Flying with Emotional Support Animal

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Pets are comforting companions for kids and adults alike. There is no denying that pets keep us healthy and relieve stress. They play with us and show us unconditional love.

Lately keeping a pet as an Emotional Support Animal (ESA)– an untrained companion of any species that provides solace to someone with a disability, such as anxiety or depression is becoming , should I say “fashionable’ for lack of a better word.

And an increasing number of pet owners have of late been taking their pets  into public spaces including travelling in airplanes , more so in the cabins -rather than the holds—simply by claiming that the creatures are  their licensed companion animals and are necessary to their mental well-being.

The list of weird and wondrous beasts that have accompanied their owners on scheduled flights in the US includes a turkey, a kangaroo, and a duck by the name of Mr. Stinkerbutt and a miniature Appaloosa horse.

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There was also a peacock, who was turned away by United for not meeting its guidelines of weight and size, despite of the owner who offered to buy a separate ticket, and Hobey the pot-bellied pig took a pre-takeoff dump in the aisle of an American Airlines flight and both pig and owner were ushered off – proof that peacocks and pigs really can’t fly.

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Luckily the good citizens of the US of A have the law on their side. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

As noble as it is intended, the purpose of the law is to ensure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else, including equal rights of employment, housing and also the same rights to transportation aboard public entities such as airlines.

If a disabled person requires the assistance of a service animal the airline must accommodate the service animal, but there’s more to it than that. The key difference between a service dog and an emotional support dog is whether the animal has been trained to perform a specific task or job directly related to the person’s disability. For example, service dogs are trained to alert a hearing-impaired person to an alarm or to guide a visually impaired person around an obstacle.

So when pet owners insist on taking along an animal for want of emotional support all they need is an exemption- a letter from a certified healthcare provider, stating that the animal provides emotional support that eases one or more of the symptoms or effects of the disability, to substantiate their claims and Bingo! – They are legally entitled to take their friend along when they fly.

The United States – Air Carrier Access Act entitles passengers to fly with their E.S.A. at no extra charge, although airlines typically require the animal to stay on the lap or under the seat.

But Airlines are now fighting back. Between 2016 and 2018 the number of passengers taking their ESA on a flight in the US has increased from 561,000 to more than 1 million. And with that, the number of incidents involving ESAs pooing, peeing or biting other passengers and cabin crew have also increased.

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Many airlines have changed their policies when it comes to flying with an emotional support animal. Which is why most carriers are now either banning ESAs from flights over eight hours or putting in stipulated conditions for flying with ESA’s such as-

  • Banning specific animals from the cabin, including amphibians, ferrets, goats, hedgehogs, insects, reptiles, rodents, snakes, spiders, sugar gliders and any animal with tusks, horns or hooves.
  • The animals must be able to fit at the passengers’ feet, under the seat and are small enough to “fit fully on the passengers’ lap without touching any part of the seat or adjacent customers.
  • The animal cannot be seated in an exit row, block aisles, occupy seats or eat from tray tables.
  • The animals will have to remain leashed throughout the flight.

Airline employees are now able to exclude animals they consider to be a safety risk. While airlines might have thousands of trained service animals flying in a month, they may need to accommodate much more as untrained support animals in the already constrained cabin. Untrained animals have not only attacked trained service dogs, but also bitten flight attendants and other passengers. Not to mention, pets could also be the reason for spreading certain allergens.

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Whether one truly and genuinely needs a support animal travelling with them needs to have strict and proper guidelines/rules to ensure access to service animal assistance for people with disabilities , while maintaining the safety, health and security of all other passengers and crew onboard planes.

 

 

 

 

PC:The Sun;CNBC;United Airlines;CBS News;LoyaltyLobby

Incredible India

incredible india

The sun filtered in through the windows. Far in the distance, the temple bells mingled with the call for Namaaz at the mosques. A new dawn in the cramped streets and lanes of India is coming alive.

India,  the oldest civilization in the world, including 4 major religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism.

India, a unique destination, which offers a mystic experience of combining business with leisure and networking with tourism.

India, a kaleidoscope of spirituality, philosophy, culture, heritage, architecture, science, and technology.

India, a country which does not believe in the term “personal space.”

India, where you’ll find traffic jams, cows walking the busy street, wedding party’s dancing in the midst of the traffic, and a political parade all happening on the same narrow street .

India, overwhelmingly diverse. It’s people multi lingual. It’s food assorted, lip smacking and extremely tasty.

India, a melting pot of tradition with modernism, offering a unique blend of the old with the new. Welcoming each tourist with warm hospitality into its rich tapestry of culture without any discrimination of race, religion, caste or colour. ‘Athithi Devo Bhava’ ( the guest is God) a slogan that we follow with our hearts and minds

From the mountains to the beaches, from the forts to the palaces and everything in between, there is so much to explore, discover, and see here.

India: Incredible. Intriguing. Historic. Beautiful. Mesmerizing. Mystifying.

 

 

 

Biometrics :The Checkpoint of the future.

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If you have recently travelled from any airport in the world, you would have noticed an obvious change in the entire security and boarding process. I’m talking about Biometrics here.

During the past few months, it has become clearer than ever before that biometrics technology will be at the heart of the airport of tomorrow.

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A number of international airports, including the likes of Changi Airport, SingaporeKempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and Hong Kong International Airport, have emerged as front-runners in Asia, with all three committing to major biometrics-related projects that will play a crucial role in shaping the passenger experience.

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And not just for the travellers, biometric solutions have begun revolutionizing the airport experience for all its stakeholders involved – airlines, airport operations, vendors, government, and law enforcement agencies.

Up until about five years ago, biometrics was what we used in our mobile devices. Remember using your fingerprints to unlock your phones?

facial recog

Well today biometrics and facial recognition is bent on creating a seamless digital transformation in the aviation environment. This will enable a paperless, biometric-enabled passenger journey from registration to boarding. Facial recognition technology will identify passengers as they move through the different airport touch points, removing the need to present boarding passes, travel documents or passports at every stage.

And the focus on making travellers safer and the customer experience more convenient throughout the aviation journey – everything from check-in, bag-checks and security to airport shopping is taking shape.

Security is, of course, of the utmost importance, and rightly so – given the times we live in today.

Airport Security Groups along with Customs and Border Protection personnel are working daily (and nightly) to keep our skies safe, which is why biometrics is so important to the security process.

Having the ability to instantly verify that documents are valid and to match the identity and confirmed reservation of the traveller ensures that only genuine passengers move towards the boarding gates on the other side of the security line.

Biometric security enhancements are more accurate at screening individuals as well as quicker to get the lines moving faster through security.

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With the ability to predict wait times, passengers are able to spend more time doing what they choose, from relaxing in the lounge, to visiting duty-free shops.

Big change cannot be driven solely by the technology alone. More collaboration among industry stakeholders is critical to the success of the digital revolution in commercial aviation, for a better customer experience, improved commerce, cost and time-savings, optimized security and smoother airport operations.

Next time you’re at the airport, think about how biometrics could be improving airport operations, and making your life more secure.

 

 

 

 

 

OS:NEC Today; FTE
PC:Changi Airport; CondeNestTraveller; ABC News; CNA; APEA; CNN

Beach baby or a Mountain monk?

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And this debate will be on for times to come!

This one will never have fair voting. Both locations have huge appealing qualities, and yet every person will have a strong preference for one over the other.

According to a study carried out in University of Virginia it has been revealed that being an extrovert or an introvert actually has an association with deciding the geographical location of their choice of destination.

In fact many writers have traced down a significant way to decide that people who love the beach are more outgoing, energetic and extroverts, while the ones who love the mountains are romantic, self-reserved and introverts! Which is quite an interesting perception, don’t you think?

For example, the beach may sound like an alluring place to be what with its perfectly tanned humans sipping margaritas with pretty hats and laying with umbrella sheds and unwinding near the blue ocean watching the sunset or just calming  your nerves, all by yourself . But then that does sound like the attributes of the introverts, doesn’t it?

So when you ask people what would they choose more, beach or mountains? Trust me, they couldn’t choose!  I believe most can’t, especially the ones who dream to travel the whole world.

You simply cannot frame one attribute to the entire population, each with their emotional pattern and life. But according to me, although there are so many factors deciding your destination, you will eventually go by the calling of your soul at that point of time.

So the question is more like Who You Are, NOW?

What is calling you more, right NOW?

I cannot talk for the rest of you here but I can definitely say this about me though. I just love, love, love being near the beach.

Just watching the horizon expands my mind to the realization of how small I am in the greater scheme of things.

I could spend my days near a beach doing a whole lot of creative stuff or sometimes nothing at all just gazing inwards.

Take Goa for instance, I am never ever tired of going there again and again. It’s always my ‘go to’ destination when I can think of no other.

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Whether you are looking for the quieter beaches of  Candolim and Sinquirem , in North Goa , with its hip happening and crazy night life ,or  Benaulim beach in South Goa, with  groovy  music playing in most of its bars and pubs , Goa has it all sorted.

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And then there are some days when the mountain beckons. The cool and crisp mountain air, an off-the-beaten path in the natural wonder, or a new adventure trekking the narrow pathways amidst the tall trees sounds very appealing. My last mountain vacay was when my sisters and I went to Lake Tahoe couple of years back.

mt Tallac

We took a 5 mile trek through Van Sickle Bi-State Park which offered hiking on both sides of the California-Nevada border and stunning panoramic views of the South Shore. The views of the lake and the peaks of Mt. Tallac were stunning.

The other trip ,although taken years back is still fresh in my mind. The trek through the lush green forests of Dhanaulti , a small town near Mussoorie, nestled amid the lofty Himalayan peaks, is something that is forever remembered.

Dhanaulti

Irrespective of whether you choose to travel to a beach or the mountains, it’s all about satiating your wanderlust. As long as you are with like minded people, or even alone for that matter, you can enjoy both the experiences, the all night party at the beach or the early morning vision of watching the sunrise from the top of the mountain.

 

🙂

 

What’s your take on this? Do reply in the comments.

 

 

 

PC: Travellersjoy; UttarakhandTourism; GoaTourism

Qantas ‘Project Sunrise’

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There is a palpable excitement in the air. The clock is ticking on, following the announcement that Qantas has put out on for testing an extremely long haul flight from the east coast of Australia (Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne) to London and New York.

Both Boeing and Airbus are working on providing an aircraft with ultra-long-range capabilities. The chosen plane needs to be capable of flying 10,573 miles nonstop, a journey which is pegged to take in the range of 21 hours in total.

Qantas will select the aircraft by end of this year. Till then the global attention is on the airline and speculation about its choice of aircraft is mounting.

‘Project Sunrise’ is Qantas’ goal to operate long haul research flights to gather data about both passenger and crew health on flying such a long journey. Three flights will be conducted in October, November and December and the data gathered will be used to track the health and well-being of passengers and crew members on board the approximately 19-hour long flight.

The Australian airline will carry 40 passengers and crew on two flights from New York to Sydney and another from London to Sydney.

The test passengers on the flights will mainly be Qantas employees, as well as scientists. Passengers and crew will be fitted with wearable technology devices to monitor sleep patterns and food and drink consumption, and to see how lighting, physical movement and in-flight entertainment impact their health.

For passengers the key will be in minimizing jet lag and creating an environment where they are looking forward to a restful, enjoyable flight.

For crew, it’s about using scientific research to determine the best opportunities to promote alertness when they are on duty and maximize rest during these flights.

Long-haul travel takes its toll on the body. Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots that can form particularly in the legs, is one peril. Nausea, Jet Lag and back pain from sitting for too long are another.   Airlines like Qantas will have to consider allowing more space for passengers to move if it goes ahead with its ambitious plan of across the world non- stop flight..

If all goes well, Qantas aims to operate regular, non-stop flights to London and New York from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as soon as 2022/23.

Frankly for business travellers this could be a time saver but I have my doubts whether any family with kids would be keen on taking this flight. It would be an absolute nightmare keeping the kids cooped up in such a long flight. The lack of space, boredom and sheer monotony of air travel would be such a bother even with business class seats –read flat beds.

What about you? Would you be sold to the idea of flying non- stop from Sydney to New York for 21 hours straight? Please share your views in the comments.

 

 

 

OS:SimpleFlying; AustralianAviation; Business Insider
PC: Qantas

 

 

HOW TO? Travel Tips and tricks

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How to get more comfortable airline seats:

  1. Typically “low cost” carriers have some seats with extra legroom. Book those if you want some space.
  2. Look for the good seats in economy. The exit row and bulkhead seats typically have more room than a standard seat, if you can afford them. The worst seats are the ones in the rear of the aircraft, which don’t recline.
  3. “Premium” seats cost extra, however sometimes you can get an upgrade at the gate if you are lucky.

airline seat

How to find quiet when you travel:

  1. Book where there’s less noise. The front of the aircraft is less noisy and tends to have a quieter kind of passenger (read: business travellers). On a train, look for the quiet cars. 2. Block it. Noise cancelling headsets or ear plugs are a good idea to filter out unwanted noise.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t expect to get much quiet if you’re in New Orleans around Mardi Gras or in London during the summer break, when every attraction has serpentine queues of students and adults alike.

 What you need to know about minimum connection times:

  1. Minimum connection times are initially set by a group of airlines or by an airport operating committee. The times are built into the airline reservation systems, and are specific to airports or flights.
  2. Times can change if a terminal is under construction or an airport train closes for repairs. It’s always a good idea to check your airline’s airport-specific page for any changes.
  3. They are not a guarantee that your connecting flight won’t leave without you. They are only guidelines that are meant to get you to your destination as quickly as possible

How to write an airline consumer complaint:

  1. Be precise. Include details such as your confirmation code, flight number and travel date.
  2. Explain precisely what you want. Don’t leave the airline guessing. Are you asking them to refund your checked bag fee? Or claiming a delayed baggage allowance?

 Three things airlines won’t tell you about vouchers:

  1. Most carriers will not offer cash for a delayed /cancelled flight. Instead it will try to offer to rebook the flight or give you a voucher.
  2. You may be unable to redeem the voucher on the blackout dates. Read the fine print on the voucher before you agree to it. If you don’t like the terms, ask for a better deal, or a refund.

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How to book a hotel the smart way:

  1. Start with a thorough search. Check an Online travel agency like Expedia or Booking.com or call your travel agent. Check the rate against the price your preferred hotel would charge if you book direct.
  2. Review the restrictions. Hotels can impose restrictions for booking through their site, like making their rooms non-refundable, so read the conditions closely before deciding where to go. You might be better off working with a big agency that has negotiated better terms.
  3. Check the incentives. Ask yourself if you really need the points or the upgrade.

 How to spot a fake review:

  1. Check the reviewer’s record. Fake reviews are often posted by accounts with little or no additional review history.
  2. Do check out the photos of the property either through the hotel itself or through people who have stayed on the property.
  3. If you see a one-star or a five-star rating or a lot of superlatives in the description, chances are you’re looking at a fake.

 What you need to know about an apartment hotel:

  1. Amenities. Most apartment hotels have kitchenettes, but they may not have an oven, in-room laundry facilities or separate living room area. Check the property descriptions carefully.
  2. Services. While some of them offer room service, many clean their rooms only weekly.
  3. Policies. Most properties generally don’t charge mandatory “resort” fees. But it’s important to pay attention to their cancellation policies, which can vary.

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How to get a hotel room upgrade:

  1. A special event. Honeymoons rank high on the list. Hotels will try to make your special occasion more memorable if you ask.
  2. A special circumstance. If you’re thinking of coming back to the hotel and bringing a big group with you, mention it. If you’re planning to return again in a month or a year, say something. Anything that sets you apart as a more valued customer can sway a hotel to upgrade you.
  3. A special need. Some of the larger rooms are more disability-friendly. If you need extra room to accommodate a wheelchair, or walker, the only room that might fit you is a suite. Don’t be shy about asking.

car rental

Tips for getting a vehicle when they run out of rental cars:

  1. Confirm your reservation: Contact your car rental agency a day before you arrive. Always bring your reservation confirmation to show the rate you paid. Make a printout, just in case the battery on your phone dies.
  2. Arrive on time: Check in as close as possible to the time indicated on your reservation.

How to get a refund from a travel company:

  1. Patience. Give the company at least a week to respond to your refund request and two credit card billing cycles to pay you.
  2. Persistence. Don’t let months pass by without letting the company know that your money is still missing. If necessary, set a calendar reminder so that you don’t forget.
  3. Politeness. Angry demands for a refund and threats to take a company to court almost always backfire. The company may refer your case to its legal department, where it could linger for weeks or months. Be nice!

 How to select the right travel app for your next trip:

  1. Download from a trusted source. That would be iTunes or Google Play. 2. Read the stars – and the reviews. The best travel apps should have at least four stars. Pay attention to the reviews, more so if you need the app for a specific purpose, like translating a particular language.
  2. Test for any flaws, such as consumption of too much data or battery life or even if is accessible anywhere in the world, before you take it on the road.

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How to pack select the right kind of clothes:

  1. Does it match your trip? You definitely won’t need that jacket for your beach vacation, but you surely could use a light windcheater in case it rains. Bug repellents, sunscreens, lip balms, should be the staples if you’re going on an African safari. Simplify your choices of clothes, carrying the essentials rather than over packing the suitcase.

 How to avoid getting robbed on vacation:

  1. Don’t leave your valuables, passports, laptops, ipads, cameras, cash etc in your hotel room open to view. Lock them up in the safe or the suitcase in case you are not using them.
  2. Don’t flash your jewelry, cash etc

How to not look like a tourist (even if you are one):

  1. No maps! Don’t walk around with a giant map in your hands. Instead, keep the map on your phone – and stay cool.
  2. Slow down. Tourists try to do everything in a day. If you stop running, you won’t stand out.

tourist

 

 

 

PC:Getty images;Shutterstock

 

 

Don’t let hidden costs ruin your holiday.

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Holidays are something everyone looks forward to. My family loves to travel and there is always a budget we have in mind before taking the flight out.

So if ever we are suddenly burdened with additional expenses and unforeseen costs, it irks us. Which is why it’s best to do some research, and read the fine print to build some extra padding in our travel budgets, so we can tide over those pesky hidden costs without ruining our holiday?

  • Reservation

Booking a reservation for your flight or hotel online is so common place now. But whenever you may need to speak to an agent for some clarity on your booking or finding out other details such as booking attractions/car rentals they may often charge you. Much of the times this gets included in your billing as other expenses /taxes and often goes unnoticed. Make sure you know this beforehand.

Tip: Call for clarification or to ask any questions, but book online either directly with the airline or through a third-party site like Expedia or Booking.com. Just check the total price to make sure there’s no booking fee.

  • Refund

Man proposes and God disposes. So many times we have had to cancel plans last minute due to other obligations. And then you either re book or cancel the trip completely and that’s when you end up paying hefty cancellation charges which could be almost close to the actual price of your ticket.

Tip: Some OTA’s offer a 24-hour flexible booking period, during which you can get a refund or change your flight/ hotel without penalty or incurring cancellation charges.

  • Miles

Frequent flyer programs seem to offer great deals, but they’re not so great if you have to pay extra fees for your “free flight”. In addition to fuel charges and airport fees, some airlines will charge you just to use the miles.

Tip: Avoid the fee by booking early or using miles from an airline that doesn’t have time constraints.

  • Extra baggage

Often we get carried away when shopping abroad. Make sure you are within the permissible limits of weight for you checked and cabin baggage lest you end up paying a huge amount of excess baggage charges. Some carriers in the US also charge a rate of $25 upwards per piece of baggage checked in the economy class.

 Tip: Buy yourself a luggage scale to save the hassle by checking if your luggage is overweight in advance. If your luggage is already overweight then you can adjust some things in your carry on baggage before you get to the airport or take out the extra stuff you don’t need at home instead of having to deal with it at the airport.

  •  Currency exchange

Will you exchange money before you travel or use your card to get money out of the ATM when you arrive? Do your research beforehand to ensure you get the best exchange rate. Using ATM’s abroad generally always incurs extra transaction fees each time you withdraw cash. Although some credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee, its better you check with the bank beforehand.

Tip: It’s best to travel with a credit card or cash card when travelling abroad as most establishments accept credit/debit cards.

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  • Getting to and from the airport

Check if the hotel you are staying at provides pick up and drop service from /to the airport. Make sure to check if its chargeable or part of the package.

Most cities also have public transportation such as bus or train that offer a 2 or 3 or 7 day pass which can be used both for bus and train for easy accessibility.

 

off peak

Tip: Downloading the Uber or a similar app for taxis on your smartphone is the best way to getting around in a new place.

  • Departure Fees

Most departure fees are included in your plane ticket, but not all!  There are quite a few countries that charge a departure fees even if it is not your final destination. These fees may add up quickly, especially if you are travelling to a number of places.  Find out from the airline that you are travelling with if there is any departure fees associated with your flights.

Tip: Keep some currency aside to pay for Departure tax

  • Water

Airport security is too tight to let you bring your water into the boarding area, so if you get thirsty at the gate, you can end up spending $4 or more for a bottle of water.

Have you ever noticed that vending machine prices go up after you go through security? The airport vendors know that you have limited options, and they’ll charge you accordingly. Although you can always get a complimentary beverage on the plane, but sometimes you are either too thirsty or too embaraased to ask for water often served in the small cups again and aigan

Tip: You can’t bring the water in, but an empty bottle is just fine. Pack a reusable water bottle in your carry-on bag, and fill it at a water fountain near your gate.

  • International Roaming Charges

You may or may not plan to make calls back home to family using international roaming. Ever since Whatsapp has included calling through its app it’s become very convenient to use data to make those calls . But you never know when you might need to make local calls so it’s best to take precautions.  You can save yourself a lot of time and effort and money if you contact your service provider and select a plan that allows you international roaming for calls and data use. That way you can ensure if you need to use your phone you won’t be hit with a bill that costs more than your entire holiday.

Tip: Check with your telecom service provider for rates/ plans on international roaming and buy/activate it before you leave your home country.

  • Room Service and Mini Bars

Room service and minibars are an expensive way of having the luxury of food and drink in your hotel room, some hotels have sensors in the fridge so if you even move anything you will be charged for it.  Make sure you always have a few snacks and a bottle of water (bought from the local store) in your room so you don’t get a massive mini bar bill after your stay!

Tip: Find a supermarket nearby to stock up on bottles of water/ snacks .

Hotel-minibar

  • Resort Fee

Believe it or not, many hotels will charge what is known as a “hotel resort fee” upon checkout. Often, this fee will be an extra 10% per night. Thus, even if you have already prepaid through a site like Expedia or TripAdvisor, you will have to pay an extra 10% when you checkout. It’s essentially a higher nightly rate, hidden in the fine print.

Tip: Read the fine print, and remember that all hotels must disclose this fee upon booking. Make sure to consider the fee when you decide if this hotel indeed offers a reasonable rate.

  • Tipping

Eating out at any restaurant could be extra costly depending on what country you are in, the rules relating to tipping are different and before you know it you could have spent a small fortune on service charges.

Tip: Usually anywhere between 15-20% of the bill is followed in most countries.

  • WiFi

Nobody can do without WiFi anymore. Make sure to check out the WiFi rates at your hotel while checking in. Is WiFi included in your hotel for free or is there a daily charge?  If WiFi isn’t included it might be more economical to get a data plan before hand rather than hunting around for  a free internet café or paying hefty bills on your return.

Tip: Free WiFi ranks #1 in the list of desired hotel amenities. Check out the list of amenities before you book the room. I suggest you ask your telecom service provider to suggest a plan for data roaming.

A dollar or two here may not seem like a big deal, and even a twenty dollar fee there might just sound like something you have to tolerate. But guess what? You don’t.

In the end, you can’t get out of all of these expenses, but you can adjust your planning accordingly.

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-Madhavi

 

PC: Citypress;Matador;FairFX;Tripadvisor