It’s shaping up to be a record-breaking year for summer travel.
Airlines for America, an industry trade group, is expecting about 234 million passengers to travel worldwide on U.S. airlines between June and the end of August, the highest number ever, and up 4 percent over last summer. Indeed, Dallas Fort Worth International, one of the nation’s busiest airports, is predicting that some 18 million people will pass through — more than any other summer. At the same time, the vacation rental site Airbnb is projecting that this will be its biggest summer to date by a wide margin.
Despite recent world events, more Americans than ever plan to go abroad. The State Department is expecting an unprecedented 20 million passport applications this year. Allianz Global Assistance, an insurance provider, said that while some travelers wanted to cancel visits in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Britain, London and Paris are among Americans’ most popular European summer travel destinations. (In May, Allianz predicted that both cities will see a year-over-year spike in the number of summer travelers, up 37 percent in London and 29 percent in Paris.)
With crowded roads and airports, not to mention destinations (international visitors continued to come to the United States in April despite President Donald Trump’s executive orders on travel and immigration, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Travel Association), a little preparation can make all the difference. Below, a guide to what you need to know for (relatively) smooth summer travel, including what local laws about car- and ride-sharing are, if rules about laptops on airplanes have changed, how to get travel and weather alerts, and whether insurance policies cover events such as terrorist attacks.
Bringing a Laptop
In March, laptops and other large electronic devices were banned from the cabins of flights to the United States originating in airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries because of concerns that the Islamic State was developing a bomb that could be hidden in portable devices. Since then there’s been talk of the ban being expanded to more airports. In June, John F. Kelly, the Homeland Security secretary, told a House of Representatives panel that he was considering adding 71 more airports in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to the ban if they don’t adhere to additional security measures. At the moment, large electronic devices are allowed in the cabins of most flights, but if the ban is extended, passengers will have to check them.
To keep abreast of the situation, you can follow Homeland Security on Twitter at @DHSgov and the Transportation Security Administration at @TSA. For questions about anything you’re considering taking onto an airplane, check out the TSA’s “What Can I Bring?” webpage. You can also snap a photo of an item you’re wondering about and send it to @AskTSA on Twitter or to Facebook.com/AskTSA.
Preparing Your Passport
The TSA has been using social media to remind travelers about rules, including the fact that some countries require that your passport be valid at least six months beyond your date of entry (entry and exit requirements for various countries are at Travel.state.gov/destination), and that there are differences between a passport agency and an acceptance facility (an agency can expedite a passport for $60 for travel within 14 days; an acceptance facility requires about six to eight weeks). Details are at Passports.state.gov.
The TSA also advises travelers to have their passports and boarding passes out before they approach security lines to keep things moving.
To find out about crime or violence, unstable governments, terrorist attacks, strikes and demonstrations and health concerns (like an outbreak of H1N1), check the State Department’s website or social media accounts (Twitter.com/travelgov and Facebook.com/travelgov). And before you travel, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, a free service that ensures you’ll receive information from an embassy or consulate about safety conditions. Signing up (Step.state.gov/step/) also helps an embassy contact you in an emergency like a natural disaster or civil unrest.
During a crisis, you can use Facebook’s Safety Check feature to let loved ones know you’re OK and to see if they’re safe as well. The feature was introduced in 2014, but Facebook recently updated it, and users can now include a personal message.
It’s hurricane season in the Atlantic through Nov. 30, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters say the region may experience an above-normal season (last year was the most active since 2012). For the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins, NOAA is predicting an 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season. The National Weather Service does not provide email or SMS alerts to the public, but it does issue alerts and warnings through other means, including NOAA Weather Radio and Weather.gov. On Twitter, the service’s hurricane information is @NHC_Atlantic and @NHC_Pacific. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s mobile app allows National Weather Service alerts for as many as five locations.
Insurance and Terrorism
After the recent terrorist attacks in London, Allianz said it received more than 100 claims from U.S. travelers wanting to cancel their trip to Britain. A travel insurance policy may cover travel delays and trip interruptions related to terrorism; just read the fine print regarding travel dates and locations. Allianz, for example, provides coverage if there is a terrorist incident at the traveler’s destination within 30 days of their arrival.
To assess your options, comparison sites like Squaremouth.com allow you to search for policies with terrorism coverage from multiple providers.
Precautions for Drivers and Ride-Sharers
Services like Turo and Getaround offer cars for rent by locals (by the hour or by the day) although Consumers’ Research recommends that you be prepared for hiccups with newer peer-to-peer businesses. And do your homework. A Getaround rental, for instance, includes insurance and roadside assistance. But find out what situations the insurance covers. If you’re ride-sharing, Consumers’ Research suggests that you make sure it’s legal in your destination and check prices. In some places ride-sharing may cost more than a taxi.
Taking your own car? Before hitting the road, have the battery tested and tires inspected. And bring a spare key. Dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts are the top reasons AAA members call for assistance during the summer. AAA advises traveling with an emergency kit that includes a phone charger, flashlight and first-aid supplies.
The free AAA app allows users to request roadside assistance and find low gas prices and AAA Approved and Diamond-rated hotels and restaurants.