7 Deceptive Hidden Hotel Fees to Avoid



Book with your trusted travel advisor:  Cynthia Cassell – Virtuoso Travel

Hoteliers seem to have been inspired by airline successes in charging fees for what was once included in their prices. A recent publication from the NYU School of Professional Studies predicts that aggregate hotel fees and surcharges will reach an all-time high this year: $2.7 billion.

While the report doesn’t show a price breakdown according to fee type, it identifies a long list of hotel fees. Some are clearly deceptive ones you might not expect to encounter after you reserve your room and can be avoided if you know what you’re up against. Here are seven hotel fees to be on the look out for.

Resort Fees

The most deceptive fees are those that are mandatory, but excluded from the listed room rate. Resort fees are the most notorious kind of hotel fees, because they can as much as double what you really have to pay and seriously hinder your ability to compare rates from a list of hotel subtotals.

The practice started in two major vacation destinations, Hawaii and Las Vegas—but others quickly adopted it. In big cities, where calling a hotel a “resort” would be ludicrous, hotels have now changed the name to “facility” fees, but the effect is the same. The hotels give you a laundry list of services the fees supposedly cover, but paying, whether or not you use any of those services, is effectively a scam.

Housekeeping Fees

When I first started traveling, the idea of leaving a “tip” for housekeeping was absurd. Now. however, hotels seem to expect them. Some hotels even establish separate housekeeping fees as mandatory—which is as deceptive as those pesky resort fees. Others have started to post notices in their rooms that you are “expected” to tip housekeepers—a clear ploy to cut their employees’ wages and compel you to chip in. Hotels’ resort fees are at least disclosed before you actually make a reservation, but hotels are unlikely to disclose any requirement to tip housekeepers before you’re checked in.

Unattended-Parking Fees

If you’re staying at a suburban or rural motel, surrounded by an open surface-parking area, you might not expect this parking fee. Regardless, some hotels now add parking charges for unattended lots—and when you’ve already driven to the hotel, avoiding this charge is difficult.

Early Check-In Hotel Fees

This is another case of adding a fee for what was once a simple hotel courtesy. If you arrive at a hotel slightly before the official check-in time, there once was a time you could expect to be let in without a charge if the room was ready. NYU reports that some hotels, most commonly in Las Vegas, will now charge you early check-in hotel fees regardless. Here, you can avoid the charge by opting to wait and leaving your bags at reception—but often at some loss of flexibility and convenience.

Early-Cancellation Hotel Fees

The standard for a non-prepaid hotel reservation was once that you could typically cancel up to 24 hours in advance without penalty—maybe two days of notice would be required, tops. Now, however, some hotels are extending that limit to three days or more, and canceling any later means you owe the hotel a payment for at least one night. Avoiding this fee is sometimes easy, but you could be stuck when you suddenly have to change plans.

The Wi-Fi Puzzle

Free Wi-Fi is becoming a standard hotel requirement, but some hotels dodge the responsibility to offer free Wi-Fi by limiting it to travelers who book through the hotel’s own booking system. If you booked through a third party, you might need to pay a fee.

Alternatively, hotels that charge resort fees almost always include Wi-Fi on the list of services the hidden charge will cover. You can often avoid a Wi-Fi fee by booking directly with the hotel—and you might even get a slightly better rate. But, if it’s bundled into the phony resort fee, you pay for it no matter what.

The Old Standbys

Of course, hotels fees have been around for years. Among the oldest ploys are charges for early departure, business-center use, on-site computers or fax machine use, sending or receiving packages, room-service delivery, mini-bar restocking, in-room safe use, and baggage-holding fees for guests who want to check some items after check-out time.

Just because we expect them, doesn’t make them welcome. The upside: You can avoid most of them without too much hassle by doing some research beforehand, or sticking to well-run hotel chains you trust. And at least, technology has put an end to high in-room phone surcharges.

Any Relief?

In recent years, some important consumer advocate groups have pressured the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine that mandatory fees are deceptive unless included in the published room rate, and at all stages of the advertising and buying cycle. After several years of inaction, some observers believe that the FTC may finally rule against deceptive hotel fees.

Plus, deceptive pricing violates most state laws—so individual states may be gearing up to address the problem of mandatory hotel fees.

Even if they cover services that were once included in the price, truly optional fees are not inherently deceptive—so you can expect little or no relief from those. The NYU report suggests that 80 to 90 percent bookings are boosted in price by some types of fees, so it’s safe to assume hotels won’t back off voluntarily, nor any time soon.

Save the hassle, book with me! https://www.virtuoso.com/advisor/cynthiacassell


Travel Advisory – Terrorism France Jan 18, 2018



The Department of State has launched new Travel Advisories and Alerts to make it easier for U.S. citizens to access clear, timely, and reliable safety and security information about every country in the world. For more details and FAQs about our Travel Advisories and Alerts, please see travel.state.gov/travelsafely. You are receiving this because you are enrolled in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You do not need to take further action to continue receiving these updates. Before any travel abroad, we encourage you to check our safety and security information for your destination at travel.state.gov/destination.

France, Level 2: Exercise increased caution

Exercise increased caution in France due to terrorism.

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in France. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to France:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when traveling to tourist locations and large crowded public venues.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities including movement restrictions related to any ongoing police action.
  • Monitor local media for breaking events and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Review the Crime and Safety Report for France.
  • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler¿s Checklist.

Should You Travel If You’re in Debt?




Ever look at your monthly budget feel like you pay nothing but bills? Your mortgage payment. Your student loans. Your car loan. Your credit card bills. If you feel like you live under a mountain of debt, you’re not alone. According to a NerdWallet study, the average U.S. household owes a total of $137,063 (including their mortgage). And among those with credit card debt, the average is more than $16,000 per household. For would-be travelers, this poses a challenge: Is it responsible to add travel debt to this picture?

On one hand, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to explore the world while you’re young and healthy enough to enjoy it. On the other, you don’t want to jeopardize your credit score or your longer-term priorities—like retirement or your children’s college education—by spending money you don’t have on pricey vacations.

The Case for Travel When You’re in Debt

Many people choose to prioritize travel despite their debt. “The world is big and life is too short,” says Amanda Keeley-Thurman, who runs a family travel blog called HotMamaTravel.com and travels with her children despite her family’s student loan and credit card debt. “As family travelers, we want to see the world with our kids while they are young, to educate them, make those memories, and build those bonds. The world is the best classroom. It is also not wise to assume that you can put off travel dreams until after retirement, because nothing that far in the future is certain.”

Jessica Albert-Huynh of SweetandSavor.com has also decided that travel should also take precedence in her life. “My husband and I have come to the conclusion that we will probably always be carrying some form of debt (auto loan, mortgage, student loans). It’s just a fact of life,” Albert-Huynh says. “If we wait around to pay everything off first, we will have missed our best years to travel freely.” But, she notes, they’ve agreed upon one important condition: “We have to pay for the trip 100 percent up front and not take on any more debt.”

Katrina McGhee, a life coach who traveled around the world for nearly two years despite hefty student loan balances, notes that travel can actually help keep you motivated to pay off your debt. “Achieving big goals requires that you not only work on making your goal happen but that you also work on making your current life better/happier,” says McGhee. “So as long as you have a plan and are making progress in paying down your debt, it’s OK to have a side fund where you are saving dollars for a specific purpose like travel. Nothing in life is guaranteed, so it doesn’t make sense to not enjoy the present when you are working toward a distant future goal.”

The Case Against Travel When You’re in Debt

If your debt has a low interest rate and you’re paying it down steadily without scrounging for money at the end of the month, you probably have enough wiggle room in your budget to pay for a vacation here and there. But if you’re carrying high-interest credit card balances that are growing, not shrinking—or if you can’t afford a vacation without taking on more debt—you might want to put off your trip.

“There’s a reason why the word ‘debt’ in German directly translates to ‘guilt,’” says Nate Masterson, Director of Finance for Maple Holistics. “Debt is something that has to be taken care of, like a flat tire on your car or a leaky ceiling. But does that necessarily mean that you can’t still take that holiday? Well, if you look at it in a purely rational sense—yes. … This is especially true if you’re dealing with credit card debt or consumer debt, as the longer the debt is left to stagnate, the worse your credit rating becomes and the more expensive it becomes to pay it back.”

You might feel like you need a vacation to ease the stress of struggling with bills, but it won’t help much in the long term if it only adds to your financial and emotional burden. Instead, consider tackling the debt first and using travel as an incentive, advises Kollin Lephart of Every Girl, Everywhere: “Setting a goal for yourself on how much to pay off before you travel is a good idea. It makes you work harder to really get that debt down, and then travel is your reward.”

Tips for Traveling When in Debt

Take stock of your financial picture. Are you keeping up with payments on long-term debts such as your mortgage or student loans? Are you putting enough toward your credit cards to reduce the balance, or are you just paying the minimum as your debt snowballs? Apps and money-managing services such as Mint and Quicken can help you visualize where your money is going and figure out whether you’re spending more than you earn.

Create a long-term plan. Once you know what you’re spending, make a plan and create room in your budget for travel. For example, you might want to transfer your credit card balances onto a single zero-interest card or take out a personal loan to pay them off at a lower rate, helping you save money on interest and freeing up extra cash to put toward an inexpensive vacation.

Never take on additional travel debt. Instead, start budgeting and saving in advance so you’ll have enough to pay for the trip up front. Maggie Hayes, founder of Totally Teen Travel, recommends estimating the cost of the vacation, adding an additional 20 percent to cover unforeseen expenses, and dividing the total amount by the number of months you have to save it. Then put aside that amount of money each month while continuing to make regular payments on your debt.

Start a side hustle. If there simply isn’t room in your budget for both paying down debt and traveling, consider supplementing your income with a side hustle. Jason Decker, founder of Nomad Travel Hacker, paid off $85,000 of student loan debt in two years by taking on freelance jobs and renovating a couple of fixer-uppers, which he sold at a profit. Other side hustle ideas include driving for Uber or Lyft, selling crafts on Etsy, or renting out a spare room on Airbnb.

Travel within your means. “Your travel spending habits should match your disposable income,” says Dan Shube, chief marketing officer at Labor Finders International and host of The Golf and Travel Show. “Big debt? Pitch a tent in a state or national park. Debt-free? Move up to first class and a luxury hotel! You deserve it!”

There are numerous ways to minimize the cost of your trip, from scoring free lodging and finding hacker fares to using credit card points for flights and even eating for free. Weekend getaways, road trips, camping trips, and even a “staycation” in your own home city can help you scratch the travel itch without spending much.

Get creative. “Trade services for lodging, food, and most of your travel cost,” recommends Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U. “Be a nanny for a family going to Cape Cod or Europe for their summer vacation. Alternatively, provide companion care for seniors looking to travel abroad or at home. Be a vacation dog sitter in another city or country. Chaperone a school or community group on travel.”

You can even make money while traveling. Lephart moved to Taiwan to teach English, which allowed her to backpack around Southeast Asia while still earning enough to pay down her student loans.

11 Airfare Gotchas to Avoid at All Costs


Ticket passport


It’s no secret that airlines don’t care too much (or at all) about helping customers make informed  decisions. But have you ever felt like you’re up against their unspoken rules—or airfare gotchas?

11 Airfare Gotchas to Avoid

In the confusing world of travel booking, there are plenty of airfare mistakes you could make to benefit the carrier—ones that can spike your overall cost, or make traveling more difficult. You can blame some of these pitfalls on the fine print, but others are simply the stupid airfare gotchas we’ve all fallen into. Here are 11 to watch out for.

Hidden Ticket Fees

Think you got a great deal? Hidden fees—especially popular among budget airlines that love airfare gotchas—can inflate costs quickly. Bringing a bag, forgetting inflight food, choosing a seat, and even printing your boarding pass can cost you a lot on no-frills airlines like Spirit, Allegiant, and WOW. Make sure you know what’s included in the fare price, and hold off on paying fees until you determine there’s no other option.

For example, if the airline requires you to pay for selecting a seat closer to your travel companion on a long-haul flight (like TAP recently expected me to), wait until you arrive at the airport and simply ask at the customer service desk if you can change your seat. Unless the flight is completely full, you’ll typically be able to move your seat assignment without paying a penny.

Getting Tricked Into Basic Economy Airfare

When major airlines American, Delta, and United recently introduced Basic Economy fares, alleging to save you money by stripping basic amenities like overhead bin space or seat-choosing privileges, they expected budget-conscious travelers to jump for joy. But, lately, more are scratching their heads. Delta’s president said recently that travelers might avoid Basic Economy “when they see exactly what it is.” As SmarterTravel’s Tim Winship points out: Delta seems to be acknowledging that what is and isn’t included in the Basic Economy price is unclear to travelers.

Even worse, booking sites can sometimes group Basic Economy seats in with the regular economy fares, making it easy for you to mistakenly book a basic seat (often for not much less) even if you know the difference. Kayak now highlights differing types of economy fares in its air searches, but not all booking platforms have caught up. Make sure you’re able to differentiate between basic and regular economy fares on the search site you use. If not, booking directly on the airline’s site is a safer bet for clearer seat options.

Multi-Airline Trips

Booking airfare on multiple airlines for back-to-back legs might seem like a good idea if it’s the cheapest option, but you lose a lot of power should you miss a flight on a multi-airline itinerary. Normally, missing a connection due to the airline’s timing is no problem—the airline will rebook you, no questions asked. However, if you miss a flight with a separate carrier, the airline at fault for you missing the connecting flight has no responsibility (or power) to rebook you. You’ll likely have to pay a rebooking fee, and will lose what few consumer rights you have when the airline is at fault.

Skipping an Onward Flight

Impulsive travelers, beware. Pouncing on other modes of completing a leg of your journey (i.e. train, bus, or boat) is only a worthwhile adventure if you’re not skipping an onward flight. This is another one of those fine-print airfare gotcha: Airline terms and conditions establish that your airfare is only valid so long as you show up for your reservation. If you miss a leg of the trip and don’t contact the airline about rebooking, it can cancel the rest of your itinerary to give your seat to someone else. You could end up paying a rebooking fee, or need to book an entirely new reservation if the airline can’t accommodate you on short notice.

Buying with a Third Party

Before you book with an online travel agent, check the price on the airline’s website. As with most services, a third-party seller is wont to charge you more. Use a widely trusted search engine like Google Flights, Kayak, or TripAdvisor that will show you the airline’s price, or will take you directly to the airline for booking.

Nonstop vs. Direct

A sly trick that airlines seem to enjoy is the nonstop vs. direct guessing game to test your airfare gotchas knowledge. “Nonstop” and “direct” both sound like you won’t be experiencing a connection, but the latter actually means your plane will land to drop off and pick up passengers—which can take up a lot of your precious time. This may or may not make a difference in your travel planning, but making a rule of booking only nonstop flights will at least mean you don’t ever wake up mid-flight and frantically ask your seat partner why the plane is landing.

Choosing a Difficult Airport

Don’t put on blinders when choosing a destination airport. Yes, you probably know what city you’re flying into—but do you know how many airports the city has, and which one is the best option for your preferred airline or time schedule? Make sure that your flight search is narrowed only to the general city you’re visiting, not to a single airport.

For example, when booking a flight to Washington, D.C., flight search engines should list “WAS (all airports),” in addition to the three separate airports in the D.C. area: Dulles, Reagan National, and Baltimore-Washington International. It would be unwise to assume you should select the one with “Washington” in its name, especially since, in this case, Reagan National in Virginia is the closest option to the city.

Foregoing Points

A golden rule in travel and in life: If an airline owes you something, hold them to it. The simplest way to do this is to enroll in rewards programs with every new airline you fly, and use the points you rack up. You don’t need elite status or a travel credit card to get money off flights here and there—simply keep tabs of your miles and use them where you can. It would be the airline’s dream for you to forget about what is essentially free money lying around.

Buying Too Early (or Late)

Too many airlines—and even some travel experts—champion the cause of “buying early” to get the best deal. But, “early” means different things to different people, while the window of optimal time for buying cheap airfare is surprisingly narrow. On average, seven to eight weeks is the optimal amount of advance time to buy your airfare. So, if your idea of “early” is six months, you’re probably going to end up paying a premium.

Airfare starts at sky-high rates and comes down as the date approaches—until demand picks up, usually a little less than two months before the flight. Buying well before (or after) that window will usually cost you.

Not Clearing Cookies

Clearing your cookies, or search history, is a good habit to have as you browse bookings, research suggests. This fact is considered by some to be a myth, or at least an unsupported claim—but it turns out there is some truth to it when it comes to hotels, so it could potentially be among the pesky airfare gotchas out there as well.

Northeastern University researchers have found that some popular hotel booking sites present slightly cheaper results to users without any hotel search history stored—though only by an average of about $12 to $15 dollars. Still, why not simply clear your history every now and then if it might save you a few bucks?

Not Knowing Your Rights

Have you read up on airlines’ terms and conditions, or studied public passenger rights laws and agreements? Probably not, but knowing what you’re entitled to is often the only way the airline will give it to you.

Luckily, we did the research for you and created a guide to lost baggage refunds, reimbursement for getting bumped, airline contracts, government-enforced passenger rights, and more. Download and print our Passenger Rights Guide fold-up card to keep your rights in your pocket and avoid airfare gotchas.

What Are Your “Rights” When You Fly?

Not as many as you might think, Airfarewatchdog has found. Herewith a survey of recourses when your flight experience goes awry.

There’s the Bill of Rights, and Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, and the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But what about your “rights” when you fly?  What recourse do you have when a flight is canceled or delayed, or the airline changes its schedule or loses or delays a checked bag? Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) and European regulators promulgate and enforce consumer protections, there are probably fewer “fly rights” than you think, and these vary depending on the country you’re flying within, to, or from; which airline you buy your ticket from; and which airline is actually operating the flight.

Delta’s contract of carriage, which you agree to when you purchase a ticket, is typically restrictive concerning its obligations to passengers: “Published schedules, flight times, aircraft type, seat assignments, and similar details reflected in the ticket or Delta’s published schedules are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract. Delta may substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, delay or cancel flights, change seat assignments, and alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket at any time. Schedules are subject to change without notice. Except as stated…Delta will have no liability for making connections, failing to operate any flight according to schedule, changing the schedule for any flight, changing seat assignments or aircraft types, or revising the routings by which Delta carries the passenger from the ticketed origin to destination.”

Which doesn’t mean you have no rights at all when you fly, so read on.

Bumping (involuntary denied boarding)

Scenario: The airline sells more fares than it has seats on your flight. Someone’s got to stay behind and that someone is you.

Recourse: You may be entitled to cash compensation. If you’re bumped from a domestic U.S. flight and the airline rebooks you to arrive an hour or less from your original arrival time, there’s no compensation. If you arrive two to four hours later, you are entitled to as much as $675 (the actual amount will be up to 200% of the applicable one-way fare); or if over four hours later than scheduled, up to $1350 or 400% of the one-way fare. You’re entitled to receive payment in cash. Do not accept a travel voucher since these often come with restrictions and extra hassle.

For international itineraries, if you’re flying on an aircraft owned by a U.S.-based airline, the same compensation levels apply, but the lower amount applies to arriving one to four hours after your original time and the higher amount to over four hours. However, if you’re flying internationally on a plane owned by a European-based airline, even if you bought the ticket from a U.S.-based airline under a code-share arrangement, then European Union law (EC Regulation 261/2004) applies. It stipulates compensation of up to 600 euros (about $700), along with a requirement that airlines pay for hotels and meals if required.

Taxiway/Runway Delays

Scenario: You’re stuck on the plane for more than three hours before take off or upon landing.

Recourse: If leaving from a U.S. airport, you have the right to request to deplane after your domestic flight has been delayed on the taxiway, tarmac, or runway for more than three hours; or four hours if it’s an international flight. Some restrictions apply, such as if deplaning you would cause a safety hazard.

Delayed Flights

Scenario: You’re off to a wedding, an important meeting, or Uncle Sid’s funeral, but your flight is delayed for hours or canceled and you’re not going to arrive in time, so why go at all?

Recourse: Under most U.S.-based airlines’ contracts of carriage, even if you’re flying on a non-refundable ticket you can get your airfare and ancillary fees refunded. Delta, for example, stipulates in its contract that, “in the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger’s request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket” but U.S. regulations don’t require cash compensation. However, if flying on an aircraft owned by a European airline, even if departing from the U.S., and even if the ticket was bought from a U.S.-based airline, EU delay rules apply with compensation up to 600 euros (about $700).

Canceled Flights

Scenario: Your flight is canceled.

Recourse: There’s no U.S. regulation that requires compensation, but if your flight is operated by a European-based airline (even if you purchased it from a U.S. airline and even if you’re departing from the U.S.) you are entitled to compensation of up to 600 euros (about $700).

Lost Luggage

Scenario: An airline loses your checked bags.

Recourse: The U.S. D.O.T. requires the airline to reimburse you up to $3500 per incident. However, the airline may ask for receipts for claimed items, may depreciate the value of the suitcase and its contents, and will not compensate for electronic items such as cameras, computers, jewelry, or cash except as noted below.

A different set of rules applies for international travel, even if a portion of the trip was on a U.S. airline, and the liability limits may be considerably lower.  Most foreign airlines follow “Montreal Convention” rules, which limit reimbursement to 1,131 Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), a basket of international currencies whose value changes slightly day by day (at time of writing 1131 SDRs is $1858). However, the U.S. D.O.T. has stated that an airline that adheres to the Montreal Convention may not refuse to reimburse passengers for electronic equipment, jewelry and other “valuable” items in lost luggage. Furthermore, the D.O.T. has ruled, if you buy an airfare from a U.S.-based airline on a code-share flight (you buy from American Airlines, for example, but the flight is operated by British Airways), the more generous D.O.T. compensation rules (rather than the Montreal Convention limits) apply.

Delayed Luggage

Scenario: The airline hasn’t declared your bag “lost” yet but it sure didn’t arrive at the luggage carousel when you did.

Recourse: A U.S. D.O.T. advisory states that, “carriers should remain willing to cover all reasonable, actual and verifiable expenses related to baggage loss, damage or delay [emphasis added]” up to the same maximum lost bag compensation limit of $3,500 on domestic flights. For flights operated under the Montreal Convention, the same 1131 SDR (or $1858) compensation for a lost bag also applies to a delayed bag.  So if you’re attending a meeting and your business clothes are in the delayed bag, then yes you can buy a replacement and be reimbursed. In past years, airlines have offered $25 or $50 to buy a toothbrush and toiletries, but that is no longer acceptable (the U.S. D.O.T. has heavily fined airlines, both domestic and foreign-owned, for such thinking otherwise).

You Buy the Wrong Flight

Scenario: You hit the “buy” button on the airline’s website and immediately realize you chose the wrong dates or destinations, or buy two seats when you only wanted one.

Recourse: As long as you make the change within 24 hours and the flight leaves at least a week from the time of purchase, you have the right to either cancel your fare or rebook different dates, according to the U.S. D.O.T. This rule applies to all carriers, including American Airlines, which allows you to put a fare on hold up to 24 hours for free without paying for it.

Seat Selection

Scenario: Well ahead of the flight, you reserve an aisle seat but on the day of the flight you’re moved to a middle seat.

Recourse: None. Airlines reserve the right to assign you to any seat they choose. They can even put you in an economy class seat if you paid for business class.

Routing Changes

Scenario: You buy a $130 round-trip fare from New York to Denver on a nonstop flight. A few weeks before departure, the airline informs you that you’re now flying with a connection and with different departure and arrival times, even though it still flies the route nonstop (but now the nonstop fare is $700).

Recourse: You can insist on a refund of the fare, but you have no contractual or governmental right to be rebooked on the original flight. However, sometimes persistence pays off if you ask the airline to put you back on the nonstop.

Schedule Changes

Scenario: This is different from a flight delay. For example, you booked a flight in June for a trip in December, and in October the airline informs you that your flight will leave at 11 a.m. rather than 6 a,m, but that means you’ll miss an important meeting; or the airline changes its schedule from daily service to five times a week, which means you will be forced to spend an extra night at your destination at your own expense.

Recourse: This is a tough one. Passengers in these situations can apply for a refund and are free to find flights on a different airline, although alternate flights might cost considerably more.

Sharing Your Seat with a “Passenger of Size”

Scenario: You’re in the dreaded middle seat and a clinically obese passenger sits down next to you, raises the armrest, and spills over into a portion of your seat.

Recourse: While some airlines have language in their contracts stating that they will refuse to transport passengers who cannot fit into a single seat, or require them to buy two seats, these rules are rarely enforced. You can request to be reseated (perhaps in business or first class if there are no seats available in economy class), or to be put on the next flight out, but that’s about it. In Canada passengers of size are not required to buy two seats under disability clauses, so you’re out of luck

What You Should Do If There’s a Terrorist Attack When You’re Traveling


terrorist attackIn the wake of the explosion on the London underground, which officials confirmed is being treated as a terrorist incident, and addition to the frequent tragedies across Europe and the Middle East, travelers are exercising caution, and with good reason. But should you continue to travel (and you should continue to travel), you need to be prepared.

We spoke with Patricia Aguilera, State Department Division Chief for Europe and Eurasia about what travelers should do if they find themselves in a terrifying situation. Below, her tips.


Do your research.

Your preparation should start before you leave home. “Unfortunately, terror attacks are unpredictable and it makes it impossible to protect yourself absolutely, so the most important thing is before you go is read up on your destination. We tell everybody to go to travel.state.gov to learn about the situation on the ground.”

Is there a travel warning or a travel alert? If there is one, the State Department asks that you reconsider if that travel is important. “We tell our people to really seriously reconsider going, and if they don’t need to, not to.”

Plan your trip with safety in mind.

When organizing your itinerary, consider safety. Avoid stops in high risk areas or airports. Try to stay away from large crowds. Consider when you visit tourist destinations.

“Terrorists are trying to make the greatest impact,” explains Aguilera. “If you can avoid certain destinations or large crowds, it limits your vulnerability. Terrorist attacks are the result of careful planning. You want to stay away from the political gatherings, and any rallies that could erupt into violence. Stay at a hotels with identifiable security measures in place. Consider traveling when it’s not a peak time—pick a time when it is less congested, less busy.”

Enroll in STEP, the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Through the program, you’ll receive travel and security updates about the destination in which you’re registered. Should there be any demonstrations or security situations that you should be aware of, it will keep you updated. You can sign up at step.state.gov.

Purchase insurance.

Travel insurance is a good idea regardless of where you’re going, but should you find yourself in a bad situation, it can be life-changing. Certain types of insurance will help pay for medical care, evacuation, or unexpected flights.

“We don’t advocate or lobby for any specific insurance,” said Aguilera. “But we ask people to read the fine print. It’s important because different insurance companies will cover different things, but usually for just a few dollars, it really makes a huge difference, if you’re badly injured. And we recommend this not just for terrorist attacks, but for any kind of trip because you never know what could happen, and it’s just a good thing to have. Better to be safe than sorry.”


Should you find yourself in immediate danger during a terrorist attack, follow the suggested protocol set forward by the British National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO). To summarize: Stay calm, and run. If you can’t run, hide. And once you are safe, notify the proper authorities immediately. Read their full instructions, here.


Contact your local embassy, but only if you’re injured or in need of emergency assistance.

Have the local embassy’s phone number on you in case of an emergency, or call 888-407-4747, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by the U.S. State Department. They will likely set up a specific email address for the crisis, so look for that as well. That being said, only do so if you are injured or it is an emergency.

“Usually when we have a terror attack or ISIS hits, we ask people that are injured to contact us,” said Aguilera. “During [last year’s attack in Paris], there was a very important lesson that was learned. We asked the media to disseminate a message, and they, I think in trying to disseminate it quickly, left out a key part of it, and it was ‘if you are an injured U.S. citizen.’ They just put if you are a U.S. citizen, please contact the embassy. We were inundated with calls, which meant that it was harder for us to triage and to find out people who were truly missing or injured or really needed our assistance. So we discourage people who are okay to call us, because we won’t have any further action.”

Let your loved ones know you’re okay.

This is the most important thing, according to Aguilera. Many of the calls or emails that we receive are from people that are worried about a loved one because they haven’t heard from them, and they knew that they were either transiting or they were in the city and aren’t too sure about specifics,” she said. So let your friends and family know that you are safe. Facebook’s Safety Check feature is useful if you can’t make a phone call.

Leave your family or friends with a detailed itinerary. “A lot of our calls for Brussels and certainly for the Istanbul attack were people who weren’t sure about their loved ones, whether they were already in transit or when they were leaving. If people could just give loved ones specific information, it’s incredibly helpful before they leave. And a good contact in addition to whatever cell phone you may have, to maybe your hotel or a friend or whomever you’re staying with.” Again, this allows the embassy to focus their efforts on the people who truly need their help.

Tune in to the local news.

“Watch local media and heed any kinds of warnings or anything that they recommend for people staying near the vicinity or in the city. Security is the most important thing, and we want you to be safe.”

For more information on travel safety, visit travel.state.gov.


Don’t Ever Do This With Your Boarding Pass

Frequent Fliers Take Note!

passport boarding pass

Instagram was basically invented for the humble brag. Oh this old outfit? Why yes I did bake this cake from scratch. And, of course, there’s the famous passport and boarding pass tease to an upcoming whirlwind adventure (even HGTV star Jillian Harris can’t resist). But this seemingly innocent act of sharing a pic of your pass on social media could have serious repercussions.

According to KrebsonSecurity, websites exist that can read the barcode on your boarding pass and then hack your personal information, like your phone number, frequent flyer number, and info about all future flights you book through the same number. That means they can then change your seat on your flight, cancel future flights, and even reset your account PIN entirely. Yikes.

So the next time you’re jetting off to somewhere fabulous, just mention your destination in the caption. We’re sure your followers will believe you — even without photo proof.

[via Smart Travel]

In Praise of the Sheet Mask

Sheet MasksI love sheet masks. I love them even more when traveling. Sheet masks are not considered a liquid, so you don’t have to take them out for the TSA, but they are skin savers after a long flight.

It never fails that when I take a multi-hour flight to Europe, my skin is always parched and feels gross. When I get into my apartment or hotel, I do a scrub to get all of the airplane ick off of me, and then relax with a hydrating sheet mask. Not only is it making my skin feel like skin again, but it gives me a couple of minutes to unwind.

Give yourself a healthy treat, bring a couple of masks on your next adventure and make yourself into a on-the-go Spa Girl.

Venice, Invaded by Tourists, Risks Becoming ‘Disneyland on the Sea’

Venice Invaded by Tourists
5 monkey st marks closer

I traveled to Venice, Italy in November. I always travel off-season because I don’t have to fight the crowds. I am often the only person around, but the bonus is I never wait for any museum  except the Duomo San Marco. I have been to Venice twice, but due to the cruise ships bring their passengers directly to St Mark’s in massive hordes, unless you want to wait for hours, you are not getting in.

When it comes to traveling, time is money and time shouldn’t be wasted. While others are waiting in line to get into the Duomo, take a vaporetto across the lagoon to San Gorgio and go to the top of the bell tower for the best views of the lagoon and St Mark’s.

3 venice 1

A word of warning, if you are in Venice during the ‘Alta Aqua’ or ‘High Tides’, the streets will be flooded in the morning. It can be an inconvenience, but it is also fascinating to watch the water swirling down into small drains that were cut into the stones hundreds of years ago. Part of the joy of travel is to learn about the local culture and speak to the native Venetians. Don’t give up on any opportunity to be friendly and engage a local. They love to talk up their love of this unique floating city.

5_peP1010942_pe All photos by Cynthia Cassell – Girls Travel The World