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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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HOW TO FIND AN APARTMENT


There are many ways you can go about looking for and finding the right apartment. To ensure that you will be able to afford your new apartment keep your rent, plus any debt payments, at 36% or less of your monthly income. More than that, and you'll be eating in every night to pay for a too-expensive place. Figure out how much you can afford to spend on an apartment before you start looking. If you can't find a high-quality, low-rent apartment, consider getting a roommate to share the costs. 

Dealing with a larger apartment management company has its advantages as well as drawbacks. One can find convenient solutions through larger companies, but one should also be careful about companies' claims regarding tenant needs, red tape, reliability, etc.

Use your Smartphone. With the latest advancement in mobile devices and specifically Smartphones (iPhone, Android or BlackBerry), you can use your phone's GPS to display apartments that are nearest to your location while walking around a neighborhood that you like. Download one of the apartment search applications available for your Smartphone and use your phone to search anywhere at anytime.

Find your ideal neighborhood. Drive or walk around different parts of the city where you might like to live. Consider commute times, your lifestyle needs and local conveniences.

Do a thorough inspection and take notes. Keep a record of each apartment you visit. Note what features are extra or missing. Take measurements of the rooms and doorways to ensure furniture fits on moving day. Turn on light switches, look inside closets, check water pressure, visit the laundry room, walk the grounds and ask neighbors what it’s like to live there. Identify your target location carefully. Pick a place that's close to work, groceries, and facilities you use regularly, so you spend less time (and money) in transit. Having public transportation nearby is a great way to cut your transportation costs.

Bargain hard
Want to negotiate a discount in rent? Tell your prospective landlord you're very interested but hadn't planned to spend as much as he or she is asking. If you request a rent reduction, the worst they can say is no.

Low-cost furnishing
When furnishing your apartment, ask family members for free hand-me-down furniture or small appliances they're not using, or check www.freecycle.org, a site that allows people to give away items they no longer need. Find useable furniture at second-hand stores, or check www.craigslist.org and www.ebay.com. Visit low-cost stores for new household supplies.

Utilities and communications
Ask utility companies to waive connection fees or transfer fees - they may offer big discounts if you say you're considering signing with a competitor. "Bundling" services like Internet and cable with the same provider can also bring discounts. Consider skipping the landline if you mainly use a cell phone. 

Get it in writing
Make sure the contract you sign with your landlord includes how long you must stay, how much notice you must give before you move, what repairs the landlord is obligated to do, and the rules regarding subletting. If the landlord promises an upgrade - such as painting before you move in - get that in print, too. If something seems unfair or suspect, call your state or county housing office or office of consumer affairs. These government agencies can inform you of your rights as a tenant.

Stay safe and insured
Think about safety for you and your belongings. Look for a good lock, and consider an alarm system. Check that your new apartment has a functioning smoke detector and carbon monoxide (CO) detector. A fire or flood can ruin your precious valuables, so renter’s insurance is a must. Figure out how much property protection you require by creating a complete inventory of everything in your apartment - from your TV to your socks - and then shop online for a quote.

Be the perfect tenant
Keeping your rental clean and quiet is the best way to ensure your landlord appreciates you. That can mean a grace period if you ever need to be a few days late on the rent, and a glowing reference for your next rental. Many landlords require a security deposit, so keeping the place in good repair helps to make sure you’ll get the money back.

With so many options on the market - high rise and low rises, condos, duplexes, old Victorians, newly renovated suites - it pays to put the effort into finding a good apartment with affordable rent to call your home.





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