Tourist Scams: What You Need to Know (Part 2 of 3)

Calling all travelers, explorers, vacationers, and wanderlusts who don’t want to be taken advantage of abroad:  here’s the continuation of last week’s series on scams you need to be aware of in cities around the world.

7. Forced Upgrade at a Hotel
You book and pay for your hotel online through Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, or another well-known vendor. When you arrive at the hotel, you’re told that there was a “mistake” with the online booking, that it’s all the online vendor’s fault, and that your room is not available and you have to pay for a higher-priced room if you want to stay. You either have to pay for the more expensive room or find another hotel, which is often impractical unless you know the area well.

What can you do to avoid this scam?  If you’re staying at an independent hotel that isn’t highly rated (and that you‘re unfamiliar with), try emailing them a week or two before your trip with a question, concern, or any other excuse that involves forwarding your confirmation email right along to them. Bring a printout of your correspondence with you when you check in. It will be a lot harder for them to claim that they don’t know about your existing reservation.

8. “Free Tour”
You are approached by a cab driver or tout outside your hotel and offered a free tour of a historical district or exclusive area a considerable distance away. You take them up on it after getting a nod or a shrug from the man or woman behind the reception desk. You’re then driven to a store or restaurant (owned by the cab driver’s or tout’s friend) where you’re pressured to buy expensive, inferior-quality items. When you ask about your “tour,” your scammer says it’s coming, but there are a few places he’d love for you to see first. Meanwhile you have no idea where you are and are wasting your money and time.

It’s tempting to think that in the most beautiful, least expensive countries in the world (where this scam often takes place) you can truly get “something for nothing.” Nope, nothing’s free in life, not even in these places, so stick with your planned tour and don’t let anyone “take you for a ride.”

9. “Amenity Fees”
Unscrupulous hotels will charge you an additional fee just for the use of certain things in your room, such as the safe, the microwave, the iron and ironing board, or the refrigerator. Some will charge only if these items have been used; others will charge even if you haven’t touched them. You’ll see the “fees” on the final bill and be given a bewildered look by the receptionist when asked why the use of your “amenities” don’t come with the price of the room.

If you’ve prepaid for your room through Priceline, Expedia, etc. it becomes a little harder for the hotel to assess the fees. Beware though that they might disguise the charges under a “city tax” in a city where there is no such thing. Online booking websites will usually warn you when there will a city tax to be collected at the end of your stay. At any rate, the best way to fight “amenity fees” is to print out a receipt of your reservation including all the amenities right above your room charge — or find out about and stay away from nickel-and-diming hotels by reading reviews on TripAdvisor or Hotels.com.

10. Distraction Opportunists
Lots of us are pleasantly distracted when we’re touring. We want to be unexpectedly delighted or drawn in by something new and different. Unfortunately, scammers and thieves thrive on our distraction. These scheisters often work in pairs or small groups: one person will distract you, while the other will rob you while you’re distracted.

If you’re traveling alone, you might be approached by a very attractive member of the opposite sex and offered advice, help, or the privilege of their company. While spellbound by Ms. or Mr. Hottie, another person slips something out your bag or pocket.

Scams that employ children are becoming more and more common as poverty and desperation make thievery a family affair. A smiling kid will come up to talk, sing, or “perform” for you until an adult (who may or may not be the kid’s real parent) comes up to apologize for the bother. While the parent is sweetly engaging you in their apology, the kid is robbing something out of your bag.

Another common distraction scam features scammers pretending to be hit by bicyclists, or starting to drown in the hotel pool, or otherwise the victim of some major trauma that makes everyone, including you, stop and stare — and possibly step away from your belongings. The “victim’s” friend may rush by you on their way to the scene, making a big swipe for your valuables in the process.

It's easy to get distracted on city streets in other countries.  Self-awareness, and knowledge of the most typical scams, go a long way towards keeping you safe.

It’s easy to get distracted on city streets in other countries. Self-awareness, and knowledge of the most typical scams, go a long way towards keeping you safe.

Tourist Scams: What You Need to Know (Part 1 of 3)

Few things are going to cause you stress on a trip abroad like getting cheated, duped, taken advantage of, or just plain screwed over.  When we travel, we often let our guard down, because we’re curious about people in our host country, we want to be liked, and we want to believe that we’ll be treated fairly; however, there are plenty of scammers, schemers, and slimy scheisters looking to cash in on our trust and optimism.  And when we go someplace we’re not familiar with, we’re vulnerable: we often don’t know our way around, may not be in charge of our transportation, may have very limited language skills, and may not know where to go for help.  One of the best ways to defend ourselves against scammers is to know what their tricks are, and how to avoid them — then you can go back to actually enjoying your vacation.  This special series covers 18 of the most common universal scams. 

1. Currency Swap
Many seasoned travelers keep a wary eye out for crooked cashiers and clerks around the world who give back the wrong change in bills (e.g., a 10 bill instead of a 20) in shops large and small. A less common, but more effective, scam is to give you back a 20 bill — but it’s the wrong currency. For example, a clerk in Beijing may give you back a 20 ruble note instead of a 20 yuan note. Since you see “20,” you think all is good, and don’t even notice the different currency — but the clerk has just given you something worth 1/3 of what you’re owed (and hey, who wants to visit Russia these days anyway?).

With so many countries using different size notes and distinct colors for currency (a notable exception being the U.S.) you may think it’s hard to get confused — except when you’re country-hopping, outside the Eurozone, or just in too much of a hurry to see if that somber guy drawn on your bill is from the country you’re actually in.

2. “Non-Exportable” Gifts and Souvenirs
If you’ve fallen in love with (and immediately purchased) a unique handicraft made out of natural materials such as preserved plant products or small amounts of animal skin, feathers, or fur, beware of these items being confiscated by border police — not because it’s prohibited to take such items out of the country, but because corrupt cops want to sell them back to the tourist shops (who peddle them to other unsuspecting travelers). This is a particular problem in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

What should you do? Only buy natural product/”heritage” items from larger stores that provide information (such as in a product insert) about where the product came from. A good bet is to buy such items from government-operated museums, zoos, aquariums, or the like. At the other end of this scam, remember that legitimate border police should be able to produce written regulations stating what natural product items cannot be exported.

3. The “Red-Light Bag Grab”
Think your bags are safe beside you when you’re sitting in your taxi at a red light? Not always so. In Southeast Asia, South America, and South Africa, thieves on motorbikes (or even on foot) may simply open the unlocked door across from you and grab your carry-on, briefcase, or purse. What’s worse, your innocent-looking cab driver might be in on the scam.

To reduce the risk of this scam, make sure your taxi door and the one across from you is locked — and by all means, try to avoid taxis with roof-top luggage racks which make the temptation even greater for crooks.

4. Dual Menus
A bar or restaurant can scam you by providing a menu with inexpensive prices, then taking the menu once you’ve ordered. Later you get a bill with double or triple the prices, and once you make a fuss, the manager produces a menu with the higher prices on it. This scam is most common in China and parts of Southern Europe.

A fairly straightforward way to avoid this is to simply hold onto the menu until you’re ready to pay — or better yet, stay out of bars or restaurants with too-good-to-be-true specials, and that clearly cater to tourists. Your hotel will probably be happy to tell you which restaurants in the neighborhood may give you indigestion in more ways than one.

5. “Per Person” Taxi Charge
Before you get into an unmetered taxi — especially an independently-operated taxi in a country not known for treating tourists well — ask the driver if the quoted price for you and your partner/friends is for the ride, or per person. Nothing is going to sour you and your (possibly) drunken group more than being told at your destination that you owe three or four times what you thought you did. Of course, you can always give the driver the price he gave you when you hired him, and walk away — but it’s inadvisable as you could be harassed, followed, or worse.

6. Your Passport as Security for Equipment Rental or Debt
The news that two passengers aboard Malaysian Air Flight MH370 traveled with stolen passports has generated a flurry of reports on how many passports are stolen every year — and how easily people make themselves vulnerable to such scams. It’s remarkable how many people will hand over their passport to people behind a counter in a foreign country — even for things like kayak or motorbike rental. If a clerk in a beachside or roadside establishment demands your passport — in addition to your credit card information — in exchange for equipment rental, beware. Pay cash wherever possible, demand a receipt (even handwritten) and hand over some other form of identity (such as your work badge) instead.

Next week: lodging scams, “free tours,” forced upgrades, and other things that will make you fume, rage, and rant unless you wise up.  Stay safe out there, and stay smart!

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How to Travel on a Special Diet

Lactose intolerance.  Gluten-free diets.  Low-sodium diets. Any one of dozens of food allergies… and more.   Plenty of us are on a special diet or have restrictions on what we can eat, often for medical reasons.   Some people won’t even go on long trips abroad because they’re justifiably worried that a meal could send them to the hospital — or leave them stranded in the bathroom of the Holiday Inn.  One thing is for sure: anxiety over what we eat far from home isn’t limited to concerns about food poisoning or an upset stomach.  If you find that eating abroad causes you a lot of stress, you might find the following tips helpful.

Research local dishes before you go.  Part of the highlight of going to places like South Africa, Peru, or Mongolia is to try different food — and your food allergy or diet restriction threaten to hamper your culinary exploration.  Learn more about what people eat where you’re going, before you go, to find a popular dish that will fit your diet.  Try going to http://www.eatyourworld.com for more information by country and region.  At the very least, you can find out the ingredients in several dishes, the various types of preparations, and what to definitely avoid.

Book a hotel room or suite with a kitchenette. These don’t have to be expensive, and are more prevalent overseas than you may think.   Many such hotels are found where the tourist areas meet residential districts, which means that a supermarket is usually just down the street.  I’ve noted that such hotels, though, can be very fussy about requesting that you clean up the kitchen, completely, before you go out for the day (presumably to avoid possible pest nuisances), so be prepared to do “kitchen duty” before you go out sightseeing.

When eating out, stick with basic foods.  The less sauce, fixings, and “concoction recipes” you indulge in, the safer you’ll be — even if it takes some of the fun out of it.  The best choices include plain vegetables, grilled chicken or fish, and plain rice or pasta.  The waitress will give you a bored look, but at least you’ll be able to see her again the next evening for dinner.

Don’t make assumptions at globalized restaurants.  Is it true that a burger you order at McDonald’s or TGI Friday’s abroad is 99% similar to what you get at your favorite chain at home?  Absolutely — and it’s that 1% difference that could wreak havoc on your system.  One minor additive from a local source can make you ill, so start out with small portions at that Burger King in Siberia or Hong Kong to see if you have a reaction.

Remind the airline before you board that you ordered a special meal.  How many passengers have been vexed by flight attendants who come down the narrow aisle with chicken-or-beef in one hand and no inkling of your requested special entree?  By the time you (and everyone else on board) is ready to eat, it might be too late for the crew to locate and bring you what you reserved.  Verify upon check-in or baggage drop that you will be served the special meal(s) you requested.

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The airline’s cold breakfast — possibly the most straightforward meal you’ll eat on your entire trip.

Phobias vs. Fears: Which Control us More?

At some point in our lives, most of us will develop a phobia.  Some of us will develop a few of them, actually.  Phobias come in so many forms, and many of them are so common, that most of us don’t have a problem talking about them — and they kind of ride along with us through life, like a minor sore on the back of our head.  We even joke about phobias; they’ve become part of the popular culture.   Claustrophobia.  Agoraphobia.  Arachnophobia.  Many of us would rather talk in terms of “our phobias” instead of “our fears” or “our anxiety.”  Phobias, being very specific in nature, usually have a good justification  — something that most people can relate to and talk about without needing (or wanting) to go into three hours of miserable backstory of how they “got this way.”  I have a real phobia about…  yes, that just sounds so much healthier to describe the things that, well, freak us out.

Can you name your phobia(s)?  Probably.  But can you name all your fears?  That’s undoubtedly a longer list.  We develop fears before we can even spell the word, after all.  And fear is an overused word.  I fear this, I fear that.  Technically speaking, “fear” is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  An emotion.  Interesting.  So what exactly, is a phobia?

Well, there are lots of long-winded definitions.  But a phobia is basically a fear that impairs your life.  Your unpleasant emotion had mushroomed into an aversion.

If you fear something,  you can do it, see it, or live with it anyway. If you have a phobia about something… you can’t.  You avoid it at all costs, even if you know you’re overreacting.

So would you still rather talk about your phobias than your fears?

The fact is, we can function just fine through life with a phobia or two.  We can also live normal lives with a number of fears.  But how do we tell when a particular growing fear has become a phobia?  When does that fear lead to a condition where we’re shutting down a small part of our life — or making our lives more difficult?

I knew a woman from Toronto who wouldn’t drive at night, for any reason.  She had to travel back and forth to Miami a lot for her job, and one fall afternoon her flight got delayed and she landed in Toronto at 7:30 pm.  It was a calm, dry evening, and she was staring at her car in the lot, debating.  She just had to drive to her small farm about 55 miles outside the city — a route that she knew well.  Could she do it?  No.  She wasn’t even thinking about what had caused her fear, and eventually her phobia: a friend hitting an animal at midnight some years ago, and waking up in a ditch paralyzed.  All this woman could think was: NIGHT: DRIVE: NO.  Could she have taken a cab?  You bet.  But she walked to the nearest airport hotel, and put herself up for the night.  Did this woman have a phobia?

I’ll compare her to a guy I sat next to on a flight from Casablanca to Lisbon last month. He was originally from Mali,  mid-20s,  loved to fly — and could tell me everything about the Boeing 767 we were on, bragging about the safety features as if he’d designed them himself.   He admitted, though, that he had a real “hang-up” with flying over populated areas, and explained that’s why he loved our particular flight — because it was “all ocean.” I had to inform him that no, we were going to fly — pretty low, I might add — over the entire city of Lisbon before landing.  He didn’t believe me until we blazed right over the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge, close enough to tell SUVs from cars.

Well, this guy went into a bit of a panic.  Switching seats with me, so he could be in the aisle seat, didn’t help.  But what could he do?  Nothing, except live through his phobia, and wait for the plane to not suddenly clip a building or a power line.   I thought about how, sometimes, not knowing everything about what we’re going to do is sometimes good, because you can end up looking your phobia right down the throat before you’re wound up in that anticipatory dread that helped turn the f-word into your aversion in the first place.

I didn’t tell the man this.  I asked him to think about what our plane must look like to the people on the bridge, and the roads leading to the airports.  Some of them had to fear that our plane would crash, inexplicably, into their paths, and end their ultimate journey.  But they were still driving down there, even though there were plenty of places to pull over.  They weren’t stopping.

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How to Plan a Stress-Free Family Reunion Trip

It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  Are you on your way to a nice ski resort, beach town, or vacation rental somewhere right now to reunite with your family?  Or are you squirreled away in your study, blogging and surfing so you don’t have to think about who’s coming tonight or tomorrow — or who’s already taking up too much space in your house?  Maybe your family travel plans didn’t work out — or you didn’t even try going somewhere special with your relatives because none of you could agree on where to go, to do what, and when.

Is it hard to plan a great family reunion trip?  It’s definitely a challenge — but it can be one of the most enjoyable things you do all year.  So if Thanksgiving is a lost cause by now and you think it’s a minor miracle that you and a few other members of your family even managed to show up on a relative’s door (or vice versa), remember, there’s time to plan a great reunion trip for Christmas — one that won’t lead you to your mother-in-law’s bathroom cabinet in search of Xanax.  Read on.

Get an Early Start.  Find out who’s interested in a family reunion, and if they can get time off for Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s. You might consider setting up a Facebook page and inviting family members on to discuss their availability.  Once you set a date, do everything you can not to change it, both to 1) avoid hassles with making changes to reservations, and 2) reinforce that this reunion trip will be taking place, no matter how much the cynics in your kin are doubting it.

One-near certainty: not everyone will be able to make it.  Anticipate four out of five relatives being able to join in.   Remember, that’s a lot better than 0 out of five if your uncle convinces you to shoot down the whole idea just because he’ll be in Vegas for Christmas.

Decide Who’s Invited.  Lay ground rules early on about invitation of friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc. to a family reunion.  Smaller families may be able to invite this “extended family” without hassle; larger families, probably not.

Decide Where You’re Going.  This is probably the trickiest part.  Who decides where you go?  The composition of your family helps dictate what you pick.  If the average age in your family is under 30, you’re looking less at a cabin in the woods than at a place where there’s plenty of entertainment nearby.  If half your family is from the Midwest, they might jump at the idea of a couple of apartment rentals on the beach — no matter how cold the water is.

The average age in my family is about 50 years old, and most of them are Irish (as in straight from Dublin and Galway), so… we usually end up in Reno, Nevada in front of a lot of slot machines.  Top o’ the Christmas morning to everyone!

Delegate.  If you’ve come up with the idea for a family reunion trip, then you’ve already contributed a great part and should expect family members, young and old, to help coordinate.  Go back to your reunion Facebook page and identify who can make what reservations, logistics, etc.  Since everyone has web access, no one should stick the “local” family members with most of the work.

Be Patient with the Armchair Travelers in Your Family.  Some of your relatives may be such homebodies that they aren’t even going to realize they need a pet-sitter until a couple days before they leave — or they might not even remember to ask a neighbor to keep an eye out for their house while they’re gone.  Identify who in your brood is more headcase than suitcase, and give them some tips so they don’t bail at the last minute and disappoint their kids — or yours.

Don’t Expect Everyone to do Everything Together.  Part of the beauty of planning a family reunion at a place other than one of your houses is that everyone has a different place to explore.  If you book some cabins at a ski resort for the week, for example, don’t be surprised if some family members skip out on supper to have some more time on the slopes.  If everyone is having a good time, then family reunions will lose their groan-inducing capacity and you’re more likely to see your happy relatives next year, and the year after that.   So don’t take down your Facebook family reunion travel page after the holidays — and be thankful that we have so many different, beautiful places to go with our loved ones.

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Kazakhstan: An Undiscovered Gem for the Stressed-Out Traveler

There are a lot of misperceptions about Kazakhstan, a large, landlocked country in Central Asia.  Most people hear “-stan” at the end of the name and figure it’s an extension of one of those countries that you wouldn’t be caught dead in, much less choose for a vacation destination.  Wrong… Kazakhstan is a delight, a place worth the verrry long plane ride and the few words of Russian you’ll need to make your way around the city.  Love peace and quiet?  Hate tourist crowds? Want good value for your travel money, and to meet wonderful locals who are some of the nicest hosts in the world?  Want to discover a place after Europe, East Asia, and the tropics are getting their “been there, done that” feeling?  Try Kazakhstan.  Yes, it is cold, as I found out in the snow flurries of early October, and there’s no Hop-on Hop-off bus service (yet) — all the more reason to gear up and stay warm by taking a brisk walking tour.  Just don’t be like me and take 500+ photos in one day.  But, do enjoy this virtual tour.

The Central Mosque

The Central Mosque in Astana

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation beckons across the river in Astana

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation beckons across the river in Astana

Astana has much of the glitz of a casino city -- without all the temptations to gamble.

Astana has much of the glitz of a casino city — without all the temptations to gamble.

The Khan Shatyr megamall stands tranquilly on the steppe, disguised as a yurt.

The Khan Shatyr megamall stands tranquilly on the steppe, disguised as a yurt.

Inside, the inspiring structure and upscale shops offer some serious (retail) therapy.

Inside, the inspiring structure and upscale shops offer some serious (retail) therapy.

Here's Ms. Nara herself, dressed for some 37-degree October weather.

Here’s Ms. Nara herself, dressed for some 37-degree October weather.

Need a beautiful place to be alone together?  There's plenty of that in Astana.

Need a beautiful place to be alone together? There’s plenty of that in Astana.

Almaty, Kazakhstan's more cosmopolitan city, is a site of domes, white buildings, and pretty blue skies.

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s more cosmopolitan city, is a site of domes, white buildings, and pretty blue skies.

Want a great aerial view of the Himalayas, without taking the hike of a lifetime?  Take a flight from Delhi to Almaty instead.

Want a great aerial view of the Himalayas, without taking the hike of a lifetime? Take a flight from Delhi to Almaty instead.

Holiday Travel? No Need to Unravel… How to Beat Air Travel Stress this Coming Season

Many of us don’t like to think about the holidays the week after Halloween — there are still some leaves on the trees, after all, and summer is still vivid in our minds, and we have so much to do… and in a few weeks everything will be happening so fast.  There are plenty of sources of anxiety as the year slowly winds down: concerns about violent weather and flu season wreaking havoc on your plans; worries about not being able to afford the gifts this year that loved ones are hoping for; having to visit a relative you don’t necessarily like; seasonal depression (either your own or affecting someone you love); or bad memories of past holidays.  Don’t let worries about 16-hour flight delays, lost luggage, exorbitant hotel costs, and other holiday travel headaches get you down faster than your clock falls backward.  This is a great time to think about making the most of your holiday air travel — especially if you’re still finalizing your plans.  Here are some recommendations.

Expect a delay at (or before) the security checkpoint.  Thanks to the tragic shooting of a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official yesterday at LAX, we can expect screening delays at American airports of anywhere between 10-30 minutes for the foreseeable future.  It’s too early to tell if U.S. airports will start to implement screening stations just to get into the airport (think Ataturk Int’l in Istanbul or Sheremetyevo in Moscow), which would be a huge expense and probably be met with a lot of public resistance.  At any rate, if you’re traveling within or from the U.S. this season, don’t expect TSA agents to be full of yuletide cheer… and don’t be surprised if there are more random personal checks before you even line up near the conveyor belts.

Lay over in fair-weathered cities, even if it takes you out of your way.  Does it sound ridiculous to lay over in Houston or Atlanta when you’re traveling from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine?  It won’t if you avoid a storm that shuts down Chicago, Denver, or Detroit for 12+ hours.   If you’re going somewhere that doesn’t have much direct flight service, choose a layover city that’s unlikely to be affected by weather delays (and remember, going a bit out of your way will add nicely to your frequent flyer miles).

Shop for gifts at your destination.  These days, it’s become popular to mail holiday gifts to your destination ahead of you rather than pack them in checked luggage (with airlines charging upwards of $75 per extra checked bag)  with risk of items being damaged or stolen (mainly by airline baggage handlers).  But mailing big boxes to your destination can be time-consuming before you leave, and can cause some confusion if you’re sending to a hotel rather than the home of a family member or friend.  A great alternative?  Do your holiday shopping once you arrive at your destination.  It gives you something very practical to do to escape 1) the claustrophobic environment at an in-law’s or sibling’s home, or 2) the temptation to sit around the house for six hours straight (with people you actually do like) and eat or drink way too much.

You might be worried that “all the good stuff will be gone” from the stores if you wait to shop until a couple days before a major holiday.  Keep in mind that with so many people buying online these days, stores run out of stock less frequently than they used to. Also, the holiday season is very short this year, since Thanksgiving is so late in November, so you’ll be in good company milling around malls at the time that Santa is starting to go hoarse.

Stay at a business hotel. Hotels in major cities often cut their rates around the holidays just because there aren’t as many people traveling for work (does your company send you to Minneapolis or Toronto to meet with new clients on 12/23 or 12/31?).  Yes, business hotels aren’t as festive or homey as the places down the street with wisps of mistletoe between the chandeliers, but if you’re on a budget, you’ll certainly appreciate not paying $200 per night — and there’s probably some decent eggnog down in the bar next to the conference center.

Deal with a cancellation or delay using every means possible. In instances where your flight is canceled and you’re told by the airline to “wait” for instructions or further information, I strongly advise taking a triple-tiered approach if you’re desperate to get where you need to go.  Get in the nearest ticketing line to find out more about your predicament and options — and at the same time, phone up the airline’s customer service and use your handheld device to go on their website as well.  Sound aggressive or redundant?   I’ve done it several times throughout my travels and avoided getting stranded in Dublin, Zurich, and Buenos Aires.  (And if you’re curious — in Dublin the airline website approach worked, in Zurich the airline phone hotline attendant solved my travel woes, and in Buenos Aires the handsome porteño at kiosk 5 had me successfully on my way.)

Be prepared for the unexpected: standing out on the tarmac in the rain or snow.  Why is it that, more and more often, we’re checking in at gates where we’re bussed off to our plane sitting 75 feet from the runway?  This seems to be a particular problem in Southern Europe and North Africa, and means you can get stuck in the rain or snow outside the terminal if there’s a delay.  In Rome early last month I stood out on the tarmac next to the plane for almost a half hour — at the tail-end of a thunderstorm — because the guy driving the bus from the gate didn’t get good instructions on when the plane was ready to board.  Some of us (including me) were sorry that we’d shoved our jackets and hats into our checked luggage so we could have more space for our duty-free purchases in the cozy airport.  Learn from us, and be prepared for a “runway rendezvous” in the cold, just in case.

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Keep your warm clothes on hand in case of unplanned delays in unexpected places, and you won’t be as bitter as last year’s fruitcake by the time you land