As retirees we are finally free to travel a little more but if reported government “sequestration” (the action of taking legal possession of assets until a debt has been paid) should take effect, which may or may not happen, the traveling public will see the results of these across-the-board budget cuts in several ways and we will all find traveling a bit more difficult. Read on to get lots of great senior travel tips! Because of government “sequestration”, cuts in services such as airport security, airport traffic control, border crossings, National Park programs and Secret Service we will have to plan better and be more careful in our travel in the US as well as outside our borders.
Sequestration May Affect Travel Plans
Because the Federal Aviation Administration budget will be cut by 600 million dollars our airports will become even more difficult to deal with than they are now. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced that employees, including air traffic controllers, will be furloughed one or two days each pay period which will result in longer security lines with delays of up to one hour (has he not been in an airport lately… security lines are usually a good 45 minutes to an hour already!). He says fewer air traffic controllers will result in flight delays as long as 90 minutes.
For travelers, Secret Service furloughs and budget cuts will mainly be felt in the areas of fewer agents to deal with debit card / ATM fraud, bank fraud and cyber crime investigations.
National Park Services and US Customs and Border Patrol
Our National Park Service’s budget will be cut which will result in fewer park services and shorter opening hours. Ranger programs and tours might be eliminated or at least reduced. Senior travel tip: make sure you check ahead for availability and reservations for the fun tours or programs you would like to plan.
Border crossing wait times would increase because US Customs and Border Patrol employees would be subject to furloughs and staffing reductions.
On that note, if you plan on driving into Mexico you will need either a passport or an enhanced driver’s license. The enhanced license denotes your citizenship and may be used for land travel in lieu of a passport. When driving into Mexico be sure and purchase Mexican insurance at the border or through your US insurance company (by the way, you can’t take a rented car into Mexico) and check with your insurance company to find out what is covered when out of the US. For a flight to Mexico you will need passports and a tourist card to be filled out which you will get from the airline before landing.
Senior Travel Tip: Get a NEXUS Card!!
For visits to or traveling through Canada you must obtain a passport or equivalent travel document such as a NEXUS card. The NEXUS card gives U.S. and Canadian citizens pre-approval when entering Canada or the United States at all participating NEXUS air, land and marine ports of entry. The NEXUS Card satisfies Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) requirements; it proves identity and citizenship and thereby acts as a substitute for a passport. The NEXUS card program is a partnership between the Canada and U.S. border services, but NEXUS cards are issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) . Though the NEXUS card claims to be all you need it is still advisable to have your passport with you as you may be asked to show it as well. NEXUS cards cost $50.00 and are good for five years. You can apply for a NEXUS card at this site where you can download the application. You need to fill it out and mail it or bring it in person to a Canadian Processing Centers (CPC) in Niagara Falls, Montreal or Surrey. They are no longer available at Post Offices.
Another Senior Travel Tip: Keep Cash and Bank Accounts Safe
Plan your trip carefully especially if we want to cross international borders, fly or visit one of our National Parks. Protect your debit and credit cards with an RFID wallet, carry- on and suitcases (RFID means the case has metal threads weaved into the fabric so that external card readers cannot read card information. They can be found on websites that carry hand bags, suitcases etc. I found some on www.ebags.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and others). Go inside a bank to get cash instead of using an ATM. Carry your large bills in a RFID body wallet that is under your cloths and never show large quantities of cash when purchasing anything. Check on your bank account frequently to make sure the withdrawals are ones you made.
Men, put your wallet in your front pocket where it is less available to thieves. Ladies, use a cross body purse or a fanny pack. One caution about fanny packs. Find one that has the snap closure in the front not the back as thieves can quickly unsnap a back snap, grab and run with the pack before you can blink an eye. Don’t rely on a back pack where the compartments can easily be unzipped un-noticed by you.
If your travels include one of our beautiful national parks or monuments go online to check their opening and closing hours and programs before you book your trip. Many National Parks are booked for camping and RV sites as well as tours a year in advance so plan ahead. Also, did you know you can get a senior pass that covers the entrance and standard amenity fees for Federal recreation sites? You must be 62 or older and a citizen of the U.S. or permanent resident. Things not covered are camping, tours and special recreation permit fees, etc. Although it may entitle the holder to a 50% discount on certain fees. The card it available to purchase at the gates of any of our National Parks and Forest Service centers as well as onsite at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm . The fee for the pass is $10.00 and the pass is a lifetime pass.
Write Your Senator!
Probably one of the more effective long term solutions to the cuts in our coveted services is to write to your Representative and Senators if you want change. If they receive enough complaints from their constituents they may take notice. You can get a list of your state’s Senator on the website www.contactsenators.com. The list contains all current state senators with links to their contact information, including phone numbers, mailing addresses, and email addresses.
To quote President Obama ““The whole design of these arbitrary cuts was to make them so unattractive and unappealing that Democrats and Republicans would actually get together and find a good compromise of sensible cuts as well as closing tax loopholes and so forth. And so this was all designed to say we can’t do these bad cuts; let’s do something smarter. That was the whole point of this so-called sequestration.”
Some information for this blog came from http://seniortravel.about.com/. Check out this site for more comprehensive information.
Happy and safe travels!