Thousands of Americans are preparing by applying for passports or obtaining special driver’s licenses that can also be used to cross
New rules requiring passports or new high-tech documents to cross the United States’ northern and southern borders took effect
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials say they’re confident the transition will be smooth.
|TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ABROAD
|“Our research indicates approximately 80 percent of the individuals coming
in now, U.S. and Canadians, are compliant,” and are crossing with proof of
citizenship, said Thomas Winkowski, assistant commissioner for field
operations at Customs and Border Protection.
The higher noncompliance areas, he said, are primarily U.S. citizens in the
southern border region.
Travelers who do not comply with the new requirements will get a warning
and be allowed to enter the U.S. after a background check, said Michele
James, director of field operations for the northern border that covers
“We’re going to be very practical and flexible on June 1 and thereafter,”
Online: For more information on travel requirements, see the Department of
Homeland Security's www.GetYouHome.gov. Passport and passport card
processing takes four to six weeks; expedited service is available for a fee.
Planning a trip to Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean? Did you get a passport or one of
the new passport cards?
New government regulations that take effect Monday, June 1, 2009 require the additional
identification for passengers and travelers returning to the United States from those
regions.Travelers also should check whether a passport is required by any country on their
|New passport rules in effect at U.S. borders.
Citizens entering the country must show passport,
other approved ID form.
Here are some quick tips to make your travel easier and safer:
Register so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency: Register your travel plans with the State Department through
a free online service at https://travelregistration.state.gov. This will help us contact you if there is a family emergency in the U.S., or if
there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be
released to others without your express authorization.
Sign passport, and fill in the emergency information: Make sure you have a signed, valid passport, and a visa, if required, and fill in the
emergency information page of your passport.
Leave copies of itinerary and passport data page: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends,
so you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
Check your overseas medical insurance coverage: Ask your medical insurance company if your policy applies overseas, and if it covers
emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
Familiarize yourself with local conditions and laws: While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. The State Department web
site at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html has useful safety and other information about the countries you will
Take precautions to avoid being a target of crime: To avoid being a target of crime, do not wear conspicuous clothing or jewelry and do
not carry excessive amounts of money. Also, do not leave unattended luggage in public areas and do not accept packages from
Contact us in an emergency: Consular personnel at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and in the U.S. are available 24 hours a
day, 7 days a week, to provide emergency assistance to U.S. citizens. Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates appears
on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website at http://travel.state.gov. Also note that the Office of Overseas Citizen Services in the State
Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs may be reached for assistance with emergencies at 1-888-407-4747, if calling from the U.S. or
Canada, or 202-501-4444, if calling from overseas.
|TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ABROAD
Now you see it. Now you don't.
When you're airfare shopping, attractive prices can vanish in a split second. Just ask Jim Doll, a systems engineer in Atlanta, who
recently tried to buy a ticket to San Francisco on AirTran Airways' Web site. He found a one-way fare for just $130, but by the
time he'd toggled over to Orbitz.com to see if he could do better there and then clicked back, the price had changed.
"Now it was $220 per person," he said. "Why couldn't they lock the fare for, say, five minutes, to give me a chance to make the
Why, indeed? Because that's not how reservations systems work. When you find a fare online, it isn't actually there -- it's cached
on the site. Caching, or storing a copy of the fare information, is cheaper and makes everything run faster. But there's a price to
be paid for the speed and convenience: A small number of fares -- usually less than 5 percent -- may no longer be
available when you try to book them.
This is the "underbelly of the whole reservation system," said Timothy J. O'Neil-Dunne, a managing partner for T2Impact, a
technology consulting firm. "It is a dirty secret that the industry would rather no one know about."
But some customers think there's more to blame than clumsy Internet technology. They believe that travel companies intentionally
display a low fare but raise it as you move through the booking process, an electronic version of the time-tested bait-and-switch
scheme. Although there's no proof that any travel company is engaged in this illegal pricing activity, there's plenty of evidence
that travel companies try to lure customers with artificially low prices.
Here's where well-meaning travel agents and I differ on airfare quotes.
Many agents believe that it's perfectly acceptable to offer you a base fare, minus all the extras, when you're
shopping around. The grand total is often disclosed in small type and then revealed in a more overt way just as
you're getting ready to pay. They have their reasons for making the prices seem artificially low -- high fares are a
turn-off for their customers and even a few extra dollars can make a traveler run to a competitor.
I think that's dishonest. And Sen. Robert Menendez (D-New Jersey) agrees.
Last year, he introduced the Clear Airfares Act, a Senate bill that would require airlines and online travel agencies to
disclose any additional fees before you buy a ticket. Passing that law would ensure that every agency and airline
would quote an all-inclusive, no-surprise price, right upfront.
Until that happens, I'm not too optimistic that an apparent bait-and-switch -- or a technology glitch -- is completely preventable.
Buy fast and do a little math. But even if you're quick on the draw and run arithmetic problems for fun, you could still get ensnared
by a fare that wasn't really there.
DSDT addendum: That's why you should contact Serena Travel for all your travel needs.
Whether this sleight of hand is intentional or not, there's no need to become its
next victim. The easiest way to avoid a fare surprise is to make a faster
booking decision. Not a knee-jerk response, but less than, say, five
The longer you wait, the greater the chance that the seat you wanted
will be snatched up by someone else, and that the cheap fare will be
replaced by a more expensive one.
Another tip: Read the initial fare quote carefully.
For example, a ticket from Denver to London might be advertised at $734, but
the actual price is $1,121. "You think, 'It's theft. It's a scam. I've been robbed,' "
said Jim Fisher, a travel consultant.
In fact, it's nothing so sinister. The initial rate is the actual ticket price, but once you add taxes, fees and other surcharges, you
end up with a ticket that costs $387 more than you thought it would.
"The airfare your airline charges is just a small part of what it costs to get you from Denver to London and back," he said.
|Low airfares that vanish in a click
By Christopher Elliott, Tribune Media Services
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine.
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