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Questions that can’t be answered

SmarterTravel

I get a surprising number of questions that either (1) I can’t answer without knowing far more detail than the reader provides, (2) the reader can answer as easily as I can, or (3) involves asking SmarterTravel.com to do something we don’t do. Below, you’ll find answers to common questions. Reading the answers before you ask one of these questions will save you time, and help you find the answer on your own.

Where should we go?

I’d need a 600-page book or an all-day discussion to answer this question in any sort of useful way. To be of any help at all, I’d first have to know quite a bit about you: what sort of family or group you have, what your interests are, how much time you have, what your budget targets or limitations are, whether you want luxury or simplicity, whether you prefer bright lights or solitude, what sort of activities interest you, what kind of climate you prefer, whether your grandkids or your dog will go with you, and on, and on, and on. Surprisingly, some readers who ask about where to go don’t even say where they live and will begin their trip.

Sorry, folks, the only way I can help is when you submit questions that are much more specific. If you’re totally unsure about what you want to do, my best recommendations are that you (1) read lots of travel publications, (2) log onto lots of destination websites, and (3) find a good travel agent who is skilled in handling questions like this.

When should we visit?

As with the “where” question, the “best time to visit” question depends on how you define the “best” time: lowest prices, minimum crowds, widest range of activities, warmest/coldest/driest/wettest climate, and on, and on. From a cost standpoint, the answer is almost always “in the low season,” but that might not be what you really want.

What’s the fare?

I receive this one probably more than any other, and it’s a bit surprising. If you get as far as AskEd & AnswerEd, you’re obviously already on SmarterTravel.com. And right there, on our bright new homepage, upper right, is our own fare-search gateway: you can search for airfare, hotel, car rental, vacation, and cruise prices. If you don’t like our search system, there are dozens of others.

Don’t think we have “secret” ways to get at airfares unavailable to you; we don’t. We have to go through the same sort of searches you do.

If you’re asking about a trip that the usual U.S.-based search engines don’t handle, a good place to try is ETN, where you can submit a trip anywhere in the world and have ticket agents respond with their best deals. And if you’re starting your trip in some other country, you best bet is to find a local discount travel agency, online or offline, in that country.

Can you arrange my trip/sell me a ticket?

No. SmarterTravel.com does not arrange trips or sell tickets. Any tickets.

If you’re looking just for schedule information, scroll over to the top right to “Travel Tools,” where one of the options on the drop-down menu is “Flight Schedules.” Other options include a hotel finder and links to providers that sell all types of travel.

What are the requirements?

Quite a few readers ask about various requirements and limitations, especially about air travel, but also about travel documents. You could answer almost all of these questions by simply Googling the question. Here are places to look for some of your most frequent questions:

  • Airline baggage limits: Each airline details its baggage policy online. Just log onto the airline’s site and look for a link to “baggage.” If you don’t see it on a drop-down menu, go to “site search” or “site map.” (Incidentally, when you search, the official term is “baggage,” not “luggage.” Luggage is what you buy in a store; when you put your stuff in it and take it on a trip, it becomes baggage.)
  • Allowable items in carry-on baggage: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a list of do’s and don’ts for carry-on items.
  • Passport and visa requirements: The State Department’s travel information homepage has a button for information about foreign travel by U.S. citizens and another for detailed passport information. The information button leads to detailed lists of visa requirements for entering any country in the world.
  • Is it safe to visit?

    Nobody can answer whether you’ll be “safe” visiting any foreign country—or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter. However, the State Department does compile an extensive data bank on world countries, including warnings about places to avoid and more general information about what visitors can expect. Click on “Travel Warnings” from the State Department’s travel page for information on hot trouble spots, and “Consular Information Sheets” for other places.

    Where should I complain?

    Most travel suppliers list an address for complaints, or at least a “contact us” address, somewhere on their website. You can find them easily. And you can forget about making a big fuss by sending a registered, return-receipt letter, or Express Mail to the CEO—it will wind up in the same complaint office.

    The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) makes it even easier to voice your airline complaints. Its website lists the current name, snail mail address, phone, and email address for complaint offices of all important U.S. airlines. If you want, you can submit a complaint to the DOT. And the DOT also provides extensive information about the rights you do and don’t have as an air traveler.

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