Warning: Your Passport "Expires" Three Months Before It Expires
It’s one of your worst travel nightmares: You show up at the airport, packed and ready to fly overseas, valid (non-expired) passport in hand, and you’re told, just a few hours before your fight is scheduled to take off, that your passport is not valid for the destination you’re headed for.
We’re seeing more and more American travelers getting turned back because their passport is within three months (or, in some cases, six months) of expiration. Due to the variety of entry and visitor policies of many foreign countries (including super-popular destinations like Italy, France, and Spain), you need to make sure your passport is valid for at least three months after your departure date. For some countries, especially many in Asia, the period may be six months.
Rather than try to explain the varied policies of every destination you may have on your bucket list, we’ll send you over the U.S. State Department, which has a handy tool for researching your destination’s requirements.
What do you do if you’re scheduled to fly to, say, France next week and you’ve just realized your passport will expire in less than three months?
Luckily, there’s an app to help with that. ItsEasy.com just launched the very first passport renewal app that streamlines the entire process. Founded in 1976, ItsEasy is a United States Government–registered passport- and visa-expediting company based in New York City.
Download the free user-friendly app on your smartphone or tablet, and you can renew your passport, get photos, fulfill visa requirements, and use the emergency info button (just in case you lose your passport or visa while traveling in another country), all easily and safely. The app also has a renewal reminder that will notify you nine months before your passport expires. Using it to take passport photos is easy: Snap your picture, and it will be reviewed and approved by ItsEasy passport pros, then opt to have it printed by ItsEasy and delivered by first class or overnight mail, or choose to have it emailed to you to print yourself.
ItsEasy charges $29.95 for its passport renewal services, in addition to the Department of State's passport fee, which includes a trackable priority United States Postal Service shipping label, passport photos, all of the forms, and order status updates. Customers can choose standard or expedited renewal. Once the application is submitted, ItsEasy emails customers the full passport application to print and complete, a checklist to ensure it’s all taken care of, and a secure trackable USPS priority shipping label to send everything to ItsEasy. They will review and process everything before passing it on to the U.S. Department of State.
“Why wouldn’t you want an app that saves you precious time and money?” David Alwadish, CEO and founder of ItsEasy, has said. “Between buying the envelope, postage, passport photos, and running around for the errand, if the value of the users’ time saved is factored in then the savings would grow exponentially. We are providing you with peace of mind with government-approved and regulated experts handling the entire process—including pre-checking of documents, printing the photos, writing the check, and gathering what you’d have to go buy yourself. I can confidently say that you’ll be aware of where your application is at all times.”
Cheap Flights for Last-Minute Labor Day Trips
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A Real-Life Travel Nightmare Worthy of a Hollywood Script
When it comes to things that can ruin a vacation, lost luggage, stolen cell phones, missed flights, and broken bones aren’t even in the same league as what happened to 1,900 passengers on board the Sea Princess, which left Sydney on a round-the-world 104-day cruise. According to a report on news.com.au, during the first leg of the trip that was bound for Dubai, the passengers were banned from roaming the decks and even taking in the sea air under the stars on their own balconies from dusk until down for 10 days. Speculation flew—terrorism? Bats? Vampires? When the captain finally spoke to the worried passengers, the real threat came out: Pirates roamed these seas and the passengers needed to be prepared for a possible attack. They were sailing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Suez Canal, a route that passes Somalia, one of the poorest countries on earth. On the waters off Somalia's 1,880-mile coastline, the longest in Africa, pirates loom equipped with weapons and ladders in small, speedy boats. They’ve been known to hijack boats and hold crew and cargo for ransom for months. Pirate drills ensued. Passengers were instructed to close cabin doors, lock balcony doors, take shelter in the corridor. Fire hoses to ward off intruders were locked and loaded on one of the decks, an easy entrance point to the ship. (Airplane turbulence must have seemed like a wished-for fantasy compared with this.) READ: 10 Foolproof Tips to Fight Flight Anxiety The great news is that the passengers made it through their journey unscathed, aside from a weariness with wisecracks about Captain Phillips and Peter Pan or talking parrots, we can only imagine. According to Carolyne Jasinski, a passenger on the cruise who wrote the article for news.com.au, anxiety overtook everyone, but “there was a weird kind of excitement. Once aware of and alerted to the prospect of pirates, we watched vessels more carefully,” she writes. As far as statistics go, pirate attacks on cruise ships is very rare, but the frightening episode is a sobering reminder that the threat is real. This past April, the New York Times reported that after several years of quiet on the Indian Ocean, Somali pirates ambushed four ships in the month of March. The article attributed the sudden rise of incidents to famine, drought, and the influence of the Islamic State, among other factors. The Constanzi Report on Piracy and Maritime Security, a website that provides live reports on attacks against ships as well as articles on all things related to piracy and maritime security, offers a detailed look at the state of things. It features an incredibly comprehensive chronicle of attacks by month. A map details where incidents occur and to what kinds of vessels. While it’s certainly distressing to note the number of attacks over the past years, vacationers can rest assured that most assaults are made on cargo ships. So, cruise-goers, chances are incredibly high that on your next jaunt you'll be able to swim and drink outside under the stars at night. Still, don't make any Tom-Hanks-to-the-rescue or Captain Hook or talking parrot jokes.
Beware of These Hidden Hotel Fees
Last year U.S. hotels collected more than $2.5 billion in fees and surcharges, up from $2.45 billion in 2015 according to research by Bjorn Hanson, a professor at New York University’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. Hanson credits the uptick to the nation’s thriving travel industry. “When times are financially difficult, hotels are more concerned about offending guests with extra charges, but when the economy is doing well hotels feel more confident about increasing their fees,” says Hanson, who has tracked U.S. hotel fees and surcharges data since 2000. Unfortunately for travelers, many hotel fees are often buried in lengthy disclosure statements or tucked into bill summaries at checkout. The best way to avoid getting slapped with surprise fees? Pick up the phone. “Call the hotel and ask, ‘Are there any automatic or mandatory fees or surcharges?’ before you book a room,” Hanson advises. To be a savvy traveler though, you should still have an idea of what hotel charges can potentially sneak onto your bill. By knowing what they are in advance—and how much they cost on average—you may find ways to cut costs on your next trip. Keep your eyes peeled for these hidden fees. RESORT FEECost: $10 to $50 per night Resort fees are daily charges imposed by some hotels in addition to the basic room rate. These fees—which hotels say cover the costs of access to hotel amenities (e.g., internet, fitness center, hotel pool) or “complimentary” perks, like coffee and newspapers—are usually mandatory. Resort fees are disclosed at the time of booking, but they typically only appear after a room is selected and the traveler is about to pay for the reservation, says Randy Greencorn, co-founder of ResortFeeChecker.com, an online tool that allows users to look up resort fees at more than 2,000 properties around the world. In other words, “the resort fee is only disclosed when the traveller has their credit card out and is about to book the room,” Greencorn says. Pro tip: “the resort fee is typically found at the bottom of the [last] page” when you check out, says Greencorn. IN-ROOM COFFEEMAKER FEECost: $3 to $6 If you want to make a cup of joe in the morning in your room, you may have to pay for it. To err on the side of caution, use the (hopefully free) coffeemaker in the lobby instead. ROOM SELECTION FEECost: $10 to $40 Some hotels now charge guests for the privilege of reserving a type of room, like a room with a king bed. But this fee may be negotiable, especially if you’re a hotel rewards member. EARLY CHECK-IN FEECost: $30 to $50 If you want to check into your room before the hotel’s standard check-in time, you may have to pay a premium to do so. This is a relatively new fee. BAGGAGE HOLDING FEECost: $2 to $5 per bag If you’re checking in early or stowing your bags for a few hours while you explore the city after checking out, you may have to pay a fee for the hotel to hold your luggage. This fee is in addition to what you tip the bellhop when you pick up your bags. (Etiquette experts at the Emily Post Institute recommend tipping $2 for the first bag and $1 for each additional bag.) IN-ROOM SAFE FEECost: $2 to $6 per day Many travelers put cash, passports, and other important belongings in the in-room safe, but a number of hotels charge a daily fee for it. “Discouraging guests from using in-room safes is a liability risk for hotels,” Hanson says. “It’s a service that should be provided.” In-room safe fees are becoming less common, but if your hotel charges on it will likely be indicated in writing on the safe. HOUSEKEEPING FEECost: $10 to $20 per day Traditionally, hotels have included cleaning services in the cost of the room, but some are beginning to charge housekeeping fees. You may be able to opt out of this service and save money—that is, if you don’t mind tidying up after yourself. MINI-BAR RESTOCKING FEECost: $3 to $6 per day Hotels have always charged inflated prices for mini-bar food and drinks, but these days you may have to pay an additional fee per day after you remove the first item—regardless of whether you buy anything else from the mini-bar during the rest of your stay. Therefore, “don’t take anything out just to look at it” or you could get slapped with a restocking fee, says Hanson. SURFACE PARKING FEECost: $6 to $10 per day “Many people assume that if there’s an outdoor parking lot, it’s free,” says Hanson, but an increasing number of hotels are charging for outdoor, or “surface,” parking. Consequently, “always ask if there is complementary parking,” says Hanson. EARLY DEPARTURE FEECost: The full rate When you check into most hotels, you sign or initial a registration card that states your scheduled departure date. But if you decide to check out a day or several days early, you’ll most likely have to pay the full amount for your stay. To be fair, this isn’t really an extra “fee”—it’s more of a penalty, since you booked a room for a set number of days, during which time the hotel couldn’t offer your room to someone else.
For the weary traveler, is there anything more refreshing than taking a hot, soothing shower after a long flight? But when you have an epic layover, that relaxing "me time" can feel light years away. Before you pull out your toothbrush in the airport bathroom, consider booking a room with why-didn’t-we-think-of-this site Hotels By Day. This game changer lets you snag unoccupied hotel rooms for the day at discounted prices, for either a morning, midday, or afternoon stay. Time frames tend to be generous, too, usually ranging from five to nine hours, such as 10 a.m.–6 p.m. or 8 a.m.–1 p.m. Perfect for downtime, whether you're hitting the beach or luxuriating in a sunken tub. Obviously, there are plenty of airport hotels, but the options on this site go far beyond that, ranging from budget to luxury properties located all over town, like the four-star Atlantica Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for about $43; the beachside boho Stiles Hotel South Beach, in Miami, for $90; or the modern Mosser Hotel in San Francisco for $79: All were available when we checked. Make a reservation through Hotels By Day’s mobile site or its iOS or Android app in just four taps. Search by location, price, and time frame and book at no charge—you pay at the hotel—and can cancel for free up to 24 hours before check-in. Since the rates are much more affordable than traditional overnight stays (typically around 40 percent off) you can experience a hotel that normally could be a little out of reach. The swanky—but reasonably priced—solution allows you to get a head start on your vacation by making the most of each hotel’s amenities. Take a nap to combat jet lag, freshen up with a shower, have a quiet place to work with potentially free Wi-Fi, veg out with a real TV, break a sweat at the gym, or eat a complimentary breakfast. Here’s to never giving yourself an awkward sponge bath in the airport bathroom again.