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TSA Warning: Security Lines Are Going to Get Longer

By Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Budget Travel Editor-in-Chief
January 27, 2022
A view of airport security lines, blurry
Bignai/Dreamstime
Sit down and take a deep breath before you read this.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials are warning that an expected increase in airline passengers, and an insufficient increase in TSA staffing, will lead to longer airport security lines, reports the Washington Post.

TSA Staff Face Difficult Job, Low Pay

An expected 4.5 percent increase in airline passengers and a request for a 2.5 increase in staffing for fiscal 2020 equals headaches for both travelers and TSA staff. As we witnessed during the government shutdown earlier this year, TSA officers will continue to follow protocols, one passenger at a time, regardless of staffing levels or long lines, in order to maintain the highest standard of flight safety and security. But TSA officers are already facing other challenges, including some of the lowest salaries in the federal government (with full-time pay starting around $33,000/year) and some of the highest rates of turnover.

Redeployment to the Southwest Border

Another TSA challenge is the Trump administration’s proposal to move hundreds of TSA officers to the Southwest border to handle immigration duties, which could have an impact on airport security, especially during the morning peak hours of the summer high season, the Post reports.

PreCheck May Get Slower Too

TSA PreCheck has been one of the best ways to ensure an efficient trip through airport security, but even PreCheck may slow down as the TSA moves to make enrolling in PreCheck easier than ever, reports Bloomberg.

TSA estimates that 9 million “high-frequency travelers” aren’t enrolled in PreCheck yet, and an additional 80 million travelers who fly at least once per year are also not enrolled. If the initiatve to add even a portion of those frequent air travelers to PreCheck succeeds amid TSA understaffing and redeployment to the border, even PreCheck lines will likely get longer.

What Every Air Traveler Can Do Right Now

Budget Travel’s advice for getting through airport security remains the same regardless of TSA staffing: Get to the airport with plenty of extra time, pack smart, and if you haven’t already started the PreCheck application, do it now. Learn the TSA’s top 5 summer travel tips, and pack your patience.

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Travel Tips

Visiting Rome: The New Rules You’d Better Know

Rome has introduced a spate of new rules and regulations to govern decorum in the city; cracking down on everyday behaviors such as the impolite ways in which people drink water from public fountains and banning people from dragging wheeled suitcases down historic steps. Managing the Strains of Tourism Rome’s new wave of rules are part of an Italian-wide measure to manage tourist strains on cities and curb anti-social behavior in general. With summer travel season now in full bloom, Rome city council has updated existing legislation that dates all the way back to 1946 with the objective of improving city life for residents and tourists. Don’t Jump in the Fountains (And Other Sensible New Rules) The new rules include penalties for those who jump into water fountains. Men are also prohibited from walking around the city bare-chested, while the popular tourist tradition of attaching “love padlocks” will incur a fine. Overly-messy eating around historic monuments is also forbidden and yes, that could mean it’s no longer possible to cool down with a creamy gelato on the Spanish Steps. How to Legally Drink the Water (Really) Tourists will need to be especially considerate about how they drink water from the city’s public drinking fountains, known as nasoni. Authorities have decreed it’s not acceptable for thirsty tourists to let their mouth touch the metal spout, instead they can cup their hands under the the spout or place their fingers under the stream to direct an arc of water to directly to their mouths like the Romans do. Cracking Down on Street Trading, Ticket Hawking, and, Um… Hanging Laundry? Illegal street-trading and ticket-touting outside tourist sites have also been banned, as has the age-old Roman practice of hanging laundry out to dry on clothing lines between neighboring buildings. Organized pub crawls and those who advertise “skip-the-line” tours outside historic monuments such as the Vatican are also banned. No Performing on Public Transportation Another regulation decrees that singing, playing instruments or busking on public transport in the city is banned. People are also no longer allowed to take prams or wheeled suitcases up or down historic steps, such as the Spanish Steps. How Will the New Rules Be Enforced? It’s still unclear how these new rules will be imposed or what fines people could incur if they’re caught breaking them. It has been announced that police will be patrolling historic sites, however, and tourists who behave badly could now be faced with a daspo, or temporary ban from returning to the area in which they caused an offense.

Travel Tips

6 Essential Apps for Budget Travelers

Whether it’s spending hours pouring over airfare, sleeping in noisy hostels or battling through the red-eye squished in coach, traveling on a budget can feel like a hustle. Thankfully there are a handful of travel apps that can help save a few bucks on your dream trip – and help you plan for your next one. These are six of our favorite apps for budget travel. 1. Tripcoin The best way to save on travel is to know where your money is going. Tripcoin is an expense-tracking app that works offline, which is great for international travelers who aren’t buying a local SIM card. A geo-location feature breaks expenses down by country, and a currency converter automatically converts new expenses into your home currency. Helpful graphs also outline daily expenditures, and you can create unlimited trips to track how much each jaunt costs. 2. Skiplagged Skiplagged capitalizes on a loophole airlines hate: hidden-city ticketing. It works like this: sometimes booking a flight beyond your intended destination is cheaper than simply booking a nonstop flight. For example, say you want to fly from San Francisco to Washington, DC. A regular round-trip ticket would cost $340, but a route from San Francisco to New York, with a layover in DC, is $140. You simply walk off the plane in DC. Airlines have gone to great lengths to put a stop to it (United sued Skiplagged in 2018, and lost). Skiplagged advises not tying any purchases to frequent flier accounts, as airlines have been known to invalidate air miles you’ve accrued with them. 3. Splitwise If you’re traveling with friends, Splitwise can help keep track of who owes what to whom. The app keeps a running total of IOUs, so everyone gets paid back at once, rather in than a bunch of smaller transactions. Automatic email reminders keep the misers in check, and integration with PayPal and Venmo (US only) makes settling up friendly debts a breeze. 4. Hopper There are several apps that analyze historical airfare data to determine whether it’s the right time to buy your airfare, but few of them are as cleanly presented and feature-packed as Hopper. Features like notifications when the airfare for a specific route drops, price prediction advice that gives you an idea when it's the right time to buy, and an option for flexible dates give Hopper a leg up on airfare deals. Put in your home city and destination and Hopper displays a calendar for the year ahead, with color-coded dates indicating when prices should be at their lowest. 5. HotelTonight HotelTonight allows travelers to arrange last-minute accommodations, often at prices lower than if they’d booked in advance. These last-minute reservations often have deep discounts so hotels can increase occupancy on rooms they weren't able to book in advance. A ‘Daily Deal’ feature also unlocks a reduced-priced hotel that must be booked within 15 minutes. If you don’t mind waiting until the day before or day of to book your hotel, this app can save bundles on accommodation. 6. AirHelp Lost luggage and delayed or canceled flights can be a costly experience, but many travelers are eligible for compensation when something goes wrong. Often, however, there are dozens of hoops to jump through – forms to fill out, phone numbers to call and lines to wait in. AirHelptakes care of most of the process: you add your trip details, AirHelp determines if the airline owes you money, and then they send you the money. The catch: AirHelp takes a cut of the compensation as the price for convenience.

Travel Tips

Free Music in NYC: Where to Find Rock, Jazz, Opera, and More All Summer Long

Between the sweltering subway stations and the above-ground heat and humidity, New York can be brutal during the dog days of summer. But for those who choose to stick it out in the city instead of escaping to the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore, there are rewards to be had. Each year, from early June to late September, an array of artists take to the stage in al fresco venues across the five boroughs –and you can catch most of them for free. Spanning diverse genres (think: everything from opera to afrobeat) and drawing capacity crowds, the city’s outdoor program is one of the summer’s highlights. Mark your calendars: these are the shows you won’t want to miss. SummerStage in Central Park and Beyond With almost a hundred performances in 18 parks around town, the City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage is perhaps the best-known fest, and thanks to a newly renovated stage and sound system for 2019, its flagship Central Park venue is ready to rock. For the first time ever, this year’s slate of performers is evenly split along gender lines. It kicked off with pop-soul singer Emily King on June 1 and continues through September 24, when the B-52s close out the season with a ticketed benefit show. In between, New Orleans rapper Big Freedia gets her bounce on, New York post-punk rockers Parquet Courts bring the noise, and the Met Opera recital series packs the house. (The opera has dates in each borough, though, so if you miss it in Manhattan, there are plenty of additional options.) Other Central Park highlights include jazz singer Corinne Bailey Rae and indie favorites Alvvays, the Courtneys, Japanese Breakfast, and Hatchie, but you can also see the Mountain Goats at East River Park and the Wailers with Junior Julian Marvin at Marcus Garvey Park. And cool cats take note: The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival takes over Marcus Garvey and Tompkins Square in late August. Free Music in Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and Brooklyn At Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Sheila E. headlines the Only in Queens Festival (also part of SummerStage), while flamenco dance company A Palo Seco performs at Queensbridge Park and calypso legend Mighty Sparrow plays Springfield Park. Up in the Bronx, Slick Rick hits Soundview Park and salsa star Ray de la Paz takes over Crotona Park. Over in Staten Island, Lisa Lisa and Jody Watley steal the spotlight at Corporal Thompson Park. In Brooklyn, Fela! The Concert travels to Coney Island’s Ford Amphitheater, Black Moon and Smif-n-Wessun host the Duck Down BBQ at Betsy Head Park, and funk collective Everyday People storms the stage at Herbert von King Park. Celebrate Brooklyn The jewel in Brooklyn’s park system is Prospect Park—just like Central Park, it was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, and it has the summer schedule to match its rival across the river. Like SummerStage, BRIC Arts Media’s Celebrate Brooklyn offers a mix of paid and free shows, with the one and only Patti LaBelle opening the season, gratis, on June 4. NPR Tiny Desk Concert winners Tank and the Bangas play a few weeks later, followed by a Calexico/Iron & Wine joint ticket; Nilüfer Yanya opens for Broken Social Scene, and Liz Phair headlines with some help from Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. World music star Salif Keita hits the bandshell in July, and for the Latin Alternative Music Conference, a selection of talented artists command the stage: Guatemalan singer-songwriter Gaby Moreno, rock en español stalwarts Enjambre, and Latin indie folkster El David Aguilar. Rounding out the bill are Americana trio I’m With Her, a dance performance choreographed by French-Algerian maestro Hervé Koubi, a screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as part of the first-ever Lou Reed Tai Chi Day, and classical outfit Alloy Orchestra providing the soundtrack to a 1925 German silent film called Varieté. (Come early to catch Lava, the “feminist acrobatic modern dance troupe” providing the opening entertainment.) And finally, Bogotá-based cumbia stars Bomba Estéreo see out the season in style, bringing the party to wrap things up at summer’s end. For full lineups of free music in all of NYC's five boroughs, visit City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage and BRIC Arts Media’s Celebrate Brooklyn.

Travel Tips

5 Big "Don'ts" for Nature-Loving Travelers

While "leave no trace" is a familiar refrain to most people who enjoy time outdoors, the truth is that many, even nature lovers with good intentions, sometimes leave their mark in ways that can damage the natural surrounds. There are many more ways to impact the environment than just neglecting to pick up your trash. To provide guidance, the Boulder-based Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, has developed the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace (lnt.org/why/7-principles/) to help people minimize their footprints while enjoying the outdoors. As the following five important "don'ts" illustrate, even the most idealistic travelers can run afoul of the center’s principles and leave an unwanted impact in ways that are not as immediately noticeable as a pile of trash. 1. Don't Geotag Photos on Social Media These days, an excursion into nature hardly feels complete until you take some pictures and post them on social media. While snapping shots of beautiful natural settings is harmless, pictures that include a geotag indicating the exact locations create what some call a “digital trace,” which can cause increased foot traffic to areas not equipped to handle it. Arizona’s Horseshoe Bend is a classic example of a once moderately trafficked spot that exploded in popularity due to geotagging on Instagram. The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area recently implemented visitor fees and restricted visitation numbers to curb the problem. In response to the growing over-trafficking issue, Leave No Trace created a set of social media guidelines (lnt.org/new-social-media-guidance/) that suggest, for instance, tagging photos with a state or region rather than a specific location. And better yet: post images that demonstrate good Leave No Trace principles. 2. Don't Stack Rocks in the Name of Art The temptation to create an artful tower of carefully balanced rocks is strong when you’re sitting next to a river full of smooth, flat stones. Resist this temptation. Rock stacks, also called cairns, have long been used by land managers to mark trails, but over the past several decades, hikers’ random rock towers near rivers and streams have piled up. Not only can creating your own rock art cause confusion and get people lost, but moving rocks around can disrupt the surrounding ecology. Every river rock contains a mini eco-system of plant life and micro-organisms on its surface, and a variety of insects, fish, salamanders, crawfish, and macroinvertbrae live and lay their eggs under and among these rocks. Moving them exposes the wildlife to predators and the sun, and causes sand and silt around the displaced rocks to erode. The simplest solution to this issue is to savor time spent next to water in other ways – sketching, journaling, and just relaxing. If you simply can’t fight the urge to stack rocks, Leave No Trace suggests using only stones that are already loose of sand, silt, or soil. Also, only build on hard, durable surfaces. Once your stack is complete, snap a picture, and then return the rocks to their original spot. 3. Don't Feed Wild Animals When you love animals, it’s hard to resist the urge to toss a few food scraps to a cute chipmunk, a gentle deer, or a charming bird. But feeding human food to animals is never a good idea, and actually harms those critters we claim to love. Human food does not contain the nutrients that wild animals need, and eating it not only damages their health but also alters their natural behavior. Instead of hunting and foraging for food in the wild, human-fed animals will show up in places where humans gather, increasing their risk of being killed by a car, and becoming a hazard to humans and pets. While intentionally feeding wild animals is a big no-no, it’s important to remember that food scraps unintentionally left in the wild are also harmful. Always store food securely and collect and remove all trash--even those biodegradable apple cores and baby carrots. Also, try to eat over a plastic bag or bandana to catch crumbs so they don’t scatter around the area. 4. Don't Forget to Help Your Dog Leave No Trace Dogs make great outdoor companions, but it’s important to remember that they can damage protected outdoor spaces just as easily humans. Off-leash dogs can disturb sensitive wildlife habitats like nesting areas and they’re more likely to chase and harm wild animals. In fact, a 2009 Australian study found that the only thing that caused more disruption than off-leash dogs was low-flying jet aircrafts. Dog owners can help their furry friends be good outdoor citizens by respecting dog restrictions in conservation areas and following leash regulations in places that allow dogs. The good news is that there are plenty public lands in the U.S. that allow dogs. And while this should go without saying, always pick up after your dog. Dog waste doesn’t just smell bad and potentially carry diseases, it also contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus that create favorable conditions for harmful algae to bloom and invasive weeds to grow. Putting dog poop into a plastic bag and leaving it beside the trail to collect on the way back is not a viable solution. Leave No Trace suggests investing in a dog backpack to transport the waste. Or try to bring a canister to carry bags away for proper disposal. 5. Don't Improperly Dispose of Human Waste When you gotta go, you gotta go, even if there’s no latrine in sight. There is a right and wrong way to poop in the woods, and unfortunately improperly placed human feces is a growing problem in outdoor recreational areas. To avoid pollution of water sources and decrease the likelihood of others stumbling upon your waste in the wild, Leave No Trace suggests hikers and campers create a “cat hole” in a spot that is at least 200 feet--about 70 steps--away from water, trails, and campsites. The hole should be at least six inches deep and four inches wide. (Packing a small trowel can help with this task). When finished, cover the hole with the original soil and then disguise it with some leaves or rocks. Using natural materials such as leaves or snow for wiping is ideal, but a small amount of plain, white non-perfumed toilet paper is okay if buried in the cat hole. Of course, the human waste option with the least impact is to pack it out. Some popular high-elevation and backcountry sites such as Denali and the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park already require visitors to pack out their own waste, but it is worth considering any time you are hiking in freezing conditions or canyon environment or whenever you are near a body of water. Many people choose a handy W.A.G bag, a double-bag kit which includes waste treatment powder and an outer zip-closing bag.

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