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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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TOP 10 FACTS ABOUT ONLINE BANKING


Many people already know that online banking services can simplify your financial responsibilities. In today's world almost all transactions, payments, and maintenance activities can be handled online.

1. Just about any financial account that you own can be monitored online. Current balances, payments due, deposits, withdrawals, and scheduled transactions will be displayed on an account summary page. This allows you to monitor your accounts for any changes or transactions that you may have forgotten to record.

2. Online banking accounts usually record images of a customer’s checks. At the click of a button, you can see the front and back of any check that has posted to your account.

3. Funds can be quickly and easily transferred from one account to another - from a checking account to a savings account, for example.

4. Online banking systems often provide a simple way to send funds to someone via wire transfer. Instead of taking cash to a wire transfer office, you can transfer the money electronically. The recipient can then pick it up at the office specified.

5. Most or all of your monthly payments - for credit cards, utilities, subscriptions, etc. - can be made online. Payments will post immediately which greatly reduces the risk of late payment fees.

6. If you prefer not to pay each bill manually, many banks will allow you to set up automatic payments. On the dates you specify, money will be taken automatically from your checking or savings account and paid to utilities and other accounts.

7. National banks sometimes offer the ability to apply for a loan online. A decision can be made almost immediately, and the loan may be deposited directly into the customer’s checking account.

8. Most banking systems support the ability to import account history and transaction records into the account holder’s personal accounting software. Once imported, the records are accessible even when internet access is not available.

9. With some banks, you may be able to request new debit cards or order new checks by clicking just a few buttons.

10. Canceling scheduled transactions is simple with online banking. Customers can request a ‘stop payment’ on outstanding checks or cancel electronic withdrawals easily.

The convenience of online banking accounts has become a necessity for many Internet users. Last year, almost 70 million households with Internet access used online banking services. Paying bills, searching transactions and transferring money at any hour, from any location - online banking accounts have a lot to offer their customers.

Control
You can keep up with transactions, see what’s cleared, pay bills and move money between accounts, all 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Continuous access to your financial information equips you to manage your money as carefully as you need to, and paying bills online gives you control that mailing a check never could. You can specify when a payment will be made, even setting it up in advance to be paid, for example, after a paycheck is deposited. You can also monitor credit card charges, so your monthly bill won’t be an unpleasant surprise.

Speed
Online banking is fast. You don’t have to wait to get a bank statement in the mail, and checking your balance is as quick as logging on to your bank’s website. You can not only see what transactions have cleared in real time, you can also pay a bill and have it credited quickly - in some instances, by the next day.

Ease of use
Of course, paying bills online means you no longer have to write checks, buy stamps and get the envelopes in the mail. A few clicks of your mouse takes care of it! If that’s not enough, you can download your data to balance your checkbook. If you use financial management software such as Quicken or Microsoft Money, you can download all your bank transactions and balance your checkbook without having to enter a single receipt.

Savings
It gets tricky adding up how much money online banking accounts can save you. There’s the cost of stamps and having checks printed. There’s also the money you save by not having to drive to the bank. The biggest savings, though, can be in fees. Having more control over transactions, and immediate access to your information, can help you avoid overdrafts and late fees.

The list of the benefits  from online banking is growing everyday. In fact, most transactions now happen online.



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