To say that there’s been controversy around travel lately would be an understatement. Especially with new security measures, travel bans, visa requirements and yes, even the United scandal, it’s safe to say our heads are spinning from the news cycle. So, to make it easy, we’ve answered your most pressing questions about what you need to know before you jet off on your next getaway.
Following the overturned muslim ban, the Trump administration has revealed a new policy that would prevent airline passengers from carrying on their electronics. It was said to be a reaction to intelligence that revealed terrorists were developing a bomb that could be hidden in portable electronic devices. Originally, the ban started in March and only affected U.S.-bound travelers coming from 10 airports in Muslim-majority countries across Africa and the Middle East. But this month, the Department of Homeland Security considered expanding the ban to planes arriving from Europe as well, even if they were on U.S. carriers. Meaning this would affect roughly 350 flights a day.
For travelers, this means that all laptops, tablets (iPads, Kindles), cameras, electronic games (sorry, Nintendo Switch), and any device bigger than a smartphone would have to be packed in a checked bag. Not only would that raise costs for passengers who carry on their suitcases for free, but it could also mean more lost luggage, damaged items and stolen goods. And to top it off, there would be a higher chance of lithium battery fires in the cargo hold, which is just as destructive as an explosive.
Luckily for us, this week officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the European Union met to talk about threats involving air travel, deciding to take the ban off the table for now. After all, there’s only so many paperback books we can read on a long-haul flight.
Long story short, no. When the European Parliament voted to end the visa waiver program with the U.S., rumors quickly circulated about new visa requirements for Americans headed to the EU. However, the European Commission recently confirmed that there will be no change in policy—just don’t forget to pack your passport.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but with recent attacks throughout Europe, airports have heightened their security. Between May 1 and September 1, the U.S. State Department will issue a travel alert for Europe. Although that may sound scary, an alert is actually less extreme than a travel warning, which was released immediately after the events in France, Russia, Sweden and the U.K. It’s more of a general notice to inform Americans to be cautious in crowded areas like tourist attractions and transportation hubs rather than dissuade them from taking that bucket-list European vacation altogether.
As a precaution, airline passengers are advised to take self defense classes. (Kidding, of course.) But jokes aside, you should know your rights in case you’re ever involuntarily bumped off a flight, stuck on an overnight layover, lose your luggage, and so on. Or, look into airlines that have policies protecting passengers. For instance, Canada just released a new passenger bill of rights that prohibits airlines from bumping people off overbooked flights. Instead, they'll have to increase the compensation until a volunteer agrees to give up their seat.
RELATED: 7 Secret Passenger Rights
Following Britain’s narrow vote last summer to split from the EU, the tourism industry has seen some massive changes. For one, the UK, which for years has been considered one of the most expensive places to visit, is now way more affordable thanks to the depreciated value of the pound—a 31-year low, even passing the 2008 financial crisis. But although that may not be good for their economy, tourism has been thriving as Americans take advantage of the low cost. In fact, this winter, the number of people taking their holiday in the UK was up by 15 percent, and spending by overseas visitors increased by 5 percent (that’s $5.7 billion!). And even more incentive to visit this summer: British Airways is offering free flights for kids younger than 12 (travel must be between June 1 and October 31, 2017).
The U.S. has always thrived off of the travel industry. The country is the second biggest tourism market in the world by arrivals and the largest in terms of money spent. Former President Obama even created the destination marketing organization, Brand USA, in order to grow the number of visitors from 77.5 million in 2014 to the goal of 100 million by 2021 (in Trump's proposed budget, the organization would be eliminated altogether). But since the new administration has taken office, studies are showing we could be entering a “Trump Slump” that could result in a $1.3 billion loss in U.S. travel spending. When the U.S. dollar got stronger after the election, it became more expensive for international travelers to come to America (especially since the Euro and British pound are weaker). Add that to the travel bans and other controversial laws that were almost passed, and it's no wonder why Tourism Economics studies predict that there will be a 10.6 million decline in visitors in 2017 and 2018. That 7 percent drop would cost the U.S. economy more than $18 billion in tourist dollars and around 107,000 jobs. Plus, more than half of that lost business would be due to less Canadians and Mexicans willing to cross the border on vacation.