How to skip TSA security AND immigration lines for good

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ve undoubtedly had the near-universal experience of enduring a TSA security line or an immigration line upon re-entry to your home country.

What if you could bypass these lines for good?

You may have heard of Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. You fill out a (fairly lengthy) application, pay $100, and if your application passes the initial phase, you’re invited to an in-person interview/screening at a participating airport. If you pass that phase of the application, you are granted a Global Entry ID. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

At airports, program participants proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingertips on the scanner for fingerprint verification, and make a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. (www.globalentry.gov)

 In addition, people who are approved via the Global Entry program can also participate in TSA Pre-Check, which allows people to skip regular TSA security lines at participating airports and go through an expedited line —without having to remove shoes or other clothing items, open laptops, or do any of the other things that take up time in line.

Global Entry (and the accompanying TSA Pre-Check) is a good fit for your flying needs if:

  • You plan to travel internationally any time in the next five years. The more you travel, of course, the more worthwhile it will be —but many reviewers indicated that Global Entry is worth the time savings even if you travel internationally once a year or less.
  • You have the Amex Platinum, Mercedes-Benz Platinum, or Business Platinum (or Centurion) cards, as the $100 fee is refunded to you as a statement credit. Other cards may also offer this reimbursement check with your credit card company to be sure.
  • You live within a reasonable distance of and use any of the airports listed here. The GE program requires the in-person interview, so if the nearest participating airport is several hundred miles from you, it might not be worth it, unless you are a very frequent flier. Participating TSA Pre-Check airlines and airports can be found here.
  • If you are a Canadian resident, the news is even better! If you qualify for Canada’s expedited-traveler program, called Nexus which only costs $50), you get Global Entry for free.

In addition to inside info on things like GE and Pre-Check, as your travel advisor, I’ve got tons of helpful hints and connections to make your next trip an amazing one. I would be thrilled to meet with you and plan out your next great adventure! You can reach me at marnie@wheelsupadventures.com.

Capturing Those Vacation Moments: Smartphone Photography

Why the Best Camera for Your Vacation Might Not Be A Camera

 Most people want to take at least a few photos on their vacation, but not everyone wants the fuss of packing and keeping track of an extra piece of electronic equipment.

Have you considered leaving your digital camera at home and simply using the built-in camera on your smart phone?

Here are a few reasons why using your phone might be the best thing that ever happened to your vacation photos.

It’s always with you. Always. When you travel, your smart phone is likely already serving several purposes beyond just being a calling device. It’s a watch. A GPS. A weather-checker. An email and social media connector. A music library. It’s unlikely you go many places without it, and it’s second nature to just have it on hand. (If you’re like many people, the challenge of owning one of these devices is actually limitinghow much time you spend on it.) How many times have you gone somewhere and accidentally left the camera in the hotel room or in the car? Using your phone can help ensure that you’ll have a great camera handy when those moments-to-remember come up.

It takes surprisingly high-quality photos. Lots of people are shocked by this. Most phones now have an 8 megapixel (or higher) camera. That’s high-resolution enough to get a clear 20” x 24” print!

No messing around with memory cards or uploads to your computer. You always have the option, of course, to upload your photos at any time to your computer.  But with your smart phone, you can also instantly upload images to Facebook, send them in an instant message, email them to yourself or others, or back them up on the Cloud. No cords or plugins required.

Interesting apps galore can make your images look pro in no time. Free apps like Instagram and cheap apps like Hipstamatic($1.99) are used by millions of hobby and professional photographers every day. You can crop, add frames, apply filters, and share your photos right from the app itself, plus edited photos are automatically added to your phone’s photo library. There are hundredsof photo editing applications available. You never know: you might be inspired to get more into photography through your mobile device than through an actual camera!

A cool photo finish. In addition to being able to send any photo in your phone’s photo library to any camera shop or retailer (like Target or Walgreens) to be developed in regular 4×6 prints, Instagram’s unique square format makes for beautiful, artistic prints, too. Check out MixTiles— a free app that allows you to select and order three professionally-printed images from your Instagram library that are mounted on lightweight 8” x 8” backer board for easy hanging — all for just $49. Each additional tile after that is just $9.

A 21st-Century take on the “wish you were here” postcard. You can send personalized postcards to friends and family in less than 30 seconds – without stamps or trying to find a post office. Postagram is a free app that lets you upload vacation images from Instagram, Facebook, or your phone’s photo library and then add a short personal note. You enter the recipient’s address, and voila! — Postagram prints your photo and message on high-quality glossy paper and mails it directly for you. It is a fast, convenient, and personal way to keep in touch with those you love while you’re away.

Gone are the days of grainy, tiny images on small screens. Today, even those who consider themselves photo enthusiasts love the convenience and creative challenge of using their phones to capture their most treasured photographic moments. With all that your smart phone can do, maybe this is the year to take your vacation photography to new heights!

If you have your phone ready, I’m ready to help you find the perfect place to start taking pictures! You can contact me today to help you start planning your summer getaway – just  click here!

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How Air Travel Will Change in 2019

 

 

by:  Kristen Leigh Painter (Conde Nest Traveler)

For the past five years, it’s been boom times in U.S. air travel as passengers benefited from highly profitable airlines in the form of low airfares and a rapid expansion of new flights. In 2018 alone, many U.S. consumers faced an onslaught of discounted fares—$99, $59, and even $19 one-way—and the industry celebrated a bounty of “firsts,” like the first nonstop flight from Chicago to Africa on Ethiopian Airlines, and Kansas City’s first non-stop flight to Europe on Icelandair. With 2019 just weeks away, the new year looks to be full of its own surprises, bringing new elements like biometrics and more (!) bag fees to the travel experience. International trade policies and fuel prices are wild cards that could throw a wrench in it all though—possibly driving up prices and driving down the number of flights.

Biometrics Will Be Here, There, and Everywhere

Travelers can expect to see greater use of human biometric data—like facial recognition and other physical characteristics—to board airplanes, pass through customs, and drop bags in 2019. Delta Air Lines led the movement, opening the first biometric terminal in Atlanta this year, but others, including JetBlue and Lufthansa, have piloted biometric boarding processes in Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles. Delta is also testing facial recognition technology to self-check bags at Minneapolis-St. Paul. Orlando International Airport plans to use facial scanning on all inbound and outbound international flights by the beginning of the year (U.S. citizens can opt-out, though that’s not widely advertised). Clear, a biometric technology company, is now in more than 25 U.S. airports and has partnered with Hertz to speed up car rental pickup and with Delta for quick entry to its airport lounges with a thumbprint ID. But with the growing prevalence of biometric data, privacy concerns will continue to bubble, too. (Read more about that here.)

Cathay Pacific unveiled “The Deck,” a massive new lounge, at Hong Kong International Airport, in March 2018.  Courtesy Cathay Pacific

Tailor-Made Everything Is The Thing

Travelers will have more options than ever before—including basic economy, standard economy, premium economy, business class, or first class—to customize their flight experience in 2019. Premium customers will see the rosier side of customized travel. Carriers are investing heavily in upgrading airport lounges at hubs across their networks and adding more luxurious, front-of-plane cabins, like United’s Polaris, American’s Flagship First, JetBlue’s Mint, and Delta’s One suites. “Airlines are curating and tailoring their pricing and experiences based on loyalty and frequent flying,” says Katie Raddatz, a senior director with Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which manages business travel for companies. “The days when people pay different costs for the same experiences are going away.”

But with more delineation, certain things we’ve come to expect as included in our fare just won’t be. (And it’ll likely cost more.) Spirit Airlines, for one, has pioneered “dynamic pricing” for its bag fees, which—in simplest terms—means customers will pay more for their luggage during more desirable times of day (like Monday mornings or Friday afternoons), seasons (winter when travelers tend to pack bulkier items), or for longer trips. There’s even no longer a luggage price matrix to reference on Spirit’s website because there are too many variables on an individual’s flight itinerary that must be calculated.

Who will follow? “I think more airlines will try it this year because, quite bluntly, there’s a lot of money in it,” says Bob Mann, a Port Washington, New York-based airline consultant. Though legacy airlines used to turn up their noses at the ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant for nickel-and-diming customers with fees, those same carriers are now adopting and adapting many of these methods, from the rise of basic economy to higher bag fees, and calling it “customization.” These incremental changes will increase in 2019 as airlines leverage data to promote special offers, upgrades, and add-ons to customers based on their flying history.

http://video.cntraveler.com/watch/the-best-airport-in-the-world

Airfares May Get More Expensive (Sorry)

Fuel is a major expense for airlines, and ultimately affects the cost consumers pay to reach their destination. As airlines in recent years benefited from low fuel prices, which bottomed out in early 2016, they were able to price tickets more competitively. That all looked to be changing this summer as crude oil rose to its highest level since 2014, and experts began to brace consumers for rising airfares next year. But then the cost of oil dropped again this fall, creating volatility and leaving airfare forecasts in flux, says Raddatz. Moral of the story? Stay tuned.

The Ultra-Long Haul Flight May See Some Struggles

This fall, much fanfare was made about Singapore Airlines’ relaunch of the world’s longest nonstop flight—18.5 hours between Singapore and Newark. And competition is heating up: The advent of more fuel-efficient planes has led several airlines to start new ultra-long-haul flights, defined as more than 8,000 miles one way. In the past few years, United launched its 17.5-hour Houston to Sydney flight, Qantas Airways started flying 17 hours from Perth to London, and Cathay Pacific Airways began a 17-hour nonstop from Hong Kong to Washington, D.C. In 2019, United will fly nonstop from San Francisco to Delhi and Singapore Airlines will fly nonstop from its home country to Seattle. “There was a thirst for it and there was a lot of great marketing and promotion behind it,” says Raddatz of Carlson Wagonlit. She calculates there are currently 19 in service around the globe, which is three times as many as a decade ago.

But an airplane on a 15- or 16-hour flight uses nearly 40 percent of all its onboard fuel just to carry the weight of the fuel it takes to go that far, Mann says. Both Raddatz and Mann agree that for these flights to make financial sense, an airline needs to be carrying predominantly premium-class passengers to pay the heftier fees to cover the fuel costs. Singapore Airlines has configured its long-haul aircraft with just premium economy and business class seats—something Qantas is now taking into consideration for its ultra-long-haul aircraft of the future. If fuel prices rise too steeply next year, we will probably be saying “sayonara” to some of these super-long-haul flights.

Learning a New Language: Check out these language apps that make learning not only easier but fun.

Have you ever wanted to learn a new language or brush up on your french and english from high school?  As long as you’re ready to commit, there are a number of language apps that make learning a language accessible but also fun.

Here are a few apps that you should check out….

 

ROSETTA STONE

This popular language learning software is now available on your mobile device.  Lessons can be  accessed from both your desktop and smartphone.  Rosetta Stone offers 24 different languages (Spanish (Latin America & Spanish), English (US & UK), French, Japanese, Italian, German, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic,Korean, Dutch, Tagalog, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Irish, Farsi, Polish, Swedish and more.   Rosetta Stone trains you to associate words with imagery focusing on communicating in a real-world context, emphasizing pronunciation and speaking. A  3 day trial is available.  Rosetta Stone online ranges in price from just under $11 a month to just under $17 a month.  Rosetta Stone offers native speaking tutors and is available on iOS and Google Play.

To find out more information on Rosetta Stone, click here https://bit.ly/2ttCReq

DUOLINGO

Duolingo is a free language learning platform that is available on your desktop and mobile device.  Duolingo offers a language proficiency assessment exam to ensure you begin your course at your level. Duolingo offers 85 different language courses in 24 languages (Spanish, French, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian,Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Turkish, Norwegian, Polish, Hebrew, Esperanto, Vietnamese, Swahili and more.  The Duolingo platform has been created to feel like a game where you can track your progress, earn rewards and stay motivated to learn.  Duolingo does offer a free version of their platform which removes ads on your mobile and offers a few extra features. Duolingo Plus costs $9.99/month.

Check out Duolingo here, https://www.duolingo.com

BABBEL

Founded in 2007, Babbel was the world’s first language learning app.  Babble is a platform that  works on your real-life conversation skills.  Lessons are crafted by language experts, and voiced by native speakers.  Babbel offers 14 different languages including Portuguese, Turkish, Norwegian,  and all the popular languages such as French, Spanish, Italian and more. Speech recognition tools test your pronunciation, ensuring you sound just like a native. This app allows you to learn at your own pace with 10-15 minute lessons that you can fit into a busy schedule.  Babbel offers multiple different plans, starting at $7.50/month.  Babbel does offer a free trial as well.

For more information on Babbel, check out https://www.babbel.com

MEMRISE

Memrise offers to unlock your learning superpowers with their language app.  Memrise offers 20 different languages (French, German, Korean, Russian, Slovenian, Icelandic, Chinese and more).  Memrise makes learning fun and easy though brain science, fun and community engagement.  This app is entertainment mixed with real-life, relevant content to assist in your learning.  Memrise offers both a free plan and an updated pro plan which is $5.00/month.  Approximately 30 million users are already using Memrise to enhance their travel experiences.

Additional information on the Memrise app can be found at https://www.memrise.com

HELLOTALK 

If you are looking to learn a language from a native speaker, HelloTalk is an app where millions of members reach each other their native tongue, through text, voice recordings, video calls and so much more.  With HelloTalk you get to learn a new language, explore other cultures and make friends around the world.  HelloTalk allows you to practice in 100+ languages with built-in aids for translation, pronunciation, and transliteration.  HelloTalk has a free version but you can upgrade to a VIP membership that allows you to learn up to three languages at once.  Pricing ranges from $2.49/month, $22.99/year and $74.99/lifetime.

For more information on HelloTalk, click this link https://www.hellotalk.com

BUSUU 

With unlimited exchanges with foreign students you the ability to learn up to 12 different languages with 90 million other learners.  Busuu offers a free option or a premium membership that unlocks features such as grammar lessons, offline mode & vocabulary trainer.  Busuu also offers a McGraw Hill education certificate after passing a knowledge test.  Busuu is developed using Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) and covers the first four stages of the CEFR.  This means you can learn to speak a language from the basics of introducing yourself, up to discussing important issues or narrate or write a story.  Premium memberships range from $8.33/month for three months to $5.41/month for twenty-four months.

Check out Busuu here, https://www.busuu.com

Learning a new language can be fun and there are many applications that you can utilize.  The above suggestions are just a few of the most popular.  Each individual learns in their own way, so be sure to check out all the ones that offer a free trial or free option to see which one will work for you.  Get started today learning a new language and let’s plan an adventure for you to use your new language skills.

 

Flexibility: Be prepared to bend a little.

When we embark on a for pleasure trip, we are often excited, filled with anticipation about the adventure we are about to begin, or the people we are about to see. Whether you are traveling to a place you have never been, or in my case, traveling home to see my family for a special occasion, the feeling of excitement is overflowing and we are generally in a super fantastic mood.  That is, until something out of our control goes wrong and our exciting adventure turns into a little bit of a nightmare.

When we travel there are a number of hiccups that can occur and we need to not only anticipate them but also be prepared for them.  A few hiccups that can come your way are lost baggage, missing flight, weather delays, mechanical delays, or not having the correct travel documentation.  Most of these issues are completely out of our control and some are out of the control of everyone, including the airline.  One of my most recent adventures traveling home to Toronto for my sister-laws bachelorette party was one of those trips where things didn’t go as planned.

After booking my trip, I made sure to assign my seats (aisle of course) for my entire trip immediately, check-in when it was time, arrive at the airport in the necessary time to clear TSA to be at the gate with my carry-on (really the only way to travel) ready for boarding and double checked my connection.
All went smoothly, until it didn’t.  I am one of those travelers that likes to follow the flight path of the airplane when available on the backseat entertainment screen.  Maybe it is because I am an ex-flight attendant and know things can change in the air, or possibly because I am that person that even when traveling to work I like to use my GPS device to see what time I am arriving.  Either way, I was tracking our trip from Daytona to Atlanta and about two-thirds into our trip I noticed that we  did a little bit of a circle and our arrival time had changed.  This peaked my curiosity as I knew I didn’t have much room for error in catching my connection.  We soon received word from the flight deck that there was some inclement weather in Atlanta and landing was not an option.  In addition, we were going to need to land at an alternative airport to refuel and hopefully get back in the air to make our way back to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  Looking at the time I knew that there was no way that I was going to make my connection.  This was not my first rodeo so I knew that waiting until I arrived in Atlanta to figure out my next course of action was a bad idea.  Utilizing WiFi I determined that there was no other options to Toronto that evening but that their was an early morning flight on another airline that would ensure that I not miss the reason I was traveling home. As soon as we touched down at the alternative airport I was on the phone with Delta making arrangements to get on that early morning flight.  I was so quick that at first the agent I was on the phone with couldn’t see that my plane was going to miss my connection.  I also informed her very politely that although we were unable to land as scheduled, due to weather, we actually diverted to refuel because we were unable  to wait in the air until the airport was cleared for arrivals.  After waiting on hold for an extended period of time and the agent finally receiving word that my flight was not going to arrive as scheduled I barely was able to secure my spot on that early morning flight before having to turn off my phone for take off.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, I was not in a mad dash like the other passengers trying to reschedule their next flights if they were continuing on.  Arriving at the time we did, I suspect that the majority of those connecting missed their connections.  Once I deplaned and in the terminal I checked my email for the confirmation of my morning flight and I scoped out where I was going to hang for the night.  I had been informed that most of the airport hotels were full and leaving the airport for only a few hours to have to return seemed silly.  It wasn’t the first time I had been stranded in an airport, nor would it be my last.  I was super glad that everything I needed was in my carry-on.  I was able to wash my face, brush my teeth, pull out a sweater to keep me warm and utilize my iPad/iPhone charger.  I made friends with a fellow female traveller purchasing a bottle of water and we found a place that the two of us could get a few winks but feel safe.  Surprising enough, the airport is super loud even when there are next to no travelers in the terminal.  Between the cleaning crew, retail & restaurant restocking there wasn’t much sleeping going on.

Before the sun came up I was able to head to the gate of my departure.  After waiting for the gate agent to arrive, I was informed that although I had a confirmation on the flight, the initial airline that I was suppose to travel, had not released me to the new airline.  They informed me that I needed to get in contact with them to do so or I would miss this flight.  In an attempt to ensure I was not going to miss this flight I immediately headed to the nearest customer service area and phoned customer service at the same time, covering all basis.  I was able to get someone on the phone first and my issue was rectified.  Now I just needed to make it back to the gate and hope their were still seats available.  The universe aligned and I made it on the plane to Toronto.  I was the last to board, and was assigned a middle seat but I made it.  Thankfully my trip back to Daytona was hassle free.

Bonus:  After take-off from Atlanta to Toronto, my seat mates asked if I would sit in the aisle seat so they could sit next to each other.

Whether you are a seasoned flyer, or taking your first trip it is important that you understand that things may happen.  Getting angry with the airline employees for something they had no control over, isn’t going to get you any sooner to your destination.  But being prepared and bending a little in a situation that you cannot change, may make a horrible situation a little more bearable.