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State Department Travel Information
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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.


DID YOU KNOW:
FINDING THE BEST HOTEL RATES:
Due to the internet, the manners in which hotel rooms are procured have drastically changed over the last couple of decades. Prior to internet access, guests called hotels directly to book rooms. While some guests continue to book rooms this way, many have learned that calling a hotel directly may not be the most economical choice. However, it is also been found that hotel rates also vary a great deal from website to website, especially discount travel sites.

Hotels are in constant competition with each other for your business. The goal of every hotel is to achieve 100% occupancy. Not only are they competing with each other, they are often competing with themselves. Look at how many hotels have various hotel chain subsidiaries beneath them. They must stay competitive, but still continue to make a profit while keeping their rooms occupied. This said, many hotels offer blocks of rooms to a variety of other entities to sell. Travel agents and online brokers typically compete to sell rooms for hotels, and they receive a percentage of the purchase price. The rate disparity comes into play two ways. First, the hotel is offering rooms at their standard rates or discount club rates. Second, because hotels offer these agents and booking websites various rates, someone who is getting a larger percentage of the sale price, can afford to offer the room at a lower rate than someone who is getting a small percentage from the sale.

Finding the best room rate:
If contacting the hotel directly, ask if they have any current specials. If your travel plans are flexible, inquire about any future specials, and the specific parameters of those specials.

If you’re a ‘select’, ‘rewards’ or hotel ‘member’, mention this, and ask if they have any special discounts available for members of their programs. Additionally, if you are affiliated with a corporate account, or a roadside assistance plan which offers travel benefits, mention that too. Sometimes guests are eligible for more than one discount and can pick and choose the one that provides the greatest savings.

When placing reservations online through a hotel booking service, first find the service that offers the best deal. The best deal may not be the one which provides the lowest price, but the service with the best room guarantee, who is willing to price match. If you’ve found the room for a lower rate elsewhere, tell your preferred vendor and ask them to match the price. Several websites will even provide a 30-day guarantee against lower prices - so even after booking your reservation, stay vigilant.

Hotel rates vary so much because there are numerous entities vying to secure your business by competing with each other. With a little investigative prowess, you can secure the best rates possible for your hotel stay, despite the varying rates.

WHY YOU SHOULD TRAVEL
WITH THE RIGHT CREDIT CARD
:

When you travel you want any credit card you use during international travel to be accepted everywhere you go. That means a Visa or MasterCard. Although American Express has fairly widespread acceptance these days, they’re not everywhere. And while Discover Cards offer some of the lowest foreign currency exchange rates, they are not widely accepted outside the United States.

The Barclaycard Arrival MasterCard has been named a best travel rewards credit card by numerous travel bloggers and “Best for Travel Rewards” by MONEY Magazine in Oct. 2013 for a simple reason: The rewards go further. This no-annual fee card features no foreign transaction fees and pays 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on everything else. Better yet, you get 10 percent of your miles back when redeemed for travel, making these miles longer than average.

The Citi Simplicity card from Citibank offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for 18 months as well as a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months. After that first year and change, the variable APR is a low 12.99% for qualified consumers. The Citi Simplicity card also features no penalty interest rate increases when you miss a payment due date, and zero late fees.

The Capital One issued Venture Rewards card could be for you. This card offers 0% intro APR on purchases till August 2015. After that, consumers will be subject to a low variable APR of 11.99-19.99% depending on your credit worthiness. The kicker for the card is the amount of airline miles a consumer can accrue. The Venture card allows users to redeem miles for airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals and other travel needs. Additionally, there is no limit on the amount of miles you can earn and those miles don't feature an expiration date. Currently, the card gives you 10,000 bonus miles once you spend $1,000 in the first three months. Consumers earn 1.25 miles per dollar on every purchase.

For those looking for cash-back rewards, the Discover More card, issued by Discover Financial, is a great choice. The card offers a 0% intro APR on purchases/balance transfers for 15 months and a low variable APR of 10.99% after that. The card provides 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories. Shopping online through Discover.com will also net you up to 20% in cash-back bonus rewards at popular retailers.

Anytime you spend money in another country you’re going to pay something for converting Dollars into the local currency. This is true whether you exchange cash at a money changer, withdraw local currency at an ATM, or make purchases with your credit card. Sometimes, you don’t even realize it because the bank simply gives you a less favorable exchange rate and pockets the difference. Other times, they charge you a percentage of the money changed in addition to the hidden profit they earn on the exchange rate.

According to credit bureau Experian, the national average credit score in the U.S. is around 750 out of a maximum score of 990. That's not too shabby of a score. For the average American, finding a low interest rate credit card shouldn't be too hard.

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FOX  SHOWS THAT HAVE GROWN IN POPULARITY

So You Think You Can Dance is an American televised dance competition show that is on Fox in the United States and is the flagship series of the international So You Think You Can Dance television franchise.

The series premiered on July 20, 2005 with over ten million viewers and ended the summer season as the top-rated show on television. SYTYCD was created by American Idol producers Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe and is produced by 19 Entertainment and Dick Clark Productions. The first season was hosted by current American news personality Lauren Sánchez. Since the second season, it has been hosted by former British children's television personality and one-time game show emcee Cat Deeley. During its second season, the program remained the No. 1 rated summer show (adults aged 18-49) but it has declined in ratings since.

The show features a tiered format wherein dancers from a variety of styles enter open auditions held in a number of major U.S. cities to showcase their unique styles and talents and, if allowed to move forward, then are put through additional rounds of auditions to test their ability to adapt to different styles. At the end of this process, a small number of dancers are chosen as finalists. These dancers move on to the competition's main phase, where they perform solo, duet, and group dance numbers in a variety of styles. They compete for the votes of the broadcast viewing audience which, combined with the input of a panel of judges, determines which dancers advance to the next stage from week to week. The number of finalists has varied as determined by a season's format, but has typically been 20 contestants.

The show features a broad variety of American and international dance styles including classical, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop, street, club, jazz, and musical theatre styles, amongst others, with many sub-genres within the categories represented. Competitors attempt to master these styles-which are generally, but not always, assigned by a luck-of-the-draw system-to survive successive weeks of elimination. The eventual champion wins a cash prize (typically $250,000) and the title of "America's Favorite Dancer". In nine seasons, the winners have been Nick Lazzarini, Benjamin Schwimmer, Sabra Johnson, Joshua Allen, Jeanine Mason, Russell Ferguson, Lauren Froderman, Melanie Moore, Eliana Girard and Chehon Wespi-Tschopp, with Girard and Wespi-Tschopp sharing the title as dual-winners for season 9. The show has won seven Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography and a total of nine Emmys altogether.

In 2008, Fringe debuted to high ratings and critical acclaim during its first season on Tuesdays; though its viewership declined through its run, the series has developed a large loyal fanbase/cult following that had turned the show into a cult television show. In 2009, Fox launched Glee to average ratings but positive reception from critics. Ratings picked up during the first season, and the show has been met with such media attention that it has formed a large loyal fanbase. The cast of the series has been acknowledged by notable people such as the President of the United States Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who have each asked the cast to perform live for numerous national events. At the close of the decade and the start of the 2010s, new comedies Raising Hope and New Girl gave Fox its first ratings successes in live-action comedy in years.

LIST OF POPULAR FOX SHOWS:
American Idol
Bones
Family Guy
The Finder
Fringe
Glee
Hell's Kitchen
House
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Kitchen Nightmares
MasterChef
Mobbed
Napoleon Dynamite
New Girl
Raising Hope
The Simpsons
So You Think You Can Dance
Terra Nova
Touch
The X Factor