Trip Coach: August 2, 2005

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Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach. Let's get started...

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Anchorage, AK.: With passports being required for all cruises beginning Dec. 31, 05, I am wondering children under age 18 will also need a passport. Thank you.

Budget Travel Editors: Yes, children under 18 will also need documentation, but first a word about the Department of State's new policy. If you don't have a passport and have plans to travel to the Caribbean, Bermuda, or Central and South America anytime soon, get one now. The State Department has mandated that all travelers in and out of these regions (by air or sea) must have a valid passport by December 31, 2005. And the restrictions will only get tighter.
By December 31, 2006, a passport will also be required for all air and sea travel to or from Mexico and Canada, and by December 31, 2007, a passport will be required for all air, sea, and land border crossings. Considering a majority of Americans do not have a passport, it's best to get one now before the rush.
If your child is under age 14, he/she must appear in person to apply for documentation with the consent of both parents or legal guardians. If your child is age 14 to 17, he/she also must appear in person (for security reasons, parental consent may be requested). If your child does not have identification of his/her own, you'll need to accompany your child to present I.D.

For more information on obtaining passports, visit the State Department's website at, http://travel.state.gov/.

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Wellsville KS: What is the most economical time to travel to the Caribbean?

Budget Travel Editors: Now! Airlines and hotels drop their rates to/in the Caribbean drastically between August and October -- hurricane season. While prices are nice, the "travel at your own" risk rule of thumb applies. Some of the best deals can be found to/on islands in the Caribbean that are outside the hurricane belt, like Barbados. If you're willing to brave the possibility of bad weather, then I'd suggest the Dominican Republic. If you're traveling with a group (usually 6 or more people), some discounts may be available. Check out Groople.com, a travel website for groups that finds discounts.

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Tobyhanna, PA: How can I get from NYC to LA to San Miguel de Allende and back to NYC on a budget?

Budget Travel Editors: There's no secret, cheap way to get to San Miguel de Allende. Period. However, the airport options have increased. Queretaro, 45 minutes away, just opened a small international airport, which received Continental flights daily. While the flight times and the road from SMA to Queretaro are great, the flights are still so new, they're expensive. I still think the most economical option is to fly American or Continental from NYC via LA to Leon, one hour and 15 minutes away in Guanajuato. There are car rental agencies at the airport, or you can hire a taxi to take you to SMA. Expect to spend an average of $450 for NYC-SMA flights in winter and spring, and $650 in summer and fall. As with most travel, the bulk of your expense will be flights. Once on the ground in SMA, there are loads of affordable accommodations and dining options.

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Rockville, MD: My friend and I are planning a trip to Paris in January. We have already reserved a great apartment to stay in for 10 days. We need to find a low airfare from Washington, D.C. to Paris, but the lowest fares right now for our dates (January 12 - 22) are about $600. Would we have a better chance of getting a lower airfare if we wait until the Fall to book? It seems to me there are always bargain fares to Europe for the winter months.

Budget Travel Editors: I would definitely recommend waiting until Fall to book your airfare to Paris. January is when fares to Europe are the lowest, but nothing is on sale yet. But just as we can expect snow during winter, we can expect a flurry of airfare sales to Europe. It's just a matter of patience, and timing. Come October, use SideStep.com to start your search for the most affordable ticket for the days you plan to travel.

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Portland, OR: Why is it that Portland Oregon is never listed as a gateway city? We, here in the pacific northwest, have to travel to a gateway city in California to get the "deals" listed.

Budget Travel Editors: We know, it can be frustrating. Your problem is not unique to Portland, Oregon. Your namesake in Maine, as well as many other B-list cities (no offense) such as Cleveland, St. Louis, Fort Lauderdale, Boise, and many many others may have airports, but don't really have all that many international routes. So if you want to fly to Asia, South America, or any other far-flung destination chances are you have to fly through what's considered a major gateway: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Houston, Miami, Chicago. That's just how most of the big international carriers work. The prices on most packages are based on airfare from one of these major gateways, and you sensibly have to pay extra for the extra flight into and out of the smaller airport, such as PDX in Portland. Things will probably stay this way until a big airline makes Portland one of its hubs and starts flying lots of direct international routes out of the city.

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Whittier, CA: I have a very simple question. Is their a website that lists the items that you cannot board a plane with? My husband and I will be flying for the first time this fall, since 9/11 and I'd like to see an actual list of the items that are not allowed. Don't want to be responsible for holding up the lines.

Budget Travel Editors: The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has a list of prohibited items on their website: http://www.tsa.gov/public/display?theme=177

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St. Joseph, MI: I'll be staying in Gig Harbor, WA for about 10 days in September - would like to visit the Olympic Penninsula, Vancouver, Victoria and the San Juans on day trips or possibly with an overnight or two - is this doable or am I trying to cram too much in?? Anything else I should be including??? ME

Budget Travel Editors: You should be able to see everything in a 10-day trip, provided you have your own transportation. You'll definitely want to stay overnight in Victoria/Vancouver, as it will take about 3-4 hours to drive up to Canada and the wait at the border can be unpredicable.

In addition to the sights you mentioned, you should also visit Seattle. It's an hour's drive from Gig Harbor, or you can drive to Bremerton and take a ferry--Seattle is a very walkable town (plus city buses are free downtown), and parking can be expensive.

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Budget Travel Editors: Thanks for all of your questions.

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