Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

VMS-Washington Travel Tips – 25 Travel Tips to Live By

 

1. Fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday. Traveling on off-peak days—and at off-peak times—means lower fares, a less crowded cabin, and a greater chance of snagging those elusive mileage-award seats. Taking two days off for a long weekend? Instead of a Thursday–Sunday or Friday–Monday trip, save money by flying on a Saturday and returning on a Tuesday.

2. Buy airline tickets midday on Tuesdays. When I purchase a domestic ticket, I usually do it on a Tuesday between noon and 3 p.m. Airlines tend to announce fare sales on Monday nights, and other airlines match those sales on Tuesday mornings, explains Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, which means that by 3p.m. on the East Coast and by noon Pacific time, the greatest number of sale tickets has hit the system.

3. Snag mileage-award seats six months ahead or over a weekend. Some people mistakenly think that the trick to using miles is to book award seats the moment a flight is put in the reservation system—often 331 days ahead of departure. Statistically speaking, though, you have the best shot at nabbing seats you want six months before your flight. Airline sites often don’t display all the available award seats, so if you’re not finding what you need, call the mileage-award redemption desk. I’ve gotten award tickets for my family of four several times by following frequent-flier guru Randy Petersen’s advice to phone just after midnight over the weekend: Airlines update their inventory on Fridays and occasionally on Saturdays—changes that go into effect at midnight—yet most people don’t call until Monday, so over the weekend you have more availability and agents will have the time to work with you.

4. Pounce on international business-class fare sales in January and August.There are four periods when business travel slows and airlines drop business-class fares to lure vacationers: Easter, summer, Thanksgiving, and the Christmas/New Year holiday. Lately, airlines have been announcing summer sales early in the new year and winter sales in August. They barely promote these sales, so I keep on top of them by subscribing to JoeSentMe.com ($49 per year).

5. Get into a sold-out hotel. Find out when cancellation penalties kick in for the date you want to arrive, then call the property on the morning of that day. You can scoop up rooms made available by people who’ve just canceled.

6. Stay over Sunday. Many hotels get Friday and Saturday night bookings from leisure travelers and Monday-through-Friday traffic from business travelers, so there’s a void on Sunday night—which increases your chances of an upgrade. Instead of going for Friday and Saturday nights, book Saturday and Sunday or Sunday and Monday.

7. Hop between cities at midday. When you’re traveling through Europe or Asia and need to get from one city to another, consider scheduling transportation for the middle of the day. If you leave at dawn, you miss the sunrise—ideal for photography and observing locals—and reach your destination at mid-day, when temperatures are highest, the light is at its worst for photos, and it’s too early to check into your hotel. (You may also have to fight rush-hour commuters and miss a breakfast that is included in your rate.)

8. Visit islands during shoulder season. Peak-season rates on islands often reflect nearby countries’ vacation schedules rather than the best time to visit (Bali’s hotels, for instance, fill up with Japanese in early May and with Australians in January). In low season, many businesses shut down. Shoulder season—when crowds are thinner but the weather is still good—is the solution.

VMS-Washington Travel Tips – 25 Travel Tips to Live By

Find the Hidden Deals

9. Sign up for e-mail notifications. The best airfare and hotel sales are largely unannounced. Airlines and hotel companies target specific subsets of travelers—loyalty program members, holders of certain credit cards, people who’ve registered on their Web sites—and alert them by e-mail. To keep your in-box from being bombarded, get a dedicated e-mail address for such alerts and check it when you’re ready to start planning your next trip. If you can make quick purchasing decisions, sign up for alerts from flash-sale sites that sell hotel rooms at discounts of 40 percent or more, such as Jetsetter and Tablet Hotels.

10. Carry credit cards that earn you elite status. Play your travel-rewards credit cards right and you’ll receive special rates and perks. Carry one airline-branded card and one hotel-branded card that help you attain and maintain elite status—and make sure that at least one of those cards charges no foreign-purchase fee (preferably a Visa or MasterCard, since those are more widely accepted overseas than American Express).

11. Lock in business-class bargains from Etravelbid.com. Etravelbid.com negotiates unpublished, discounted business-class fares with no advance-purchase requirement. In November, snag a last-minute flight from New York, Boston, or Chicago to Dublin for $2,300; from Miami to Berlin for about the same; or from New York to Hong Kong, via Seoul, in the upstairs business-class cabin of an A380, for $4,500 (prices include all taxes and fees).

12. Find mileage-award seats on routes that connect airline alliances’ hubs.Competitours founder and CEO Steve Belkin taught me this one: Suppose you need to fly from Cleveland to Venice. Don’t bother asking if there are award seats available on that route; there won’t be. Instead, start with the hub-to-hub routes flown by the carriers in your alliance. Say it’s the Star Alliance: Look for availability on flights to Frankfurt, Vienna, Munich, or Copenhagen from Chicago, Newark, Philadelphia, Toronto, or Washington, D.C. (hubs for Star Alliance partners Continental, United, US Airways, and Air Canada). That gives you more than 20 possibilities. Once you’ve found a hub-to-hub flight with award seats, tack the short-haul flights on either end.

Use the Right Online Tools


13. Find the most flight choices with ITASoftware.com
This site provides perhaps the most comprehensive and least biased fare and route options. Use it to learn which airline offers the most suitable itinerary, then go to that airline’s Web site to book. If your schedule is flexible, choose “See Calendar of Lowest Fares,” punch in a monthlong travel window and the length of the trip, and the search engine will tell you when to fly.

14. Sign up for airfare alerts. AirfareWatchdog.com finds unadvertised low fares that other search engines miss—and notifies you daily via newsletter or immediately via Twitter. FareCompare.com alerts you when a fare drops by an amount you’ve specified (say, $50). Both help suss out connecting flights that can save you hundreds of dollars. AirfareWatchdog’s “To a City” alerts list fares from various airports to your destination. Say you want to fly from Houston to Kona, Hawaii. The Houston–Kona fare might be $800, whereas the Dallas–Kona one might be $350. If you’d signed up to see all the fares to Kona, you’d know to combine the Dallas–Kona fare with a cheap Houston–Dallas ticket. As for FareCompare, sign up for alerts to Kona not only from Houston but also from hubs west of it like Los Angeles and San Francisco. If you find a deal saving you $500 from one of those hubs, find a way to get there from Houston.

15. Get seat alerts from ExpertFlyer.com. If you don’t want to return to an airline’s site repeatedly to check whether a better seat has opened up, consider paying $5 per month for an ExpertFlyer membership. Punch in the flight you’re on, and the seat type (e.g., aisle) or rows you want, and you’ll be alerted by e-mail if any of those seats become available. You can also receive alerts on the availability of mileage-award seats and upgrades.

16. Get a better seat with SeatGuru.com and SeatExpert.com. Don’t select a seat without typing the airline and flight number into these sites and checking your location. If you must accept an inferior seat, return to the carrier’s site before your flight to see whether a better one has opened up. When you check in online, do so as early as possible; you’ll often find that seats have become available. And when you’re choosing airlines, use SeatGuru’s “comparison charts” to snag comfier seats and better in-flight entertainment.

17. Use TripAdvisor to connect with a hotel’s general manager. Often a general manager will reply to critiques of his property on TripAdvisor. When you book a room, read the replies, note his e-mail address, and write to him saying that you admire how he’s replying to reviews and that you’re looking forward to staying at his hotel on X date. He’ll appreciate your kind words, assume you may be a frequent reviewer, and hopefully do something extra for you during your stay.

18. Keep your miles from expiring with AwardWallet.com. Nothing’s worse than a big stash of miles that’s just vaporized. AwardWallet shows you all your different mileage accounts at a glance, including expiration dates, so you can take action to keep miles and points from expiring. I use it to track the accounts of everyone in my family: Within seconds I can see whose miles are in danger of expiring or who has enough for a trip, so I can cash in before they devalue.

Find the Right Human Beings


19. Get the best room for your dollar.
 At luxury properties, rates vary substantially according to occupancy. A room could be $550 one week because there’s a big group, and $250 the next because nobody’s coming. For top-end hotels that have on-site reservations desks, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be emptiest and thus have the lowest rates. Then ask something like, “If I come on that date, would there be a chance of an upgrade to ocean-view?”

20. Score a better room by making requests. If you don’t ask for a great room, you’ll get what’s left over after everybody else’s requests have been filled. Phone the hotel’s on-site reservations manager to ask for a specific view or floor (or ask the general manager when you e-mail him). If you’re celebrating a special occasion (e.g., a birthday or an anniversary), say so. Hotels often do something extra to make sure your stay is memorable so you’ll tell your friends and return for future celebrations.

21. Use the concierge at a top hotel even when you’re not staying there. Most benefit from the extra business and can arrange for cars and drivers, procure hard-to-get tickets, provide names of specialty stores, or recommend English-speaking doctors. At the least, in destinations where a different alphabet is used, they can write down names and addresses of the places you want to visit so you can show them to cab drivers. Be up front about the fact that you’re not a guest—but so charming and friendly that he can’t resist helping you—and be sure to tip.

22. Book through “top producers.” The travel agent who sends the most travelers to a leading hotel or cruise line will be able to get you the most perks. These usually come in the form of resort credits, complimentary meals, and/or free upgrades. Ask an agent whether he is on any travel companies’ advisory boards, or see my list of top travel specialists in the magazine’s December 2011 issue.

23. Hire an English-speaking guide. In a tricky foreign country, the right guide can serve as your expediter and fixer, getting you past lines, showing you secret places you’d never find on your own, introducing you to locals, and helping you to bargain. Guides vetted by the top travel specialists on my list are high-caliber but pricey. Hiring a guide on the spot—at an ancient ruin or in a souk—is a crapshoot but often so in- expensive that it’s worth a shot. If the guide quotes, say, $20 an hour, propose $10 for a half-hour. If you’re disappointed, you can get rid of him with no hurt feelings. If you’re pleased with him, ask him to show you more.

24. Get the mileage-award seats you need with no effort. Gary Leff of BookYourAward.com has saved many a Condé Nast Traveler reader from headaches and despair by showing them how they can use their miles to get where they want, when they want, for fewer miles than they thought possible.

25. Be rescued when you’re stranded by an airline. When a snowstorm—or a volcano in Iceland—closes your airport, Brett Snyder of CrankyConcierge.com will do whatever is possible to get you to a functioning airport and onto a flight out.

Thank you,

VMS-Washington Travel Staff

VMS-Washington – 10 Ways to Outsmart the Airlines

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In the past several years, I have flown on many flights —and I have never arrived on time. As awful as that performance is, it doesn’t even reflect the worst travel nightmares of the year, including record numbers of lost bags, overflowing lavatories, and the infamous JetBlue odyssey in which passengers were trapped on the tarmac for nearly 11 hours. In the first half of the year, more than 93,000 flights were canceled, an increase of 44 percent over the first half of 2006, according to the Department of Transportation. Yes, 2007 will go down as the worst year in history for flight delays, cancellations, and stranded passengers since they started keeping records of these things.

How did we get from bad to so much worse? Well, the Federal Aviation Admin­istration is using a nearly 20-year-old computer system, and it shows. Among its many drawbacks, the air traffic control system does not adjust for increasing capacity in the sky. On the morning of June 8, 2007, a common scenario played out: The 20-year-old computers in Atlanta failed, and when the FAA rerouted flight-plan data to Salt Lake City, those computers overloaded. The result? Virtually every airplane on the East Coast was grounded for an average of four hours.

As if that’s not enough, major carriers are understaffed and, as a result, have been canceling hundreds of flights in the last week or so of each month, creating massive delays (and stranding thousands) throughout the hub systems. Northwest, one of the worst offenders, is operating with 15 to 25 percent fewer pilots and copilots than it employed in 2000. The inevitable result is massive crew shortages at the end of each month when Northwest’s remaining pilots “time out” and can no longer fly. (According to federal regulations, pilots may not fly more than 100 hours a month.) In the last week of June, a particularly bad month, Northwest canceled more than 1,000 flights.

VMS-Washington – 10 Ways to Outsmart the Airlines

Regional jets clogging the runways are another huge headache. Flying on one of these puddle jumpers requires you to be a contortionist. But it’s what you don’t see with RJs that really hurts you. Because they take up as much gate space and airspace as the big jets—but carry just 30 to 100 passengers a flight, compared with as many as 365 in a Boeing 777—they are adding more traffic without getting more people to their destinations. Last year, approximately half of Chicago O’Hare’s flights were RJs.

With planes flying near capacity, a delay of a few hours can turn into a 24-hour nightmare. Here’s how it works: If a crew has to wait too long, it can “time out,” and the flight can’t take off until a replacement crew arrives. But if incoming planes are packed and can’t accommodate the replacement crew—well, you’d better find a motel. Here’s how to avoid the crush of modern commercial aviation.

Watch the calendar. Schedule air travel for the first 20 days of the month. That reduces the chances that your flight will be canceled because the pilot or crew has already hit the maximum monthly limit of 100 hours of work.

Avoid “direct” flights. The only good flight is a nonstop flight. Labeling a flight “direct” is an airline euphemism that means you’ll stop at least once, exponentially increasing your chances of being delayed.

Sign up for e-mail alerts. Many airlines offer this service, as do Travelocity and Expedia. Or you can go to flightstats.com, a free service that tracks flights and alerts you when things are going wrong. To have text messages sent to your cell phone alerting you to flight delays, sign up at flightstats.com. You can also find updates at fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp.

Leave at dawn. Get on the first available flight, preferably on a plane that spent the night at your airport. The biggest factor controlling delays is not where your plane is going, but where the aircraft assigned to your flight is coming from. Always call the airline before you leave for the airport and ask the agent to tell you the aircraft number of the plane assigned for your flight, and then ask for the status of that aircraft tail number. If you’re heading to Los Angeles from Miami in two hours but the aircraft assigned to your flight is in Caracas…you’re not going. To find out how to talk to a real live agent for any given airline, go to gethuman.com.

Get creative. If, despite using these strategies, you find yourself imprisoned for hours in an aluminum tube on the tarmac, you may have to resort to extreme measures. First, passengers who claim to be sick can be removed from the plane. I’m not advocating fraud here, but I could make a case that “sick and tired of being stuck on the runway” is a recognized medical malady, and I can’t imagine any judge failing to sympathize. If you’re more inclined to be a citizen journalist than an amateur actor, you can whip out a video camera. It gets the crewmembers’ attention (they know they’re likely to end up on YouTube, if not CNN), and you’re not doing anything illegal. It worked for David Ollila one night in June, after his Comair flight from New York to Detroit was stuck on the ground for nearly four hours. Ollila interviewed the pilot on camera, and the pilot threatened to call the police. “That’s an excellent idea,” the cameraman responded. Sure enough, the cops came, everyone was let off the plane, and Ollila was cleared of any wrongdoing. Third, there’s the lawyer approach: Claim false imprisonment and demand to be released. After being stranded for nearly nine hours on a Northwest flight in 1999, passengers sued and Northwest settled for $7 million. Ever since, airlines have taken the words false imprisonment very seriously.

Take ‘em to court. In what could be the beginning of a trend, a woman named Jane Waun sued Spirit Airlines in small-claims court after the airline canceled her flight out of Detroit, stranding her family. In July, she won a $1,350.75 judgment, which reimbursed her for hotel and meal costs, a lost night at her destination, and the tickets she
had to purchase on a different airline.

Take the train. The surefire way to avoid flight delays: Don’t fly. On short-haul routes (e.g., Los Angeles to San Diego, or New York to Boston), don’t even think of get­ting on a plane. Go with Amtrak. I recently raced a friend from downtown Manhattan to Washington, D.C. Our destination: 17th and K streets in D.C. We both left at the same time. He went to LaGuardia for the Delta shuttle. I headed for Penn Station and Amtrak’s Acela. I beat him by 48 minutes. My fare on Acela: $172. His fare on the shuttle: $276.

Ship your bags. Always ship your bags. Send them via FedEx, UPS, or DHL. Even in the best-case scenario, checking your bags means you’ll have to wait 20 to 40 minutes for them to appear on the carousel. Then you’ll wait in line for a cab with everyone else who checked a bag. Worst-case scenario: Your checked bags go to Vegas while you go to Portland. And you know what happens to things that go on to Vegas.

Avoid major hubs. Use alternate airports. If you can fly into or out of these secondary airports, you’ll reduce your chances of being delayed: Dallas Love Field, instead of Dallas/Fort Worth; Oakland or San José, instead of San Francisco; Houston’s Hobby Airport, instead of Bush Intercontinental; and New York’s Long Island MacArthur, instead of LaGuardia or Kennedy.

Build more time. Airlines sometimes leave only 60 minutes between connections. That’s a recipe for ruining your trip. Choose flights with at least twice that amount of time for your connections and you’ll breathe easier.

Finally, be patient to the flight attendants, check-in desk staff and the TSA, they have no control on what happens to the planes schedule or the long lines.  If you’re carrying anything on the plane make sure its a small bag so you can keep it with you instead of packing it on a overhead storage bin which might be full or away from your seat.  Also, wear light clothes, no jewelry or other items that may keep you from getting through the TSA check-in line quickly.  Most of all, bring snacks, food and a pillow to make your flight a pleasant one because we all know some airlines don’t provide food and if they do its not much to eat.

Thank you,

VMS-Washington Travel Staff

VMS-Washington – Key Travel Tips from the TSA

Following these tips will help you reduce your wait time at the security checkpoint.

Before The Airport

  • Do not pack or bring Prohibited Items to the airport. Read the Permitted and Prohibited Items list.
  • Pack travel-size containers less than 3 ounces comfortably in one, quart-size plastic, zip-top bag. Learn more.
  • Place valuables such as jewelry, cash and laptop computers in carry-on baggage only.   Tape your business card to the bottom of your laptop.
  • Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry and accessories that contain metal.  Metal items may set off the alarm on the metal detector.
  • All types of footwear are required to be removed and placed through the X-ray machine for screening.
  • Put all undeveloped film and cameras with film in your carry-on baggage. Checked baggage screening equipment will damage undeveloped film.
  • Declare firearms & ammunition to your airline and place them in your checked baggage.
  • If you wish to lock your baggage, use a TSA-recognized lock.
  • Do not bring lighters or prohibited matches to the airport.
  • Do not pack wrapped gifts and do not bring wrapped gifts to the checkpoint. Wrap on arrival or ship your gifts prior to your departure.  TSA may have to unwrap packages for security reasons.

VMS-Washington – Key Travel Tips from the TSA

At The Airport

We encourage each adult traveler to keep his/her airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID available until exiting the security checkpoint. The absence of proper identification will result in additional screening.

  • Place the following items IN your carry-on baggage or in a plastic bag prior to entering the screening checkpoint:
    • Mobile phones
    • Keys
    • Loose change
    • Money clips
    • PDA’s (personal data assistants)
    • Large amounts of jewelry
    • Metal hair decorations
    • Large belt buckles
  • Take your laptop and video cameras with cassettes OUT of their cases and place them in a bin provided at the checkpoint.
  • Take OFF all outer coats, suit coats, jackets and blazers.

Thank you,

VMS-Washington

www.vms-washington.com
washington@valuedmerchants.com

VMS-Washington – TSA Recognized Baggage Locks

TSA screens every passenger’s baggage before it is placed on an airplane. While our technology allows us to electronically screen bags, there are times when we need to physically inspect a piece of luggage. TSA has worked with several companies to develop locks that can be opened by security officers using universal “master” keys so that the locks may not have to be cut. These locks are available at airports and travel stores nationwide. The packaging on the locks indicates whether they can be opened by TSA.

Not sure where to get a compatible lock? Try these Web sites:

Safe Skies Luggage Locks

Travel Sentry

Travel Sentry

Any references in this web site to any specific commercial company, product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name, is provided for the information and convenience of the public. It does not constitute an endorsement, recommendation, or favorable treatment by TSA. The TSA makes no claims, promises, guarantees, or warranties of any kind, expressed or implied, as to the goods or services provided by any commercial entity, including those companies referenced in this website.

Thank you,

VMS-Washington

www.vms-washington.com
washington@valuedmerchants.com

VMS-Washington – TSA Prohibited Items

For the safety and security of the traveling public, TSA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and/or airlines have prohibited certain items from being brought onto airplanes in carry-on and/or checked bags. To help you plan ahead and avoid the potential of additional screening, be sure to check out the prohibited items list below and pack accordingly.

As an added information source for passengers, you can also use the “Can I Bring…?” tool from the My TSA iPhone and mobile app to get information on an item you want to bring on a plane. Simply type the name of the item in the box and you’ll get information on whether or not it’s prohibited and other information to help you speed through security. You can also access the tool from your mobile device if it has a web browser.

It’s important to know that even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items on the plane.

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VMS-Washington – TSA Prohibited Items


VMS-Washington – Nine Planning Tips For An Amazing Trip

Heading off on a big adventure, but not sure what’s involved. These trip planning tips will help you get a handle on the things you need to consider.

1. Organise your documents

Make sure you have an up to date passport, that will be up to date for the duration of your trip. Check visa requirements for the country you are travelling to. Some countries require that you arrange a visa before you leave home, while others will grant a tourist visa when you land! Make sure you have a suitable travel insurance organised.

2. Book flights and accommodations

One of the fun parts about travelling is the booking of your flights and/or accomodation (have you checked out Travelers point’s budget accommodation section yet?!). Make sure you shop around at different travel agents, because prices can vary widely. Check that the prices quoted include all taxes and surcharges.

3. Get any vaccinations you might need

Make an appointment with your doctor to check what vaccinations you need or any medicine you should take with you. Common ones to look out for are Typhoid, Malaria and Hepatitis.. not the kind of things you want as souvenirs!

4. Look after the home front

Unfortunately, while you’re away, there are often still things that need to be looked after back home. Make sure you have arrangements in place for someone to look after your bills, plants and mail. If you are going to be leaving a house empty, consider finding someone to house-sit for you while you’re away.

5. Organise things to do

Make a list of things that you plan to do while away. Do some research on the internet about your holiday destination. There may be special events on that you can only attend if you book in advance. Planning what you’re going to see will make it a lot easier to relax when you’re on holidays!

6. Make a packing list

Start making a packing list a few weeks in advance or use our packing list. As the weeks go by, you will undoubtedly think of many more things to add. Write them down as you go, then pack everything on your list in the last day or two.

7. Look after your finances

Find out what currency you will need and figure out the best way for you to deal with it. Credit cards can be convenient, but also unsafe in a lot of areas. Travellers cheques are a good safe alternative.

8. Stay in touch

Take an address book with you, with all the important contacts in it. Check on any foreign phone codes and write them in your address book. Before you start your trip, make sure you let people know that you will be away and how they can contact you while you’re away. If you don’t have an email address that you can check on the road, you can set up one through Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or become a Travellerspoint member to keep an online diary or blog of your travels and have your friends and family send you messages through our internal messaging system.

9. Ask for help

If you have any more questions about country specific issues, you can contact one of our Travel Helpers, who are always happy to answer any questions. This feature is available to all Travellerspoint members and is completely free.

We hope you have a great trip, and here’s some travel tips to help you on your way!

That’s our brief list of things to consider. If you think there is something else which should be added to our trip planning guide, contact us with your suggestions and we will gladly review them.

World Ventures is excited to inform us that there will be a second $69 cruise posted today that will depart from the United States. The trip will be released this afternoon at 4 p.m. CST/ 2:00 PM PST.

If you want to book this cruise, be sure to log in up to 30 minutes early and then go to the “Cruises” page on the DreamTrips banners page. If you’re already logged in, you’ll see the trip when it’s posted after refreshing the page (instructions can be found below). It normally takes about hour to an hour and a half for a $69 cruise to sell out, so there’s no need to worry about booking the cruise at immediately at 4 p.m.!

To get this deal go to: http://peterpantravel.newplana.com/go/index

To get this deal you must be a member of World Ventures, if you want to get this deal and others like it click on the above link.  What’s the catch?  None, you get to join a great travel club and get excellent deals and specials.  This deal happens every last Monday of each month but is only for members only.

Thank you,

VMS Travel Staff
206-372-1177

When I moved to the United States for my higher education from Kenya, Africa, I had my worries and expectations. The fact is that I was not naïve to life as a young man. Back at home, I had earned my high school certificate after four years of walking to and from school. The dream of studying abroad came true when I landed in New York City in the Fall of 08. Whatever was ahead of me remained unknown until the day when so many things started to demonstrate that it wasn’t what I had in mind? Inside me, a reminder kept popping up. I wanted to share my personal story with the world. That was the least I could do with my own hands and memories. So I did.

In 1987, I was born to a family of 14. Nothing looked unusual at all, except the number? What was there to hate or like? As kids, we walked, played, sang, listened to stories and did pretty much anything other kids do (mark my word: not everything but anything). The only difference however, was that we learned to make do with what we had. No fantasies, no heroes and nothing to brag about. I was not different. I was just like everyone else. The green fields and blue skies did not last. Things changed, one at a time. Some changes were natural and teary while some were not. Was our family ready for them? Oh, wait, was anyone, regardless of who they were, ready for them? I had no clue.

It makes me cry inside every time I think of that story. How did that happen? Am I dreaming or it really happened? It is hard to believe or come to terms with losing five siblings. My family lost five siblings. That was tough to handle. There was no war that took them away; there were no accidents or natural disasters. There was death. It is true that no one can surely say that they will be living tomorrow. With that number cut short by death, I looked to the skies and wondered like the rest of the humans who have lost their loved ones: why me? There has never been a satisfying answer to that question and that is why I asked for confidence to share my story through My Life Sentences.

First, writing and publishing my personal life was not and still isn’t easy for me. I feel lifted up whenever a reader downloads a copy on Amazon but I ask myself what they will think after they read the last sentence of the book. Will they be inspired to do more or they will resent me? Should I just not imagine what they will do? I do not know. With thousands of readers already knowing my story, I feel a little relieved but that is not all I wanted. I want to share it with more. I kindly request you to read it: My Life Sentences – A True Story.

When I came to the United States, I thought my life would change for the better. I was partly right and partly wrong. I have learned so much in less than four years. I am a better person today than I was yesterday. Life, to me, means doing good to others and even with that in mind, I feel like I have not done enough myself to make this world a better place. There is a fight inside me, one side wants to win and the other side hates losing. It is hard. Everything is new again; the future is filled with hope and enthusiasm, and that is the better part.

What compelled me to write my story and put it out there for the whole world to see through it was the inner desire to inspire others. What I know is that we can all achieve it when we choose to try. Through adversity, you can choose to succumb and fade off or walk out stronger than ever. Tomorrow is not the end of the world, but we never know! Finally, to everyone out there who wants to read a different kind of story, you can read the first chapter of my memoir for FREE using this link My Life Sentences – A True Story.

NB: While not writing, I learn to play piano, do volunteer work and write columns for the Kansas City Star Newspaper. I currently live in Liberty, Missouri, United States. I can also be found at www.chirchir.co.cc. Thank you!

This is written by Elisha Chirchir [elisha.java@gmail.com]

VMS-Washington – TSA Travel Tips

The Screening Experience

Everyone who travels by air goes through airport security checkpoints. These checkpoints are operated by Transportation Security Officers from the Transportation Security Administration.

The checkpoints are there to make sure that terrorists can not bring anything aboard a plane that would enable them to take it over or destroy it. These are called “prohibited items” and cannot be brought to a checkpoint, into the secure area of an airport, or aboard an aircraft.

Not only do all passengers go through checkpoints, their checked baggage is also screened. This may happen out of passengers’ view depending on the physical configuration at each airport.

It is a good idea to prepare before arriving at the airport so that passengers move more quickly and efficiently through the security process. Here are some suggestions to help make the process as smooth as possible.

Dress The Part

There is no particular style or type of clothing that passengers should wear from a security point of view. Passengers are permitted to wear head coverings and religious garmentsduring the screening process. Passengers may be directed to additional screening if their clothing (religious or otherwise) is loose fitting or large enough to hide prohibited items.

In addition, certain clothing and accessories can set off an alarm during metal detector detector or advanced imaging technology screening and slow passengers down. Avoid wearing clothing, jewelry or other accessories that contain metal when traveling through the security checkpoints:

  • Heavy jewelry (including pins, necklaces, bracelets, rings, watches, earrings, body piercings, cuff links, lanyards or bolo ties)
  • Clothing with metal buttons, snaps or studs
  • Metal hair barrettes or other hair decoration
  • Belt buckles
  • Under-wire bras
  • Hidden items such as body piercings may result in additional screening, including a pat-down. If selected for additional screening, passengers may ask to remove their body piercing in private.
  • Take metal items such as keys, loose change, mobile phones, pagers, and personal data assistants (PDAs) out of pockets and place in your carry-on baggage before going through security.
  • Pack all coats and jackets in baggage when possible. All coats and jackets must go through the X-ray machine for inspection. These include, but are not limited to, trench coats, heavy winter coats, suit jackets, sport coats and blazers. Passengers who choose to wear an outer coat or jacket to the checkpointwill need to either place it in carry-on baggage or put it in the bin.

Individuals are permitted to wear disposable footwear during the screening process. The disposable footwear may be removed and placed into the individual’s accessible property prior to exiting the screening checkpoint. . In addition, TSA recently implemented modified screening procedures for certain eligible frequent flyers and for passengers 12 and under.

Gel-filled bras are permitted through security screening and aboard aircraft.

TSA Security Officers have to resolve any alarms that are detected at the checkpoint. Passengers who alarm during security screening will need additional screening, which could include a thorough pat-down.

Passengers can reduce the chance that they will need additional screening by removing all items from pockets – including metallic and non-metallic items such as keys, wallets, and jewelry –and placing in bins prior to being screened.

What Passengers Need

We encourage each adult traveler to keep his/her airline boarding pass and government-issued photo ID available until exiting the security checkpoint (children are not required to show identification). The absence of proper identification will result in additional screening.

TSA encourages travels to remember 3 simple steps to security:

  • Have ID out
  • Coats & Shoes off
  • Laptop and 3-1-1 bag out

The absence of proper identification will result in additional screening. Children under 18 are not required to show identification.

Individuals who are accompanying passengers, such as a child or traveler with medical conditions, through the security checkpoint but are not flying should check with the airline for required documentation.

Do Passengers Need To Remove Their Shoes?

As part of TSA’s risk-based, intelligence-drive approach to security, TSA recently implemented modified checkpoint screening procedures for certain passengers, including kids 12 and under and eligible frequent flyers, which may enable them to leave their shoes on during checkpoint screening.

All other passengers are still required to remove their shoes before being screened by a walk-through metal detector or advanced imaging technology. This includes all types of footwear.

TSA has determined that concealed prohibited and/or dangerous items in footwear remains a serious threat to aviation security. Transportation Security Officers will ask passengers to remove their shoes before entering the metal detector or advanced imaging technology machine. Passengers who do not comply with the request and do not remove their shoes prior to being screened will not be able to board their flight.

Ensure A Simple Screening Experience

TSA recommends that passengers remove all items from pockets – including metallic and non-metallic items such as keys, loose change, and cells phones – and place them in carry-on baggage prior to being screened. Doing so will help passengers avoid the chance of needing additional screening and get through security more quickly. Passengers should also try to avoid wearing anything with metal, clothing, jewelry or other accessories that contain metal such as, heavy jewelry, or clothing with metal buttons or snaps.

Pack coats and jackets in baggage when possible. All coats and jackets must go through the X-ray machine for inspection. Passengers who choose to wear an outer coat or jacket to the checkpoint will need to either pack it in carry-on baggage or put it in a bin.

Passengers with concealed or  hidden items such as body piercings may alarm during screening and require additional screening. Passengers selected for additional screening may always request private screening.

Travel Tips For A Hassle-Free Screening Experience

TSA encourages travels to remember 3 simple steps to security:

  • Have ID out
  • Coats & Shoes off
  • Laptop and 3-1-1 bag out

Items purchased in the secure boarding area are for use on the immediate flight. Passengers who must leave the secure boarding area and re-enter through the screening checkpoint will not be permitted to carry liquids in quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces (100ml).

Liquid explosives remain a threat to aviation security, which is why 3-1-1 rules for liquids remain in effect.

Passengers who are prepared for security screening at the checkpoint will help streamline the process for themselves and for other travelers.

Know What To Expect

Passengers who are prepared for security screening at the checkpoint will help streamline the process for themselves and for other travelers. Select a video to help you understand the screening process.

PeterPan Travels Bonus Tips:

-Arrive for Domestic Flights 2 hours in advance
-Arrive for International Flights 3 hours in advance
-Wear flip-flops and loose clothing
-Hang ID, Passport (if needed) and Ticket around neck for easy access
-Carry a pillow or a neck pillow so you can be comfortable during the flight
-Bring snacks and food for long flights
-Bring headphones and or Ipod to listen to music during flight
-Carry a days clothing and supplies in a backpack in case your bags are lost
-Wait till the last minute to get on the plane since you’ll be on the flight for a while
-Remember the flight attendant is here to help you and be nice to them, you get more with please and thank you’s.

Thank you,

VMS-Washington

http://www.vms-washington.com

VMS-Washington – Packing List for Vacation

I created this packing list from years of travels around the States and abroad.  As we all know we always forget at least one or two things in our suitcase which means we all have two or three of several items.  So, made this list for the traveler who doesn’t want to forget anything for their trip.   I bought a App from iTunes called aNote which I use for all my daily needs from my grocery list, to my bucket list and it even has my packing list for my vacations.  Of course, no two people are the same, so consider this list a starting point. It has been designed to be useful for travelers of all types: male, female, young, old, short-term, long-term, etc.If you have any suggestions for items that should be included, contact us with your ideas and we will gladly review.

Below is my ‘basic packing list’, which will be at the heart of any ‘suggested packing list’ – it would form the guts of the thing if you like. These are the essentials NO traveller can do without!

Essentials

  • Address list and list of important contacts or numbers
  • Backpack, suitcase, sports bag (something to pack everything in)
  • Paper or Notebook
  • Passport (check validity!)
  • Pencils, Pens
  • Tickets and itinerary (airline, train, bus, accommodation bookings etc.)
  • Visa
  • Travel Insurance (Its better to be safe than sorry)

Finances

    • ATM card (Maestro or Cirrus logos on the back are most widely accepted)
    • Calculator or currency converter
    • Cash in the local currency of your arrival destination
    • Credit card (Visa or Mastercard are most widely accepted)
    • Money belt or a wallet that hangs around your neck (You can’t be too safe in some places)
    • Sufficient Travellers’ checks (and receipts for travellers’ checks)

Clothes

  • Boots
  • Bra (sports and regular)
  • Dress shirts
  • Dresses
  • Jacket
  • Jeans
  • Jumper, sweater or fleece
  • Light jacket
  • Long or thermal underwear
  • Long sleeve shirts
  • Pants or trousers
  • Pyjamas/Sleepwear
  • Sandals, shower shoes, thongs or jandals
  • Sarong or Lava lava
  • Shoes
  • Shorts
  • Ski clothes
  • Skirts
  • Sneakers
  • Socks
  • Suits
  • Swimming gear
  • T-shirts, singlets
  • Underwear

Clothes Accessories

  • A good hat
  • Bandana
  • Belt
  • Cotton handkerchief or tissues
  • Eye-mask
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Jewelry
  • Knitted (woollen) hat
  • Raincoat or poncho
  • Safety pins
  • Scarf
  • Sewing kit
  • Ski glasses
  • Suit bag
  • Sunglasses
  • Ties

Toiletries

  • Anti-bacterial cream
  • Comb or brush
  • Condoms and/or contraceptive pills
  • Contact lens equipment or glasses
  • Cotton buds
  • Q-tips
  • Dental floss (also great for fixing things!)
  • Deodorant
  • Earplugs
  • Fingernail clippers
  • Hair products (gel, spray etc.)
  • Lip balm
  • Make-up
  • Mirror
  • Moisturiser (face and body)
  • Nail file
  • Razors
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Shaving cream
  • Sleeping pills
  • Soap
  • Sunscreen and after sun cream
  • Talcum/baby powder – Useful against prickly heat, in shoes, on sticky zippers and more
  • Tampons and pads
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste

First Aid Kit

    • Band aids
    • Compression bandages
    • Diarrhoea tablets
    • Gazes
    • Insect and/or mosquito repellent
    • Iodine/hydrogen peroxide
    • Medicines/prescription Drugs
    • Motion sickness tablets
    • Paracetemol, Tylenol etc.
    • Replacement/rehydration salts sachets
    • Small scissors
    • Tweezers
    • Vitamin pills
    • Water purifying tablets
    • Yellow Fever certificate or International Certificate of Vaccination

Other Items

    • Backpack rain cover
    • Batteries
    • Binoculars
    • Books/Ebooks with a reader
    • Bottled water
    • Camera, film and batteries – Spare flash cards or memory for digital
    • Carbohydrate snacks
    • Chewing gum or mints – Especially if you are flying chewing something will help your ears
    • Combo or key locks
    • Compass
    • Cup
    • Diary or organiser
    • Duct tape – Fixes everything!
    • Eating utensils
    • Electrical adapter and plug converter
    • Fishing line – Strongest string in the world!
    • Flashlight or torch – Don’t forget the batteries
    • Frisbee, hackey sack, ball, pack of cards or other recreational items
    • Gifts are always appreciated while travelling
    • Guidebooks, or print outs from the internet (I suggest Lets go series)
    • GPS
    • Inflatable travel pillow
    • International driving license – If driving overseas, have your driving license translated
    • International Student Identification Card – For discounts worldwide
    • iPod, MP3 player, Discman etc. – Including music and batteries
    • Laptop – Especially for the business travellers
    • Laundry detergent
    • Maps (incl. small map of the world to show where you are from)
    • Mini camera tripod – Big is better if you have the space!
    • Mobile phone or SIM card
    • Mosquito net
    • Passport photos
    • Phone card – Both for local and international calls
    • Photocopies of important documents in case they are stolen
    • Phrase books or dictionaries
    • Pillow or pillowcase to stuff with clothes
    • Plastic bags
    • Power cords and chargers for all your electrical items – Save some money on batteries
    • Resume and work references – Don’t forget these if you are planning to work while travelling
    • Skis, ski shoes, ski poles or a snowboard – If you are planning a winter holiday, you want to remember these!
    • Sleep sheet
    • Sleeping bag
    • Sleeping mat
    • Speakers for iPod etc.
    • Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool – Don’t keep in your carry on as it will be removed
    • Toilet paper
    • Towels, beach and otherwise – the quick drying versions are very handy!
    • Travel alarm clock
    • Umbrella
    • Watch
    • Wet wipes/Baby wipes – Handy for cleaning hands or washing yourself in absense of a shower
    • Ziplock bags – The freezer ones are usually the best

Again, if you have any more suggestions contact us.

Thank you,

VMS Travel staff