Flying Tips

Airlines almost always overbook-it’s a fact of life. Its how they ensure they make money, because you’d be surprised at how many people don’t show up to flights.


Usually, overbooking doesn’t cause any problems. But every once in a while, more people than anticipated actually do show up for the flight, which means some travelers are going to be bumped. If that happens to you, your airline may offer passengers a voucher in exchange for being voluntarily bumped.


The pros say to refuse to volunteer and insist on a cash payment instead. If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, you’re entitled to a cash payment, on the spot. This can net you up to $1,300 or 400 percent of the value of the one-way fare depending on the length of the delay. The more you know…


You’ve probably heard the best day to buy plane tickets is on a Tuesday. That may actually be true, but that doesn’t mean you need to only fly out on Tuesdays. It’s true that Tuesday and Wednesday are the least expensive days to fly, but you might be surprised to learn that Saturday is on that list too.


The best fares are when purchased well in advance. Last minute sales no longer exist, no senior or bereavement fares. There are sales you just need to check with me regularly. And I can tell you if it is a great fare or not.


Remember, the airlines makes most of the money on the corporate traveler. They all cater to them a lot, from miles earned to seat assignments. They travel at the beginning of the week and the end, not in the middle or on Saturday, so this is when more seats are available. And price is determined by availability.


If you fly when most people would rather be asleep (early morning or overnight), you’ll also get a better deal. Just avoid flying on Fridays or Sundays and you’ll probably save some serious coin.


The plane is way grosser than you think. Last winter I got sick after every flight. And I do all the sterilizing things. Never touch the inside of the lavatory door handle without a paper towel.


While most people think the “recycled” air in planes is what causes illnesses, take heart: the air is constantly filtered (about 20 times an hour) through hospital-grade HEPA filters. What you really need to watch out for are contaminated surfaces. While the trays are far and away the grimiest part of a plane (don’t rest any food on it without a napkin!), other surfaces like the armrests, seat belts, and buttons in the lavatory are disgustingly dirty and are rarely cleaned due to time constraints.


Stock up on that Vitamin C and hand sanitizer or hand wipes before you hit the tarmac.


And enjoy the last days of summer. Early September is the time to plan 2019 holidays.


Peace, Harriet

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Keep the Line Moving!

There have been several security line changes in the past two years. First, food cannot be concealed. Also, a few small airports are reducing screening requirements. Here are a few reminders:

-Organize the carry-on bag so electronics larger than a cell phone can be quickly and easily accessed when at the security checkpoint.

-Ensure the quart-size bag of liquids, gels and aerosols can also be accessed quickly and easily.

-Don’t overstuff the carry-on bag. An uncluttered bag makes the screening process easier and quicker for passengers and TSA officers. Consider checking bags when feasible.

-Once screening is complete, be sure to put all electronics back in the carry-on bag. Double-check the bins to make sure nothing is left behind.

Much has been written about the long lines at the airport and who is responsible and what can be done about it all. Before we start blaming others and the government maybe, just maybe we have something to do with it.

Do you have a TSA Pre-Check number? I do. When you sign up for the Global Entry for $100. you automatically qualify for TSA Pre-Check. But if you never fly internationally the $85 TSA may work for you. Make sure your name is exactly at it appears on your government issued ID. The best part of the TSA Pre-check is not the short lines, but you do not need to remove your shoes, or take your electronics out of their bags!

Now being prepared… Most of us know the drill. Certainly if we were to listen, the loudspeaker keeps telling us what to do. How many times have you seen someone walk up to the security scanner with a bottle of water in their hand or on their backpack? No carrying liquids through security have been for over ten years now. Certainly they heard! Meanwhile, we wait while they drink it down or walk back to the trash barrel.

We know we need to take off. I know you just got dressed but we still need to take it off. You can begin to strip before you get to the bins. The belts, watches, large jewelry, shoes, hats, outer jackets, it seems like most everything. Much can be put into your carry-on pockets.

Now shoes, they are one of the items that really slow down the lines. Boots with a dozen eyelets are the biggest offenders. Yes they look cool, but it is not cool when someone needs to wait while another is untying! I like my Merrill’s they slip on and off, plus they are wide for the swelling feet! Along with shoes that can be easily (note easily) removed, please wear socks! I can barely look when I see someone walking barefoot through the body scanner. Can you imagine the number of feet?? Ugh!! Please wear socks and not gross me out!

Now the stuff… We are allowed one carry-on and one other item. Then comes the food, the coffee, I didn’t finish, the pillow and stuffed animals, the coat I needed to wear from the house to the warm taxi that I will not wear in Jamaica! Somehow these items all get through. And they take time to carry about and put down, pick-up and gather into your arms. Leave it all at home. You are going away, not taking home with you!

Lastly, remember your carry-on is just that. So do not pack it as if you were going to check it. No large bottles of any liquid or no knives ( you could not imagine how many knives get confiscated! ) Many of the airlines, when the flights are very full, are now checking for free carry-on luggage at the gate. Many are playing this game, but the luggage still need to gets through security!

So next time you are waiting in the security line, remember you can help. Get in line, get off the telephone and pay attention. Be prepared so we all can get it all over, so we can sit in our little cramped seats on the airplane!

Now do not be cheap and purchase a TSA Pre-Check and then one of those extra legroom seats!

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Just GO. Relinquish control and have fun

As a travel consultant, one of the most difficult tasks for me is to plan itineraries for the Type A personalities. Everyone travels for different reasons, I get that. For many, travel is a means to escape from the everyday stresses of life. But, it isn’t always as simple as hopping on a plane and leaving your troubles at home. Most Americans want to stay connected and they bring work and home with them. They also bring the same pace and demands of life. Sometimes, especially for those “type A” personalities who need to be in control and like things just so, stress likes to jump in the backseat and come along for the ride.

Here are just a few tips. You can fill in the explanations… and you will survive, I promise you.. and you will feel very different upon your returning home…

Get Lost

Be flexible and open minded.

Keep it simple

Pack lightly

Ditch the diet

Make a connection

Remember the world is bigger than you are.

Here is how Paula experienced such freedoms….

A few months ago, I read Harriet’s newsletter that talked about “actually being in the place” when you travel. I thought I understood what that meant when I read the newsletter. But I really didn’t until I truly experienced being in the place. My husband and I went on our 25th anniversary trip to St. Lucia in June. I was looking forward to the fact that there was no TV and no phone in our room. We didn’t use any computers and decided to turn our cell phones off when we boarded the plane heading to St. Lucia. We didn’t turn our phones back on until we landed in Miami a week later. Without all of the distractions, it was incredible how much of St. Lucia I truly experienced during our trip! What was even more incredible was the fact that I didn’t fully realize how relaxed I was able to become on our trip until we arrived home and I was at total and complete peace. I have never been more relaxed in my life! I have also never been on a vacation where I made the conscious decision to be “electronic distraction” free and what a great decision it was. I plan on doing that on all of my vacations in the future – what a gift to give yourself, and your family or friends with whom you are traveling. Thank you for the best advice ever, Harriet!
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Finding the right hotel

Recently while doing some research on finding the perfect hotel for my client, I went to one of the commercial booking engines, like There are lots of them. Rarely do I use these engines as they do not pay travel advisors for the reservation. But they often have good maps and suggest hotels. And for those of you that know me, know location, location is most important for a perfect hotel.

In my search I learned what these booking engines do and do not have. In general they have the mid-range priced hotels, the two to four star properties. They do not have the luxury or the local places. The luxury markets differently and the locals by word of mouth. The luxury come to me in person, via the office, email or local trade shows. Recently I learned of a luxury property, in Tahoe from a trade show. And the client loves it, plus I got a special rate and upgrades! As for a local hotel I learned of one recently by a local referral. It was not marketed anywhere!

My point is…. The hotel booking engines are just one of the many resources to find the right hotel. In this newsletter I will not even begin to address the VRBO or Airbnb’s. They have their own pros and cons. Meanwhile do not spend too much time researching for that perfect hotel for you, for this is what I do. And over the past 30 years, I have found some wonderful places to stay. What is important for you is what is most important: location, amenities, bedding options, a pool, restaurant, bar, on the beach, near a train station, parking, and of course cost. Usually you cannot have them all, so prioritize what is most important and that will help us decide. Some of my favorite hotels are three stars and others five. For me, liking your hotel accommodations can make or break a holiday. Call and I can help find the right hotel for you. 617-588-4246
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Summer Airports

The best I can say is PATIENCE… Summer time has lots of inexperienced travelers. Those who go once a year or less on an airplane. The other day someone asked ‘how come the charge for luggage?’ She did not know they did. But the few times she flies she is on the same carrier and uses their credit card, which does not charge for luggage. Good to know!

Many fellow travelers will have also purchased their tickets on line and if there is a situation they may be very frustrated. No one to call, as you do. The heat can cause flight delays just like snow. Thunder storms and high winds cause lots of problems for plane travel. So be patient!

I cannot always give a connection as long as I would like you to have. So be prepared to depart the plane quickly. If you connect in an hour or so, do purchase the extra legroom seats in the front of the plane so you can depart quicker.

And do not hesitate to order a wheelchair if your walking is very slow. They will hustle you to your next gate. Or from check-in through security! It may be the best few dollars, tip, you spent on this holiday.

So remember to be helpful, patient and understanding. Do you want to be that Mom with the screaming child? Or all that gear to transport? Check your luggage and travel comfortably. A few minutes here or there will not make a difference in most situations.

Do call if you need assistance. We have 24 hour coverage all the time! So Relax and be Patient! And have a grand holiday!
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Travel is always an adventure

A most regular client called me last week and asked if I would help a friend who had done her ticket online. I said of course. As we began our three way conversation the first comment I made was “Travel is always an adventure.” Hers was simple to resolve, as her Norwegian Airlines flight was cancelled and they could not accommodate her for days. We found a reasonably priced flight for the next day and off she went.

Not all ‘adventures’ are so easily resolved. I love to tell the stories, especially when they turn out well. Many of them have to do with airlines cancelling flights. And they all do it. Because you do not want to board a plane that has mechanical problems! And of course the carriers often go on strike, but those we usually know in advance of the departure date. These are the easy resolvable adventures.

Most ‘adventures’ can be resolved or prevented with good planning… First is booking with a well-informed experienced travel adviser. And second is having Travel Insurance. The third is using a reputable tour operator. There were times in the travel industry when tour operators would go under and leave their clients stranded all over the world. Today, reputable tour operators are members of USTOA, United States Tour Operators Association with one million dollars assistance program. If the tour operator can no longer operate, this insurance program will assist travelers.

The best resolver of “adventures” is a human, who knows what to do. That is ME. Not only because I have been in the industry for 30 years, but because I have traveled a great deal, know the ropes and have experienced my own ‘adventures.’

You may say ‘what I want to do is so simple I can do it myself’; a flight to Florida, or a repeat cruise company. You know the drill. But did you ever get stuck in Florida because of a hurricane? Or the cruise ship could not sail because of a volcanic eruption? It is sure nice to have me when these ‘adventure’ events happen.

For travel is always an adventure.. And we all want it to be memorable in a very good way. So save yourself time and give yourself peace of mind and call me.


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Where are you going next?

You all ask me this question often! Actually, other than a birthday in August, daughter is turning 50, I have no airplane plans. Can you imagine?

Many of you may have checked out European flights for this summer and found how high they are. Well, call and check out the fall. From 16 September to 27 October there are some great fares and the weather is very nice. I just checked from Boston to Paris and home from Amsterdam, a nice two city combination fare is $566. That is less than some fares from coast to coast. And the flight times are about the same! So why not go for a long weekend? Both cities have wonderful museums and places to enjoy. So you have been to Paris? How many times have you see the “Wizard of Oz?”

I have written often about how some of us repeat and then add a little something new each time. And others just want something new. So I have never been to Amsterdam; maybe that is my next going. Paris and Amsterdam. Want to join me?

A piece of me says ‘I should no longer travel by myself’. Then I have also learned there are so many ways to get assistance along the way. The first issue to negotiate is the large airports. Moving sidewalks, motorized carts and wheelchairs are everywhere. They are free- just let me reserve one for you. Some airports use many different helpers to move people around the airport. Others use just one person. The latter is much easier to tip.

From the airport to the city to many attractions, there are services available. Even Europe is becoming more aware and helpful for the less mobile. So do not think you cannot go.

Now we no longer have excuse of fare or access, what else is stopping you from planning your next sojourn?


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Where do I get my ideas

From lots of places. I regularly take webinars about places I want to learn. The other day I took one on Catalonia. We all know Barcelona, a wonderful city. Outside of town there are most interesting Roman ruins, castles, monasteries, beaches and more. Painters Dali, Picasso, and Miro all lived in the area. Just that corner of Spain will be an intriguing 10 days, in and around the city and countryside.

Then I read a lot. It is amazing– some of the best ideas do not come from travel magazines. This month’s Bon Appetit is filled with great ideas. Some I wrote about a few weeks ago. Road trips and planning for them. There are picnic, camping and hiking ideas. A most interesting tip is do not leave the refrigerator totally bare. Have a meal planned for when you get home. Something simple that will not spoil while you are away. Or for me, will your local take-out still be open? Of course, it is a food magazine, so there are articles for eating and cooking in so many wonderful places. This copy has a lot of Italy ideas!

Do you ever check out Virtuoso Life? It is a regular travel publication in both paper and online. You can find the online version at the end of my newsletter and blog. If you would like a paper copy, just let me know and I will put you on the mailing list.

I used to cut out the most interesting articles and pictures, but then I soon began to realize I rarely go back. Now I keep my new ideas in the corner of my brain so when you are ready for that special holiday, I can assist you.


Happy and comfortable travels, peace, Harriet
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More TSA screening procedures to come

TSA Launches Stricter Carry-On Screenings Nationwide


The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) this month rolled out enhanced screening procedures for carry-on baggage nationwide, after testing the stronger security measures at select airports.

Travelers are now required to place all personal electronics larger than a cell phone, including tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles, in separate bins for X-ray screening, similar to how laptops have been screened for years.

“By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats” said TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia.

In addition, travelers may be instructed to remove any food and powders from their carry-on to allow screening officers to obtain a clear X-ray image for security purposes.

The TSA recommends travelers “organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process” as “it is possible that passengers may experience more bag checks and additional screening of some items.”

The enhanced carry-on screening procedures have been phased in over the past several months in standard lanes at airports across the country. Since last summer, the new security measures were tested at 10 U.S. airports, including: Boise Airport, Colorado Springs Airport, Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Logan International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport, Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, McCarran International Airport, and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. ( Do you know the city for all these airports, I am not sure I do!)

Individuals with TSA PreCheck will be exempt from the new regulations

The program just became a little easier to join as Staples will soon bring enrollment centers to 50 stores this summer, and more locations in the future, beginning with Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Seattle.

From TravelMart Report


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Respiratory diseases during flights and ID

Behaviors, movements and transmissions of droplet-meditated respiratory diseases during transcontinental airline flights.  

Now that is a mouthful. An M.D. of mine gave me an article and study on infectious diseases and in-flight transmission. With over three billion airline passengers annually, the diseases are an important global health concern. We all know some of us get sick immediately after a flight. We assume it is from an infected person sneezing, coughing, talking or even breathing. It is when these droplets fall on to a susceptible traveler or are inhaled that we get sick. Sitting near, a row or two away is the highest risk factor. Then we do not know how much has to do with where we sit or the movement of passengers and flights attendants moving about the cabin. Or methods of cleaning the cabins between flights. The study does seem to suggest if you sit by a window and do not get up during the flight you are less likely to get infected.

Just think how many touch the seat backs along the aisle or the overhead bins. All I can suggest after reading this huge study is take wipes. And sit still.

On another topic.. Your ID to travel.

Check with your state and learn if your driver’s license meets federal standards for boarding a domestic plane. Massachusetts is currently changing theirs. One needs TSA ID Requirements. In particular, the requirements pertain to what information states collect before issuing identification. For a driver’s license to be REAL ID-compliant, a state must require applicants to present either a photo ID or an ID which includes a full name and birth date, proof of birth date (generally a birth certificate), proof of resident status and social security number, and proof of address. So check before you fly or renew your driver’s license.
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