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Publication: Travel Tips
Top five travel myths dispelled

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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 
ain't so."

Twain, a great travel writer, knew what he was talking 

This week's edition includes:




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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 
hard way.

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-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 
hard drives. 

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 
ill effects.

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 
X-ray machine.

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* 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

Yeah, right. 

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. 

Your Tipmeister, 



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