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USELFUL LINKS:
State Department Travel Information
FlightAware Flight Tracking
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Important news before you travel:

If you are in the United States you should be aware of certain Travel Advisories which are given to citizens who choose to travel abroad. These advisories can affect you and may even change your travel plans. So before you go to the airport you should always check to see if your destination country is on the List of the United States Government Travel Advisories.

For more information: Check out the link below which will send you to the US Governments official website.


https://travel.state.gov
TIPS ON MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS:


When traveling for business or fun, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have a reservation and learning your hotel reservations been lost, your room has one bed and not two bedrooms, or you thought your check-in time was noon, only to find out it is really 3:00pm. To help avoid these things from happening, there are a few helpful hotel reservation tips seasoned travelers recommend:

Always use a credit card when making a hotel reservation. A credit cards offers the guest some level of protection should the hotel stay go awry. Any disputes a guest may have with the hotel, or with the billing can more easily be rectified through the credit card company. The card company will act as a mediator once their client can show effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, if a dispute cannot be resolved, the credit card company has the authority to remove the charge from a client’s bill. If cash were paid, a hotel guest would have no recourse. Note: If you don’t use your own credit card to secure a reservation, be aware that the person whose name is on the card will be responsible for showing the card and signing at check in. If the card does not belong to the person staying at the hotel, notify the desk before leaving home (prior to arrival) and ask what their identification procedure is. They may accept a letter from the credit card holder authorizing use, and a copy of both the front and back of the card.

Ask for deals/discounts at each hotel. Many hotels offer corporate, AAA, senior, or even mid-week/off-season discounts. If one is not offered - ask about them. Many hotels now offer ‘rewards’ programs and some hotels reduce rates by $50 or more, for simply signing up for their program. If making reservations online, look for internet-only rates and shop various websites to find the best deals. Travel agents can often secure unadvertised specials or late check-in opportunities which can translate into huge savings.

When making reservations speak clearly and repeat spelling of all names. There have been many reservations lost because of inaccurate spelling and guests have been told they did not have rooms when a hotel or an entire city was booked to capacity. If any special requests are made, verify them and if possible get them in writing. Also make sure to get the name of the employee. Verify everything spell names and verify information/requests etc. Double check reservations prior to leaving for hotel and make sure names of all hotel employees you’ve spoken to are taken.

When reservations are made, changed and cancelled-confirmation numbers are given. Make sure all numbers are kept in a safe place until credit cards are billed and all charges are verified. Cancellation and confirmation numbers are often the difference between being charged for a hotel reservation that was cancelled, the possibility of a free upgrade when the hotel overbooks and you can prove when your reservation was made, and being stranded away from home without a room for the night.
Discuss hotel policies prior to making reservations, and verify them at check-in. Some hotels require credit cards at check in for any hotel charges, such as telephone usage, room service, meals in the hotel, or even take -out arranged through the hotel with area restaurants, etc. If a credit card is not available, a cash/check deposit maybe required for any services/fees that may accrue during the hotel stay. Determine when check-in/check-out times are, when cancellation policies go into affect and verify occupancy limits if staying in a room with multiple occupants.

Remember these hotel reservation tips when scheduling your travel plans. Whether by internet, through a travel agent, or by telephone, it pays to research the hotel and be meticulous when making arrangements. A little pre-planning when making reservations can save major headaches when traveling away from home.
AIRPORT TIPS YOU CAN USE

To make your way to a flight on time and to get throught security as quickly as possible you can try the following tips:

1) Sign up. The TSA's PreCheck, a trusted traveler program, has spread to more cities across the U.S. and is now available at some 40 airports. Members of the program are pre-screened and can then whiz through security, sometimes without having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from cases. The U.S. Customs Department's Global Entry program is another shortcut for frequent international travelers, especially as the federal government contracts and customs lines potentially get longer.

Critical Security Checkpoints:
To make clearing security as easy as possible...
-Review the guidelines for liquids and gels on your Flight carriers Carry-On Baggage page before your flight.
-Have your government-issued photo identification and boarding pass ready for inspection.
-Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, since all footwear must be x-rayed.
-Remember to place all coats and jackets in a bin for x-ray screening.
-Make your laptop easily accessible for inspection.
-Avoid wearing anything metal or place these items in your carry-on baggage for screening

2) Check flight status. Although this is obvious, many people often fail to do this one simple but critical thing.

I recommend doing the same before abandoning your ride or your car just before you head to the terminal; flight status updates change by the minute, so a last-second check is always a good idea.

Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their Web sites, and sites like Flightaware.com do the same by text, on the Web and through smartphone apps.

4) Check in online. Especially if you are not checking bags, this can save you a heap of time. I have found that when checking bags, having the pre-printed boarding pass in your hand doesn't help all that much, and check-in agents often reissue another boarding pass when you check in your bags -- but it sure doesn't hurt.

5) Before you leave for the airport, put your ID, credit card and boarding pass (if applicable) in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag. There are two reasons for this: one, by going through this exercise, you make sure that you don't leave home without these crucial items. Two, you don't waste your (and other people's) time fumbling around for them at the moment you need them.

Check the airport parking situation online. Knowing ahead of time where to park, which lots are open and how far they are from the terminal can save you a lot of anxiety on your drive in, as well as keep you safer as you navigate tortuous and almost always poorly marked airport ring roads. Additionally, during peak travel periods, lots fill up quickly, so you will want an alternate parking plan.

When you are ready to board always take inventory of what you will need to do when you get to the front of the security line. Do a quick mental review of everything you are wearing that you will need to remove (such as shoes, jewelry, watch, jacket), and what you have inside your carry-on bag that might need to be taken out (liquids, electronics). When you get to the front of the line, blast through your mental inventory and make it happen. Done well, you can go from fully clad for winter weather, with laptops and iPads in your bag, to a T-shirt, pants and socks, and all your sensitive electronics in their own bins, in seconds.

Using these tips will get you through the airport, on your flight and towards your destination as quickly as possible.

more traveler informaiton tips available at the TSA website:
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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU BUY A HOME




Home prices in most parts of the country are just about as affordable as they are likely to get, and mortgage rates remain super low. Together, those factors mean that many people are thinking about buying a home. Some will be first-time homebuyers, while others will be “boomerang” buyers who lost their homes in the housing meltdown but are now hoping to get back in. Still others may see this as the best time to upgrade to a larger home, downsize to a smaller one, or to move to the retirement locale of their dreams.

The first step when searching for a home is to evaluate the parameters of what you need. Things like square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, these are important characteristics that you'll need to live with. Buying your first home is a big deal, and there are different levels of motivation that will spur people to start searching. Some people need to find a home in as short as two weeks, other people need to take a little bit more time, maybe two to four months; this is a big decision

Whatever your motivation for buying a home, unless you are going to pay cash for the property, there’s one essential step you must take first: get your credit reports and credit scores.

The reason? Your credit scores will help determine what type of home loan financing you can get, and the interest rate you’ll pay. You’ll want to have plenty of time to dispute credit report errors if you find any, and get them fixed. The last thing you want is to find out at the last minute that you can’t buy your dream home because of something on your credit report that shouldn’t be there.

If you will be buying and financing a home with someone else - a partner or spouse, for example - you’ll each want to get your credit reports and scores. Get them from all three major credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, as they each collect their own data and don’t share corrections with each other.

The three-digit number that represents your credit score will be important when it comes to buying and financing a home. A difference of a few points could make a difference in the rate you’ll pay for your mortgage. Mortgage lenders will typically use the middle of the three credit scores to determine the rate/program for which you qualify.

But that doesn’t mean you need to obsess about your score. Doing so can cause you unnecessary grief. After all:
Trying to tweak your scores based on what you think may help improve them can sometimes have the opposite effect.

There are many different loan programs with different credit score requirements. A loan officer can help you shop around to find the right program to meet your needs.

Keep in mind that you have many scores, not just one, so trying to figure out which scores matter most can be an exercise in futility. When it comes time to apply, your lender will pull the credit scores needed to process your application. In the meantime, you can find out where you stand and get an idea of what factors may be strong, and which may not be. Again, no need to obsess over the number.

When it comes to buying a home, your credit scores can help you secure the financing you need to buy the property and pay it off over time. Your credit scores are a tool to help you achieve your personal and financial goals. If you can get the loan you need with the credit scores you have, then be satisfied with that - even if you don’t have the best score your loan officer has seen!

And finally, it’s important to put your scores in context. Mortgage lenders will look at other factors, like your debt-to-income ratios, employment history, and down payment. As any loan officer can tell you, even a perfect score can’t get you a loan if - for example - the appraisal comes in too low, or if you can’t document your income.
more on HomeBuying




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