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Passport Renewals Still On Track For Four-Week Turnaround

by Richard D’Ambrosio / May 16, 2016

While Americans will renew their passports in record numbers this year, so far, the State Department is keeping renewal wait times to its four-week turnaround goal.

The crush of renewals comes as the result of a surge of Americans seeking to travel abroad, and the 10-year expiration of passports issued in 2006-07 following the passage of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI). That law requires all travelers to show a valid passport or other approved secure document when traveling to the United States from areas within the Western Hemisphere.

“We’re on track and expect to issue 17.5 million passports this fiscal year (ending Sept. 30) and 20 million in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2016,” said Ashley Garrigus, a State Department spokeswoman. The State Department issued more than 30 million passports in 2006 and 2007, Garrigus said…<Read more>

 

Visitors to the Roman Colosseum Should Expect Delays

Please be advised that due to new mandatory security regulations every visitor must wait in a security line prior to entering the Colosseum. For safety reasons the Colosseum can accommodate a maximum of 3,000 people at once and every visitor must pass through a metal detector. The Colosseum previously instituted security changes disallowing all large backpacks, suitcases, trolleys, and large purses, and Select Italy discourages visitors from bringing any of these items with them.

These new measures, and the fact that there is only one metal detector at the museum, are causing long delays at the entrance to the site, even for pre-booked visitors.

Who is affected by the new security regulations?

Every visitor. Including regular and ‘Skip the line’ ticket holders and visitors who booked a guided tour.

What are the wait times to enter the site?

The wait times vary from about 1 hr 30 min to 2 hrs, but Select Italy expects the average time could go up as we are entering the high season. Saturday and Sunday currently experience the longest wait times.

Should we discourage clients to visit the Colosseum?

No, but clients must be informed about the long wait caused by the new security regulations.

With more than 6 million visits in 2015, the Colosseum is Rome’s most visited attraction and travelers who want to visit the interior of the site should take into consideration the long wait times and plan their visit accordingly.

5 Phrases That Make Travel Agents Squirm

1. “I was looking at a trip to X destination online and it was much cheaper…”

Of course it was and I can get you the same trip for the same price. But  it will not not include non-stop flights, transfers to and from the airport, insurance in case you have an emergency that keeps you from traveling or if you just don’t feel like going after all…the trip you found has three layovers and will take you four times as long to get there. You will have to pay a taxi service an overpriced tourist rate to get you to your hotel where you will wish the room you picked had a view of the beach, not the parking lot because you wanted the lowest priced room. The flight I’m offering you is direct, because I want you to get the most out of your vacation. The room I am offering you has a view or a jacuzzi tub because you told me you wanted to see the beach every morning when you wake up and you love to soak in a hot bath every evening while you watch the sun set over the water. Unfortunately that also means a price difference.

2. “I don’t need to use a travel agent, I could book this trip myself online!”

Okay. Then go book it online. There are multiple benefits of booking with a travel agent, but since you’re sitting in my office and not in front of your computer at home, I’m going to guess you already know them. You’re simply asking me to beg for your business, which I’m not going to do. I enjoy helping you plan trips but if you’d rather do it yourself online, I’m not […]

10 Reasons Travelers Should Consider Using a Travel Agent

Accountability and Personal Service: A travel agent’s job is on the line with every trip. We have a boss to answer to—or we are the boss!  We are real people you can speak with to work things out, not a different operator each time you call or a computer screen staring back at you. We will remember your name, your anniversary, details about your previous travels and can even email you when great deals come across our desk!  
Insider Knowledge: Our travel agents have been doing their jobs for years and know all the ins and outs. Instead of deciding where to go based on anonymous comments on a website, speak to someone who does this for a living!  We are daily immersed in the travel world with new tips, policy changes, awareness of low and high travel seasons to various destinations, resort closures, company take-overs, construction…and the list goes on.
More for your money—not just the cheapest deal but the best value: Many resorts and cruise lines are part of a consortium and only offer exclusive rates to those groups. Your travel agents are part of those groups too so they can offer you deals no online site can.
Setting an Itinerary: While some people enjoy “just winging it,” a travel agent can give a clear-cut schedule of what will be happening on a day-to-day basis, and keep clear records of everything that is included in the trip.
Budgeting: A travel agent can help map out exactly how much a trip will cost, so there are no surprises. Does that excursion on Monday include lunch, for example, or do you have to buy your own? Does it pay to take the drinks package on the cruise ship, or pay for the excursions in […]

Star Trekkies Unite for a Caribbean Cruise

“All Aboard” the Norwegian Pearl on January 9, 2017 but make sure you have perfected the vulcan salute first! William Shatner and other former cast members will set sail to Nassau, Cozumel and Great Stirrup Cay, (Norwegian cruise line’s private island) and you are invited! With the Star Trek franchise’s anniversary coming up next year, this is a great way for fans of all ages to celebrate. Call Holiday Travel today to reserve your spot on the ship. “Live long and prosper.”

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    Renew Early: Passports Expiring Within Six Months May Disrupt Travel

Renew Early: Passports Expiring Within Six Months May Disrupt Travel

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC

September 5, 2014

Many international travelers may not realize that having an unexpired passport is sometimes not enough to enter certain foreign countries. U.S. citizens traveling on passports that expire in fewer than six months have increasingly been denied airline boarding or been detained upon arrival in certain foreign destinations, including popular European travel destinations in the Schengen area. This is not a new requirement, but it is only recently that the requirement has been more strictly enforced.

U.S. passport holders who will have less than six months validity on their passport for upcoming international travel through the end of 2015 should consider renewing their passports now, so they can avoid delays due to increased passport demand in the weeks before Thanksgiving and at peak times throughout the year. It is especially important to check the passports of any minors who may be traveling. Passports for minors have a shorter validity period (5 years) than passports for adults (10 years) and thus may expire sooner.

The Bureau of Consular Affairs has updated its Schengen Fact Sheet on www.travel.state.gov. The 26 European countries comprising the Schengen area require that U.S. passports are valid for at least 90 days beyond the traveler’s intended date of departure for visa-free short-term tourism, business trips, or transit. Adherence varies from country to country. Some Schengen countries assume all travelers will stay the full three months allowed for visa-free visitors, meaning a visitor may not be admitted unless his/her passport is valid for at least six months, regardless of the duration of the stay. This requirement may also apply if a traveler is transiting a Schengen airport for several hours en route to a non-Schengen destination.

For all other […]

Travel: A Solution to Fear

L.A. Times Op-Ed: Tune Out Cable News and Turn Away Fear
By Rick Steves

I miss the days when people would say “Bon voyage” to travelers heading off. Today, Americans instead say “Travel safely.”

I travel a lot. In the last year or so I’ve been to Egypt, the West Bank, Israel, Turkey and Russia. My loved ones worry out loud: “Rick, do you think this is safe?” I always assure them, “As long as I’m not traveling through Chicago, I think I’ll be OK.”

After traveling and lecturing across the United States in recent months, it strikes me that our nation has never been so racked with fear. The paramount concern is “national security”: the fear that apocalyptic forces outside America’s borders — Islamic State, Ebola, immigrants from Latin America — will creep in and overwhelm us.

But the more I travel, the clearer it seems to me: Fear is for people who don’t get out much. These people don’t see the world firsthand, so their opinions end up being shaped by sensationalistic media coverage geared toward selling ads. Sadly, fear-mongering politicians desperate for your vote pile on too.

Commercial television news is hammering “the land of the brave” with scare tactics as never before. I believe the motivation is not to make us safer. It’s to boost ratings to keep advertisers satisfied and turn a profit.

When Walter Cronkite closed the evening news by saying, “And that’s the way it is,” I believe that, to the best of journalists’ knowledge, that really was the way it was. In those days, television networks were willing to lose money on their evening news time slot to bring us the news. It was seen as their patriotic duty as good corporate citizens.

But […]

10 REASONS TRAVEL AGENTS ARE BETTER THAN THE INTERNET

I have been wanting to write about this for a long time, but Matt Meltzer, Miami editor for Thrillist says it perfectly here!:
While you might put travel agent right up there with VCR repair man and video store clerk on the list of jobs that have gone the way of the Yellow Pages, there’s a reason you still see them wedged into strip malls between your dry cleaner and the new VaporZone. Turns out that — even in a world where everybody coordinates their own vacation plans — travel agents account for about ONE THIRD of the travel industry’s revenue. Seriously, in 2014. Who knew.

Not only can they do things the Internet can’t, but they also still collect a lot of their fees from vendors, which means… best part, they don’t even charge you! Which is why we’ve compiled these 10 reasons you might want to go old-school and let a travel agent plan your next trip.

1. They know whether you’re actually getting a good deal
Since 90% of the airline tickets you buy are for a domestic flight to see your parents, your knowledge of the relative value of a flight to London is, how shall we say, limited. A travel agent, however, books, like, 74 of those a day and will know immediately if the $600 whatever website told you is a “smoldering price” is actually reasonable.

2. Travel agents know where to go in a city, or know someone who does
If you don’t happen to be headed to one of Thrillist’s 30 cities, it helps to have a reputable resource available who knows the best restaurants, dive bars, or cockfighting arenas without having to sift through a thousand ridiculous reviews about how the […]

Protect Your Privacy While Traveling

Please read and protect your privacy when you travel!!

*Hotel business center security risks! Hackers have been installing keystroke-logging malware on many hotel computers so that they can monitor users sessions, and steal passwords, financial information and identities.

*Thieves use stolen credit cards to register as hotel guests, and go to business centers to install the malware.

*Self Defense: Use hotel and other public computers only for Web
browsing, not for anything personal or password-protected.

*If you need to print something from an email account on the
computer, create a free throw away address at 10MinuteMail.com.

*Use a mobile device to forward the file or email to the throwaway account, and use the public computer to print from the throwaway address.

Updated: 12/18/2014

I Don’t Leave Home Without It

I DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT…

I’m often asked what to pack.  Beside the obvious, dress for the weather, wear comfortable shoes, be respectful of the culture, less is best, mix’n’max, stick to basic colors…there are some ideas that I suggest to help with the trip…any trip:

Here are some cool things to pack:

1) Your cell phone.  Even if you don’t use it for a camera it, of course, is an alarm clock, a flash light, music, books, movies, etc. You know all that. But there are a couple of apps, besides “What’s App” and the currency calculators that you might find useful.   Such as: Metro maps.  Not only does it have maps but you can put in your destination and your point of origin and it will tell you which subway or bus to take. I used this all over London and Paris. It was a life-saver to map out our journey and really great for those who are traveling independently.  And, did you know, there is an app that you can purchase (really cheap) that gives you a choice of tours through some of the world’s greatest museums? Use your own headsets and have a guided tour in your native language at your own pace!  Pretty awesome. But if you don’t have a sound machine loaded on your phone you should! When you plug your phone in (using an electrical adapter) you can run it all night and listen to the ocean, or the rain, or a fan.  It not only fills your room with white noise but it also drowns out some of the exterior noises.

You might have some suggestions…what apps do you like when traveling?

2) An extension cord or power strip. Never […]