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.
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:
KNOWING IF A FIXED RATE MORTGAGE IS RIGHT FOR YOU
Is refinancing from an ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage right for you? Refinancing allows people with adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) to convert to fixed-rate loans, an advantage even if they don’t save on their monthly payment immediately.
An ARM or variable interest rate can rise based on market or index rates while the interest rate of a fixed-rate mortgage does not change during the length of the loan term. ARMs have an initial fixed- rate period, when rates and monthly payments are lower than fixed-rate loans. When the fixed-rate period ends, the monthly payment adjusts based on the type of loan you have. Your interest rate (and monthly payment) will rise or fall based on the market rate or index.
Refinancing out of an ARM to a fixed-rate mortgage may provide:
Stability. You may gain protection from rising interest rates and future payment increases. Fixed-rate loans provide the security of predictable monthly payments.
Securing a Lower Interest Rate
One of the best reasons to refinance is to lower the interest rate on your existing loan. Historically, the rule of thumb was that it was worth the money to refinance if you could reduce your interest rate by at least 2%. Today, many lenders say 1% savings is enough of an incentive to refinance.
Reducing your interest rate not only helps you save money, but it increases the rate at which you build equity in your home, and it can decrease the size of your monthly payment. For example, a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with an interest rate of 9% on a $100,000 home has a principal and interest payment of $804.62. That same loan at 6% reduces your payment to $599.55.
When interest rates fall, homeowners often have the opportunity to refinance an existing loan for another loan that, without much change in the monthly payment, has a shorter term. For that 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on a $100,000 home, refinancing from 9% to $5.5% cuts the term in half to 15 years, with only a slight change in the monthly payment from $804.62 to $817.08.
To figure out whether refinancing with a loan term extension will help you save, do two calculations: one where the new loan has the same term as the old loan, and one where the new loan is the length of your planned refinance. Compare the interest savings to see if refinancing accomplishes your financial goal.
Some people refinance simply to make the monthly mortgage payment more affordable. A lower interest rate and/or a longer loan term both work toward lowering the monthly payment. As long as the homeowners understand they may not be minimizing total interest expense, affordability can be a motivation for extending the loan term.
While short-term savings are important, they are not the only factor to weigh when considering a refinance. Refinancing to get out of an ARM, piggyback mortgage, interest-only mortgage or other onerous mortgage provisions may be reason enough to take on a refinancing.
However, in some cases, homeowners with ARMs would be fine sticking with their loan, especially if they don't plan on being in the loan long term and the reset rate on their mortgage isn't financially threatening.
Converting Between Adjustable-Rate and Fixed-Rate Mortgages
While ARMs start out offering lower rates than fixed-rate mortgages, periodic adjustments often result in rate increases that are higher than the rate available through a fixed-rate mortgage. When this occurs, converting to a fixed-rate mortgage results in a lower interest rate as well as eliminates concern over future interest rate hikes.
Conversely, converting from a fixed-rate loan to an ARM can also be a sound financial strategy, particularly in a falling interest rate environment. If rates continue to fall, the periodic rate adjustments on an ARM result in decreasing rates and smaller monthly mortgage payments, eliminating the need to refinance every time rates drop. Converting to an ARM may be a good idea especially for homeowners who don't plan to stay in their home for more than a few years. If interest rates are falling, these homeowners can reduce their loan's interest rate and monthly payment, but they won't have to worry about interest rates rising in the future.
Like many homebuyers, you may have been attracted to the low initial interest rate of an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). While adjustable-rate mortgages have lower initial interest rates than fixed-rate mortgages, the lower interest rate is only for a set period of time.
If you obtain a mortgage to convert to a fixed rate you will repay more than you borrowed. In addition to your interest rate, term and loan amount, how much you repay is determined by several factors. Here are the components you need to know:
The interest rate is the percentage of your loan amount we charge you to borrow money.
Interest rates are based on current market conditions, your credit score, down payment, and the type of mortgage you choose. Check today’s rates.
One point equals 1% of your mortgage amount.
If you qualify, you may be able to pay one or more points to lower your interest rate. A lower interest rate means lower monthly mortgage payments.
You may be able to finance points as part of your mortgage amount.
Points are usually tax deductible. (Consult a tax advisor on the deductibility of discount points.)
The amount that includes all charges (other than discount points) that all loan originators (lenders and brokers) involved will receive for originating the loan.
This charge covers items including fees, document preparation, and underwriting costs, and other expenses.
If you qualify, you may be able to finance the origination charge as part of your mortgage amount.
Your loan term is the amount of time you have to pay off your mortgage balance.
Shorter loan terms typically mean higher monthly mortgage payments, but often have lower interest rates. And if you pay off your mortgage balance within a shorter term, you may pay less in total interest than with a longer-term mortgage.
So before you decide what is right for you do some research into fixed rate mortgages.