar city or area, make sure to track your route on your own maps app to ensure the driver is following the correct route. If you’re getting picked up from the airport, be sure to follow the prompted instructions when you open the rideshare app.

This also goes for the neighborhood and time of day you’re requesting a ride. Be smart and aware of open businesses around you and avoid calling rideshares alone late at night. If you’re getting picked up from a bar or restaurant, pay extra attention to these tips.

Call for Help

Both Uber and Lyft have emergency buttons that let you call 911 directly from the app if something goes wrong. The apps will display your current whereabouts so you can share them with the dispatcher during your call.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Airport Booking Strategy Passenger Rights

England Passport Requirements: Do I Need a Passport to Go to England?

Are you ready to cross the Pond? England passport requirements state that you must have a U.S. passport that is valid with at least one blank page for the duration of your stay in England in order to enter the country. Be sure to check your passport’s expiration date and make sure it extends beyond your return ticket home.

If you plan on visiting other countries in Europe from England, you might need your passport to be valid for six months beyond your departure date, according to the Schengen Agreement. See the requirements for the other places you may travel to, here.

England Passport Requirements

England passport requirements state that a valid passport with at least one blank page for an entry stamp is required for the duration of your stay in the country. Check your expiration date to ensure it extends beyond your return date home. Do this as soon as you have your ticket in hand to allow for plenty of time to renew, if needed.

If traveling to other countries in continental Europe, your passport may need a six-month validity beyond your departure date for certain destinations in the Schengen area.

[st_related]U.S. Passport Changes Are Coming: Here’s What You Need to Know[/st_related]

How to Get a Passport Book for Travel to England

Apply for a passport as soon as international travel is confirmed. The cost will be greater if applying for a passport within two weeks of travel time, because you will need an expedited application. You can learn more about the requirements and documents needed to obtain a U.S. passport here.

What to Do if You Lose Your Passport in England

Take every precaution to keep your passport secure, such as carrying it in a hidden passport holder, keeping it locked in a safe, and emailing copies to yourself or a loved one before traveling.

If you do lose your passport, report the loss immediately to the U.S. Embassy London.

Other England Travel Requirements

Visa: No for U.S. citizens, up to 90 days

Vaccinations: No

So, Do I Need a Passport to Visit England?

In summary: Yes. England passport requirements state that a passport is required to go to England, and must be valid during the entire length of stay. Other passport requirements may be necessary if you plan on visiting other countries in continental Europe as well.

More Information When Visiting England

The U.S. Department of State provides detailed information, including travel advisories and passport validity requirements, to your destination.

For information on how to apply or renew a passport, visit here.

Visit Britain is a great resource for things to do and places to stay, as well as everything you need to know before you go when planning a trip to England.

Protect Your Passport

We recommend investing in a passport cover or wallet to protect your pages from bends, tears and spills. It’s important to keep your passport in good condition for easy inspection. 

On travel days, only take your passport out during inspection. Otherwise, keep it stowed away in a dedicated section of your bag (if you keep it in the same place every time, you won’t ever scramble to locate it). Once you arrive at your destination, find a way to stow it securely. In-room safes or safe deposit boxes at the hotel front desk are generally good options, but if neither is available, you’ll need to decide how to keep your passport secure. You might consider keeping it in an under-clothing money belt that you wear, or leaving it in the hotel or vacation rental but locking it in your suitcase with a TSA-approved lock.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Airport Packing

The Rule TSA Is Changing Because of COVID-19

I’m sure you’ve all seen the insane immigration lines at the screening 13 airports where passengers waited hours in cattle-like lines, which definitely didn’t follow today’s protocol of social distancing. If I was scheduled to fly home, I would probably wait a few days until airports worked this chaos out.

If you’re considering canceling or still need to fly, here’s one rule TSA is changing, and another thing to consider:

1. If you have to fly, TSA has loosened liquid restrictions for hand sanitizer:

Per the TSA website, “TSA is allowing passengers to bring liquid hand sanitizer containers up to 12 ounces to be permitted in carry-on bags until further notice. Passengers can expect that these containers larger than the standard allowance of 3.4 ounces of liquids permitted through a checkpoint will need to be screened separately, which will add some time to their checkpoint screening experience. Please keep in mind that all other liquids, gels and aerosols brought to a checkpoint continue to be allowed at the limit of 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters carried in a one quart-size bag.”

2. If you’re trying to cancel a future flight, hold off:

More importantly (as hopefully most people aren’t flying unless they truly have to), if you’re trying to cancel a flight and it’s not in the next couple of days, don’t call the airlines. They’re swamped with people scrambling to get home from Europe. Instead, wait a few days if you can. Many airlines are even accepting cancelations online. American Airlines, for example, just posted this on its website:

“Our phones are busy. We understand it’s frustrating to wait, but if you’re not traveling in the next 72 hours, please wait until closer to your trip to call. You can cancel your flight online now and call any time before December 31, 2020 to rebook. Please contact your travel agent for help if you didn’t book directly with us.”

Hawaiian Airlines shared a similar message in an email and on its website: “Due to the high call volumes we’re experiencing, we ask that you please refrain from calling us unless you are traveling within the next 72 hours so that we may focus on guests with the most immediate travel needs. For guests who would like to only cancel their flights and are traveling between March 1 – April 30, 2020, you may do so by completing” a form online at HawaiianAirlines.com.”

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Airport Health & Wellness

The 13 U.S. Airports Screening Passengers for COVID-19

World responses to pandemics—like the U.S.’s to the COVID-19 outbreak—are always a moving target. When it comes to contagious diseases, there are going to be new developments occurring every day. Of late, the 30-day Europe travel ban means that all U.S. citizens returning home from many countries in Europe (plus China and Iran) will be sent to one of 13 U.S. airports designated for screenings and then directed to self quarantine for 14 days.

Here are the airports that were doing so as of March 16:

The 13 U.S. Airports Screening Passengers for the Coronavirus

  • Boston-Logan International Airport (BOS)
  • Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
  • Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
  • Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
  • Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
  • John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
  • Miami International Airport (MIA)
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)
  • San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
  • Washington-Dulles International Airport (IAD)

According to the Department of Homeland Security:

  • American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are arriving from impacted areas must travel through one of 13 airports where DHS has established enhanced entry screening capabilities.
  • All American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning from the impacted area must self-quarantine for 14 days after their arrival.

Existing flight reservations: If you have arranged a ticketed trip abroad, most airlines are allowing you the option to reschedule or get a refund; hotel chains are typically doing the same (you can see which major players are doing so here). But check to be sure; if you arranged something through a travel agency, contact that agency, which might have policies that differ from those of the airline or hotel.

Travel insurance: If you purchased travel insurance before the outbreak or have some through your credit card, it may or may not cover trip cancellation or interruption. Oddly, many trip-cancellation travel insurance policies do not include “outbreak of a virus at destination” as a covered reason. Cancel-for-any-reason insurance is your best bet.

Future bookings: You’re probably better off postponing travel until the virus is fully contained. But if you must go, experts recommend frequent hand washing and avoiding densely populated areas. Selecting a window seat on your flight makes you more isolated from germs than other seats, studies suggest.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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Airport Passenger Rights

United Again Updates Rules About Schedule Changes—and Hits a New Low

Update: After a few iterations of policy changes in one week, United’s current policy on schedule changes is that if it can’t get you to your original destination within six hours of the original schedule, it will refund your fare—but with a catch. The refund is limited to a credit voucher good for a year rather than cash, and you can get cash only if you don’t use that voucher within a full year. The blogosphere is speculating that refusing a cash refund for a full year is illegal, but nobody has any great suggestions about how to avoid the problem.

The below original story was published on March 10, 2020.

United just changed its rules on flight schedule changes to hit a new low in a marketplace already full of lows. Until now, airlines implementing schedule changes of two hours or more usually allow you to opt for a refund. But United just changed that two-hour schedule change limit to a whopping 25 hours. Meaning: If you buy an afternoon flight for scheduling purposes, and that flight gets pushed forward or back as much as a day, you’re left with little recourse.

Here it is from United.com in their own words, with our emphasis added:

“When a schedule change happens, we try our best to provide you with options that minimize the disruption to your travel plans. In cases where the new flight options don’t work for you and one of the following scenarios applies, we may be able to offer you a refund:

  • The scheduled departure or arrival time changes by twenty-five hours or more.
  • The change causes issues with the overall length of the trip, such as making the connection time too short or significantly longer than it was originally.
  • If we are unable to accommodate you in the same cabin as purchased – refunded either the full price or the difference in fare.

If you’re not satisfied with your new itinerary and one of the above scenarios applies, please don’t accept the itinerary in Manage Reservations. Instead, you can request a refund online.”

How well would that work for you? I know it wouldn’t work for many travelers. One such traveler I know has a ticket on United in early April arriving in Newark at 5:33 pm to catch a red-eye on another line leaving at 9:40, which doesn’t count as a “connection” on United.

The above should allow plenty of connecting time, but if United reschedules the departure to a flight arriving Newark as late as 24 hours later, it wouldn’t refund the ticket.

This outrage won’t bother United’s prime business-traveler customers who typically use flexible tickets. Instead, it’s aimed squarely at average travelers on nonrefundable tickets.

So far, none of United’s competitors has said they’ll do anything similar. But (as I’ve often noted) nothing catches on faster than a bad idea in the airline industry. You can expect a howl from the consumer advocates, and maybe even from congress—but today’s DOT has proven unwilling to hear consumer issues like this one.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

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10 Best Inflatable Travel Pillows

The best inflatable travel pillows allow you to fall asleep even in a packed economy section. If you’ve tried basic U-shaped inflatable travel pillows with no success, you’ll want to read about these revolutionary options that actually prevent the dreaded head-bob.

Inflatable Travel Pillows to Get the Best in-Flight Sleep

These pillows all have unique features that address the most challenging upright-sleeping problems.

Eagle Creek Exhale Neck Pillow

It’s amazing that a tiny little buckle can make such a big difference in comfort—Eagle Creek’s Exhale Neck Pillow takes the standard U-shape neck pillow and adds a small clip in the front that draws the two front ends together, thus eliminating that awkward empty spot that allows your head to fall forward and wake you up. It’s pretty genius.

Travelrest Pillow

If you’re a side sleeper, the Travelrest is the best inflatable travel pillow for you. This unique design looks like a cushioned seatbelt—it can be attached to the side of your airplane seatrest, headrest of a car, or just worn across your body. Even though the pillow is large, it inflates quickly and deflates into a small package that’s easy to pack.

Xflyee Inflatable Travel Pillow

Xflyee’s Inflatable Travel Pillow is designed to provide neck support and is easy to store when not in use. The pillow is also slip resistant, so you don’t have to worry about your head sliding around in the event of turbulence.

Travelon Self-Inflating Travel Pillow

Don’t love blowing up your inflatable pillow on a crowded plane? Travelon’s self-inflating travel pillow fills with air with just a quick twist of the side vent. Its bow-tie shape makes it one of the best inflatable travel pillows if you’re looking for back/lumbar support.

HOMCA Travel Pillow

If you just want to put your head down and go to sleep, the HOMCA Travel Pillow actually allows you to do that (assuming the person in front of you hasn’t reclined all the way back). It inflates to a height of 21 inches, so you can rest your head face-down. There’s a face cradle in the top (like a massage table) that allows you to breathe, and arm holes in the side, so you can hug the pillow to keep it in place.

AirComfy Inflatable Travel Pillow

This insanely comfortable pillow from AirComfy has a removable micro-velvet case for easy washing and comes with a handy carrying case for easy packing. This product also features a built-in air pump, so you can inflate it without having to blow into a tube.

Maliton Inflatable Foot Rest Pillow

So far we’ve covered the best inflatable neck pillows, but we’d be remiss not to mention this inflatable foot rest from Maliton. This pillow’s height can be adjusted to fit any body type and is designed to align with the dimensions of an airplane seat.

Hoodie Pillow

The Hoodie Pillow feels like sleeping in your favorite sweatshirt—if your favorite sweatshirt offered an eyeshade and neck support. A cozy hood with adjustable drawstrings can be pulled over your eyes to block out light and keep your head warm (and also separate you from a less-than-clean plane or train seat), while the attached inflatable pillow supports your head.

Inflatable Camping Pillow

Looking for the best inflatable travel pillows for camping? This one from Trekology is ultra-lightweight (just 3.1 ounces) and folds up to be smaller than a soda can, so you will barely notice it in your pack. It inflates quickly to be a full-size pillow, and is ergonomically designed to cradle your head while you sleep.

Klymit Pillow X

Upgrade your airplane seat with the Klymit Pillow X, which makes for a much more comfortable seat cushion. The Klymit’s x-pattern also makes it a great camping pillow, as it centers your head and will prevent neck pain.

Check out more inflatable travel pillows on Amazon. For other pillow options, see The Best Travel Neck Pillows from Tripadvisor, SmarterTravel’s parent company.

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Caroline Morse Teel can’t sleep on a plane without one of these inflatable travel pillows. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for style and travel photos.

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