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Travel & Holiday

The American dream holiday

Travelling in the USA? Here’re tips to help you save time and money and avoid the perennial security hassles
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - November 24, 2010
By: Sheila Lim
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The American dream holiday

It seems like concerns of the much-dreaded “double-dip” are fading, and Singaporean holidaymakers are reaping a “double bonus” from the global economic fallout instead. 

Earlier this year, the value of the Euro took a tumble; now, the US dollar is meeting the same fate. Naturally, Singaporeans are pouncing on the opportunity to save a chunk on holiday expenditure, and will soon be taking off in droves for the USA during the year-end holiday season.

If you’ve already secured a tour package for your year-end holiday, good for you! But if you are making your own arrangements for a holiday in the US, read on to see how you can avoid wasting precious minutes (or hours) of your holiday stuck in transit and paying more for flights within the US, and getting all stressed up even before your holiday has started!    

Avoid the seasonal nightmares
If you are travelling during the peak holiday season, keep in mind that airports will be more congested and checking in will take longer (smaller airports see fewer flights and typically, fewer delays). This is particularly so during the winter months, when bad weather conditions may cause flight delays.

Thanksgiving
In the US, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This means it falls on 25 November this year.  As most Americans will be flocking home to celebrate Thanksgiving with their families, it also means the most frightful travel days are Wednesday (outbound) and Sunday (return).

Over the past few years, however, many American travellers heading home for Thanksgiving seem to have modified their travel habits and opted to start their journey on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving to avoid the madding crowd. However, as everyone has to return to school and work on Monday morning, there is probably no way of avoiding the crush on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.

Christmas and New Year’s Day
The peak travel season during the year-end holiday period usually begins on December 17 or later, and ends more or less on January 3.

When Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall mid-week, travellers tend to “spread themselves out” a little – some will fly the week before, some on the preceding weekend, some at the last minute, and so on.

However, as both Christmas Day and New Year's Day fall on Saturday this year, you can expect great swarms of holiday travellers descending on transport hubs all over the US mid-week before these two red-letter days. 

This year, the most popular travel dates during the Christmas period will inevitably be Thursday, December 23 and Sunday, December 26; if you can avoid travelling on those days, you’ll probably save yourself plenty of woes and money as well.

Another travel day you should avoid would be Sunday, January 2. That’s because the entire populace will be resuming work on January 3, and everyone will be scrambling home, whether by plane, train, ferry or motor vehicle!

On the other hand, if you can travel on Christmas Day or New Year's Day proper, you will almost always find empty airports and empty roads, and will be truly able to travel free and easy!

Allow sufficient time for transfers
If you need to make transfers to domestic flights upon arrival in the USA, check that you have sufficient time to do so when booking your flights. Avoiding really tight connections may save you from sprinting from one terminal to another, or worse, missing your flight and getting stranded.

Security matters
With the recent discoveries of mail bombs in two US-bound cargo planes, you can be sure The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of the USA will be stepping up its security measures further. If you plan to holiday in the USA, take the necessary precautions to minimise airport-security hassle, and disruptions to your travel plans.

Check that booking details are in order
The TSA mandates that from Nov 1, 2010, airlines must transmit Secure Flight Passenger Data (SFPD) – full name, gender and date of birth – for bookings involving travel to and from the USA. So ensure that your travel information complies with the TSA’s requirements – the SFPD must correspond exactly with the information in your passport. If there’s a mismatch in information, quickly contact your travel agent to get it rectified, otherwise you may be denied boarding or entry to the USA.

TSA locks
The Sep 11 terrorist attacks led TSA to work with several companies to develop a universal standard of locks with special codes that allow security officers to open and relock them using "master" keys, so that they do not have to resort to cutting locks during luggage inspection. These locks carry an identification mark, and are available at airports and travel stores.

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