Savvy Travel Decisions

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OTHER HELPFUL SOURCES

 

 

PASSPORT INFORMATION:   

Transportation Security Administration

 

TRAVEL ADVISORIES:   

U.S. Dept. of State provides updated information on danger areas as well as visa, passport, and health information. Call: 202-647- 5225. 

For reports on airlines, airports and other transportation worldwide, call: 202-366-4000. Website: www.travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html

 

 

WEATHER: WEATHER AND ROAD CODITIONS WORLDWIDE: 1-900-288-8800 OR 900-WEATHER (American Express). BE FOREWARNED:  

These numbers are NOT free (95 cents per minute as of May, 2007). Website: www.weather.com

 

BAGGAGE ALERT:  

There’s nothing worse than taking an extended vacation or a cruise, and having the airline lose your luggage. Every sane traveler cannot help but worry that their luggage is not accompanying them in the cargo hold. There are several huge warehouses nationwide selling so-called “lost luggage,” hopefully not yours. The “Unclaimed Baggage” Center in Scottsboro, Alabama is literally an orphanage for suitcases. Over one million bags a year are processed. Your luggage is forwarded to this “suitcase hell” after allegedly conducting an “intensive” 90 days of tracking effort to locate the rightful owners. Your valued suitcase is then sold to a bargain hunter for less than half of its original value (cameras, jewelry, electronics, sporting goods, books). 7,000 “newly arrived goods” are added daily to the store’s inventory! To give you an idea of how inefficient the airline baggage system is, consider that “suitcase hell” is more than a city block in size! 509 West Willow Street, Scottsboro, Alabama, 256-259-1525.

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Unfortunately, your remedies are few. The airline liability is strictly limited by law, ($3,000 per passenger on domestic flights), and good luck getting it! The airlines, will reimburse you for items purchased while you await return of your missing luggage. Reimbursement varies by airline, but most pay between $25-50 per day.  Keep in mind that the airlines, with their convoluted logic, get to define the rules of reimbursement, and generally require that at least seven days must elapse before an item is considered to be “lost”. You’ll have to jump through a million hoops producing receipts to verify value. Almost quicker to fly to Scottsboro and “re-purchase” your suitcase!! Alas, the contents will be long gone. Remember your wonderful Congress when you’re offered a pittance for your lost belongings. How would you like to be on a fourteen day cruise, with only the clothes on your back??? If this misfortune happened to Congressional Representatives with any frequency, the legal responsibility of the airlines would be increased in a jiffy!!

 

You would be well advised to always have contact information and your cell phone number INSIDE the suitcase.

 

Incidentally the “friendly”, accommodating airlines now charge for oversize luggage and heavy contents---each airline has their own rules as to weight allowances and overweight fees.

 

Several enterprising baggage companies for a fee will lessen your anxiety. It’s not inexpensive, but it certainly is worth the peace of mind. Here’s how it works:

You call the toll free service or check their website for a cost quote. The service will pick up your luggage at your residence or place of employment. They require a pick up at least two-three days in advance your flight. Your luggage will be delivered to your cruise ship, resort, or place of your choosing.

Purchasing baggage insurance is really not an answer. No delivery by airline, you still have no clothes. Depending on your physical stature, this can be seriously problematic. Cruise ships and resorts do not offer big and tall sizes for women or men.

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Some travelers arrive a day early for a cruise. This is recommended; so that you are not left at the mercy of weather related cancelled flights. Having no luggage to tote through airports, retrieve in baggage, and customs are all handled for you.

There are several major baggage forwarding services. Bella Online:www.bellaonline.com , Luggage Forward: www.luggageforward.com, Luggage Concierge: www.luggageconcierge.com ; Virtual Bellhop: www.virtualbellhop.com, Luggage Free: www.luggagefree.com; DHL: www.dhl.com. 

Federal Express is an efficient, less costly alternative, if you are organized and can send your luggage ahead a few days to its “intended” destination. Several airlines have begun partnering with baggage shipping services. The cost of the new Federal Express-United Airlines Door-To-Door Baggage program (www.unitedairlines.com/doortodoor), varies between $149-179 one-way per bag, depending on the distance of the flight. Since Federal Express may direct that your bag be carried on a United Airline flight and not Federal Express, it begs the question why is extra care being expended for your bag by United when the cost is $149 vs. a former free, now a measly $15-25?? Convenience carries a hefty price tag.  

40 pounds on Luggage Concierge is $325 one-way from NYC to LA; $178 for three day shipping (Includes $1,500 insurance, additional optional).

40 pounds on Luggage Free NYC to LA is $226,(includes $1,000 insurance, additional optional); three day shipping is $148.

Your luggage is picked up at your home or business office and delivered to your destination lodging or office. Just think: No lugging suitcases through airports, and airport baggage claim retrieval!

Even the U.S. Postal Service is getting into the baggage biz. If you want the convenience of your luggage being picked up by Uncle Sam, however, you need to box the luggage, weigh it while inside the box and pay online. Schedule the pickup online by2am the day of desired pickup. Sample rate:40 pounds from NYC to LA is $144 one way. (includes $100 insurance, with more optional. Two-day service is $75. This cumbersome requirement makes the U.S. Post Office at a competitive disadvantage, as other services collect and bill later. 


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Pricing and destinations served varies, so check carefully, the pickup terms and weight pricing. While you’re at it, you had might as well arrange for baggage pick up for your journey home. Utilizing Federal Express via FedEx Ground for your baggage, but still having the convenience of pickup at your residence or office, would result in cutting your baggage shipment costs approximately one-third of the cost of overnight delivery.