Travelers: Customs Info

According to a post I just read on SmarterTravel
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is rolling out a new app called Mobile Passport Control App (MPC), with which flyers can fill out those customs declaration forms necessary for re-entry into the U.S. Insert the usual “There’s an app for that!” one-liner here.
This is the first app authorized by CBP, and it launches today, August 13. CBP is hoping the app, developed in partnership with Airside Mobile and Airports Council International-North America, will speed up the customs process, reduce wait times, and cut operating costs.
The app doesn’t allow anyone to skip any lines, but it looks like it will help processing go a little faster. According to CBP, “Since the administrative tasks are performed by the traveler prior to the passport control inspection, MPC reduces passport control inspection time and overall wait times.” Basically, it allows US and Canadian citizens to electronically submit customs forms prior to arrival at customs. Here’s how it works: After creating a profile and entering some information about your trip, you’ll receive an electronic receipt with a QR code. Present the code to the customs officer, and he or she will scan the code and send you through.
In an increasingly automated world, it’s not unusual that CBP is trading its old-fashioned paper customs forms for a digital version. Along with CBP’s new customs kiosks, the app heralds a more seamless experience for travelers entering the United States. But it might be a while before you can take advantage of the new technology. The free app is still in an initial testing phase. It’s available for iPhone and iPad only, and CBP says it will introduce a Droid-friendly version soon. (There’s been no word on when.) The app works only for arrivals at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. More airports should be added in the next few months.
CBP says the app works for “eligible” travelers only; the agency doesn’t give any details on who’s eligible and who’s not. Yet it doesn’t appear that travelers need any kind of pre-approval for the app to work. My guess is CBP throws “eligible” into the language to cover their bases: If you’re on some kind of watch list, perhaps you won’t receive a QR code.
Search for “Airside Mobile” to find the program in the App Store. You have to be connected to Wi-Fi or a cell network for the app to work.

Travelers: Security

On July 2 the Department of Homeland Security released a statement about electronic devises on planes. Flyers may have to turn on their electronic devices and show security screening staff.

Screening staff may ask flyers to turn on laptops, tablets, and phones. This could result in longer wait times through security.

If you have those devices, it may be a good idea to keep your electronics charged and ready to go. You can always power them off once you make it through security. Also not a good idea to let your batteries die before you go through security.

Travelers: Venice

You’re in Venice, in Piazza San Marco and the Piazzetta di San Marco. Look at the two columns topped by stature of the city’s patron saints that guard the water’s edge. If you believe the local superstitions, you won’t walk between those two columns. This used to be a spot where public executions were held. It’s still considered bad luck to walk between them.

Travelers: More Packing Tips

You can find packing tips on just about every travel site. Some of these you may have heard about. Others may be new to you.

Ever had your luggage lost for more than just a day? If you’re traveling with someone else, it might be a good idea to divide your clothes between the two suitcases. If one gets lost, the other may make it. It’s also a good idea to have some underclothes and anything you can’t do without in your carry on bag. If all your checked luggage is lost…you’re still prepared for the next day.

Speaking of lost luggage…I make a packing list. Then I add a copy to my carry on bag. If I need to list what is in my lost bag, I can pull out that list and am good to go.

If you don’t have a small pill case that fits in your luggage, use small resealable bags. Label each one and put all the small ones in a larger bag. They stay together and you know what is in each small bag.

Save the small sheets of bubble wrap and lay one or two in the bottom of your luggage. Use it to wrap valuables you purchase or anything you don’t want damaged. If you don’t need it, it doesn’t take up much room at all.

When putting anything in your luggage that you don’t want to leak all over, put it in a resealable bag before packing it. If it doesn’t leak, you have an extra bag.

Travelers: Airlines to Check Out

Think all airlines are created equal? You might be surprised by some of these offerings.

Ever heard of Porter Airlines? These planes have 32 inch economy class seat pitch and no middle seats. All passengers also get lounge access with free Wi-Fi and complimentary beer and wine. They also offer discounts. Could be why Conde Nast Traveler picked Porter as the world’s best small airline in 2013.

Emirates is close to being the world’s largest airline we’ve seen lately. If you’re flying on their double decker A380 planes you might see lounges, shower spas, and more. They’re making quite the effort to attract all flyers by giving backpacks to young flyers and even offering special frequent flyer programs for kids.

OpenSkies Airline was once an all business class airline that has now begun to offer economy class as well. It’s a British Airways subsidiary. The best part…you get to skip the long security lines with a special shorter TSA screening process.

Virgin America offers mood lighting and comprehensive onboard entertainment with Wi-Fi, plugs, touch screens to order drinks and food, and a redesigned boarding pass.

Travelers: Want to Dine with Cinderella?

Your suitcase is packed and the kitty is staying home. But, your kids want to dine with Cinderella when you get to Disney World in Orlando. What do you do?

Probably the most popular meal featuring a Disney character is Cinderella and her Royal Table. Did you know the reservation slots open up exactly 180 days in advance 7 am Orlando time? They get snapped up in just a few minutes so be on the ball if you want to grab one.

Same goes for reservations if you have certain restaurants where you want to dine. Check those early and make your reservation. If you can, think about eating at off peak times as well.

Did you also know your kids can meet their favorite Disney characters and have lunch outside the gates? Chef Mickey’s is located under the monorail at the Contemporary Resort. You may find meals at other hotels not connected by the monorail. Check them out.

Travelers: Premium Economy

Is Premium Economy worth the extra money?

If you are on a domestic flight that isn’t cross country, it may not be. You need to check the seat arrangements and leg room before you upgrade. Go to www.seatguru.com to check.

If your flight is a long one or is an international one it may be worth investing in the extra room and amenities. Check the carrier to see what the cost is and weigh that against your comfort, seat size, and duration.