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USELFUL LINKS:
State Department Travel Information
FlightAware Flight Tracking
Hotels.com
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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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HOW MORTGAGE GOOD FAITH ESTIMATES WORK


A Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is a form that lists basic information about the terms of a mortgage loan for which you've applied.

The GFE includes the estimated costs you'll have to pay for the home loan. The Good Faith Estimate provides you with basic information about the loan, which will help you:

-Compare offers
-Understand the real cost of the loan
-Make an informed decision about your loan choice

The lender or the mortgage broker must provide you with a GFE within three business days of receiving your application or other required information. You can't be charged any fees until you get the GFE and indicate that you plan to take out the home loan. But you can be charged a credit report fee.

If the lender denies your application within three business days, it does not have to provide you with a GFE. Within 30 days, your lender has to tell you:

Why your application was denied, or
That you have 60 days to request the reason why it was denied
Tip: You don't have to take the mortgage loan even if you receive a GFE. The lender also doesn't have to give you the loan even if it provides a GFE.

A good faith estimate, referred to as a GFE, must be provided by a mortgage lender or broker in the United States to a customer, as required by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA).  The estimate must include an itemized list of fees and costs associated with the loan and must be provided within three business days of applying for a loan.

These mortgage fees, also called settlement costs or closing costs, cover every expense associated with a home loan, including inspections, title insurance, taxes and other charges.

Closing fees, also called settlement costs, cover almost every expense associated with your home loan. Because closing costs typically amount to between 3 percent and 5 percent of the sale price, it is best to wait until you receive the good faith estimate before committing to a loan. Smart shoppers obtain good faith estimates from two or more lenders, compare their costs and ask questions about any large discrepancies.

A good faith estimate is a standard form which is intended to be used to compare different offers (or quotes) from different lenders or brokers.

The good faith estimate is only an estimate. The final closing costs may be different; however the difference can only be 10% of the third party fees. Once a good faith estimate is issued the lender/broker cannot change the fees in the origination box.

When you apply for a home loan, a lender is required to provide what's know as a mortgage good faith estimate, often abbreviated as GFE, to you within three days or less. This stipulation is set forth by the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, RESPA for short. The provision says that a lender must present a general summery of the costs and expenses that the borrower will have to deal with at the time he or she closes on a piece of property.

Is a Mortgage Good Faith Estimate Accurate?
Although the good faith estimate should be accurate, lenders aren't necessarily legally bound to their GFEs. However, most lenders try to honor good faith estimates as closely as possible in order to avoid developing a bad reputation with customers. You can check out reviews of lenders through online consumer advocacy sites and other third party protection sources to make sure that you do business only with lenders that have good track records with their GFEs.

However, even with reputable lenders, the GFE may not be completely accurate after application due to closing costs, lawyers' fees, investor charges, and other various costs that are not necessarily within the control of the lending institution. If a buyer and seller agree to use a particular attorney, for instance, and that attorney charges more than what the lender estimated, the final cost of the closing cost may be higher than the GFE -- through no fault of the lender.

Lenders will generally let you know in writing if the original GFE is going to be substantially off. If you see that the final costs exceed 16 percent of the GFE, a red flag should go up. Scrutinize the contract, and ask your lawyer to go over any requirements that you don't fully understand.

Remember that once you sign your contract with the lender, the act is legally binding, and it can be very difficult to get out of an unfair agreement.

The Good Faith Estimate is standardized. All lenders must provide consumers with the exact same document. Loan charges, third-party fees, and other costs must be displayed uniformly. Previously, lenders were not uniform in their interpretations of what fees should be included on the Good Faith Estimate and where such fees should be disclosed.

The GFE should cover closing costs and the amount of cash the borrower needs to close on the agreement. It should also detail which if any prepaid expenses must be handled and the average monthly payment the borrower will have to countenance to keep up with the loan. Therefore, the mortgage good faith estimate should give you a fairly good idea of what you will ultimately have to pay. more info at Consumerfinance.gov




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