In this month’s edition of our travel advice column, Check Your Baggage, we show how far you have to go to check for bedbugs, why some people have to re-interview for a Global Entry renewal, and how to avoid hidden car rental fees.
Q. “Do I really have to strip the entire bed in my hotel room to check the mattress for bedbugs? What’s the minimum I can do to feel safe?” – ST
A. I also wonder if my method of pulling back the sheets and checking just the top corner of the mattress is effective, so I asked Sarah Latyn, an expert at BedbugCentral.com. Her advice: “When it comes to hotel rooms a good visual inspection can be performed on areas you can see without actually moving anything (besides the sheets). These areas are between the mattress and box spring, on and under the box spring, and/or around and behind the headboard.” There’s also this video from BedbugCentral.com that will make you feel both better and worse about bedbugs and hotel rooms—according to the video, there’s a one in one hundred chance you’re staying in a room with bedbugs, but the chances you’ll take some home with you might not be as bad as you fear.
Q. “On a recent trip, my phone was about to die at the airport, but one person was hogging all of the outlets for the entire time I was waiting to board! Is it rude to ask someone to unplug to make room for my phone?” – ND
A. Most people aren’t in generous moods at the airport, so your request probably wouldn’t go over well. Next time, try letting the outlet monopolizer know that you’re waiting by simply saying something like: “My phone’s about to die, would you mind letting me know when you’re done charging?” and then lurking somewhere nearby. Alternatively, pack a travel power strip next time, and you can ask to share the outlet without someone else needing to unplug.
Q. “Both my wife and I renewed our Global Entry memberships, but only I got called to interview again. Why me?” – CS
A. Don’t take it personally, Customs and Border Protection probably doesn’t think you’re a shadier person than your wife. Have you changed jobs since you first applied for Global Entry?
According to a CBP spokesperson, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection individually processes and vets all Global Entry applications and renewals. The most common reason for an interview following a Global Entry renewal is to verify any changes made to the member’s profile, including name, address, document and/or employment updates.”
The interviews are usually very brief (less than 10 minutes); and don’t forget that you can request to do your interview without an appointment when you return to the country after an international flight. Click here for more information on Enrollment on Arrival.
Q. “On a recent trip, I had an urgent question for my Airbnb host, but she didn’t return any of my emails. What should you do if you can’t get in touch with your Airbnb host?” – CM
A. If your host isn’t responding to messages, you can call them through the Airbnb app. (The option is located under “Your Home Reservation.”) For more specific options, see Airbnb’s advice on reaching your host here.
Q. “My car rental almost always costs more than what they quoted me initially. Why can’t they actually tell me ALL the extra fees and charges when I book? How can I avoid surprises?” – SS
A. This is where car rental booking sites can really come in handy. Ones like CarRentals.com will show you a breakdown of all of the estimated taxes and fees that add on to your bottom line. For example, I searched for a one-day rental and the price shows as $23, but CarRentals.com notes that I will have to pay an extra $27 on arrival, which includes random charges like: “customer facility charge, concession recovery fee, energy surcharge, rental vehicle surcharge, state tax, and vehicle excise reimbursement.”
Q. “I took an Amtrak trip a month ago and still haven’t received points for it in my rewards account. What should I do?” – EP
A. Amtrak’s website doesn’t make this form easy to find, but you can easily request your missing points here. Just note that you’ll have to wait up to seven days for your points to show up and that you can’t send the request 120 days or more after you’ve traveled.
Got a burning travel question you want to see answered in next month’s column? Do you vehemently disagree with my answers to this month’s questions? Comment below or send me an e-mail at email@example.com with the subject line: Check Your Baggage.
Editor’s Note: Submitted questions have been edited for clarity and length.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Do You Have to Switch Seats If Someone Asks?
- Are These Flyers Abusing the Southwest Seating Policy?
- What Are the Rules Around Airline Flight Changes?
Caroline Morse Teel is a Senior Editor at SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from around the world.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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