More Vacation Get-Aways Now Require a Passport

3/21/2007

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What do high school seniors motor-scootering around Bermuda, senior citizens strolling through a Mexican bazaar and honeymooners enjoying a romantic dinner in Quebec have in common? If they flew to their destinations, they had to present valid passports.

New travel regulations require U.S. citizens traveling by plane outside the continental U.S. (including Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda), to present either a passport, Merchant Mariner Document or NEXUS air card.

If you don’t have a passport and are planning a spring break trip, a high school graduation get-away or a family vacation that involves flying to another country, start the passport application process early. This isn’t a task to neglect until the last minute.

Careful preparation on other fronts will also help to ensure a hassle-free vacation. The Better Business Bureau suggests the following precautions when booking your next trip.

  • Be wary of vacation deals that promise “the moon” for a very low price, or require immediate purchase to lock in a “special” rate.
  • If you’re considering a travel package, get all details in writing, including total cost, any restrictions, additional fees of any kind, cancellation penalties, and exact names and locations of involved airlines, hotels or cruise lines. Call them directly to confirm they’re part of the package before you make your purchase.
  • Never send money by overnight delivery or provide payment to a courier sent to your home. That’s a common ploy used by scam artists.
  • Avoid salespeople who try to strong-arm you into revealing your credit card number. Hang up the phone if a travel promoter demands your credit card number before explaining the offer in detail or who says it’s needed to confirm you “qualify” for a special deal.
  • Be suspicious of post card or fax promotions that require you to pay a fee or to purchase membership, in order to claim a “free” vacation or travel prize. Travel offers that do not provide helpful contact information (i.e., a phone number that is answered by a person), should be avoided.
  • Find out the local address and telephone number of the travel company, travel agent or other vacation-related service provider you’re considering doing business with and then check with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to determine if it can be trusted.
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