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Airport Booking Strategy Passenger Rights Security Travel Technology Travel Trends

How to Renew a Passport, Global Entry, and TSA PreCheck—The Ultimate Guide

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Overseas travel on your horizon? Not so fast: Don’t forget to include a passport in your plans. Especially if you’re not sure when it expires: Some destinations require six months validity on your passport in order to enter the country; others require at least two blank pages for entry. But it can take a long time to get a new passport, especially during certain times of the year. And while you’re at the passport paperwork, you might want to peek at when your handy Global Entry and/or TSA PreCheck expire, which can also take a very long time to process. Here’s a handy guide to all three processes, and where to get the information you need.

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Why, How, and When to Renew a Passport

man holding U.S. passport over world map

First, let’s start with the urgency of why you need to be thinking about renewing your passport, especially in and after 2020: Real ID.

As the October 2020 deadline for the Real ID Act looms, it’s vital for you to a) know whether you live in any of the states where current driver’s licenses don’t meet the new criteria; and b) go out and get a Real ID once your state offers them, so that come October 2020 you’ll be able to fly domestically with your license. Here’s a quick and easy guide to What You Need to Know About Real ID in 2020. And if you don’t have a Real ID in time for the deadline, you’ll need another valid form of ID, like a passport, to get past airport security.

When to renew: According to the U.S. State Department, the very best time to apply for a new passport, or renew an expiring one, is between September and the end of December. In other words, that’s the department’s off-peak season, when demand for passports dips and applications can be processed faster. High season is “January through August when passport demand is extremely high and when applications may take longer to process.” And while adult passports are valid for 10 years, children’s are only valid for five years.

How to renew: Renewing a passport (or acquiring your first one) can usually be done via mail. All that’s required is filling out an application, paying the processing fee, and mailing in all the correct materials—including your prior passport, which you’ll get back with your new one. Here’s the State Department’s guide to applying for a passport, including all the correct forms, fees, and special situations. Passport renewal processing times are typically six to eight weeks. There’s also the option to expedite a passport application, which costs $60. The step that’s most often messed up when renewing a passport is taking an acceptable photo for your new passport, which can delay the process: Here’s a guide to How to Take Your Own Passport Photo.

How to renew fast, in an emergency: If you need an emergency passport renewal ahead of a trip, here’s How to Renew a Passport in 24 Hours.

Why, How, and When to Renew Global Entry

global entry kiosks

Long renewal wait times for Global Entry (six months) have been getting longer–which is why you should apply for renewal as early as possible, up to a year before it expires. But if your five years of Global Entry validity is due to expire soon, don’t panic: You can now continue to use your old card for one year after the listed expiration date, so long as you applied for renewal before your card expired.

This extension is relatively new, and was needed because U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) has fallen far behind in processing Global Entry renewals. The backlog of hundreds of thousands of applications is reportedly due to last year’s government shut-down and an apparent worker shortage. Here’s everything you need to know about Global Entry privileges and other basics.

When to renew: If your Global Entry is about to expire, you need to apply for renewal ASAP, and before your card expires. You can apply up to one year before your card expires, and as long as you accomplish that, you’ll have a year grace period to keep using that card, even while your online application for renewal says “pending.” And it could for a while: Global Entry users currently undergoing renewal have reported wait times well over six months. It’s worth noting that there’s no penalty in the price of your Global Entry for applying a year early; meaning, your new card’s expiration date will still be another five years off from the prior card’s expiration date, and you’ll pay the same fee.

How to renew: Here’s SmarterTravel’s Guide to Global Entry Renewal. For an abbreviated look at the process, here’s how U.S. Customs and Border Patrol identifies the steps to renewing Global Entry membership:

    • Log onto your TTP System account here. Select the BLUE Renew Application under Program Membership. The Personal Information page will display. Complete and pay for your renewal.
    • Upon renewal, you may be required to interview again.  This is determined by the vetting center and the determination cannot be appealed.  If conditionally approved, you will need to schedule an interview to finalize your renewal if you still wish to be a member.
    • Also, a renewal may be approved without needing to schedule another interview.  In this case, a new card will be mailed to the address on file.

Why, How, and When to Renew TSA PreCheck

People going through TSA security screening a busy international airport.

If you have Global Entry, you also have TSA PreCheck. That means the above extension period also applies to your TSA PreCheck via your Global Entry card. If you have a standalone TSA PreCheck that’s coming up for renewal, though, you’ll need to act fast.

When to renew: Like Global Entry, TSA PreCheck also last for five years. If you don’t have Global Entry, you can apply for TSA PreCheck renewal up to six months in advance of expiration. Again, there’s no penalty to the price of your membership for applying early; meaning, your new membership expiration date will still be another five years off from the prior card’s expiration date, and you’ll pay the same fee.

How to renew: By logging on to the TSA PreCheck renewal homepage with your Known Traveler Number and paying the fee. You can find out how to look it up here if you forgot it. Your Known Traveler Number will remain the same with your renewed membership; you may or may not be asked to reinterview for the membership. Here’s SmarterTravel’s Guide to renewing TSA PreCheck.

Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options

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Editor’s note: SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins contributed to this story.

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SmarterTravel’s Shannon McMahon is a former news reporter who writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.

Categories
Active Travel Adventure Travel Beach Island

5 Exotic Places Where You Don’t Need a Passport

Longing for a long-distance getaway but don’t have a passport? No problem! Here are five tropical destinations that offer warm weather, gorgeous beaches, and inviting culture that Americans can experience without a passport.

Exotic Places Where You Don’t Need a Passport

From Caribbean favorites to lesser-visited South Pacific gems, these five overseas destinations offer all the vacation glory with none of the passport requirements for U.S. citizens.

Puerto Rico

Puerto rico

The island of Puerto Rico has long been a favorite of travelers from the contiguous 48. Inexpensive airfare from low-cost carriers makes Puerto Rico an economical option for East Coasters. It’s also one of the easiest Caribbean destinations to visit, since you can explore its many wonders without a U.S. passport.

Stay: The boutique Malecon House in Vieques offers ocean views and an ideal location for a relaxed beach vacation.

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United States Virgin Islands

Puerto rico

The U.S. Virgin Islands lie mere minutes away from Puerto Rico by plane. Made up of three main islands—St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John—plus a scattering of smaller isles, the U.S.V.I. relies heavily on tourism, and has slowly made a comeback after hurricanes in recent years.

Each island has its own unique appeal. St. John, with its national parkland and legendary diving, will charm true escapists. St. Thomas is a shopper’s dream, with countless boutiques and jewelers, as well as two bustling cruise terminals. And Danish-flavored and diverse St. Croix is a favorite of luxury-seeking honeymooners.

Stay: Find accommodations of every stripe including the smart Ritz-Carlton on St. Thomas.

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Northern Mariana Islands

Puerto rico

These Micronesian islands have been governed by many in their long history: first by Spanish colonists in the 16th century, then Japanese forces during WWII, and finally, the United States since the Battle of Saipan in 1944.

The islands rely heavily on tourism from their northern neighbors Japan and Korea as well as the United States. History buffs will find much to see in Saipan, the largest island of the Marianas, which is home to several war memorials and museums. Adrenaline junkies can dive the Grotto, a limestone cavern whose 70-foot-deep waters are home to sea turtles and reef sharks, or take a boat to the nearby lagoon surrounding Managaha Island.

Stay: While the Mariana Islands are relatively remote, several major hotel operators, including Hyatt, run four- and five-star properties on Saipan.

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Guam

Puerto rico

Much like the Northern Marianas, Guam to the south was colonized by the Spanish, changed hands during WWII, and is now a tourist destination for Japanese and U.S. nationals. (Its second-largest source of income is the U.S. military, whose navy, coast guard, and air force bases make up about one-third of Guam’s total land area.)

Military aside, there is much to do on this vivid island: Tumon’s beaches are known for great snorkeling, and Guam’s teeming seas are famous among divers for visibility up to 150 feet. Two Lovers Point, a cliff-side lookout, offers some pristine panoramas from 400 feet above the Philippine Sea (plus a dramatic legend of star-crossed lovers).

Stay: while flights to Guam don’t come cheap, accommodations do; resorts in Tumon and nearby Tamuning average around $200 per night.

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American Samoa

Puerto rico

Rounding out this list is the unincorporated territory of American Samoa, a collection of five volcanic islands and two atolls between Fiji and the Cook Islands. A truly off-the-beaten-path destination, there are only a handful of hotels on Tutuila and the neighboring islands, scant tourism infrastructure, and, beyond the fast-food restaurants, few commercial distractions to remind you of home.

Find coral-filled waters, craggy coastlines sculpted of lava, and untouched beaches whose only other sunbathers are the seabirds. And unlike highly trafficked Polynesian destinations, the native Samoan culture is still undeniably authentic here. In the village of Alega, drop into Tisa’s Barefoot Bar for a drink, a meal (the chef will grill your fresh-caught lobster for you), or a night’s rest in the fale (a traditional Samoan hut).

American tourists can fly into Pago Pago via Hawaiian Airlines.

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Traveling? Consider These Carry-On Options

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

Categories
Security Travel Scams

What to Do If You’ve Lost Your Bag, Wallet, Everything

You’re winging your way across Europe, having the time of your life, when you make a simple mistake. You set your bag down as you slurp an extra-large gelato, and before you know it … your bag is gone. Unfortunately, today’s the day you tucked your passport, credit cards, and extra cash in your bag instead of in your money belt. That sinking feeling is the realization that—except for the euro or two in your pocket—you’ve lost everything.

Odds are this won’t ever happen to you. But if it does, these tips can make even this worst-case scenario a minor bump in your European adventure.

Don’t Panic

First of all, take a breath. Panic clouds your judgment. And don’t beat yourself up: Even the most careful traveler can get ripped off. I once met a family in Amsterdam who managed to lose all their bags between the airport and their first hotel, and went on to have a very successful trip.

Ask for Help

If you’re in a country where little English is spoken, enlist the help of a local English-speaker to assist you in making phone calls or explaining the situation to the police. Try your hotelier or someone at the tourist office. Fellow travelers you’ve met can also be sources of help.

File a Police Report

Find a police officer and report the theft or loss. Having a police report may help with replacing your passport and credit cards, and is a must if you file an insurance claim for a lost rail pass or expensive travel gear.

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Use the Internet

Get online at your hotel (if they don’t have a public Internet terminal, explain the situation and ask if you can use their reception-desk computer). If you’re between hotels, look for free Internet access at the tourist office or a library. Use the Internet to find contact details for the nearest U.S. embassy and your bank, retrieve the information you have stored online, or solicit help from folks back home.

Replace your passport

This is your top priority. Without a passport, you can’t leave the country, and you’ll find it difficult to check in to a new hotel or receive wired funds. To replace your passport, you’ll need to go in person to the closest American embassy (usually in the capital city) or consulate (in major towns). A helpful list is at www.travel.state.gov, or check a local phone book.

A replacement passport costs $145 and can generally be issued within a few days, or faster if you make a good case that you need it right away. If you don’t have the funds, the embassy will help you contact someone at home who can wire money directly to the embassy.

Cancel debit and credit cards

Within two days, cancel your lost or stolen debit and credit cards (limiting your liability to $50) and order replacements. Their 800 numbers don’t work overseas; call the global customer-assistance centers collect. Store these numbers on your phone in case you find yourself in this situation. You’ll need to tell them the name of the bank that issued the card and the type of card; it helps if you can also provide your credit card number and identification-verification details. Your bank can generally deliver a new card to you in Europe within two to three business days. Also, notify your mobile phone carrier if your phone was stolen.

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To avoid losing it all, be prepared

Wear a money belt. Keep a few $20 bills in a separate bag or hidden somewhere on your person. If you’re traveling with a partner, carry photocopies of each other’s passports and other important documents; store important documents in a password-protected account online; and/or leave copies with loved ones who can fax them to you if needed.

Keep track of your stuff

You’re more likely to inadvertently lose your bag than to have it stolen. I’ve heard of travelers leaving passports under pillows, bags on the overhead rack on the bus, cameras in the taxi, and once even a backpack under a bush beside a hiking trail. You’re especially vulnerable when you’re tired, confused, or using public transportation. Don’t absentmindedly set a bag down next to you while you wait in line at the train station; always be in physical contact with your stuff.

Nowadays, you can purchase small GPS-tracking devices for your keys, bags, etc. If you have lost your phone, follow these steps; nowadays you have even a better chance of getting your stuff back with location services.

Whatever happens, try to make the best of the situation. Be flexible and patient. It may not help at the time, but try to remember that your loss will make for a good story when you get home. Like a friend of mine says, “When it comes to travel, Tragedy + Time = Comedy.”

Products for Staying Safe While Traveling

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Rick Steves writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at rick@ricksteves.com and follow his blog on Facebook.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2011. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Airport Passenger Rights Security

Airline and Airport Lost and Found: What to Do If You Leave Your Laptop (or Anything Else) on the Plane

Recently, when sifting through my bag at the car rental counter, it hit me: My passport was most definitely still on the plane. After a brief moment of total panic, I remembered the most important thing when you’ve left something vital on the plane: Time is of the essence.

Help! I Left My Laptop, Passport, Tablet, Wallet, Glasses, etc. on the Plane

Go ahead, give yourself 30 seconds to freak out. Done? Now it’s time to spring into action.

If You’re Still in the Airport and Haven’t Exited the Pre-Screened Security Area

As quickly as you can, head back to the gate. Hopefully, the plane hasn’t left yet. If it’s still at the gate, there’s most likely a cleaning crew on the plane. Politely explain your situation to the gate agent; they should be able to retrieve your left-behind item.

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If You’re Still at the Airport, But Have Left the Secure Area

Go straight to the baggage desk—or the check-in desk, or the customer service desk—for your respective airline and ask them to radio the cleaning crew on the plane. Have your ticket handy and tell them your flight number and origin/destination, so they can relay the information quickly. You’ll also want the information for your gate number, seat number, and a specific description of the missing item.

If You’ve Left the Airport

First, contact the baggage services department of the airline. If you’re not too far away, you might even consider heading back to the airport; an in-person conversation in this situation can be helpful. Sometimes, reaching out on social media, especially the airline’s Twitter account, can mobilize the airline more quickly. If it’s been more than two hours and the plane has most likely left, your next step is to call the airline’s customer service line and file a lost and found report. With some airlines, you can fill out the report online.

Note that there are some third-party websites that claim to have access to lost-and-found databases of airlines and airports. But note that these services charge a fee to retrieve and return lost items at airports, so I suggest always going through the airline or airport’s official website and process. However, you should still expect to pay shipping charges for your lost item if it’s found and returned to you by the airport or airline.

Travel Tip: If you’ve left electronics on the plane, try and use the location services on the device to locate it. Once you’ve located it and filed your report, you should turn off any data plans associated with it so you don’t end up with overage charges. For cellphones, call service should be left on for about a week in order to help with the search-and-verification process.

Lost and Found Cheatsheet for Airlines

Deadlines for reporting lost items on airlines range from seven to 30 days, so the sooner you report your item left on the plane, the better. Airlines technically are not responsible for your missing or lost property, but many do their best to reunite you with your left item. Here’s lost-and-found contact information for domestic and international carriers.

Domestic/North America Airlines’ Lost and Found Claim Contact Information

International Airlines’ Lost and Found Claim Contact Information

  • Air New Zealand (online form available)
  • ANA (online form available)
  • Avianca Airlines
  • British Airways (contact the airport directly)
  • Cathay Pacific Airways (contact local baggage services)
  • Emirates (contact the airport directly)
  • Korean Air
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle (depends on your airport; passports are handed over to local law enforcement)
  • Qantas Airways (contact the airport directly)
  • Qatar Airways (online form available; passports are handed over to local airport authorities)
  • Singapore Airlines (online form available for Singapore airport only; otherwise call airport directly)
  • Thai Airways International (contact the airport directly)
  • Turkish Airlines (contact the airport directly)
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways (contact the airport directly or call 1-800-880-6253)

Note that if it’s a passport you’ve lost at an international airport, it will most likely be turned over to local law enforcement or local airport authorities. 

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You’re Not Sure Where You Left Something …

Your next step is to contact the arrival airport’s lost and found (usually you can find this with a simple Google search or on the customer service section of its website). If you’re unsure when your item went missing, also contact your departure airport’s lost and found, any airports where you had a layover, and the TSA’s (if in the U.S.) lost and found.

Lost and Found Claim Contact Information for Major U.S. Airports

Most airports have a desk location in the airport, plus contact information and an online form so you can file a claim even if you’re no longer at the airport. Click the link for a specific airport’s details.

How to Avoid Leaving Something Important on the Plane

The good news is that you can take steps to ensure you don’t leave anything on the plane. And if you do leave an important item behind, there are ways you can prepare in advance to increase the chances of getting the item back. Here are my top tips:

  1. For electronics, make sure that location services and features like “Find my phone” are turned on.
  2. Clearly label your items.
  3. Consider purchasing a device tracker, like a Tile Sticker, to help you locate your device if it goes missing.
  4. Don’t put items in the seatback pocket in front of you.
  5. Always travel with a photocopy of your identification and passport in your personal item.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley Rossi has, in fact, left her passport on a plane (one time, okay!?) and will never put something important in the seatback pocket again. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

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Categories
Packing Travel Technology Travel Trends

7 Travel Electronics the Least Tech-Savvy Travelers Will Love

Not all travelers are packing high-tech travel electronics or plugging in every chance they get, but there are plenty of everyday items that travel better when they incorporate some technology. These travel electronics provide low-tech solutions to common travel challenges like staying in touch, easily sourcing potable water, and protecting your personal property while traveling.

These are the best travel electronics, ranging from those with charge-free simplicity to low-tech gadgets that require little to no tinkering.

RFID-Blocking Wallet or Purse

 rfid-blocking-wallets

Safeguard yourself from electronic pickpockets looking to lift personal data from chips inserted in passports, IDs, and credit cards. Simply put those important documents in RFID-blocking wallets like this spacious women’s leather clutch or this men’s passport wallet, which makes room for cash and cards, too.

Water-Filtering Bottle

 LifeStraw go water filter bottle

A low-tech solution to sourcing clean, potable water, a filtration water bottle means you can hydrate at just about any water source. The LifeStraw Water-Filtering Bottle claims to filter out 99.9 percent of water-borne bacteria, making even the grossest water drinkable. That includes water from questionable sources such as ponds and lakes when you’re camping, and tap water in destinations where you’d normally not drink from the faucet.

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Universal Power Adapter

 BESTEK universal travel adapter 220v

It’s time to upgrade your universal power adapter. Today’s adapters simultaneously perform prong-adapting and power-converting duties, so your gadgets don’t get fried in nations with different voltages. Amazon’s most popular power adapter/converter is the Bestek Universal Power Adapter, which can charge seven items at once. 

Charging Phone Case

Lonlif battery case for iphone

You can map your destination, stay in touch with everyone, and keep your entertainment accessible while traveling—but you can only do that if your phone has battery life. The best way to keep your phone charged without having to carry all those cables is by popping your phone in a charging phone case. Make sure to get a charging phone case that fits your particular phone’s model, and one that’s waterproof, to boot.

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E-Reader

amazon prime perks reading

Who has space to spare in their luggage when we’re all just trying to avoid paying bag fees? Lighten your load by trading in paperbacks for an e-reader. The latest iteration of the Amazon Kindle holds twice the amount of content, is waterproof, and starts at $129 (check for sales during the holiday shopping period).

Tracking Device

tile key finder

Ever get distracted by the sights and suddenly realize one of your valuables is gone? Quickly locate lost items with a tracking device like Tile. The tracking device will ring when in range of a member of the Tile community, and its location will be shown on the Tile app even if you’re out of range. Attach a tracking device to your luggage, camera, keys, phone, wallet, purse, or anything else you’d be hard-pressed to replace.

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Fitness Tracker

Use a fitness-tracking device such as the Fitbit to keep key health metrics such as heart rate, spent calories, and sleep patterns at your fingertips. Achieving weight-loss goals is easier thanks to fitness trackers that help you count steps while you’re on the road. Fitbit Pay on newer models also now offers the ability to pay on-the-go. If you’re willing to go a little more high-tech, Smartwatches can also be used as fitness trackers.

Travel in Comfortable Style

No matter where you’re headed on your next trip, comfort is key during travel. Show off your high-tech gear with a cozy yet fashionable style to pair.

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Patricia Magaña refuses to succumb to travel electronics like e-readers and instead makes room in her bag for a good book. Follow her on Instagram @PatiTravels.

Categories
Family Travel Packing Pet Travel Solo Travel Student Travel

The Essential Pre-Trip Checklist

For a stress-free, tranquil trip, preparation is key. If you’re getting ready to go on vacation, download our pre-trip checklist to help you take care of the essential tasks before embarking on your getaway. This customizable and editable chart includes everything you’ll likely need to do before heading out the door, from arranging pet care to taking care of finances. Download the list and add in any extra preparations you might need to complete—and you’ll be well on your way to a worry-free adventure. NEW: Download a mobile-friendly version of the pre-trip checklist.

Pre-Trip Checklist for Home/Pets

  • Turn off AC/fans
  • Take out trash
  • Clean out fridge/throw out food
  • Return due library books
  • Close/lock windows
  • Unplug electronics
  • Turn off lights/set timer for lights
  • Notify home-security system co.
  • Arrange house sitter
  • Place stop order on newspaper
  • Place stop order on mail
  • Stock up on pet food and litter
  • Arrange pet sitter or kennel stay
  • Obtain documentation for required pet vaccinations

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Pre-Trip Checklist for Finances/Health

  • Visit a travel clinic if traveling to a foreign country
  • Program ICE (“in case of emergency”) number into your phone
  • Check overseas medical coverage
  • Refill prescriptions
  • Get necessary immunizations
  • Make copies of passport/ID
  • Notify CC co./bank of travel
  • Pay necessary bills in advance
  • Research entrance fee costs
  • Create trip budget
  • Take out cash at ATM
  • Obtain foreign currency
  • Get small bills for tipping

Pre-Trip Checklist for Itinerary/Flight

  • Look up baggage fees for airline
  • Add new luggage tags to your suitcase
  • Download travel apps/e-books
  • Set up away message
  • Set up flight alerts via text
  • Weigh packed luggage
  • Set up a travel plan for cell phone
  • Charge all electronics
  • Remove previous airline luggage tags
  • Check in online/print boarding passes
  • Confirm rental car reservations
  • Confirm flight, train, bus reservations
  • Confirm hotel reservations
  • Create/print itinerary
  • Check weather
  • Pack
  • Notify friends/family of travel
  • Check your passport expiration date
  • Program phone numbers into cellphone
  • Arrange transportation to the airport

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

Categories
Booking Strategy Cities Passenger Rights Travel Technology Travel Trends

Europe Travel Will Require an Authorization Starting in 2021

Travel to Europe is going to get slightly more complicated in 2021. Starting that year, visitors from the U.S. will need to get an ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System) approval before entering countries in the Schengen zone. According to the delegation of the European Union to the U.S., the measure is not a Europe visa, but an authorization that “will enable us to get more comprehensive information from travelers coming from visa-exempt, third-country [nations] arriving at the Schengen external borders.”

The new requirement stems from an E.U. vote we covered in 2017, which passed a measure to expand requirements beyond just passports. ETIAS is being buzzed about since an ETIAS-servicing travel agency recently emerged online.

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While ETIAS will be a new, extra step for American travelers, the inconvenience seems like it will be somewhat minimal. The authorization will be valid for three years, meaning travelers don’t have to reapply every time they travel. “Throughout these three years of validity of the ETIAS visa for USA travelers,” one ETIAS service explains, “it is possible to enter any of the Schengen zone European countries which apply to this visa as many times as necessary. The ETIAS visa for Americans is a multiple-entry visa with few restrictions in order to promote tourism while maintaining a high level of international security.”

One important requirement: When applying, your passport “must be valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay.” The agency also notes that “passports over 10 years old may not be accepted as a valid travel document,” but of course for Americans those passports would be expired, anyway.

In addition to a valid passport, ETIAS requires a credit or debit card (to pay a fee of about $8) and a valid email address. Enrollment is online, and travelers will receive confirmation via email. Currently, there is no indication of how long it will take to get an ETIAS. Presumably it will be good practice to apply at least four to six weeks in advance of needing it. The requirements don’t address any change in the current rule that requires individual visits to be under 90 days without a separate visa.

Affected Countries

As noted earlier, ETIAS only applies to the 26 countries in the Schengen zone: Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Malta, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Plus, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City are also affected.

Notably, the U.K. and Ireland will not be part of ETIAS, though in the case of Ireland, an ETIAS servicer notes “it is very probable that in the near future that will change and they will require an ETIAS visa waiver to cross Ireland’s border.”  Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus each have somewhat unique situations, which are detailed here.

Readers: Are you surprised? Comment below.

Corrections: A previous version of this story stated that ETIAS is a visa. The European Union delegation to the United States has clarified, however, that “the European Travel Information and Authorization System is not a visa. It’s an online travel authorization similar to ESTA.” ESTA is the United States’ travel authorization program that applies to Europeans. A previous version of this story also misspelled Liechtenstein. It has been corrected.

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Booking Strategy Health & Wellness Money Security

The 8 Worst Travel Decisions You Can Make on Vacation

You’ve done hours of research, polished your travel itinerary, and put together a comprehensive packing list, but your trip could still go wrong—very wrong. Don’t let any of the following bad travel decisions ruin your next vacation.

Forgoing Travel Insurance on Expensive International Trips

It’s legit to skip trip insurance on certain types of vacations, such as inexpensive weekend getaways or domestic trips where you’ll have ready access to medical care if you need it. But on longer international trips, travel insurance is almost always a wise idea.

To determine whether you need trip insurance, consider the following questions: Have you spent a significant sum on nonrefundable airfare, rail passes, and/or trip deposits—i.e., money you would lose if your plans changed? Will you be traveling to a place where high-quality medical care isn’t readily available? (Medical evacuation is extremely expensive.) Are you traveling under circumstances in which weather could disrupt your plans, such as a trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you should seriously consider travel insurance. It usually only costs a few hundred dollars, but it could save you thousands if your trip goes awry. Reputable companies include Allianz Travel and Seven Corners.

[st_related]5 Common Travel Insurance Questions, Answered[/st_related]

Risking Your Life to Take a Selfie

Everyone wants to get the perfect shot for their Instagram, but would you sacrifice your life to do it? A recent study discovered that 259 people died while taking selfies between October 2011 and November 2017. Among the most common causes of death: being washed away by waves on the beach and snapping photos “in front of a running train.” More recently, two tourists fell to their deaths while attempting to take a selfie on a ledge at Yosemite National Park.

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Use common sense when snapping vacation photos. Risky places like windy ledges, rough seas, and oncoming trains aren’t worth the photograph. Maintain a safe distance, and live to travel another day.

Not Checking Passport and Visa Requirements

Imagine planning your trip for months, flying 12 hours across the ocean, and then discovering once you arrive that you don’t have the visa you need to enter the country. It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare.

Way before the first day of your trip—and I’m talking months here, not days or weeks—check the document requirements for your destination. Do you need a visa? If so, can you get one on arrival, or do you need to obtain it in advance? Does your destination require that passports be valid for at least six months after your trip? Asking these questions early will give you time to renew your passport or apply for a visa.

If you’re in a pinch, a passport/visa expeditor such as Travel Visa Pro can help you get your documents in a hurry.

[st_related]Here’s Every Country That Requires a Visa for Americans[/st_related]

Arriving for a Cruise or Tour on the Day It Departs

Whether it’s to conserve vacation days or to save money on an extra hotel night, some travelers are tempted to schedule their flight to arrive the same day their cruise ship or bus tour departs. But you’ll regret that decision if your flight is delayed and you don’t arrive in time to meet your group.

If your ship leaves without you, you’ll probably have to buy an expensive last-minute flight to meet up with the vessel in its next port of call. For a bus tour, you might need to take a cab or public transportation to catch up with the group. Do you really need the extra stress? Schedule your flight to arrive at least one day early. This will give you some wiggle room and allow you time to explore your departure city if your flight does arrive as planned.

Not Checking for Bedbugs

As anyone who has ever attempted to rid their homes of bedbugs can tell you, it’s much better never to catch them in the first place. These creepy-crawlies are notorious hitchhikers. They move quickly and can crawl onto your clothing or suitcase from an infested hotel and crawl off right into your home.

To spot bedbugs in your hotel room, carefully examine the mattress, box spring, and headboard for bugs or their droppings as soon as you arrive. During your inspection, leave your bags on a tile surface where it would be difficult for the bugs to hide. If you see any sign of bedbugs, immediately request a different room.

Once you get home, you can also wash your clothes with a laundry additive that kills bedbugs, just to be safe.

[st_related]Bedbugs: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know But Were Too Disgusted to Ask[/st_related]

Not Getting Your Shots

The one thing you never want to bring home from a trip is a potentially fatal disease like typhoid or malaria. Fortunately, there are vaccines and medications available to prevent many diseases that are common in other parts of the world.

Start by researching your destination on the CDC website, which will offer a list of recommended vaccines as well as general health information. Depending on what you find, you may want to schedule an appointment at a travel clinic; the professionals there can administer vaccines, prescribe anti-malarial drugs or other medications, and offer advice on other items you might want to bring along (such as antihistamines or bug spray).

[st_related]9 Over-the-Counter Medicines You Should Pack for Every Trip[/st_related]

Overscheduling

Your vacation should feel like a vacation—not a forced march from one museum to the next. So why schedule it that way? Many travelers understandably want to see as much as possible, but that often results in feeling constantly rushed, without enough time to savor and reflect on what you’re seeing.

If that sounds familiar, consider adopting a slow travel approach. This means identifying a small number of attractions and seeing them thoroughly instead of racing from one to the next. You can also commit to getting around by slower (and often more affordable) means of transportation, such as walking, biking, or public transportation. Or try blocking out free time in each day’s schedule that can be used for whatever sounds appealing when you’re there—like a long lunch or a stroll down an intriguing side street.

Booking a Tight Connection

When searching for airfare, you might think, “Wow, this flight is so cheap! Surely 45 minutes is enough time to connect between flights. The booking site wouldn’t show me this itinerary if it weren’t feasible, right?” Wrong.

Although flight search sites sometimes show connections as tight as 30 minutes, it’s not a good idea to book one of these itineraries. At best, you’ll find yourself sprinting between terminals to make it to your gate. At worst, even a relatively minor delay on your first flight could mean you miss your connection entirely. You’re much better off allowing 60 to 90 minutes for a domestic connection and at least two hours for an international one, even if it means paying a little more.

[st_related]Tight Airport Connections: What You Need to Know[/st_related]

Sacrificing Safety to Save Money

There are places where it makes sense to trim expenses on vacation, like packing lighter so you don’t have to pay checked baggage fees or booking a vacation rental with a kitchen so you can make your own meals instead of eating out. And then there are parts of your trip where scrimping isn’t the smartest thing to do—especially when it comes to your personal safety.

Walking back to your hotel late at night to avoid paying for a Lyft ride, staying in a sketchy neighborhood because it’s cheaper, or hitchhiking to spare yourself the cost of a rental car might save you a few bucks, but these activities pose real risks. Safety comes first, so save the penny pinching for other parts of your trip.

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Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

Categories
Money Travel Scams Travel Technology Travel Trends

What Marriott Customers Can Do Following the Chain’s Massive 4-Year Data Breach

By now, you’ve likely heard about the massive data breach of Marriott’s Starwood guest reservation database. If you haven’t: The info of nearly 500 million people may have been compromised in the hack, making it one of the largest breaches of consumer data in history, and one that might have spanned over the past four years.

The hotel chain said it first learned of a possible breach back in September. According to NBC News, a subsequent investigation revealed there had been “unauthorized access since 2014” and that an “unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information.” Marriott later determined on November 19 that the information came from the Starwood reservation database. Starwood operates dozens of prominent hotel brands, including Westin, W Hotels, Ritz-Carlton, and all Marriott properties including Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield by Marriott, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

[st_related]800,000 Orbitz Customers’ Credit Card Data Breached[/st_related]

“For about 327 million of the guests … the information includes some combination of a name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.”

Marriott says that “for some individuals, the information copied also included payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128). There are two components needed to decrypt the payment card numbers, and at this point Marriott has not been able to rule out the possibility that both were taken.”

What Should You Do?

For starters, Marriott set up a site with FAQs and a dedicated call center line. Marriott will begin sending emails to affected customers on a rolling basis. If you are indeed affected by the breach, there are some steps you can consider.

First off, change your Starwood password, and update any other accounts where you use the same password. Second, it’s a good idea to monitor your credit card activity and review any past activity. Even though credit card data was encrypted and therefore less likely to be stolen, Marriott isn’t guaranteeing anything beyond covering free personal-data monitoring from WebWatcher for one year.

Beyond that … it’s a little tricky. The most sensitive piece of data involved in the breach is customers’ passport information. Passport numbers can be used for a wide range of counterfeit activities, not the least of which is (obviously) creating fake passports. But thieves can also use passport numbers to open fake credit card accounts and other financial accounts in your name. There’s really only one extreme solution to the passport problem, unfortunately, which is to renew your passport.

You can also freeze your credit. This restricts access to your credit reports, which will hinder attempts to open accounts in your name. You can temporarily lift the freeze when you need to provide access to your report for your own needs, and you can freeze your credit indefinitely.

Readers, have you stayed in a Starwood property over the past four years?

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Fashion & Beauty Miscellany Money Packing

7 Things You Shouldn’t Buy Before You Travel

The plane ticket, hotel reservations, and car rental are easy. What’s not so simple is the decision to buy the array of additional perks, products, and add-ons available to travelers prior to departure. Should you insure your trip? Do you really need those extra inches of legroom? Is an expedited-passport service worth the cost? We have the answers. In the interest of saving you money, we’ve rounded up seven things that you can probably do without on your next trip.

Things You Shouldn’t Buy Before You Travel

Think twice before handing over your hard-earned money for the following products and services.

Travel Insurance

(Photo: Insurance via Shutterstock)

[st_content_ad]Travel insurance can be a wise investment. Or it can be a needless expense. Many avid travelers move across the planet without ever even considering purchasing trip insurance. (I’ve never paid for a policy.) They find travel insurance unnecessary because, often, they’re planning budget trips or they don’t consider themselves at high risk for cancellation. To find out whether it’s wise to insure your trip, ask yourself some important questions. For example, are you planning an unusually long and expensive journey (such as a honeymoon or a three-week jaunt to Asia)? If you were forced to cancel your trip due to an unforeseen reason, would you be OK with the financial loss?

Furthermore, if you’re in a higher-risk situation—if, say, your medical insurance doesn’t cover you abroad or you’re heading to the Caribbean during hurricane season—travel insurance might be a smart purchase. Otherwise, maybe you’re better off pocketing the extra hundred dollars or so and taking your chances on the road. To learn more, read 5 Common Travel Insurance Questions, Answered.

Private Passport-Expediting Service

(Photo: Passport via Shutterstock)

Paying for a private passport expediter—a very expensive service—usually isn’t your best option for getting that little blue book in a hurry. Did you know that you can get an expedited passport directly from the State Department? This will run you additional costs, but will be far cheaper than the cost of a rush passport from a private company, which will always include additional charges on top of requisite State Department fees. The only reason any traveler should pay for a private expediting service is if he or she doesn’t live near a passport agency or cannot make it to one. (See a list of passport agencies here.) The State Department also offers a fast-track processing service that gets a passport to your mailbox in less than three weeks.

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

Seat Assignment

(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Certain airlines charge passengers for the “privilege” of selecting an assigned seat upon booking. When booking your flight with one of these guys, you might find yourself wondering whether it’s worth the extra fee to secure a designated seat before your trip. In many cases, it’s not. A seat assignment guarantees that you’ll be plopped in a space next to your partner, or near the window, or wherever it is that you’ve chosen—but that’s the extent of its advantages. There’s no guarantee that you won’t get bumped, that you’ll find enough room in the overhead bin for your carry-on bag, or that you’ll really make it onto the plane before the herds of line cutters at the gate. A far better and free option? Check in for your flight as early as possible. Get to your computer exactly 24 hours before boarding and you’ll likely be among the first to select your seat.

Prepaid Credit Cards

(Photo: Credit Card via Shutterstock)

We all want to keep our money secure while traveling. Prepaid credit cards, which are often billed as a safer and more convenient alternative to carrying cash abroad, might seem like a smart option. You purchase a card and load it with funds in your preferred currency ahead of your trip. And if your card gets lost or stolen, you can cancel it immediately. Simple, right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Most prepaid credit cards come with some surprising hidden fees, such as inactivity fees, reloading charges, monthly fees, activation fees, and so on.

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Premium-Economy Seat Upgrade

(Photo: Soon via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Premium seats are not all alike. Generally, when flying internationally, a premium-seat upgrade is a big deal, but on most domestic flights, premium-economy seating is paltry. You get a couple extra inches of seat pitch, end of story. As a short person with no need for extra legroom, I’ve found premium-economy seats on domestic flights to be disappointing. Investigate whether the cost is worth the reward by looking up the details of your prospective premium-economy product on your airline’s website or on our sister site SeatGuru.

TV-Show Downloads

(Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

I have a habit of paying to download a season of some kind of mystery TV show on my iPad before a long flight. But increasingly, I find myself watching something on the in-flight entertainment system rather than powering up my iPad and wasting its battery. Airlines have been beefing up their entertainment offerings in big ways in the past year or so, with many major carriers implementing live TV and Wi-Fi services. JetBlue has live DirecTV, while others wow with other onboard amenities.

[st_related]5 Ways to Survive a Flight in Basic Economy [/st_related]

Expedited Security

(Photo: Michael Nagle/Stringer/Getty)

Expedited security can be a really awesome perk when you’re faced with a lengthy line that snakes off into the distance. On the other hand, when there are three other people in line and the sound of crickets in the air, it can feel like a rip-off. So when should you buy an expedited-security add-on? First, consider your travel dates: Are you heading to the airport during peak travel days (holidays or weekends)? If so, expect lines.

Things You SHOULD Buy Before You Travel

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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

Categories
Airport Booking Strategy Security

10 Things You Need to Know About Global Entry

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Global Entry, along with TSA PreCheck, is one of the primary ways American travelers can streamline their airport experience. Both programs are designed with frequent travelers in mind—let’s say those who fly at least two to three times per year—and each is tailored for a different kind of travel. PreCheck is for domestic travel, while Global Entry for international flights.

Here are some key elements of the service to help determine if it’s right for you.

[st_related]2 Easy Ways to Get a Faster Global Entry Interview[/st_related]

What does Global Entry get you?

A lot! The central benefit is expedited re-entry to the United States via kiosks at passport control—no paperwork or processing lines.

In addition, you get all the benefits of TSA PreCheck: expedited passage through airport security at hundreds of U.S. airports and through dozens of airlines. Having TSA PreCheck means you can pass through an airport security lane without taking off your shoes, removing any electronics or liquids from your bag, or taking off your belt or jacket.

How do you enroll?

Global entry is available to U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents, as well as citizens of several other countries.

To enroll, you must first register with the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP). Once enrolled, you must complete an application and pay a $100 fee. If U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), which administers the program, approves your application, your TTP account will instruct you to set up an interview at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. You must bring your passport and one other form of ID to this interview, and long wait times mean you could have months to prepare for it.

Can family members use it if they are not enrolled themselves?

No, every member of your family or traveling party must be enrolled to use the service. This includes children.

Do you always have to use Global Entry if enrolled?

No. In the event you are traveling with non-members, for example, you can use the regular passport control process rather than the designated Global Entry kiosks.

[st_related]What Is the CLEAR Program, and Is It Right for You?[/st_related]

Does it guarantee expedited passage through security?

Mostly. Occasionally there may be reasons that the designated kiosks aren’t working or are available, but in those cases members are typically granted “head of the line” privileges.

Do I still need to declare food items or agricultural products?

Yes. Global Entry does not exclude you from standard declaration requirements. If you declare something, your kiosk receipt will have an “O” on it and you will still need to meet with an officer to discuss the declaration.

How often must you renew?

Membership is valid for five years, after which you’ll need to reapply. You can begin the renewal process one year prior to the expiration of your membership.

Do all airports participate?

No. As of October 2018, Global Entry is available at most major U.S. and Canadian airports, and at several airports overseas.

Does my loyalty program or credit card cover the program cost?

It may! Several travel credit cards (usually those with a fee) will reimburse or otherwise cover the $100 application fee.

Is Global Entry for me?

If you fly regularly and your travel plans typically include at least one international flight per year, yes. Remember, Global Entry includes all the benefits of TSA PreCheck, which alone costs $85. For an extra $15 you’ll get expedited security screening and streamlined re-entry following your journeys abroad. It’ll save you a lot of time.

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Airport Security

Mobile Passport App: The Free App That’s Better Than Global Entry

Earlier this year I took the plunge on getting Global Entry, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pre-screening that allows you to skip the customs line at most major U.S. airports when returning from abroad, and also includes TSA PreCheck. But I wish I hadn’t.

Why? Because the free service that I formerly used to skip the customs line, the CBP-approved Mobile Passport app, worked just as well—if not better, because you avoid the immense hassle of enrolling in Global Entry.

[st_related]2 Ways to Get a Faster Global Entry Interview[/st_related]

The Free Mobile Passport App vs. $100 Global Entry

After paying the $100 fee for Global Entry, struggling to schedule an approval interview thanks to packed enrollment centers across the country, waiting several months for that appointment, and trekking all the way to the airport for it, I finally have the service. Now, though, every time I use my Global Entry to get home, I begrudgingly note all the clever travelers around me toting their phone with the free Mobile Passport app lit up.

If your home airport is one of the 26 major air hubs serviced by the Mobile Passport app, do yourself a favor and skip the long, irritating process of getting Global Entry. The only thing that was efficient about the process was how quickly CBP was able to process my nonrefundable $100.

And if you’re unable to schedule a Global Entry interview appointment in the six months following your preapproval (though the appointment itself can be farther out than six months), your application could be canceled, meaning you’ll have to start the process all over again.

To its credit, CBP has been attempting to alleviate wait times by adding enrollment centers outside of airports and allowing for “Global Entry enrollment on arrival” in an effort to finalize pre-approval for those who have a homeward journey before their appointment. But I tried to do this myself during the six months I was waiting for an appointment, and was greeted with annoyance and a hard “no” when I asked CBP agents at Boston Logan International Airport about it. I guess the $100 doesn’t include much customer service.

[st_related]How to Get Global Entry for Free[/st_related] 

How to Use the Mobile Passport App

The Mobile Passport app is easy and completely free to use upon returning home from abroad. All users have to do is pull up the app when they arrive at the participating airport, input the usual answers to a few customs questions, snap a selfie, and submit the form. It’ll arrive electronically at the CBP checkpoint before you do, so you can skip the long customs lines (follow the signs for Mobile Passport, usually paired with the Global Entry line) and flash your Mobile Passport confirmation to the agent.

I travel internationally pretty often, so the Mobile Passport app helped me stay sane in the several months I waited for Global Entry. Think of filling out the app as something to do while the plane taxis and your fellow seatmates stand in the aisles with their suitcase for 10 minutes waiting for the plane door to open. Or you can fill it out before your flight and simply hit send when your plane lands. The only feasible reason not to use the Mobile Passport app is if the airport doesn’t accept it, or if you don’t have a smartphone.

Now that I know what I paid for was just a long approval process, I doubt I’ll be renewing my Global Entry when it expires in five years. I’ll likely just want the TSA PreCheck.

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SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram at @shanmcmahon.

Categories
Health & Wellness Miscellany Packing

7 Things That Will Ruin Your Trip If You Forget to Pack Them

When you forget to pack the essentials, you risk ruining your own trip. Whether you’re missing details of the Sistine Chapel’s colorful ceilings because you forgot your glasses or stuck inside your hotel room battling a cold while the rest of your travel companions hit the beach, you’ll definitely regret not giving your luggage a thorough check for the most commonly forgotten things to pack.

Essential Things People Forget to Pack

Even if you’re naturally forgetful, there are many ways to plan your packing ahead of time so you won’t forget to pack these essential travel items.

Hand Sanitizer

forget to pack

[st_content_ad]When it comes to warding off the dreaded airplane cold, your first line of defense is to sanitize everything, especially the tray table. Having sanitizer handy can make all the difference between enjoying your trip and spending your precious travel time recovering from a cold.

How to Remember: Small travel-friendly bottles of hand sanitizer are the best option to keep your seat station clean, but they’re also very easy to forget. Do yourself a favor and buy your hand sanitizer in bulk. On Amazon, you can snag an six-pack of travel-sized Purell bottles for under $10. Then stow one in each of your suitcases so you always have hand sanitizer ready, no matter which bag you bring with you.

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Medicine

forget to pack

If you do find a runny nose or throbbing headache ruining your trip, you’ll want to make sure you have the right remedy on hand. Keeping a small bottle of ibuprofen, capsules of cold medicine, or other over-the-counter remedies at the ready means you won’t have to interrupt your trip with a visit to the pharmacy.

How to Remember: Always travel with a first-aid kit and keep the medicine you need well stocked. Look for a small bag like this 100-Piece Kit and keep it ready to go in your preferred day bag. If you need to travel with your prescription medication and don’t already use a pill organizer, bring one along. Travel sometimes means crossing timezones, so a weekly organizer can help you keep track of your pill schedule when the days start to blur together.

Glasses and Contacts

 forget to pack

Nothing ruins a day of sightseeing like not being able to see properly. Finding a new pair of glasses or contacts while away from home is no easy task, and if you’re in a foreign country, you might have to find a new eye doctor to write you a prescription.

How to Remember: If you primarily wear contacts, always leave extras in your luggage when you’re not traveling. If you’re out for the day, try to keep a spare set in your purse or wallet in case you find yourself in need of a fresh pair. If you’re worried about leaving your glasses at home, keep them out in the open while you pack, preferably near your wallet or phone. This way, they’ll be less likely to slip your mind when it’s time to go.

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Itinerary Confirmations

forget to pack

When you go to check into a flight or hotel and something’s not right with the reservation, you’ll want to have your itinerary and confirmation emails handy.

How to Remember: Since you might not always have Wi-Fi, screenshot everything and keep it in an organized folder on your phone. Or go old-school and print out a hard copy. You can even keep it all organized in one of these nifty travel binders.

Hairbrush

forget to pack

A hairbrush is one of the most common things people forget to pack, but you’ll feel this one the hardest when you face your bedhead in the mirror every morning. Hotels often offer complimentary combs, but if you’re particular about your hair, as many travelers are, you’ll want to make sure you’ve packed the right tools to tame it.

How to Remember: Invest in a good fold-up brush to keep in your toiletry kit. You’ve probably tangoed with the cheaper end of the fold-up brush spectrum, but the TOUCHBeauty Detangling Brush is a quality option that promises silky hair and gives a good scalp massage.

[st_related]25 Travel-Sized Beauty Products That Are Totally on Trend[/st_related]

Passport

forget to pack

If you forget your passport, you’ll need to turn right back home and go get it. And if you don’t make it back to your flight on time, you’ll probably have to pay a fee to get booked on another flight and risk losing a day of travel.

How to Remember: Your passport should be the very first thing you grab when you start packing for an international trip. If you often have trouble remembering where you put it, get yourself a nice passport holder and the Tile Mate. Just slip the Tile into the holder and link it to the app on your phone, and you’ll be able to find your passport at the touch of a button.

A Rain Jacket

forget to pack 

If you’re going somewhere notorious for rain, an umbrella won’t always cut it. Add a rain jacket to your wardrobe and save yourself some trip-ruining discomfort.

How to Remember: You might think an extra jacket will take up too much space, but there are many rain jackets that compress down to small packages like the super lightweight running jacket for men and women.

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

Categories
Food & Drink Outdoors

LifeSaver Liberty Review: The First Water Filter Bottle With a Combined Inline Pump

The LifeSaver Liberty is a lightweight and easy-to-use water bottle that filters water to make it safe to drink.

LifeSaver Liberty Review:

Price and Where to Buy: The LifeSaver Liberty is available for $100 on Amazon or LifeSaver’s website.

How the LifeSaver LibertyRates:

  • Usefulness: 10/10. The LifeSaver Liberty quickly filters close to 100 percent of viruses, bacteria, and cysts, which means that you can use it to safely drink from any water source. It also has a replaceable, activated carbon disc which will help improve the taste of your water.
  • Value: 8/10. The LifeSaver Liberty comes with a five foot long scavenger hose (to get water from rivers), a replaceable filter cartridge, and an activated carbon disc, which makes it a good value.
  • Durability: 10/10. The water bottle itself is made from SteriTouch antimicrobial materials and is BPA-free, plus very durable. The LifeSaver Liberty can filter up to 2,000 liters before the filter needs to be replaced.
  • Portability: 7/10. The water bottle weighs just under 1.5 lbs.
  • Cool Factor: 10/10. The LifeSaver Liberty comes in fun colors and looks like a normal water bottle.

Final Verdict: If you are headed camping or somewhere without clean water, the LifeSaver Liberty will allow you to quickly and easily drink from anywhere.

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Caroline Morse Teel is always on the hunt for the newest and best travel gear. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to see what she wears around the world. 

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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.

Categories
Money

Passport Fees Are Increasing: Here’s When and Why

Beginning on April 2, many travelers will be charged an extra $10 for their new passport books or cards.

[st_content_ad]What’s increasing is the so-called execution fee, from $25 to $35. According to the State Department: “Passport execution involves the submission of a passport application in person to a passport acceptance agent for identity verification and document review. The majority of these passport applications are executed before a U.S. Postal Service passport acceptance agent, and many are executed before state and local government officials as well.”

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Because the execution fee only applies to in-person applications, there will be no increase in mail-in application fees.

With the $10 increase, the cost of an adult passport book will rise to $145; an adult card will cost $65; a child’s passport will cost $115; and a child’s card will be $50.

Passport books are good for all foreign border crossings, whether by land, sea, or air. Passport cards, on the other hand, are only good for reentering the U.S. by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. They cannot be used for international air travel.

Once issued, passports remain valid for 10 years if the applicant is at least 16 years of age, and for five years for younger applicants.

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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