3 things you need to know if you’re traveling in 2016

Going somewhere in 2016? Here are three things to know before you leave.

Passport rules are changing

Running out of pages in your passport? Better hurry. Starting Jan. 1, 2016, you’ll no longer be able to add extra pages, even if your passport is nowhere near its expiration date.

That’s right. Instead of paying $82 for a packet of 24 new pages, you’ll need to shell out $110 for a brand new passport. Take this into account, especially if you’re planning to go abroad in the first few months of the year. It typically takes four to six weeks to get a new passport.

If you act quickly, though, you can still order new pages (up to two packets of 24 pages at a time) until Dec. 31.

But not all the passport news is bad news. If you’re a frequent traveler to the U.K. (four or more trips per year), you’re eligible to join the Registered Traveller program (similar to our own Global Entry program) which allows U.S. citizens to enjoy expedited entry into the U.K. Passengers who enroll in the program can use ePassport gates at major airports across the country, as well as U.K./European Union queues, and can forgo filling out landing cards and credibility interviews with Border Force officers.

It’s easier than ever to track down owed compensation from airlines

I know, you don’t believe me. But thanks to a company called AirHelp, it’s now easier than ever to figure out if an airline owes you compensation and how to get it.

AirHelp scans your email inbox for delayed, canceled or overbooked flights for which you might be eligible for compensation. Then, they automate the process of submitting a claim to the airline, and handle all of the back and forth. If you win your claim, they take a fee, but if you don’t, there is no charge to you.

The company recently launched a mobile app, which I haven’t yet used, but I did submit a claim via their website for a disastrous experience with Air France about a year-and-a-half ago. The process was very simple and not at all time consuming. They indicated I’m likely to receive compensation. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Seeking compensation for my experience was something I wanted to do, but never got around to, and probably never would have. AirHelp made it convenient to get the process started, so even minus the service fee they charge, if I win compensation it will be more than I would have gotten on my own.

Bonus: You can quickly and easily review your air passenger rights in the U.S. and EU on AirHelp’s website, in case you are looking for a one-stop resource to learn more for yourself.

Hotel consolidation is heating up

We all heard about the Marriott-Starwood merger, but what you might not have heard about is another hotel merger that went down last week — AccorHotels acquired FRHI Holdings, the parent company of the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel hotel brands.

Much like their airline counterparts, it seems the hotel industry is undergoing a round of consolidation, one that goes as far back as IHG’s acquisition of much-beloved Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants late last year.

What does this mean for you? Keep your eye on travel industry news to see how your favorite loyalty programs will be affected, and study up on which brands are interconnected. You might be surprised at the savings you can manage with a little upfront education.

On the flip side, if you’re just now deciding which hotel loyalty program to start building with, or if you’re evaluating your current stash of loyalty points, it will be important to understand how these mergers and acquisitions will affect each program before you make your next move. If you find yourself on the losing side of an M&A, all is not lost — Hyatt is offering to match the status you’ve achieved at competing hotel chains in a bid to win new loyal customers.

So are you ready for your first trip of 2016?

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About the Author
Lover of all things travel and hospitality, both from a personal and professional standpoint. A PR pro by day, I've represented a wide variety of clients in the travel industry since 2008. Sharing my passion for and knowledge of travel makes me happy. Cornell University graduate. Follow me on Twitter @HeatherLori7.
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