HOW TO TRAVEL NOW
105 Supersmart Strategies
Here's our comprehensive look at the best ways to travel: how to find a deal, avoid lines, pack, fly, tip, and more.
And confirm your cancellations, too
Get a confirmation number or, even better, a confirmation e-mail. If you don't have proof in writing, you're facing an uphill battle if the charge eventually shows up on your credit-card bill.
If you call a company and the person who answers sounds like an idiot or a jerk, hang up before saying your name. Call back later. (To find out which keys to press to reach an operator at hundreds of companies, go to GetHuman.com.)
Maximize your cell phone
Turn it into an address book, with contact info for airlines, hotels, car-rental companies, and your car and health insurers. (Get a local phone number, too, in case the toll-free one won't work overseas.) And if you use your cell to store loyalty-program account info, you can toss those membership cards.
Welcome to our country! Now go home
If you don't have enough blank pages in your passport, or if it expires in six months or less, some countries won't let you in. (Not sure if you need a visa? See state.gov/travel.) In the U.S., the rule is that you now also need to have a passport if you're entering the country by air from Mexico, Canada, the non-U.S. Caribbean, the Bahamas, or Bermuda. People arriving by cruise ship may also require a passport as early as January 1, 2008.
Why a hotel room is kind of like a rug
Few price quotes are non-negotiable anymore--that goes for a rug in India or a hotel room anywhere. Don't accept the first rate you see; ask if there are unadvertised specials, or if the hotel can do better. Play up whatever you bring to the table--you're with a group, for example, or you visit often. Instead of a lower rate, you may end up with free parking or an upgrade. Just make sure the person you're wooing is in a position to deliver.
One word: plastic
Pay for all bookings with a credit card, so you'll be protected in the event the airline or tour operator goes out of business.
Without evidence, you have no case
Bring a copy of whatever is included in your rate. Otherwise the hotel might, say, charge you for breakfast, or the car-rental agency could try to give you a compact instead of a minivan. They'll find it a lot harder to argue if you have it on paper.
A few thoughts on travel insurance
If all you have reserved are flights and hotels, insurance generally isn't worth it: You can rebook a flight and only suffer a $100-per-ticket (or so) fee, and hotels rarely have strict cancellation policies. But if you're headed on a cruise or a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, such as a safari, insurance looks better and better, because tour operators and cruise lines (which are less likely to get any last-minute bookings) tend to penalize those people who cancel. You should also consider buying travel insurance when you think the odds are decent that you won't be able to take the trip for one reason or another. Just make sure you understand up front exactly what is and isn't covered, which situations allow you to cancel, and what the cancellation time frame is.
What about when disaster strikes?
Some people believe they should get insurance in case there's a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Recent history has shown, however, that travel companies are incredibly sensitive when such events occur, and they almost always drop their usual restrictions and allow their customers to rebook or cancel without penalty. Of course, there's no guarantee that this will always be the case.