With tighter security measures in place most of the year, it’s important to prepare for air travel with good judgment and caution. Start out by examining everything you normally pack in your suitcase. Expect that your bag will be opened for inspection, so evaluate whether an object could be scrutinized by airport security. Pack efficiently, avoid over-packing and make sure that each suitcase has an up-to-date nametag securely affixed to it.

  • Be sure to have available a government-issued ID (federal, state, or local) and be prepared to show ID at the ticket counter and the boarding gate, with a boarding pass.
  • Only ticketed passengers can go beyond security checkpoints. However, exceptions can be made for traveling minors and those needing assistance.
  • Electronic items (i.e. laptops and cell phones) are subject to additional screening, so be prepared to remove these items to be X-rayed separately.
  • Keep in mind that until further notice, passengers are restricted to one carry-on bag and one “personal bag” that could be a purse, laptop or briefcase. Bags may be subject to further screening at the gate.
  • Take into account that you can only check two bags. Airlines have started enforcing rules with a hefty price for extra luggage and for bags that are either too big or heavy. These fees range from $80 to $180. Contact your airline because fees and restrictions vary by carrier. It is common to find that although the airline may allow two pieces of checked luggage in addition to a carry-on, weight and space restrictions on busses may limit you to one piece of checked luggage; this mostly pertains to The Austrian Experience pilgrimage.
  • Consider removing anything that could be perceived as threatening or raise suspicion at a security-screening checkpoint, including any sharp objects. Everyday items you probably won’t be allowed to carry in your personal luggage include pocket knives, scissors, box cutters and corkscrews.
  • Most small knives and cutting tools can be legally packed in checked baggage, but we recommend you leave them at home unless absolutely necessary.
  • If you have a medical condition that requires you to carry syringes, be sure to keep your medicine with you as well. The medicine
  • Avoid any discussion regarding terrorism, weapons, explosives, or other threats while going through the security checkpoint. Even jokes about having a bomb or firearm can result in detainment and questioning.
  • Think about what you wear to the airport. You might be asked to remove your shoes, so try to wear a pair that slips on without laces or straps. It’s also common to have to remove hats and belts.
  • In addition to some of the latest rules, the existing regulations about restricted items still apply. Following is a list of things you should never attempt to take with you when traveling, as travelers attempting to bring specific banned items through checkpoints can be fined up to $1,100 per violation:
    • Weapons, including knives or blades of any size, no matter what the material, may not be packed in carry-on luggage. Unloaded firearms may be transported in checked luggage if declared to the airline agent at check-in and packed in a suitable container. Handguns must be carried in locked containers. Weapons such as throwing stars, swords, or other items commonly used in martial-arts competitions also are prohibited. Rules in other countries will vary.
    • Aerosols, and other compressed gases, including polishes, cleaners, tear gas, oxygen cylinders, full scuba tanks and self-inflating rafts. Contact the airline to make sure personal oxygen tanks are allowed for medical use.
      Corrosives, including acids, lye, mercury and wet-cell batteries (electric wheelchair batteries may need to be dismounted).
    • Flammables, including paints, thinners, lighter fluid, liquid-reservoir lighters, adhesives and cleaning solvents.
    • Poisons, including weed killers, pesticides, insecticides, rodent poisons, arsenic and cyanides.
    • Infectious materials, including medical laboratory specimens, viral organisms and bacterial cultures.
    • Explosives, including fireworks, sparklers, flares, signal devices, loaded firearms, gunpowder, ammunition, blasting caps and dynamite.
    • Miscellaneous items, including large amounts of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), gasoline-powered tools, camping equipment with fuel and chemical oxygen generators (either used or unused).
  • Walking canes and umbrellas (once inspected to ensure prohibited items are not concealed)
  • Nail clippers and nail files
  • Tweezers
  • Safety razors and disposable razors (in cartridges)
  • Syringes (with medication and professionally printed label identifying medication or manufacturer’s name)
  • Insulin delivery systems
  • Eyelash curlers

Information on the Euro

The Euro is the new single currency of the European Monetary Union. On January 1, 2002 the Euro became legal tender for 12 member states of the European Union. Participating states had a short time to convert their currencies to the Euro, and now the old currencies are being taken out of circulation and no longer accepted as legal tender.

You can use the Euro in 12 participating EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. All other European countries will continue to use their own currencies. Please note that three EU member states–Great Britain, Denmark, and Sweden–have not converted their currencies to the Euro. The Euro is available for purchase in the United States.

The introduction of the Euro will not affect your ability to use your credit card, where accepted, for purchases or cash withdrawals. Your credit-card bill will reflect your transactions according to the exchange rate at the time they were made. If you plan to use your credit card for an ATM transaction, please note that most European ATMs require a four-digit pin number. If your pin number is more than four digits, you should change it through your credit-card company before your trip.

Your ATM card, where accepted, will continue to work at ATMs in Europe. In countries that have switched over to the Euro, you will receive your withdrawal in Euro. When you receive your bank statement, your account will be adjusted to reflect your withdrawal according to the exchange rate at the time of your transaction, along with any bank or ATM-service fees. You should have at least an approximate knowledge of the exchange rate so that you know how much money you are withdrawing from your account, and how many U.S. dollars you are spending when you make purchases with Euro.

You can track the exchange rates for the Euro and other currencies on Travelocity.com using their Currency Converter

Even though 12 European countries have switched to the same currency, you should still expect at least some fluctuation in the value of the Euro, depending on where you are. For example, a cappuccino in Venice may cost more in Euro than the same drink in Seville.

Help and Things to Keep in Mind

Every 79 seconds, a thief steals someone’s identity, opens accounts in the victim’s name and goes on a buying spree, according to CBSnews.com. And yet, vacation is when we let our guard down most. We’re prone to being carefree on the beach, not guarding our wallet from identity scammers, but identity thieves try to make a carbon-copy of you. Their goal is to pass for you on paper and steal their way into your bank account, which can strike at any time. The good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize, and hopefully prevent, any damage.

It goes without saying that you should always keep your belongings with you. That having been said, don’t take more than you need. Leave your social security card in a very safe place. (As a general rule, don’t give out your Social Security number unless it’s absolutely required.) You’ll also want to have a copy of every card in your wallet, both front and back, in a safe place at home. Should anything go missing, you’ll need all that information for fast action, so leave the copy with someone back home who you can get hold of in an emergency.

  • Photocopy your valuable documents and tickets–including travelers’ checks, driver’s license, and credit cards (front and back).
  • Unpack your wallet or purse and leave behind all items you don’t need on vacation–such as extra identification cards, gas cards, and retail charge cards.
  • Leave behind things that would be difficult to replace, such as family jewelry.
  • Vital documents, such as passports and tickets, should be kept on you at all times, unless they are in a hotel safe.
  • For safe keeping, put your passport and excess cash or travelers’ checks in a neck pouch that can be tucked under your shirt while you’re exploring or sleeping.
  • Avoid fanny-packs, which clip from the back, and can be easily swiped.
  • Keep your wallet on you at all times and not in your back pants pocket; front pant pockets are harder for thieves to reach.
  • Use a purse with strong handles with a zipper pouch for your wallet and valuables.
  • When driving, always keep belongings in a locked trunk. Clever thieves open the rear doors of cars and snatch things like bags, laptops, or other valuables left in the backseat.
  • If traveling with a laptop, cell phone, or other electronics, it’s a good idea to keep a record of their make, model, and serial numbers. Do not leave these items out in the hotel room. Lock them in the hotel safe, if the room safe isn’t large enough.
  • Find out if your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance covers your belongings when traveling.
  • Consider travel insurance from a secure provider with worldwide service.
  • Consider travelers’ checks instead of carrying large sums of cash.
  • If you’re going to make an insurance claim, you’ll need to get a police report. Either way, it’s always recommended.
  • Travelers’ check thefts must be reported within 24 hours to be replaced.
    Contact your Embassy or Consulate if you need help in replacing lost or stolen passports.
  • A local American Express agent can help you get emergency funds sent from home.
  • Contact credit card companies about your missing cards.
  • Continually contact the credit bureau to make sure no one is trying to fraudulently use your identity.
  • Conduct a thorough search of your credit history to make sure it’s intact.

The general rule is a simple one: Carry as little currency as possible, and instead use travelers checks, ATM cards, and credit cards for your spending needs. Before you leave for your trip abroad, invest in a money belt that sits on your waist (under your clothes) or a money pouch that hangs around your neck. Don’t tempt purse snatchers or pickpockets; keep your cash concealed and close to your body at all times. It’s probably a good idea to carry only enough money for bus fare, food, and other incidentals. With that in mind, the following suggestions should help you keep track of your remaining funds and enjoy a safe trip.

Available at your local bank and great for periodic purchases, travelers checks are still wise alternatives to ATM and credit cards. If they’re lost or stolen, you can always phone a toll-free number to report the incident and get your money reimbursed, usually within 24 hours. To make the replacement process easier, have the numbers of the checks you purchased at your disposal. (Keep a copy with you, but apart from your checks, and one back home with a relative or friend.) It’s also a good idea to go with a well-recognized company, as not all travelers checks are universally accepted.

Though there’s usually a small fee involved in obtaining travelers checks, members of the American Automobile Association (AAA) are entitled to fee-free American Express travelers checks in either American or foreign funds. By having your checks issued in specific foreign funds, you’ll receive a much better exchange rate than what’s available at banks abroad. Before converting any funds or making other foreign transactions, be sure to verify the rate and any fees beforehand as they vary wildly between airports, banks, hotels, and currency-exchange stores.

Fortunately for travelers, the number of ATM machines abroad has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. Providing excellent inter-bank exchange rates, the machines dispense foreign money against American dollars. Most foreign machines are affiliated with the MasterCard/Cirrus system or the Visa/Plus system. Check with your bank to see what fees are charged for overseas transactions before leaving home. One thing to keep in mind is that most international ATM machines only accept four-digit PINs (personal identification numbers). If yours is longer than that, head to your local bank before leaving the country to have it changed.

Credit cards offer decent exchange rates, can be replaced if stolen or lost, and are widely accepted throughout the world. In addition, many credit-card companies offer special perks for customers traveling abroad. For instance, an American Express Gold cardholder can go into any foreign American Express office and cash a personal check from her hometown bank for up to $5,000 at no charge. Also, Visa offers pre-paid travel cards known as Visa TravelMoney, which give you 24-hour access to your funds in any local currency from more than 400,000 Visa/PLUS ATMs. Since it’s a disposable card, and not associated with any of your bank accounts, you can simply throw away the card when your funds are depleted. What’s more, your money is fully protected by your PIN.

A great number of travelers get cash advances on their credit cards, which provides them with excellent exchange rates and low service fees. But before leaving home, don’t forget to write down the toll-free emergency number of your credit-card company, in case your card is stolen or lost.

No matter how you choose to buy goods and services abroad, remember one thing: Always cash or exchange your currency and travelers checks at major financial institutions. Resist the temptation to exchange money at airports, train stations, hotels, and kiosks of commercial money exchangers. The exchange rate is poor, the fees are high, and you’ll likely lose as much as ten percent of your funds during the transaction. Instead, go downtown to an actual bank to do any money-changing activities.

We’re sure these tips will help you get the best bang for your buck while traveling overseas. For more travel tips from A to Z, visit travelocity.com.

Adapted from: Ziff, A. (2005). Re: Travel Trends & Advice from A to Z.
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