Driving overseas? Read this first

GunnarShutterstock
GunnarShutterstock
It was an open-ended question, the kind you learn to ask after renting countless cars: Is there anything else I should know about driving here?

“Yes,” said the Hertz agent at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, after taking a glance at my keys. “You can’t drive this car in Paris.”

Turns out my visit last week coincided with some of the city’s worst smog in years. In an effort to cut back on pollution, only cars with odd-numbered license plates could drive in the City of Light. Mine had an even number.

Fortunately, I wasn’t driving to Paris.
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Hartford tarmac stranding doesn’t justify new laws

The Halloween weekend stranding of more than 1,000 airline passengers at Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., brought the tarmac delay activists out in full force again, pushing for new laws that they claim would prevent lengthy ground delays.

The circumstances were admittedly dreadful. On Oct. 29, air traffic controllers diverted 28 flights to Hartford after a freak snowstorm hammered the region. Many planes were grounded for hours in the blizzard, unable to reach the terminal. Supplies of food and water dwindled. Toilets became clogged. Tempers flared.
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Should tarmac-delay rules become law?

As someone who has spent a career listening to travelers complain, I know what you don’t like when you’re on vacation.

You hate being ripped off by airlines, car rental companies and hotels. Silly rules frustrate you, too. So does bad customer service.

But what you don’t tell me is often just as important.
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Ridiculous or not? Hotels don’t always change sheets between guests

Glenn Robins is grossed out. As a frequent traveler, he assumed the sheets on his hotel bed are changed between guests.

But a new TV ad by the Hampton Inn chain calls that assumption into question. It shows housekeepers changing sheets in hazmat suits, at what appears to be a competing hotel chain.

“The implication was obviously that other hotels do not change the sheets for every new guest,” he says.

Robins is troubled by that.

“It’s a disgusting enough thought that the sheets were not changed,” he told me. “It gets even more disgusting when one considers the previous tenant’s possible activity.”

A confession: I changed the last part of Robins’ quote to spare you some graphic detail. Use your imagination.
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Can things get any worse for the TSA?

To say the TSA just had a bad week would be a lot like saying Muammar Gaddafi is dealing with a little opposition in Libya.

And how.

This week’s TSA shenanigans are almost too bad to be true. I take absolutely no pleasure in reporting them, because after all, this agency is supposed to be protecting us when we travel.
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Trade groups want their piece of pie in the sky

fire in the skyNo one would claim that any of the new travel-related laws scheduled to take effect in 2010 are game-changers for travelers. They’re relatively minor: a new credit card rule here, a new airport security policy there.

But what kind of law would really improve your travel experience next year?

Instead of asking readers for their opinions, as I do every week, I decided to hand the mike to the trade organizations in Washington that represent various parts of the travel industry. Specifically, I wanted to know which law they’d like to see passed in 2010 that they think would most benefit travelers.

The short answer? Most trade groups want laws authorizing Congress to spend more money, which they say will help us.
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