To Check or Not Check Luggage

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Article by Dr. Linda Ralston, aka Utah Tour Doctor

I am leaving for a last minute trip to California for just 4 days and there is always the consideration, do I check or not check? My choice varies according to the purpose and length of the trip and the amount of electronics I need to take with me.  I use to always use the overhead bin, but it has become a real zoo getting even a small bag on board a flight.  Therefore, I have developed a check list for deciding whether to check versus not to check a bag when flying.

Check a Bag:

  • Traveling for a long business or pleasure trip of 1 or more weeks . . . the longer the trip the increased need to pack more clothes.
  • Weight or size of bag exceeds the limits for carry-on luggage.
  • Preference for personal toiletries (special shampoos, etc.) or lodging at destination will not have toiletries (i.e., safari, camping, backpacking, etc.)
  • Assigned a late boarding group . . . even if you are sitting in the front of the economy seating if you are in the Group F, those boarding passengers before you will store their roller bags in overhead bins near your seat.
  • Airplane type for one or more segments of my flights do not have adequate overhead compartment bins available. If I need to wait for my luggage to be brought to me at the gate, this eliminates the convenience and time factor of what I might save by carrying-on luggage.
  • If traveling alone and there will be a lengthy time period between flights, then I will not want to drag my carry-on luggage to and from every shop, bathroom, restaurant, or Internet Cafe in order to comply with TSA guidelines for unattended luggage.
  • Frequent flyer status, membership, credit card used to book flight, first or business class ticket eliminates the fees for checking luggage.
  • If checking luggage, I will purchase a separate travel insurance package that covers lost or delayed luggage. Do not depend on the airline to provide compensation for delayed luggage or assist you immediately upon arrival.

Carry-on Bag Only:

  • Traveling for a short business trip of 3-4 days.
  • If traveling for an international or longer trip and I want to pack a change of clothes in case my checked luggage is lost or delayed.
  • Minimal number of clothes & shoes needed.
  • Weight or size of carry-on bag falls within the size requirements for carry-on luggage.
  • Need to save time by avoiding the luggage carousel and connecting with ground transportation in order to meet a scheduled appointment.
  • Hotel at destination has shampoos & other toiletries that might be needed. (If I do plan to pack any liquids, the bottle must not exceed 3 ounces and all bottles must fit within a sandwich bag.)
  • Guaranteed early boarding or Priority Seating to ensure that you have access to the overhead bin near your seat.
  • Verified that the airplane type for each segment of my flights have adequate overhead compartment bins available.  Yes, you can Gate Check your carry-on, but this eliminates the time saved by not checking a bag.
  • Verify that I can lift the carry-on bag over my head to place in the overhead compartment.  I should never expect someone to help me load or retrieve my luggage.
  • Avoid luggage fees for checking luggage . . . just make sure that you do not exceed weight or size limits.
  • Returning from an international destination where I may be buying items that are fragile or valuable, then I will want to pack these items in a carry-on for the return trip. (Check out a folding carry-on bag to pack for extra space enroute.)


5 General Travel Tips

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So my bags are packed and I’m ready to go. This afternoon, I’ll be on the road again. One of the parts of my job I have loved as a professional genealogist is the travel. I have travelled across 38 states and around the world conducting the business of family history: presenting, researching, business development, and more. Having taken all of these trips, I have some general travel tips for you.

1. Save Suitcase Space

Are you taking an extended trip? I’m often gone for ten to fourteen days or more. Work clothes, relaxing clothes, shoes, computer equipment. This can take up tons of space. Now, when I pack, I cut back on the clothes. I bring enough clothes for four or five days. Then I do laundry while I’m on the road.  Many hotels have laundry rooms where you can wash your own clothes. If not, there is probably a laundromat nearby. A last resort is to have the hotel launder your clothes for you. When choosing the last option, I try to find their rates online first so I can budget for it appropriately.

2. Plan for Getting Stuff Home

In the old days, I remember taking trips to Salt Lake City and making reams of photocopies. I would ship an entire box of paper home (Although there were times I carried the paper onto the plane with me and shipped my clothes home!). Nowadays, there is far less paper and far more electronic products. Last year when I was in London I was faced with a dilemma. I had packed my suitcase so carefully to get there and was very proud of myself that everything fit. Then came the time to pack to fly home. I was faced with a bunch of photocopies, used books, souvenirs for my nieces, and other items. And zero space in the suitcase. I had to borrow a suitcase from my friend Audrey. This year, I’m intentionally bringing an extra suitcase. Packed very lightly for the trip over. But when it is time to come home, there should be no problem with bringing stuff home.

3. Bank Fees

Banks can charge exorbitant fees nowadays. ATM fees, especially can add up. Not only does my bank not charge me ATM fees, they reimburse me the fees that other banks charge. This saves me lots of money when I’m on the road. When travelling internationally, I use the ATM when I arrive to obtain cash in the local currency. Even paying an ATM fee is often less than getting currency from a bank at home. And I put as much as possible on my debit card, which usually charges no fees at all.

4. Supermarket Run

Think about how much money you spend on your trips, running into convenience stores for bottles of water or soda, snacks, and more. Whenever I arrive in Salt Lake City, the first thing I do after checking in is run to the local supermarket. I buy snacks, fruit, and a case or two of water. Over the course of the trip, I end up spending far less money than I would have otherwise for such items. The case of water alone usually saves $20-25.

5. Get Your Passport

Percentagewise, fewer Americans have their passports than most European countries. People often think an overseas trip is so expensive. While the expenses can add up, having your passport frees you up to take advantage of last-minute deals from airlines, hotels, and travel websites. These can save you hundreds of dollars or more. But you won’t be able to wait months to get your passport. And if you pay the rush fees, you will soak up much of your cost savings.

Traveler’s Tip: Get to know your hotel’s general Manager

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By Barbara De Lollis, USA Today

While the chunk of a hotel’s personality may come from its brand name – Marriott, Four Seasons or Montage, it’s the general manager who controls the volume dial.

He (typically) or she has the power to influence your experience, especially the service and treatment of VIPs and frequent travelers.

So, while in the Los Angeles area this week, I plan to introduce you to some of the area’s “GMs,” as they’re called in hotel land.

I’ve sat down so far with the GMs at the new W Hollywood, the luxury Montage Beverly Hills, the discreet L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills and the family friendly Loews Santa Monica. On today’s agenda: London West Hollywood and J.W. Marriott/Ritz-Carlton in downtown Los Angeles.

Why should you bother to get to know your hotel GM? Here’s why:

It might increase the odds of your being recognized inside your hotel, which could at some point translate into perks – whether a restaurant credit, free cocktail, additional newspaper or, in some rare cases, an extra-nice upgrade.

If you’re lucky, you also may get the chance to hear a few of your GMs more humorous hotel stories (trust me, they each have a million of them).

At the very least, you’ll know who to go to when and if you have a problem or you begin to notice a troublesome pattern. The problem may not be the employee’s fault, after all, and it may be indicative of a broader problem that the GM needs to fix.

It’s usually guests with higher expectations who tend reach out to GMs, Bill Doak, general manager of the Loews hotel on Santa Monica beach, told me on Sunday afternoon. Doak’s a former Four Seasons guy (Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel) who most recently was the GM at the too-cool Mondrian before taking the helm of the welcoming Loews Santa Monica.

Sometimes, Doak says, a guest he’s gotten to know through frequent stays will send him an email in advance of their arrival.

“I have a number who’ve sought me out,” he told me over lunch at the hotel’s lower pool deck that’s practically on the beach. “They’re usually guests with higher expectations because they’re on business. They have to operate at a higher efficiency than normally might be available.

“Once they know the GM, everybody else in the hotel becomes aware of their presence,” said Doak, a Los Angeles native. “(The employees) know so we have them on alert to what their expectations are. They might be a frequent guest of the Peninsula or the Beverly Hills Hotel, but they come here because they like the location. It’s a little bit relaxed. They pay a good rate for a suite and we have to anticipate what they’re accustomed to.

“You can’t be a GM now and not be available – and not only, available but proactively involved with guests.”

11 Random Travel Tips

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Article by Rachel from Venere Travel.

Tip #1 Remember to pack a hat: In the summer months, these help provide shade and look adorable. In winter and autumn months, the added layers give warmth.

Tip #2 Leave that second outfit at home: Chances are, you will never wear it. How many of us really do? Plus, you can save some room.

Tip #3 Take plenty of pictures: It’s better to have too many than not enough! Besides, you an always delete them later.

Tip #4 Keep a box of dryer sheets with you: They remove static from clothes and hair while smelling amazing and taking up little room.

Tip #5 Toilet paper is not a given: If you are traveling outside the country, you may learn to really love those packs of tissues you can buy real cheap!

Tip #6 Go ahead, pack those midnight snack-running sneakers: You will wish you had your comfortable shoes a few days into you trip. Mine is about day 1.5.

Tip #7 First Aid-kit: You never know when you may need one of these, but they are always extremely handy to keep around.

Tip #8 Flip flop persona: Flip flops will be your best friend in a hotel shower situation. Be sure to grab a pair.

Tip #9 Your currency: If you can help it, don’t change your currency at the airport. It is Always more expensive.

Tip #10 Entertain yourself: This is a good time to read a book or learn to play solitaire as you will have several hours to kill.

Tip #11 Set a new time: Set your watch to your destination’s time zone and beat jetlag.

Now, it is time to travel. Use all of the tips you have learned to create great memories. Go, get packed up for your trip. Where will your travels take you?

Winter Driving Tips

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Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for automobile travel. Motorists should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AMCM reminds motorists to be cautious while driving in adverse weather. Go to your AMCM website or phone app for more information.

AMCM recommends the following winter driving tips:

Avoid driving while you’re fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
Always look and steer where you want to go.
Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
Tips for long-distance winter trips:

Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by an approved Auto Repair facility.
Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
Pack a cellular telephone with your AMCM telephone number (APP), plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. It’s easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
Don’t over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
AMCM is equipped with tremendous technology and remember if you have a cell phone we can almost always locate you with the technology we have. AMCM is always there for you when the unexpected happens.