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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 YOU CAN LOWER YOUR REFINANCING FEES

Points are the up-front fees you pay to reduce the interest rate. While it can make sense to pay an additional fee to obtain a lower long term interest rate, be sure to actually take the time to calculate the cost. If you intend to remain in the home for a long period of time and do not wish to refinance in the future, then paying an additional fee for points may make good financial sense. It's also important to know that when a lower than average advertisement requires you to purchase expensive points, you need to compare the same fees with other lenders to make sure you are actually obtaining the most competitive rates.

Zero/Low Interest Can Cost More. The media is filled with promises of zero interest rates and ultra-low monthly mortgage payments. While they might seem like a great idea to begin with, in the long run these loans can cost more - sometimes much more. Always read the fine print and be sure you are able to afford the new payments once the loan re-sets. Many of these mortgages may also require a "balloon payment" or large fee years later.

If you are unable to come up with the money it can cause you to fall behind on payments or even lead to foreclosure. Always obtain a full amortization schedule that shows all the anticipated payments and balance for the life of the loan; it will help you compare how much you will pay over the total cost of the loan and avoid paying hidden refinance fees.

Get a Good Faith Estimate. A Good Faith Estimate is exactly what it sounds like; an estimate of all the charges, closing costs, refinance fees and expenses you will pay in order to take out a new loan or refinance the mortgage. Take time to read and review it carefully and avoid doing business with anyone that refuses to provide a GFE in writing.

Time Matters. If you intend to sell or relocate within a short period of time, it may not make financial sense to refinance even if you combine the closing costs and other refinance fees into the total cost of the new loan. Tally up the anticipated monthly savings then compare against the number of months required to "break even" to determine if it is the right move for you.

Work with a solid lender. With the recent banking crisis it can be difficult to know which company is solid and which isn't. Take time to verify the credentials of the refinance lender and follow-up by making copies of all paperwork, communication and other transactions. In the event of a problem, you will have the information required to prove your position.

Don't fall for scams. Always verify the credentials of any home refinance provider prior to relating sensitive information including social security number, banking or credit scores. It's a good idea to check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer regulatory agency in your state to confirm the agency is in good standing and eligible to write loans. Never do business with a company that requires large up-front fees to gain information or anyone that makes promises that sound too good to be true. Know what typical closing costs and other refinance fees will be before you sign.

Speak to a credit counselor. If you are interested in home refinance as a way to reduce monthly debt, it may be advisable to speak with a credit counselor first. Sometimes it is possible to restructure or modify current loans or debts to make them more affordable without having to refinance. Depending upon your specific situation, loan modifications, extended payment plans or other payment options may be less costly in the long run and provide the same relief for a fraction of the cost. Remember, the time to act is before you are in serious financial trouble. Plan ahead in order to keep all your options open and then make the best decision for your situation.

Get it in writing. Refinancing is a complex transaction where time is of the essence; everything from rate locks to points paid are subject to change so always be sure to get everything in writing. Never rely upon verbal approval only. In the event of a problem you will not have sufficient proof to substantiate your position.

Make copies of everything. You have probably heard the saying to err is human. Well, it certainly holds true when dealing with any type of paperwork. During the course of a mortgage or home refinance you will be required to submit many types of forms and documentation. Take a few extra minutes to make a copy of everything just in case it is needed later. Not only is it a great way to stay organized but it may help prevent the late submission of paperwork required to get the best rate. more on refinancing





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