Budget Ideas

Leaving on vacation for a few days or a few weeks?
Think about the environment and your budget before you leave the house. Your house can actually save you money if you unplug all those appliances that say in “ready mode” and suck electricity while you’re gone.

Lower the hot water heater temperature to “vacation.” Make sure the heater or the air-conditioner is at money saving settings. The house doesn’t need to be heated or cooled as much while you’re gone.

Traveling Pets

Traveling with your pet this summer? Here are some things to think about…

Get a clean bill of health
Schedule a veterinary exam shortly before your trip. Most airlines require a health certificate and proof of vaccinations issued no more than 10 days before your flight, says Paul Mann, the founder of national pet service Fetch! Pet Care.

Pick up airline miles
JetBlue adds frequent-flier miles for pets traveling in the cabin to their human companion’s account, and Continental offers them for animals riding in the cargo hold.

Look for fee-free hotels
There’s no need to pay extra to keep your pet with you once you arrive, Mann says. Some properties charge a security deposit, but chains including Best Western and Marriott allow most pets to stay for free. Kimpton Hotels throws in freebies like fresh dog treats baked on site.

Leaving Your Pet at Home

The American Pet Supply Association projects that spending on pet-care services such as boarding and day care could climb 6% to $3.4 billion in 2009. Here’s how to get the most for your money:

Start with a sitter
Kennels and other boarding facilities can offer social dogs a great vacation, but most pets will be happier staying in familiar surroundings, most veterinarians say. Leaving pets at home with a sitter can put them more at ease in your absence and is more economical, too. For example, Petaholics, a New York-based pet-care firm, offers both sitter and kennel services. The company charges $40 a night to board a cat, but a 30-minute daily visit from a sitter costs half that, and includes feeding, litter box maintenance and cat playtime. (The sitter also picks up the mail, waters plants and takes out the trash.)

Check references
Choose a caregiver that’s insured and has a good reputation, Mann says. Ask other pet owners and your veterinarian for recommendations. Also schedule a visit — in-home for sitters, on-site for boarders — before traveling, so you can make sure your pet will be safe and comfortable.

Break down charges
Whether you opt for a kennel or a sitter, have the company spell out what’s included in the rate, Saunders says. You may be able to negotiate a lower rate if you forego extras like mail pickup or daily grooming. Negotiating can also clarify which option best suits your needs, she says. A kennel that includes a full day of activities might be a better deal for an active dog than a sitter who charges extra for taking hour-long walks and playtimes instead of half-hour ones.

Dig for discounts
Sitters and boarding facilities offer reduced rates. AAA members save 10% on the services at Fetch! Pet Care. Beverly’s Pet Campus outside Indianapolis offers a print-out coupon good for a discount of $4 per night (an 18% discount) when you book a stay of five nights or longer.

Visiting Museums

Check out special offerings by museums or zoos. You may come across a special evening event or program, such as lectures, socials, exhibit openings or films.

Quite a few major museums extend their usual opening times by two or three hours one night a week. Same is true of major zoos.

This can be a great time to visit a museum or zoo, perhaps combining your tour with dinner afterward at a nearby restaurant.

Pelicans

Pelicans hang around most fishing spots hoping for a hand out or the opportunity to steal some freshly caught fish. In this case they were just starting to gather for the afternoon catch. How do they know when the boats are coming in?
This guy is off in the distance…zooming in to join his friends.

The glide path is getting full.
He’s a little closer, followed by another friend.

Touch down…time to look for fish.

Half Moon Bay

Sunny skies, California coastline, and gentle breezes accompanied us in Half Moon Bay Saturday.
Boats, boats, and boats…
Flowers of all colors grow in this climate.
Anyone for fresh fish? Halibut was the “catch of the day”.

Ever Been Bumped?

If you have ever been “bumped” from a flight you probably wondered why. Right? According to my friends at Budget Travel and the DOT, it may be due to the airline overbooking your flight.

OVERBOOKING

Overbooking is not illegal, and most airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for “no-shows.” Passengers are sometimes left behind or “bumped” as a result. When an oversale occurs, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask people who aren’t in a hurry to give up their seats voluntarily, in exchange for compensation. Those passengers bumped against their will are, with a few exceptions, entitled to compensation.

Voluntary bumping

Almost any group of airline passengers includes some people with urgent travel needs and others who may be more concerned about the cost of their tickets than about getting to their destination on time. Our rules require airlines to seek out people who are willing to give up their seats for some compensation before bumping anyone in- voluntarily. Here’s how this works. At the check-in or boarding area, airline employees will look for volunteers when it appears that the flight has been oversold. If you’re not in a rush to arrive at your next destination, you can give your reservation back to the airline in exchange for compensation and a later flight. But before you do this, you may want to get answers to these important questions:

* When is the next flight on which the airline can confirm your seat? The alternate flight may be just as acceptable to you. On the other hand, if they offer to put you on standby on another flight that’s full, you could be stranded.

* Will the airline provide other amenities such as free meals, a hotel room, phone calls, or ground transportation? If not, you might have to spend the money they offer you on food or lodging while you wait for the next flight.

DOT has not said how much the airline has to give volunteers. This means carriers may negotiate with their passengers for a mutually acceptable amount of money-or maybe a free trip or other benefits. Airlines give employees guidelines for bargaining with passengers, and they may select those volunteers willing to sell back their reservations for the lowest price. If the airline offers you a free ticket, ask about restrictions. How long is the ticket good for? Is it “blacked out” during holiday periods when you might want to use it? Can it be used for international flights? Most importantly, can you make a reservation, and if so, how far before departure are you permitted to make it?

Involuntary bumping

DOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. Those travelers who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to an on-the-spot payment of denied boarding compensation. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay:

* If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.

* If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to your one-way fare to your final destination, with a $400 maximum.

* If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (200% of your fare, $800 maximum).

* You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.

Like all rules, however, there are a few conditions and exceptions:

* To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation. A written confirmation issued by the airline or an authorized agent or reservation service qualifies you in this regard even if the airline can’t find your reservation in the computer, as long as you didn’t cancel your reservation or miss a reconfirmation deadline.

* You must meet the airline’s deadline for buying your ticket. Discount tickets must usually be purchased within a certain number of days after the reservation was made. Other tickets normally have to be picked up no later than 30 minutes before the flight.

In addition to the ticketing deadline, each airline has a check-in deadline, which is the amount of time before scheduled departure that you must present yourself to the airline at the airport. For domestic flights most carriers require you to be at the departure gate between 10 minutes and 30 minutes before scheduled departure, but some deadlines can be an hour or longer. Check-in deadlines on international flights can be as much as three hours before scheduled departure time. Some airlines may simply require you to be at the ticket/baggage counter by this time; most, however, require that you get all the way to the boarding area. If you miss the ticketing or check-in deadline, you may have lost your reservation and your right to compensation if the flight is oversold.

* As noted above, no compensation is due if the airline arranges substitute transportation which is scheduled to arrive at your destination within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time.

* If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn’t required to pay people who are bumped as a result.In addition, on flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

* The rules do not apply to charter flights, or to scheduled flights operated with planes that hold fewer than 30 passengers. They don’t apply to international flights inbound to the United States, although some airlines on these routes may follow them voluntarily. Also, if you are flying between two foreign cities-from Paris to Rome, for example-these rules will not apply. The European Community has a rule on bumpings that occur in an EC country; ask the airline for details, or contact DOT.

When a flight is oversold and there are not enough volunteers, some airlines bump passengers with the lowest fares first. Once you have purchased your ticket, the most effective way to reduce the risk of being bumped is to get to the airport early. For passengers in the same fare class the last passengers to check in are usually the first to be bumped, even if they have met the check-in deadline. Allow extra time; assume that the airport access road is backed up, the parking lot is full, and there is a long line at the check-in counter. However, if you arrive so early that your airline has another flight to your destination leaving before the one that you are booked on, either switch to the earlier flight or don’t check your bag until after the first flight leaves. If you check your bag right away, it might get put on the earlier flight and remain unattended at your destination airport for hours. Airlines may offer free transportation on future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check (or accept the free flight), you will probably lose the right to demand more money from the airline later on. However, if being bumped costs you more money than the airline will pay you at the airport, you can try to negotiate a higher settlement with their complaint department. If this doesn’t work, you usually have 30 days from the date on the check to decide if you want to accept the amount of the check. You are always free to decline the check(e.g., not cash it) and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation. The government’s denied boarding regulation spells out the airlines’ minimum obligation to people they bump involuntarily. Finally, don’t be a “no-show.” If you are holding confirmed reservations you don’t plan to use, notify the airline. If you don’t, they will cancel all onward or return reservations on your trip.

What does this mean for you? Know what kind of ticket you have, what can happen if the flight is overbooked, and how to ask the airline for compensation. Good luck and I hope it never happens to you.

Diving…part Three

After the dive

Stow all your gear away on the boat. Don’t leave your scuba gear dumped in a heap in the floor when you get back from your dive. It’s not good for the gear and it’s dangerous for you and others who might trip over it. Scuba gear is heavy and potentially dangerous if not handled and stored correctly.

Debrief with your guide and buddy. Discuss how the dive went and make notes on what you can improve next time to ensure maximum fun and safety. Keep a note of the weight you used. This can help you on your next dive to help get your weighting correct.
If you feel strange, let others know. Don’t keep it to yourself if you feel strange after a dive. Let others know. Many people feel tired out because they are simply not used to the exertion of physical exercise. If you feel anything else, tell your guide.

Don’t fly until at least 24 hours after a dive. Due to the excess nitrogen in your system, it’s important not to fly until at least 24 hours after your last dive. Flying in a pressurized environment can cause decompression sickness if time is not allowed beforehand for the nitrogen to dissipate. Plan in a day off at the end of your diving for relaxing on the beach before you get on a plane.