Overbooking is not illegal, and most airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for "no-shows." Passengers are sometimes left behind or "bumped" as a result. When an over-sale occurs, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires airlines to ask people who aren't in a hurry to give up their seats voluntarily, in exchange for compensation. Those passengers bumped against their will are, with a few exceptions, entitled to compensation. Voluntary bumpingAlmost any group of airline passengers includes some people with urgent travel needs and others who may be more concerned about the cost of their tickets than about getting to their destination on time. Our rules require airlines to seek out people who are willing to give up their seats for some compensation before bumping anyone in- voluntarily. Here's how this works. At the check-in or boarding area, airline employees will look for volunteers when it appears that the flight has been oversold. If you're not in a rush to arrive at your next destination, you can give your reservation back to the airline in exchange for compensation and a later flight.But before you do this, you may want to get answers to these important questions:* When is the next flight on which the airline can confirm your seat? The alternate flight may be just as acceptable to you. On the other hand, if they offer to put you on standby on another flight that's full, you could be stranded. * Will the airline provide other amenities such as free meals, a hotel room, phone calls, or ground transportation? If not, you might have to spend the money they offer you on food or lodging while you wait for the next flight.DOT has not said how much the airline has to give volunteers. This means carriers may negotiate with their passengers for a mutually acceptable amount of money-or maybe a free trip or other benefits. Airlines give employees guidelines for bargaining with passengers, and they may select those volunteers willing to sell back their reservations for the lowest price.If the airline offers you a free ticket, ask about restrictions. How long is the ticket good for? Is it "blacked out" during holiday periods when you might want to use it? Can it be used for international flights? Most importantly, can you make a reservation, and if so, how far before departure are you permitted to make it? Involuntary bumpingDOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't. Those travelers who don't get to fly are frequently entitled to an on-the-spot payment of denied boarding compensation. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay:* If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation. If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to your one-way fare to your final destination, with a $200 maximum. * If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (200% of your fare, $400 maximum). * You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an "involuntary refund" for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience. Like all rules, however, there are a few conditions and exceptions:* To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation. An "OK" in the Status box of your ticket qualifies you in this regard even if the airline can't find your reservation in the computer, as long as you didn't cancel your reservation or miss a reconfirmation deadline.* You must meet the airline's deadline for buying your ticket. Discount tickets must usually be purchased within a certain number of days after the reservation was made. Other tickets normally have to be picked up no later than 30 minutes before the flight. In addition to the ticketing deadline, each airline has a check-in deadline, which is the amount of time before scheduled departure that you must present yourself to the airline at the airport. For domestic flights most carriers have a deadline of 10 minutes before scheduled departure, but some can be an hour or longer. (Many airlines require passengers with advance seat assignments to check in 30 minutes before scheduled departure, even if they already have advance boarding passes. If you miss this deadline you may lose the specific seats you were promised, although not the reservation itself.) Check-in deadlines on international flights can be as much as three hours before scheduled departure time, due partially to security procedures. Some airlines may simply require you to be at the ticket/baggage counter by this time; most, however, require that you get all the way to the boarding area. If you miss the ticketing or check-in deadline, you may have lost your reservation and your right to compensation if the flight is oversold.* As noted above, no compensation is due if the airline arranges substitute transportation which is scheduled to arrive at your destination within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time.* If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result.* The rules do not apply to charter flights, or to scheduled flights operated with planes that hold 60 or fewer passengers. They don't apply to international flights inbound to the United States, although some airlines on these routes may follow them voluntarily. Also, if you are flying between two foreign cities-from Paris to Rome, for example-these rules will not apply. The European Community has a rule on bumpings that occur in an EC country; ask the airline for details, or contact DOT. The most effective way to reduce the risk of being bumped is to get to the airport early. On oversold flights the last passengers to check in are usually the first to be bumped, even if they have met the check-in deadline. Allow extra time; assume that the airport access road is backed up, the parking lot is full, and there is a long line at the check-in counter.However, if you arrive so early that your airline has another flight to your destination leaving before the one that you are booked on, either switch to the earlier flight or don't check your bag until after the first flight leaves. If you check your bag right away, it might get put on the earlier flight and remain unattended at your destination airport for hours.Airlines may offer free transportation on future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check, or accept the free flight, you will probably lose the right to demand more money from the airline later on. However, if being bumped costs you more money than the airline will pay you at the airport, you can try to negotiate a higher settlement with their complaint department. If this doesn't work, you usually have 30 days from the date on the check to decide if you want to accept the amount of the check.You are always free to decline the check and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation. The government's denied boarding regulation spells out the airlines' minimum obligation to people they bump involuntarily. Finally, don't be a "no-show." If you are holding confirmed reservations you don't plan to use, notify the airline. If you don't, they will cancel all onward or return reservations on your trip.
Gifts you bring back for your personal use must be declared, but you may include them in your personal exemption. This includes gifts people gave you while you were out of the country, such as wedding or birthday presents, and gifts you have brought back for others.Gifts intended for business, promotional, or other commercial purposes may not be included in your duty-free exemption.Also note that by federal law, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and perfume containing alcohol and worth more than $5 retail may not be included in the gift exemption.Gifts worth up to $100 may be sent, free of duty and tax, to friends and relatives in the United States, as long as the same person does not receive more than $100 worth of gifts in a single day. If the gifts are mailed or shipped from an insular possession, this amount is increased to $200.Unless returning to the United States from an insular possession, you dont have to declare gifts you sent while you were on your trip, since they wont be accompanying you.Gifts for more than one person may be shipped in the same package, called a consolidated gift package, if they are individually wrapped and labeled with each recipients name. Heres how to wrap and label a consolidated gift package.Be sure to mark the outermost wrapper with the: * Words UNSOLICITED GIFT and the words CONSOLIDATED GIFT PACKAGE; * Total value of the consolidated package; * Recipients names and * Nature and value of the gifts inside. For example, tennis shoes, $50; shirt, $45; toy car, $15.For instance:To John Jonesone belt, $20; one box of candy, $5; one tie, $20.To Mary Smithone skirt, $45; one belt, $15; one pair slacks, $30.If any item is worth more than the $100 gift allowance, the entire package will be dutiable.You, as a traveler, cannot send a gift package to yourself, and people traveling together cannot send gifts to each other. But there would be no reason to do that anyway, because the personal exemption for packages mailed from abroad is $200, which is twice as much as the gift exemption.Your personal belongings can be sent back to the United States duty-free if they are of U.S. origin and if they have not been altered or repaired while abroad. Personal belongings like worn clothing can be mailed home and will receive duty-free entry if you write the words American Goods Returned on the outside of the package.If a package is subject to duty, the United States Postal Service will collect it from the addressee along with any postage and handling charges. The sender cannot prepay duty; the recipient must pay duty when a package is received in the United States.For more information about mailing packages to the United States, visit the page called "Sending Goods to the United States" (Sending Items Back to the United States) at the Customs and Border Protection website. Make sure you get the latest information before your travel.
Rome is a Mecca of aural and visual treats. Remnants of the great empire remain proud and dignified. Classical, Renaissance and Gothic architecture blend with modern high rise buildings. The people are feisty, swarthy and stylish. The city is pure romanticism coming to life. The melting pot of cultures that the city boasts of is best savored slowly. Rome is a favorite of artists because the mere act of standing before the Colosseum is enough to flood their senses with infinite inspirationRome is as elegant as any European city imagined by ordinary folks through rose-tinted glasses. Many of the top designers are Italian so one of the things you will notice is how common high-end fashion houses are in Rome. The good news is that these finely crafted pieces can be had at prices significantly lower than say the US. The down side is that shopping in Rome is a bit different than what many of us are used to. For ordinary mortals like us who pursue the less sublime, Rome is a shoppers paradise. When in Rome, dress to impress. Take the hint from the numerous designer stores you see. You can enjoy great bargains if you look the part. Italians are generally warm people but the sales personnel can get snooty.Italians are creatures of pleasure and leisure. In Rome, all shops and businesses close for the afternoon siesta. If you have a lot of ground to cover, start your day early. Or do as the Romans do and use siesta to enjoy the sights over a nice meal and a bottle of wine.Make sound shopping choices and decisions. Most shops in Rome have a no return, no exchange policy. Even if the product sold is defective or you changed your mind a few hours later, chances are the retailer will neither honor a refund nor an exchange.If high end fashion is not your style, there are numerous specialty shops and street markets as well. The difficulty with specialty shops is most of their merchandise are kept behind counters. You need to know exactly what you want or be armed with a good number of Italian words. Street markets are fun and the variety of goods can be staggering. Be alert not just for good bargains but for pick-pockets and smooth sales talk. When in Rome indulge your shopping cravings but be alert, firm and smart.
Theres a funny scene in Romancing the Stone when Michael Douglas character meets Kathleen Turners character and agrees to take her to a phone booth hundreds of miles away. He simply refuses to help her carry her completely impractical luggage and a few scenes later goes even further by chopping the heels off her shoes so she can actually walk in them. This little fiasco encompasses the essence of packing for adventure travel. Less is most definitely more! When in a foreign country it is usually pretty easy to spot the experienced traveler from the novice. The novice is usually dragging a giant suitcase or trying to lug a brightly coloured backpack that is even bigger than they are. They are dressed in the latest must have adventure gear from the most expensive adventure stores and have trekking shoes worth hundreds of dollars. This is not the way to do it for several reasons. The first is comfort. You will usually be doing a lot of walking whenever you go on a vacation and walking with 50 kg of luggage is both tiring and difficult. You will also, most likely, be getting extremely dirty and ruining whatever clothing you take (even if its expensive adventure clothing) and dont forget that some of your gear may even be stolen (sometimes by other travelers). If you show up with all the best and most expensive gear you are also a walking target for hustlers and thieves. With all of this in mind here are a few tips: Luggage If you are going to be doing anything even remotely physical and walking any further than a few hundred meters, then a backpack is definitely the way to go. But not all packs are created equal! Think small and inconspicuous. Dark colours like brown and black will attract less attention than a bright purple or red pack. Make sure it is the type of pack that has a flap on the top that closes over the packs opening to keep out water (the types that zip up WILL get your stuff wet). You will also want to put your clothing in waterproof stuff bags I use standard plastic shopping bags, but there are tougher ones that you can buy from disposals and camping stores. You also want your pack to be as small as possible. Especially if you are only touring (mountaineers may need something bigger). I use a 30 liter pack but would say 45 liters is an absolute maximum for general purpose use. You will be carrying it around a lot and if you cannot fit something in then you probably dont really need it. Clothing Think light and breathable! Cotton is always good. Three shirts is usually enough because you can wear one, wash one and have a spare. Take ones with collars to keep the sun off your neck if you are going anywhere remotely sunny. For pants, I like cargoes that can zip off the legs and turn into shorts (which can also double as swimming trunks). Dark colours are always going to hide the dirt and grime so thats also a good idea. Usually, other than underwear and socks, I dont take much more than this. Remember that if you need something you can always buy it there and usually for a fraction of the price than at home! Dont forget to take some type of hat as being sunburnt is a real drag when you are traveling. Shoes Unless you are doing some serious mountaineering then you probably wont need those $300 Scarpa trekking boots. In many poorer countries you can buy those $300 Scarpas at the local markets for $10 anyway, because some idiot tourist left them outside his door to dry and an enterprising local stole them to sell at the markets! Think comfort I usually go for Converse All Stars, but any type of cheap canvas shoe will probably be ok. On a trek across England my Converse shoes allowed my feet to get wet about 10 minutes before my buddys feet got wet he was wearing the $300 Scarpas! Once again, if you need something better, you can probably buy it at your destination for a cheaper price. Other stuff There are a few things I will never travel without. Sunscreen is the main one because I REALLY hate getting sunburnt. A small multi-tool is often pretty handy too dont get a leatherman because you will lose it or get it stolen. You can often buy multi-tools for $5 anyway that work perfectly well. I also always take a lighter ($1 plastic kind) for anything from lighting peoples cigarettes to sealing the ends of ropes. The trick to packing for "adventure travel" is to pack light, inconspicuous and cheap. This avoids you becoming a human pack-mule or a target for thieves and hustlers. You will also find that you will enjoy your traveling more because you wont be so tired nor worrying about your gear so much.
You have saved up your money. You may have even worked some overtime to get some extra cash for your holiday. You have done all of your online research. Flight is booked and so is the hotel. You are ready to go.Now, what do you do on the first night of your 2-week vacation?Do you pace yourself or go hog wild? Does it matter that you arrived at 3 AM or noon or midnight? Do you take a shower or just go out? Decisions, decisions, decisions.After your long flight to Bangkok and then the 1 hour ride to Pattaya what the heck do you do.I can tell you what I do.I schedule my flight to arrive at 4 PM. My other choice is to arrive at midnight. This is a no-brainer. Arriving in Bangkok at 4 PM gets me to Pattaya by 7 PM.I usually just toss my bags in the room, secure my valuables and maybe change my T-shirt. I am then ready to head out.First stop will be to have a beer or two with the owner of the guest house. We will catch up with each other and what has happened over the past few months.Then it is time to head out. I prefer the beer bars over the go-go bars, so I will walk down Soi Buakhao, heading north, and either stop for a quick bite with one of the many street vendors, or go straight to the bars. The bars are in a complex called Night Bazaar right next to a night time shopping area.A couple of beers later and I move out further north. I cross Second Road and make my way to Sois 7 & 8. It doesnt matter which bar(s) I go to. I just look for some cute girls, good music, and a friendly atmosphere.If I am still alone, I will next head out for the bars in the Soi 2 area. There are about 100 bars here and I will do my best to pick out the best ones.One more beer bar area to check out on Beach Road called Best Friends. There are about 17 bars here and I will walk around and find one to my liking. The good thing here is you can sit in one and look over the other 16.If nothing suits my fancy here, it is time to go to Walking Street. Not being a fan of the "go-go bars" , I will hit the hostess bars and some of the "beer bars" .I have quite a few friends in this area that own or manage bars. So I make the rounds and say "Hi" to all of my buddies and see what is going on. I am treated well so it pays to make friends in this town.If it is your first trip, all I can recommend is that you dont fall in love in the first bar you enter. Take your time, relax, and soak in the ambiance. Pace yourself to an extent. You want to have fun, but you dont want to kill yourself. Keep a cool heart and smile a lot and you will have a great holiday.