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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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PADAY LOANS 101

Payday loans range in size from $100 to $1,000, depending on state legal maximums. The average loan term is about two weeks. Loans typically cost 400% annual interest (APR) or more. The finance charge ranges from $15 to $30 to borrow $100. For two-week loans, these finance charges result in interest rates from 390 to 780% APR. Shorter term loans have even higher APRs.

Payday loans are extremely expensive compared to other cash loans. A $300 cash advance on the average credit card, repaid in one month, would cost $13.99 finance charge and an annual interest rate of almost 57%. By comparison, a payday loan costing $17.50 per $100 for the same $300 would cost $105 if renewed one time or 426% annual interest.

All a consumer needs to get a payday loan is an open bank account in relatively good standing, a steady source of income, and identification. Lenders do not conduct a full credit check or ask questions to determine if a borrower can afford to repay the loan.

Payday loans are made by payday loan stores, check cashers, and pawn shops. Some rent-to-own companies also make payday loans. Loans are also marketed via toll-free telephone numbers and over the Internet.

At the end of 2010, an industry analyst estimated that there were 19,700 payday loan stores operating, down from an estimated 20,600 stores at the end of 2009. The number of payday loan stores has been dropping since 2006. This same analyst estimates 2010 loan volume at $29.2 billion with $4.7 billion in revenue for loans made by payday loan stores. In addition, Internet payday lenders are estimated to have loaned $10.8 billion and collected fees of $2.7 billion in 2010. Combined storefront and Internet payday lending totals $40.3 billion in loans and $7.4 billion in revenue.

High cost payday lending is authorized by state laws or regulations in thirty-two states. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia protect their borrowers with reasonable small loan rate caps. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the Arkansas payday loan law was unconstitutional. In recent years, Oregon, Ohio, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana and the District of Columbia have reimposed rate caps.

Protections for Service Members and Dependents
Federal protections for service members and their families took effect October 1, 2007. The Department of Defense regulations apply to payday loans, car title loans and tax refund loans. Lenders are prohibited from charging more than 36 percent annual interest including fees; taking a check, debit authorization or car title to secure loans; and using mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts for covered loans.

Lenders use a variety of tactics to avoid state regulations. Some lenders use sham transactions, such as contracts for Internet access with rebate schemes, to cloak loans. In Texas, most lenders operate as unregulated "credit services organizations" to evade state small loan limits set by the Texas Finance Commission under the small loan law. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation undertook enforcement actions to stop a dozen or so small banks from "renting" their charters to help payday lenders operate in states that do not authorize these loans or interest rates. Payday lenders revamped their single payment loans into high cost installment loans to evade state law restrictions in Illinois and New Mexico. In Virginia, some lenders morphed payday loans into open-end lines of credit to escape rate caps.

Payday loans trap consumers in repeat borrowing cycles due to the extremely high cost of borrowing, the very short repayment term, and the consequences of failing to make good on the check used to secure the loan. Consumers who use payday loans have an average of eight to thirteen loans per year at a single lender. In one state almost sixty percent of all loans made were used to cover the prior payday loan transaction; either through renewals or new loans taken out immediately after paying off the prior loan.

Every unpaid loan involves a check that is not covered by funds on deposit in the borrower's bank account. Failure to repay leads to bounced check fees from the lender and the consumer's bank. Returned checks cause negative credit ratings on specialized databases and credit reports. A consumer can lose her bank account or have difficulty opening a new bank account if she develops a record of "bouncing" checks used to get payday loans. Research indicates that payday loan users are almost twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as borrowers who are turned down for a payday loan.

Basing loans on personal checks leads some lenders to use coercive collection tactics. Some lenders threaten criminal penalties for failing to make good on checks. In some states lenders sue for multiple damages under civil "bad check" laws

Internet payday lending adds security and fraud risks to payday loans. Consumers apply online or through faxed application forms. Loans are direct deposited into the borrower's bank account and electronically withdrawn on the next payday. Many Internet payday loans are structured to automatically renew every payday, with the finance charge electronically withdrawn from the borrower's bank account.





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