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Travel News: Snakes on a Plane?

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TSA Finds Python Hidden In Hard Drive

ABC News reports airport security agents stopped a woman from boarding a plane with a python wrapped in a nylon stocking concealed in a computer hard drive Sunday. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said its agents stopped a real-life version of “Snakes on a Plane” from happening after an agent noticed the ball python. “A traveler on her way to the Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) in Barbados attempted to smuggle the snakelet inside of an external hard drive packed in her checked bag. If you think airplane seats can feel constricting, imagine how this little guy felt! Talk about bad memories!” the TSA continued. “While the python itself posed no danger to anyone on the aircraft, an organic item concealed inside electronics raises security concerns, which is why our officers took a closer look. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was notified. They responded and took possession of the snake and cited the traveler. Both the traveler and the snake missed their flight,” the TSA added. “Conversationally, this python had not gone full monty. It was wearing a nylon stocking.”

If You Owe The IRS It Could Cost You Your Passport

EtN reports if you have a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS can certify that debt to the State Department for action, and that department generally will not issue a US passport to a potential traveler after receiving certification from the IRS. This is all in plain print at the IRS website: “Upon receiving certification, the State Department shall deny your passport application and/or may revoke your current passport. If your passport application is denied or your passport revoked, and you are overseas, the State Department may issue you a limited validity passport good only for direct return to the United States. Seriously delinquent tax debt is an individual’s unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $51,000 (including interest and penalties) for which a Notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under IRC § 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted, or seriously delinquent tax debt is limited to liabilities incurred under Title 26 of the United States Code and does not include debts collected by the IRS such as the FBAR Penalty and Child Support.

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Anguilla Retains Best Caribbean Island Ranking

Travel + Leisure reports the Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) is pleased to announce that for an unprecedented second year in a row, Anguilla has been ranked #1 island in the Caribbean, Bermuda and Bahamas in the 2018 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, honoring the top travel destinations and companies around the globe as rated by its readers. Frangipani Beach Resort has been ranked #1 in the Top 25 Caribbean Resort Hotels category and #3 in the Top Hotels Overall category. The Four Seasons Resort & Private Residences Anguilla has been ranked #12 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category; Zemi Beach House was ranked #15; and Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort was ranked #18 in the Top Caribbean Resort Hotels category. The World’s Best Awards appear in the August 2018 issue of Travel + Leisure, on sale July 27, and online: travelandleisure.com/worlds-best.

Singapore Airlines To Launch Non-Stop Flights From LAX To Singapore

By Christmastime, Singapore Airlines will be flying ten times a week between LAX and Singapore. If you don’t mind sitting on a plane for 17 and a half hours, getting from the West Coast to Singapore will be a whole lot easier and faster, thanks to the elimination of a layover in Seoul. Starting November 2, Singapore Airlines will bring back its nonstop route from Los Angeles International to Singapore Changi. The airline will will fly the route three times a week (Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday) until November 9; service will go daily after that. From December 7, three more flights a week will be added for ten total non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Singapore per week. The fall kickoff date is notable for many reasons: It’s two weeks after Singapore restarts its longest-flight-in-the-world Newark-Singapore route (clocking in at nearly 19 hours), and just a week after Star Alliance member United ends its LAX-Singapore route. 
 

Airlines Load Factor Hits All-Time High

Forbes reports that if you think that airline flights are much more crowded than they used to be, you’re not wrong. The passenger load factor of commercial airlines has risen significantly over the past decade. In 2005, airlines had an average load factor of 75.2%, so on average, just three out of every four seats were sold. The recession of 2007-2010 stopped load factor growth. But by 2018, the average airline load factor hit 81.7% worldwide. In the US load factor has increased on domestic flights from 67.88% in 2002 to 86.08% in 2018, while the number of domestic flights has stayed almost constant, from 8,085,083 in 2002 to 8,176,610 in 2017. The US airline industry has clearly gotten better in filling seats as revenue passenger miles rose from 471,652,206 in 2002 to 684,221,393 in 2017. The days of having a whole row to stretch out in coach, or even an empty middle seat separating you from your neighbor, increasingly seem like a distant memory. The airlines are busy shrinking seats and cramming in additional rows into smaller, more fuel-efficient jets.

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Amtrak Service Declines As It Becomes An Airline On Rails

Travellers United reports Amtrak service is becoming more airline-like with a former airline executive in charge, former Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. His Amtrak service changes bring the railroad closer to service practices in the airline industry. Some of the changes: – Hot dining car meals prepared on-board, included in the fare for first-class sleeping car passengers, are being replaced with cold pre-prepared meals served in-room on the Chicago-New York and Chicago-Washington routes starting June 1.

– Amtrak no longer offers discounts to veterans, students and AAA members, and the minimum age of eligibility for the senior discount (which is now 10% rather than 15% was raised to 65 from 62.

– The railroad’s cancellation policy is now more airline-like. There is now a 25% penalty for most reservations canceled more than 24 hours after booking, even if the value is credited to the passenger as an eVoucher (redeemable for future ticket purchases) rather than as a cash refund. Luckily, Amtrak still does not charge change fees.

– First Class amenities like a lounge car for sleeping car passengers have been removed from several routes, and two routes have lost Business Class seating.

– A number of stations have lost their Amtrak Customer Service Representative(s), employees who do everything from selling tickets to handling baggage and assisting passengers with special needs.

– Amtrak has stopped operating charter and special trains in partnership with rail museums and preservation nonprofits, tour groups, sports teams and others, jettisoning a source of revenue and public goodwill in the name of operational convenience.

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Ethiopia Launches New E-Visa Services

Ethiopia, a treasure trove of history and culture, has become easier to get to with an all in one new e-visa service launched by the Ethiopian Immigration and Nationality Affairs Main Department in collaboration with Ethiopian Airlines. The new service brings the travelers closer to authentic travel experiences and enables them to travel to Ethiopia. All the visitors have to do is process their visa online on a single webpage where they apply, pay and secure their entry visa online. Give it a try and you will get authorized via email to secure your passport stamped with visa upon arrival at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport. Call Willamette Intl Travel to discuss a unique holiday in Ethiopia – you’ll be sure to love this beautiful country and the warm-hearted hospitality of its people.  

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Travel News: Will Hawaii get its Inter-island Ferry back?

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Alaska Airlines To Keep Current Loyalty Program
In a year full of bad news for frequent flyers (see Delta/Alaska fallout), Alaska appears to be stepping up, bucking the trend, and doubling down on Mileage Plan, its loyalty program. It’s the only remaining airline loyalty program that doesn’t have a revenue component attached to it.
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Will Hawaii Gets Its Interisland Ferry Back?
The Hawaii State Department of Transportation received a US$500,000 grant from the federal Maritime Administration to hire consultants to explore potential routes and boats for an inter-island ferry. But would it work this time? By all accounts, environmentalists were the reason the Hawaii Super Ferry was shut down, but some speculated the airlines were also behind the demise of this alternate mode of inter-island travel. Right now, roundtrip airfare between most islands is around $US300, although there are a few lesser-costing modes of travel on small turbo-prop planes. To put this into perspective, for US$600 roundtrip, one could fly from the US East Coast to Europe (around 3,500 miles from New York to the UK), while the furthest distance in the major Hawaiian Islands is from Kauai to the Big Island – a distance of only 305 miles. The Hawaii Superferry launched in December 2007 and was forced to shut down in March 2009. It subsequently had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with debts that included $135.8 million owed to MARAD which had provided construction financing guarantees.
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Atlantis Resorts Coming to O’ahu
The extravagant Atlantis Resorts announced plans to develop a resort project in Ko Olina on O’ahu. It’s expected to be built near Disney’s Aulani Resort, and will mimic Atlantis the Palm in Dubai. There will likely be numerous restaurants, nightclub, spas, aquarium, waterpark, and waterfront hotel rooms—but for now, all of that is speculation. Ko Olina developer Jeff Stone said that it will be designed as an “international destination for millennial travelers,” so it is unknown how much the resort will reflect the local ecosystem and culture.

Uber Is Losing Lots Of Money
Uber generated $3.76 billion in net revenue the first 3 quarters of 2016, but it is estimated that the bottom line will be a loss of more than $2.2 billion, with $800 million of that in the third quarter. By year end, it is expected that Uber will have netted US$5.5 billion. The company has tried to keep its financial information from public consumption, however, an anonymous source has revealed this data, which also shows that the San Francisco-based company is valued at a whopping $69 billion. That’s more than Twitter and General Motors combined.

Sandals Opening Fourth Resort In St Lucia
Sandals Resorts International has announced its plan to add a fourth resort to its award-winning list of properties on the Eastern Caribbean island. The Sandals brand has enjoyed tremendous success in St Lucia since 1993 when it made its first foray there and the newest resort, to be named Sandals LaSource St Lucia, will by all indications be a game changer. Groundbreaking for the new resort which will be nestled on 19 acres of land next to the existing Sandals Grande St Lucian Resort is set to begin in spring 2017. With the addition of this new resort, guests in St Lucia will now have the option of ‘Staying-at-One, Playing-at-Four’. Sandals LaSource St Lucia will boast an exotic infinity-edge sky pool bar offering picturesque views of the island’s beautiful north coast, 350 rooms and suites inclusive of the exotic SkyPool Butler Suites and all-butler signature swim-up Rondoval Suites, a first in the chain. The new resort will also feature an electrifying entertainment package to include a main stage with a 20′ high LED screen and a mobile DJ party scene.

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Lie-Detecting Robot Is The Customs Officer Of The Future
Travelers in the US and Canada may soon be forced to undergo a lie detector test as a standard part of airport security. The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested by the Canadian Border Services Agency and the US Department of Homeland Security. The robot, programmed to look for physiological changes that indicate lying through eye-detection software and other sensors, could help border agents catch terrorists or drug traffickers, according to San Diego State University researchers. “AVATAR is a kiosk, much like an airport check-in or grocery store self-checkout kiosk,” San Diego State University management information systems professor Aaron Elkins told SDSU’s News Center. The kiosk has a face on the screen that asks questions of travelers and can detect changes in physiology and behavior during the interview. The system can detect changes in the eyes, voice, gestures and posture to determine potential risk. It can even tell when you’re curling your toes. Passengers would be made to step up to the kiosk, then answer a series of questions such as, “Do you have fruits or vegetables in your luggage?” or “Are you carrying any weapons with you?” If lying is detected, a passenger is taken aside for further screening. Passengers are also asked a series of simple questions to measure whether they are simply anxious about flying. Elkins believes the kiosk, which he says is bilingual and polite, could be used not just for border security, but also for law enforcement and even job interviews. “AVATAR has been tested in labs, in airports and at border crossing stations,” Elkins explained. “The system is fully ready for implementation to help stem the flow of contraband, thwart fleeing criminals, and detect potential terrorists and many other applications in the effort to secure international borders.”

Some US Airlines Reducing Flights To Cuba
The Jamaica Gleaner reports some airlines in the United States are reducing flights to Cuba, with Silver Airways planning to trim its flight schedule to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country early in the new year. Silver Airways has become the second US airline to reduce the frequency of flights to Cuba. Between January and February, Silver Airways, which flies out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, plans to reduce the number of flights on six of its nine destinations to Cuba. The frequency of flights from FLL to Camagüey, Cuba will be reduced from five weekly trips to three; to Cayo Coco, Cuba from three weekly flights to two; to Holguín, to three per week instead of one daily flight; to Manzanillo, from three weekly flights to two; and to Varadero, Silver will trim its four weekly flights to three. Flights to Santiago, Cuba will also be reduced in February from one daily flight to three per week. Silver Airways, which does not offer flights to Havana, Cuba began regular flights to the island in September. The Silver Airways flights reduction follows American which announced in November that it would cut nearly a quarter of its flights to Cuba early next year due to poor demand. American, the US carrier with most flights to Cuba, had scheduled five daily flights to Havana and 56 weekly flights to other Cuban cities. But just over a month into operation, many of the flights were going half empty.

Port Everglades Gets Green Light To Deepen Channels
Port Everglades has received federal authorization for the US Army Corps of Engineers to move forward with a plan to deepen and widen navigation channels. The approval came as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, signed into law Dec. 16 by the President. The project, currently in the preconstruction engineering and design phase, can now proceed through the permitting and federal funding processes. It is anticipated to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and nearly 1,500 permanent direct jobs locally resulting from additional cargo capacity. Port Everglades received authorization for more than $335 million in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act earlier this month. The new legislation allows the port to take advantage of the expansion of the Panama Canal and receive the larger, neo-Panamax cargo ships. The project addresses safe shipping requirements as older cargo fleets are replaced with much larger ships that require wider channels and deeper water. Larger cargo ships currently arrive from Europe and South America lightly loaded and can experience difficulty maneuvering safely when other ships are berthed in some of the port’s narrower channel areas. Key features are to deepen the main navigational channels from 42 feet to 48 feet (plus one-foot required and another one-foot allowable overdepth for a total of 50 feet), and to deepen and widen the entrance channel and parts of the Intracoastal Waterway so that cargo ships can pass safely by docked cruise ships.

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Korean Air Crew To Be Allowed To Use Stun Guns On Passengers
Korean Air Lines has said it will allow crew members to “readily use stun guns” to manage in-flight disturbances, after being criticised by US singer Richard Marx for its handling of an incident involving a violent passenger. The South Korean carrier also said on Tuesday it will beef up security training of crew members. Last week, Marx said on Facebook and Twitter he helped initially subdue “a psycho passenger attacking crew members and other passengers”. He also accused crew members of being “ill-trained” and “ill-equipped” to handle the “chaotic and dangerous event”. Korean Air Lines said on Tuesday its crew members were “hesitant” to use taser guns because they were permitted for use in only “grave” situations which jeopardise the life of a passenger or crew member or the safety of a flight.

Gatwick Prepares For Major Terminal Shake-Up
Gatwick Airport is advising passengers to check the terminal of their airline as three of its major airlines prepare to switch in January. British Airways will move to the South Terminal, Virgin Atlantic will move to the North Terminal, and easyJet, which currently operates out of both terminals, will consolidate its entire operation in the North Terminal. The move will be the airport’s biggest project to date and took two years to plan. The relocation will be staggered over three days with all three airlines operating a reduced flying programme designed to simplify the upheaval. Around 50,000 passengers will be travelling with the three airlines on the 277 flights that will be relocating across the 72 hours. From 24 January all easyJet flights will depart from the North Terminal, while from 25 January British Airways flights will depart from the South Terminal and Virgin Atlantic flights will depart from the North Terminal. Gatwick said the changes will improve passenger experience with state-of-the-art technology at check-in, security and immigration as well as new bag-drop zones. It will also bring new British Airways and Virgin Atlantic lounges. Gatwick’s COO said “We are ready to deliver this major step in Gatwick’s strategic transformation programme. The moves have been meticulously planned for more than two years, with close attention given to ensuring that the airport operation and the experience of our passengers is not affected during the transition. Relocating the airlines allows greater efficiency and positions all three carriers for growth, which in turn drives Gatwick’s growth. For our passengers, investment at every step of their journey through the terminal will be hugely beneficial.”

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This Week in Travel News

Delta begins flights Portland to London nonstop next May!

Starting May 26, Delta Airlines will operate a Portland to London nonstop flight! The PDX-LHR will fly Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, departing 5pm arriving at 10:50am the next day. The return London to Portland operates Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Monday, departing 12:30pm arriving at 3:15pm. Airplanes will land at Terminal 4 in Heathrow.

Alaska Airlines launches new nonstop Portland to Newark from November

From November 10 Alaska will fly a daily nonstop Portland to Newark flight.This new PDX to EWR route continues the airline’s expansion of its Portland hub which includes other recently added destinations such as Minneapolis; Kansas City, Missouri; Orlando; Omaha, Nebraska; and Atlanta. “We thank the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for their efforts to increase competition in the New York metro area,” said John Kirby, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of capacity planning. “Since 2015, Alaska has launched 28 new routes from our West Coast hubs and focus cities. With our new expanded service to Newark, we continue to grow our West Coast footprint by offering our valued customers more nonstop flights to popular business and leisure destinations.” 

Travel + Leisure Says Paul Gauguin Cruises The #1 Midsize-Ship Ocean Cruise Line”

Paul Gauguin Cruises, operator of the highest-rated and longest continually sailing luxury cruise ship in the South Pacific, the m/s Paul Gauguin, is pleased to announce that the line was awarded “#1 Midsize-Ship Ocean Cruise Line” by readers in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2016. The annual readers’ survey reveals favorite cities, hotels, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, airports, and more. Cruise ships are rated in categories of cabins/facilities, restaurants/food, service, itineraries/destinations, excursions/activities, and value. In 2015, Paul Gauguin Cruises was voted by readers “#2 Small-Ship Ocean Cruise Line” in the Travel + Leisure 2015 World’s Best Awards. The line was also voted “#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line” and “#1 Small-Ship Cruise Line for Families” by readers in the Travel + Leisure 2014 World’s Best Awards. More recently, Paul Gauguin Cruises was awarded #2 in the category of “Top Small Cruise Lines” in the Condé Nast Traveler 2015 Readers’ Choice Awards and recognized on the publication’s 2016 “Gold List.” 

United Airlines, TSA To Modernize Airport Screening Experience At Hub Cities

As part of a joint initiative with TSA to improve the overall screening experience for customers, United will install state-of-the-art, automated security lanes, add permanent TSA Precheck® enrollment centers at convenient locations and redesign security checkpoints at several of the airline’s most-frequented hub airports. United will debut the automated lanes at Newark Liberty International Airport this fall. When United, in collaboration with the TSA, completes the installation, the entire centralized security checkpoint at Terminal C in Newark Liberty will feature 17 automated lanes.

Seabourn Launches South Pole Treks

Seabourn is introducing pre-cruise excursions to the South Pole with select ‘Antarctica & Patagonia’ itineraries during the 2016/17 season. Travelers bound for the White Continent aboard Seabourn Quest can extend their adventure with two new packages that also travel to UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The packages are ‘Polar Quest & Patagonia’ and ‘Polar Quest, Tierra del Fuego & Iguazu Falls.’ Both include stays at Union Glacier Camp in the southern Ellsworth Mountains, one of a few private seasonally occupied camps in Antarctica. Operated by land-based tour operator Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions, the full-service camp offers spacious, double-occupancy sleeping tents; freshly prepared gourmet cuisine; and a spectacular setting for activities from scenic excursions to technical climbs and ski tours. The 14-night ‘Polar Quest & Patagonia’ includes a trans-Antarctic flight and landing at the South Pole and an exploration of UNESCO World Heritage Site Torres del Paine National Park in southernmost Chile. Participants can choose from a variety of included excursions providing daily opportunities to explore the various environments, including blue ice pools, raw glacial moraines and abundant wildlife, from guanacos to Andean condors. Departures in December and January. 

Celebrity Equinox To Leave The Med In 2017

Celebrity Cruises will enter a competitive year-round Caribbean market in 2017 as the company has pulled the 2,850-passenger Celebrity Equinox out of the Western Mediterranean for the 2017 summer. Instead, the ship will sail a variety of itineraries from Miami, including seven-night cruises in June, July and August with Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries offered. Beginning next April, the 2,850-passenger ship will offer a total of 24 cruises from its new homeport, including seven-night itineraries between June and August, and 10- and 11-night itineraries throughout the rest of the year. In addition to a year-round presence in the Caribbean, Celebrity will debut a new family program with an array of new enrichment options for kids. “Summer Camp at Sea” will include activities such as video creation, cooking classes and marine biology lessons. The new “Taste of the Caribbean” program will feature complimentary activities like cooking and mixology demos, rum and reggae parties on the Lawn Club, and brunch and bubbles. Foodies can even splurge on more exclusive experiences such as a fresh pasta and mozzarella making class with lunch in Tuscan Grille, and a five-course tasting dinner with Celebrity chefs.

Port Everglades Cruise Terminal Adds BorderXpress Kiosks

Port Everglades and its cruise line partners have announced the opening of two BorderXpress Automated Passport Control kiosks at the Florida cruise terminal. As part of a three-month pilot program, officials from Port Everglades, the United States Customs and Border Protection agency and the Vancouver Airport Authority have added the BorderXpress kiosks to increase passenger processing rates following cruises. The self-service BorderXpress kiosks will be available to users at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing area at Port Everglades, and will feature on-screen instructions to speed up the customs declaration process. 

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Travel News: Update on the REAL ID Act

There have been a lot of recent updates in the news covering the REAL ID Act and  acceptable travel identification for US-citizens. We’re happy to share the latest with our readers here on our blog, and to clear up any confusion. Contact your Willamette Intl Travel agent if you have more questions. 

Use Of Acceptable ID By The TSA
The following is from the website of the TSA as of this morning, January 8th. If traveling by air, residents from ANY state are still able to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry cards, U.S. military IDs, airline or airport-issued IDs, federally recognized, and tribal-issued photo IDs). Adult passengers 18 and over must show valid identification at the airport checkpoint in order to travel.

Rumors And Facts

Rumor: TSA isn’t going to accept my driver’s license starting on January 1, 2016
Fact: DHS is in the process of scheduling plans for REAL ID enforcement at airports and will ensure that the traveling public has ample notice- at least 120 days- before any changes are made that might affect their travel. If traveling by air, residents from ANY state are still able to use a driver’s license, or any of the various other forms of identification accepted by the Transportation Security Administration (Passport or Passport Card, Global Entry cards, U.S. military IDs, airline or airport-issued IDs, federally recognized, and tribal-issued photo IDs. See the full list on the TSA website.)

Rumor: I need to get a new driver’s license or passport
Fact: The REAL ID Act places the responsibility for action on the state, not residents of the state. Overall, states have made considerable progress in meeting this key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission to make driver’s licenses and other identification more secure. Every state has a more secure driver’s license today than before the passage of the Act.

Our agents at Willamette Intl Travel stay informed and up-to-date with all current travel trends and news. Subscribe to our blog for weekly updates, or email info@wittravel.com to sign up for our e-blast list and receive deals and discounts. 

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The TSA Blog

Here are Willamette Intl Travel we strive to keep ourselves updated on recent developments of all things travel. One of our sources is the TSA Blog, where the US Dept of State publishes everything there is know about how to make your TSA screening go just a bit smoother.

Click here to read their popular post: A Cornucopia of TSA Travel Tips

It covers helpful tips ranging from TSA pre-check to packing smart to traveling with oxygen.

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