The U.S. State Department implemented a revamped version of its travel advisory system yesterday that rates every country’s travel safety on a scale of one to four. The new classifications are designed to simplify travel advisory information so people can easily decide if a particular destination is safe enough to visit. In place of the previous system of alerts and advisories, the new ratings establishes advisory levels (reminiscent of the now-defunct Homeland Security Advisory System), each of which corresponds to escalating levels of insecurity. In addition, the State Department will now issue coded indicators explaining the reasons for an assigned level: The new travel advisory system includes an interactive, color-coded map that shows which countries carry what level. As examples, Sweden is a one, Germany is a two, Guatemala is a three, and Afghanistan is a four. Here’s a one-page list of every country’s rating. At first glance, this system does … [Read more...] about State Department Rates Every Country’s Safety in New Travel Advisory System
The “Do Not Disturb” sign is a ubiquitous part of the hotel-stay experience. And many would argue that it’s essential to a restful stay. After all, who wants to come out of the shower to find a housekeeper tidying up your room? But beginning with three properties on the monorail line to Disney’s Magic Kingdom—the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary resorts—the Disney company has begun replacing “Do Not Disturb” signs with “Room Occupied” signs. The big change, however, isn’t the wording on the hang tags; it’s the policy change that the new verbiage reflects. According to Walt Disney World News Today, “it will now be required that a Disney employee enter their hotel room at least once a day to ensure guest safety.” To that end, he hotels’ revised terms of service now include the following: Disney hasn’t explained the reasons for the new policy, but the prevailing theory is that … [Read more...] about New Disney Policy Puts Security Over Privacy
In these days of long security lines, the TSA’s PreCheck expedited security-clearance service can be a real time- and aggravation-saver. And now it’s easier than ever to sign up for the program. In addition to the TSA’s own processing locations, which typically require a trip to the airport, travelers may now enroll in PreCheck at any of the 1,400 IdentoGO mobile processing centers throughout the country. IdentoGO provides identity-related services to a range of companies and organizations, including professional sports teams like the New York Jets and the San Francisco 49ers, music festivals, government organizations, and so on. To find the nearest IdentoGO location, visit the TSA’s Enrollment Center Locator webpage, and enter your zip code. To sign up, you’ll need a passport or birth certificate and a state I.D. The enrollment fee is $85, for five years of PreCheck, which entitles travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts, and keep … [Read more...] about Now There’s an Easier Way to Enroll in TSA PreCheck
Author: Ingrid SandersDate of Trip: January 2006 WARNING- Robbery at Villa Alexandra A group of 10 visited Aruba 1/19-1/28/06. From 1/21 on, we were to stay at Villa Alexandra at Arashi Beach. On arrival, we found the villa to be substandard when it was promoted as luxury. It was quite expensive, and was more than we had ever paid for any other villa anywhere else in the Caribbean. Paying that amount, we had certain expectations, and these were not met with the villa in the condition we found it. It was not clean; it smelled of mildew; the refrigerater was in a constant defrost cycle; air conditioners in some bedrooms did not work; furniture looked like discards from a fraternity house; the towels were holey and threadbare; the plumbing on the lower level backed up into the showers – to mention a few of the problems we encountered. We were assured a repairman would be sent the next day, so we decided to stay anyway, as the beach location was ideal, even if the once beautiful … [Read more...] about Disastrous Aruba Vacation
Unless you’ve avoided television and the Internet entirely over the past few years, it has been almost impossible not to be aware of the recent dramatic and tragic airplane crashes. From the still-mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to the deliberate crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 by a pilot, the details of each crash are unsettling and full of sorrow and heartbreak. It’s enough to make even seasoned travelers wonder if flying is getting steadily less safe. Although the past few years have featured a few high-profile crashes, if you take the long view it becomes clear that the airline industry actually has a very good safety record — and it’s getting better, not worse. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2015 there was one commercial jet accident per 4.5 million flights. This was in line with 2014, when the number was one accident per 4.4 million flights, and better than 2013 (one accident per 2.4 million … [Read more...] about How Safe Is Air Travel?
As if travelers didn’t have enough to worry about. In addition to money belts to help us hide passports and credit cards under our clothes, there’s now a whole new line of travel gear to protect the electronic data stored on those documents. Take the Royce RFID-Blocking Passport Wallet. This attractive leather case, which retails for $39, is designed to protect travelers against identity theft. Since 2007, all U.S. passports have been issued with a small electronic chip embedded in the back cover. The chip uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to store information, including all of the identifying data printed on the front page of your passport, as well as a biometric identifier — a digital image of the passport photograph that can be used for facial recognition technology when you cross international borders. The information in the chip is transmitted via radio waves when the passport is scanned by an RFID reader. Your passport may not be the only … [Read more...] about Could This Wallet Keep Your Passport Safe?
Since diplomatic relations with Cuba were reinstated and a newly liberalized U.S.-Cuba aviation agreement was enacted last year, travel between the two countries has been a decidedly up-and-down affair. U.S. airlines initially mis-forecast demand for Cuba travel, and launched far more flights than the market could support. Several carriers have since cut back on their Cuba flight capacity, or withdrawn completely from the Cuba market. Then, in June, President Trump threatened to reverse the Obama administration’s conciliatory policy and reinstate sanctions and an embargo, further undermining enthusiasm for travel to Cuba. And the latest blow to a resumption of unfettered travel between the two countries: On September 29, the U.S. State Department issued a Travel Warning, prefaced as follows: “The Department of State warns U.S. citizens not to travel to Cuba.” This is not, at least ostensibly, a politically motivated ban. Rather it is based on a series of mysterious … [Read more...] about U.S. State Department Issues Cuba Travel Warning
Whether you’re out and about in a foreign country or on your normal route home, it never hurts to have a portable self-defense device on you. However, some self-defense products can be cumbersome or easy to forget, which is why it’s better to opt for key-chain versions like the BASU ealarm. This small device emits a loud noise when you pull a pin, yet it’s small and light enough to fit in with your keys, so you’ll never leave it at home. Price and Where to Buy It: $8 on Amazon or $16 from BASU.com Final Verdict: My main concern with this product would be that the pin might pull out accidentally, causing the alarm to sound. However, after two weeks of jostling the pin around various purses and backpacks, I never had one incident. When I tested the volume of the alarm, I was surprised to find out how easy the pin was to remove and am sure I would have no problem setting off the alarm in an emergency. Editor’s Note: Reviews are based on … [Read more...] about BASU eAlarm Review: Self-Defense in a Tiny Package
If you packed a firearm, a hand grenade, or boxcutters to go through a TSA airport-security checkpoint, you might have been able to relax: There’s a 95 percent chance the TSA would have failed to discover the contraband. That’s right, the TSA’s success rate in detecting banned carry-on items was found to be a paltry five percent. Those were the results of a recent test of the TSA’s security-screening operation at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, conducted by the TSA itself. According to Fox9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, agents posing as passengers were successful 17 out of 18 times in sneaking explosives, weapons, and drugs past security screeners. The report notes that in April 2016, a similar test of the TSA’s Minneapolis security operation found that screeners failed to identify nine out of 12 banned items. Of course, it’s unclear whether and to what extent those results can be extrapolated to other U.S. airports. But the TSA’s procedures at … [Read more...] about Is TSA Missing 95% of Banned Items at Security?
Getting Global Entry, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-screening that allows you to skip the customs line, is a time saver—but is it worth the $100? Weighing how often you’ll re-enter the U.S. and need to deal with customs is one way to decide, or you could figure out how to get Global Entry for free and have no doubts about its convenience factor. There are two main ways to hack Global Entry and get the privileges without paying, including credit card reimbursements and a little-known app. Here’s how to get Global Entry for free. Cards that will refund your Global Entry fee include Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum Card, Citi Prestige and AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard, Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards Card, and U.S. Bank FlexPerks Gold Card. Even more credit cards and loyalty programs offer credits for TSA PreCheck, but that service is included with Global Entry. The catch? These cards charge annual fees, which can be up to $450. However, as … [Read more...] about How to Get Global Entry for Free