|Publication: Travel Tips|
Top five travel myths dispelled
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COOL TRAVEL MAIL'S
Tips & Adice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike!
Aug. 28, 2007
Mark Twain once said, "It ain't what you don't know that
gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just
Twain, a great travel writer, knew what he was talking
This week's edition includes:
* SENDING MIXED SIGNALS
* DUTY CALLS AND X-RAYTED COMPUTERS
* IF GOD ACTS, YOU PAY FOR THE ROOM
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SENDING MIXED SIGNALS
In my years of writing about travel, I've come across lots
of myths, misconceptions and crazy ideas.
Some, I tried to dispel as I researched tips and hints for
my readers. Others I held myself and had to learn about the
It's these five thought-they-were-true-'til-life-proved-me-
wrong misconceptions that I'm sharing with you today:
* Your cell phone could make the plane crash
Years ago, I watched anxiously as a fellow airline passenger
pulled out her cell phone just as we began our descent. She
was a sorority girl, all tan and chatty after spring break,
and apparently just couldn't wait any longer to tell her
friends about her trip.
Didn't she hear the flight attendant say that cell phones
and other electronic devices could interfere with the
plane’s navigation systems? Did she realize her final text
message was likely to be "OMG! going 2 crash. L8R"?
Before I could ask her to stop, another nervous passenger
beat me to it. She rolled her eyes, snapped her gum, and
Turns out, we probably had nothing to worry about.
Test after test after test has demonstrated that signals
from portable electronic devices like cell phones have
negligible effects on airline navigation systems.
They have not, however, completely ruled out the possibility
that, in ideal circumstances, the signal from a passenger
could theoretically interfere with the signal from the
aircraft. It's that "perfect storm" possibility that
liability-conscious airlines are thinking about when they
ask passengers to control their electronic urges while the
craft is in the air.
It seems like overkill, but I guess I'd rather have them err
on the side of caution. If they didn't do it, and the theory
was proven by a spectacular crash, we'd certainly take them
to task for it.
Still, it's nothing to panic about. Now, when a fellow
passenger pulls out a cell phone, I simply sit back and
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DUTY CALLS AND X-RAYTED COMPUTERS
* Duty-free means it's always a good buy
If something is way overpriced to begin with, it really
doesn't matter how many taxes and fees you trim from it.
It's not a surprise that so many luxury goods - like jewelry
and fragrances - are on display in the duty-free shops that
call out to you in most international airports.
Since they aren't things people buy every day, most
travelers don't know what kind of price tag these items have
outside of the airport's foreign trade zone. If you don’t
know that, you have no idea if the "duty free" come on
represents a real deal or a misleading advertising gimmick.
Don't get me wrong, many heavily taxed items - like
cigarettes - can definitely be purchased cheaper in the air
or at the airport. But its important to realize that it's
not an automatic deal. It depends on where you are, what's
being sold, and how much mark up the sellers think they can
get away with.
My advice is always wait until your flight home to go duty-
free shopping. That way, you already know the local prices
you need to compare things to. And do some research. If you
know you’re interested in a particular brand of liquor,
familiarize yourself with the price you would otherwise pay
before you buy duty free.
* The airport X-ray machine can erase your hard drive.
Before everyone had digital cameras, we all used film. And
X-rays, being a type of light, could destroy undeveloped
film, ruining once-in-a-lifetime vacation photos. And even
as the X-ray machines at airport security grew safer for all
but the fastest-speed films, travelers continued keep their
cameras and film safely out of range. It was understandable.
This habit has followed us into the digital age. Many
travelers, especially those who don't fly regularly, are
wary about running electronic items like laptops and iPods
through the X-ray machine for fear it will screw up their
Fear not. My laptop, which contains my checkbook, stored
digital photos and previous issues of this newsletter, has
survived scores of trips through the X-ray gantlet with no
But before you sigh with relief, make sure you’re not too
close to the security station metal detector. Metal
detectors operate with electromagnetic energy, with CAN
affect the data on your hard drive. Make sure your digital
devices go AROUND the beeping portal, not through it. And
keep that hand-held metal detector from waving too close to
My advice is to put them in the bin that runs through the
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IF GOD ACTS, YOU PAY FOR THE ROOM
* If you rent a car with a credit card, you don't need to
buy extra insurance.
I've probably helped perpetuate this myth. For years, I've
advised - and the credit card companies have advertised -
that most credit cards include the same kind of additional
damage insurance that rental companies try to sell you.
That's true. There are, however, a couple of caveats that
probably don't get mentioned enough.
If you don't already own a car that is insured, this may not
apply to you. See, the type of insurance most credit cards
offer is supplemental. They pick up much of whatever your
own auto insurance doesn't cover. So if you don't already
have an insurance policy, you're not going to be able to
rely on American Express or Visa to do the heavy lifting.
You could also be in trouble if you have liability
insurance, but no collision coverage. If you own a junker
that really isn't worth taking a collision policy on, you're
insurance isn't going to cover damage to the relatively new
and shiny car you’re renting at the airport.
* If your flight is cancelled, you will be compensated
This is one of those great American travel myths that
refuses to die. No matter how many times I find myself
stranded at airports, some friend, family member or business
associate will say, "Well, at least the airline will put you
in a hotel for the night."
I repeat: Yeah, right.
The only time an airline is likely to pay for your hotel
room, or compensate you in any way, is if they are clearly
at fault for the delay. If mechanical problems or staff
shortages that within their control are responsible for the
cancellation, they legally owe you, the suffering passenger,
Otherwise, you're on your own. Since most delays are caused
by bad weather and the resulting domino-effect these
groundings and delays have throughout the nation's air
traffic system, that's more than likely going to be the
I know what you're thinking: Hasn't the industry's shift to
fewer flights, smaller planes and more filled seats helped
to make that system more susceptible to bad weather
cancellations? The answer comes in two parts: 'Yes' and 'So
It's all still considered an act of God.
And that means you’re paying the bill.
Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and
questions coming in.
You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce
Until next week, thanks for reading.
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