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August 31, 2009

How Safe Are You When You Fly?

By Karen Chen

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FIGHT OR FLIGHT: Overcoming a fear of flying (Photodisc/Getty)

I didn't think it'd ever happen, but it has: I've developed a (slight) fear of flying.  I was once a confident and fearless air traveler who believed wholeheartedly that flying was safer than driving.  I looked forward to flying.  But starting a little while ago, with the airplane crash in Buffalo, and then the crash on the Hudson River, and the FedEx plane in Japan going up in flames, and then the Turkish Airlines flight crashing in Amsterdam, and then the Air France flight disappearing into the Atlantic, and the crashes in Iran (phew!), I suddenly felt as if air travel really wasn't that safe.  Perhaps it also had something to do with my gaining a sense of mortality with age, or that I was now paying more attention to the news (knowledge is such a double-edged sword)—but that's besides the point.  I understand now why people get nervous to fly.

But, let me allay your fears, and tell you that air travel really is safer than ever before.  This article at The Daily Beast gives some assuring statistics about air safety.  Pilot errors have decreased and the accident rate is consistently lower now than in the 1990s.  Your chances of dying on a flight on a typical American airline are indeed incredibly small, only one in 13 million. As you've probably heard before, your chances of dying while driving a car (a one-year chance of one in 6,500) or simply crossing the street (a one-year chance of about one in 48,800) are much higher. 

Continue reading "How Safe Are You When You Fly?" »

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August 27, 2009

Swine Flu: Health Update for Travelers

Globe-photodiscCommuting to work on the Metro this week, the headline on the front page of The Washington Post was impossible to ignore: "Swine Flu Could Infect Half of U.S." As schools around the country, indeed the world, get ready to return to classes for the fall, doomsday scenarios surrounding the potential effects of the H1N1 virus appear to be ratcheting up day by day.

As someone who is planning to travel to the U.K. in December with two young children, it also got me thinking about what this all means for travelers. Do we really have to take the Joe Biden approach of swearing off public transport until the scourge passes? Does it make more sense to hunker down and mitigate the risk? Given some of the scarier estimates and scenarios, I decided to do some research on what we already know about H1N1 and what health experts are predicating for the next few months.

Continue reading "Swine Flu: Health Update for Travelers" »

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July 13, 2009

TimBuk2 Bag Giveaway: And the Best Travel Tips Are...

By awayblog

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It turns out you all have tons of great packing and travel tips to share!  We received nearly 170 tips in our TimBuk2 Bag Giveaway Contest, from how to save space in your luggage, to what gadgets are good to bring on trips, to how to be a more thoughtful traveler.  Though there were a lot of helpful and original hints, we eventually chose two winners to win the TimBuk2 bags, listed below.  We also chose ten runner-ups (after the jump) that provided hints that we thought were too good not to share, and they will all receive an t-shirt!  If you are one of the winners or honorable mentions, please email so we can give you your prize.  Thank you to everyone who entered!  Even though the contest is now over, keep checking our Facebook Fan Page for more good travel tips, travel news, and new features on  And check back on our blog for more opportunities to win free stuff from Away! 

2009 TimBuk2 Bag Giveaway Winners

Preventing wrinkles
I always pack a small plastic misting bottle in my bag. Each night I decide what I'm going to wear the next day, and spritz the wrinkled clothes. By morning, the clothes are dry and free of wrinkles! I also use it to freshen up my hairdo if I don't have time to wash it. (Submitted by Cheri Jantzen)

Update packing lists
Create a checklist of items you should pack for various types of trips and add to it every time you wish you had something—my husband and I share a Google Document. That way you won't find yourself without your phone charger, the mesh bag for seashell collecting, your hat, allergy medicine, membership cards, etc. (Submitted by Penny Alley)

Continue reading "TimBuk2 Bag Giveaway: And the Best Travel Tips Are..." »

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June 25, 2009

New Airline Targeted Towards Pets!

By Erin Pak

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Pet Airways Turboprop (courtesy, Pet Airways)

Pet fanatics rejoice! Your pet can now enjoy the luxury of traveling in the main cabin rather than in cargo on Pet Airways, the first airline to dedicate itself to pet-friendly travel. I'm not a pet owner, or even a fanatic, but I do believe that animals should enjoy a safe and comfortable ride, just like us humans. So it's about time something like this arrived, although today's current economic climate makes it an interesting time to launch such a venture.

So here’s how it works. First, buy your ticket on the Pet Airways website, where you also specify the animal’s height and weight. Sample round-trip fares for small- to medium-sized dogs traveling between New York City and L.A. in September cost $698 round-trip (a lot of dough to throw down for your pet!). That would also include a no-fee overnight stopover for your pet in Chicago. Shorter flights are direct and cost upwards of $300 round-trip, depending on your pet’s height and weight. For extra comfort, you can upgrade your pet’s carrier for an additional $50.

Continue reading "New Airline Targeted Towards Pets!" »

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May 11, 2009

The Joys of Marriage, Name Changes, and Travel

By Kate Chandler

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Airline ticket and passport (Martin Harvey/Gallo Images/ROOTS)

Updating a passport and other travel-related documents after changing your name due to marriage is easier if you know the ropes.

When I was in the throes of wedding planning, the honeymoon in Costa Rica was the light at the end of the tunnel. Our trip was scheduled for March. My passport expired in January. I couldn't find a way to extend it to March, so I had to get a brand new passport—with my maiden name on it. The cost was $75.

I officially changed my name in June of the year I got married. It involved outings to the Social Security Office and the DMV, my least favorite places. I was good to go until a few months later when I took a domestic flight and wanted to get a frequent flyer credit. All of my frequent flyer accounts were in my maiden name, and it turns out it's not so easy to get them changed. Each airline has slightly different requirements, but be prepared to fax or mail a copy of your marriage certificate to each airline with a written request to make the name change on the account.

It has now been just over a year since my wedding, and I'm planning another trip to Costa Rica this winter. I checked out the U.S. Department of State website for info on how to change my name on my passport, and I was surprised to learn that had I applied for a new passport, with my new name on it, within a year of having my last passport issued, it would have been a free update. Unfortunately, I didn't know this sooner, so now I have to pay the $75 again. But luckily getting back to Costa Rica to relive the honeymoon will be worth it all!  

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April 30, 2009

Airlines Ease Reticketing Restrictions for Mexico Travel

By Kate Chandler

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The swine flu outbreak has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid all non-essential travel to Mexico. Most major airlines have eased their otherwise-strict reticketing policies in the face of this threat. Orbitz has pulled together links to major airlines' policies on reticketing to Mexico, a useful resource for those of you who already have tickets booked. Happy travels (just maybe not to Mexico right now).

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April 17, 2009

Top Travel News Stories This Week

By Karen Chen

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Time for a roundup of this week's biggest travel news stories.  I spend tons of time reading blogs, news sites, and Twitter so you don't have to!

- President Obama announced on Monday that he will be allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba, and send gifts and money to the Caribbean nation as often as they like, as long as recipients aren't senior government or Community Party officials. The President described the policy shift as a showing of America's good faith and a step towards leaving behind the attitudes from the Cold War that have tensed relations over the last 50 years.

- As a result of a week of anti-government protests and political turmoil in Bangkok, many governments, including the UK, Australia, and Russia, issued travel warnings against visiting the Thai capital.  As of Thursday, the British Foreign Office has ended its warning against all but essential travel to Bangkok.

- United Airlines joined Southwest and others on Wednesday by imposing stricter rules for "seatmates of size," saying that if a passenger cannot fit into a single seat, buckle their seatbelt with an additional seatbelt extension, or put the seat’s armrest down, the airline will ask that passenger to pay for an extra seat or stay behind.  The rather controversial policy prompted US Airways and Southwest to clarify their policies regarding overweight fliers, emphasizing leniency and willingness to accommodate passengers. 

- President Obama made another important travel announcement, saying on Thursday that he plans to create a high-speed rail system interconnecting many of the country's larger cities. Though a step in the right direction for the environment and cutting foreign oil dependency, Slate magazine takes a hard look at how the proposed rail lines would affect American taxpayers.

- Despite the recent travel warnings made by the U.S. State Department and universities across the country, The Los Angeles Times reports that Mexico's top tourist destinations are up to 26 times safer than similar cities in the U.S.

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Asia Travel · Caribbean Travel · Mexico Travel · Travel News

April 02, 2009

Consumers Find Travel Deals Amidst Air Industry's Economic Woes

By Karen Chen

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SILVER LININGS: Air travel's woes can be a consumer's gain (J. Luke/Photodisc/Getty)

As people have become more conservative about spending money on travel, airlines have taken a seriously hard hit, losing more revenue than even after the September 11th attacks. For consumers, this has meant a mixed bag of good and bad things, the bad mostly comprised of airlines tacking on a fee for seemingly everything under the sun—or at least everything that was once free (even talk of charging for toilets on Ryanair flights!). But take heart ever-slighted air traveler! You'll be happy to know there is some positive news for you.  Here are some of the latest trends and news about airlines:

- The recession has created a strong buyer's market. As a response to declining ticket sales, airlines have been offering unbelievably low bargain fares (as of today, JetBlue is offering a one-way fare from New York to San Francisco for $14!).  Southwest Airlines has made several rounds of price cuts and is again offering one-way sale fares for $49. In fact, Southwest's sale—which will last for travel through the summer—has been dubbed "the most amazing airfare sale since 2001" and has prompted other airlines like AirTran, American, Delta, and United to match the deeply discounted prices.

Continue reading "Consumers Find Travel Deals Amidst Air Industry's Economic Woes" »

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March 25, 2009

Travel Video: Southwest Airlines's Rapping Flight Attendant

By Karen Chen

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Let's be honest: No one ever pays attention when flight attendants do their spiel before takeoff. I've flown enough to know generally where the exits are (those are the rows where the seats now cost extra because of the added legroom, right?), that oxygen masks will pop down from the ceiling in the case of an emergency, and I've usually gotten my act together enough to know the destination of the flight I've just boarded. 

But add a rapping flight attendant to that scenario and I'm all ears. David Holmes, a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, recently got his 15 seconds of fame when passengers posted cellphone videos on the Internet of his Will Smith-style version of the standard cabin announcements.  Now a YouTube hit, Holmes' was featured in an interview with the Wall Street Journal and a segment on CNN.  Like rap or not (Holmes says he gets the biggest applause on Thursday and Friday night flights into Las Vegas... figures), it's definitely a unique and interesting way to get people to listen up, and differentiates Southwest as a fun, down-to-earth airline.  And in an economic climate when fewer and fewer people are booking flights, PR like this is priceless.  Rest assured, Holmes says he won't do the raps on early morning flights (but, hey, I'd say it'd be a nice pick-me-up).

Here's the full video of Holmes' hip-hop take on the pre-flight announcements:


What do you think of the rapping flight attendant?  Have you been graced with his rapping presence on any of your Southwest flights?

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December 09, 2008

Separate Security Line for Families

Those of you who traveled over Thanksgiving might have noticed something different at many of the nation’s airports. The TSA has finally given families their own separate line at the security checkpoint. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been bogged down at airports over the past decade with stroller, diaper bag, countless pieces of luggage, and two kids vying for my attention, only to glance behind me and see some uptight businessman staring daggers at me! God forbid I waste an extra minute of his precious time while suffering through this thankless schlep.  But now I can breathe a little bit easier knowing that other young families can chill and take their time accordingly, not having to worry that they might irk Mr. Big Shot.

Did you have any particularly good or bad experiences traveling with your family over the Thanksgiving holiday? Did you make use of this new line system? Let us know in the comments section below.

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