31 December 2007

31-December-2007 : So Long 2007

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

31-December-2007 : So Long 2007!

It's been a fun first year for Flying With Fish and discussing airlines, travel and packing for the photographer on the road.

As 2008 approaches in a few hours I am still looking over my plans for the new year change my blog up a little bit. The first change you'll notice? My headlines will no longer have dates in them. Following that, I am planning to post weekly on a regular basis , I'm going to try and add a links post on a regular basis. I am still sorting out how I'll do this, but I'm sure I'll figure it out. The big change? If possible, I am going to try and add some video to my Blog. At first I am probably going to make basic videos on packing equipment and condensing what you need to travel with. From there? Who knows.

2007 saw the birth of my 3rd child Simon, my daughter Lauren turning seven (and you fantastic folks donating to her walk to fund research for Juvenile Diabetes) and my 2nd child Max turning 3 and continuing his obsession with trains. 2007 also was my first round-the-world sprint, where I flew around The Globe one-and-a-half times in 5 days in a single legal carry on backpack. For traveling and packing this year saw my switch from traditional camera bag companies Lowe Pro and Think Tank to hiking focused company Mountainsmith (although I have used the Mountainsmith Tour for years for general shooting). The end of 2007 has seen my decision to primarily leave the Canon 1D series bodies behind for the smaller and lighter Canon 5D series bodies. With smaller batteries, smaller chargers and lighter cameras the trade off in systems should be more beneficial than detrimental.

I started 2007 as a Platinum Elite with both Delta Airlines and US Airways, a United Airlines Premier Executive and a World Perks Gold flyer with Northwest Airlines. As I move into 2008 I know that as of 29-February-2008 I'll be left with my status as Gold (highest tier) on BMI (British Midlands International) and Gold (just below highest tier) on Air France/KLM. Why is this? Simple, I spent much of 2007 flying around using frequent flyer miles and flight vouchers from bumped seats. When you use miles or get bumped you accrue no miles. Some of my travel was also in conjunction with photographing for an airline, when they buy the tickets, you get no miles.

So from starting the year as an elite with four U.S. airlines and ending the year as an elite on two European airlines, there have been some changes in my travel habits. I hope to document these travels and continue to bring all of you the information that can make your traveling easier throughout 2008.

Coming up in early January I'll continue to address the new U.S. restrictions on flying with Lithium batteries. I will also be testing out a new ultra compact tripod that should take up virtually no space in your bag.

Love to say goodbye to the old year and welcome in the next? You can celebrate New Years all over again with me during the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop, Feb 5 to Feb 8 when we'll fly over to Hong Kong to shoot the Chinese New Year! Feel free to check out this workshop at www.comeflywithfish.com
Limited seats are still available

If anyone has any suggestions for topics or any questions please, as always, feel free to drop me an e-mail at fish@flyingwithfish.com

Happy Flying and a Happy and a Healthy New Year!


30 December 2007

30-December-2007 : Don't Want To Be Hassled About Your Batteries Under The New U.S. Restrictions For Flying With Batteries? Here Is A Simple Solution

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

30-December-2007 : Don't Want To Be Hassled About Your Batteries Under The New U.S. Restrictions For Flying With Batteries? Here Is A Simple Solution

With the new guidelines for flying with Lithium/Li-Ion batteries going into affect for U.S. flyers on 1-January-2008 (29-December-2007 : The New Question - Can I Bring This Battery On Board?), I have been thinking long and hard over the past two days how to avoid any potential confusion and conflict when passing through the airport security screening check points with a backpack carrying half-a-dozen batteries.

The only verification system the TSA will have in place is to have TSA Agent-Screeners read battery labels. By clearly labeling your batteries in a simple and clear way, you should speed up the process of having your bags inspected and cleared. With the help of a friend, I have created a label that will be easily recognizable and identifiable by TSA screeners to identify batteries that are not on the "restricted list."

These labels will come in one, potentially two, easy sizes that can be affixed to any commonly used battery. I am in no way endorsing photographers using these labels incorrectly to mislabel their batteries.

If you are interested in the following labels for your batteries drop me an e-mail at fish@flyingwithfish.com

Happy Flying!

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30-December-2007 : Some Items That Make Traveling Just A Bit Easier

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

30-December-2007 : Some Items That Make Traveling Just A Bit Easier

This post is a following up to my post on my "Staying Organized.........Three Essential Items." This post is not essential items, it is simply about some things I travel with that make my life a little bit easier on the road.

I like gadgets as much as the next person. I like to play with gadgets, new toys and things that light up for no reason, but when I pack, I pack for efficiency, size and weight. If it's cool but does not have a practical purpose and just takes up space it's out.

The following are a few items which often seem to find their way into my bag when I'm on the road.

1) Who needs a travel clock? Not me. For years I have been using a small, light, always reliable Motorola Advisor Elite pager as my travel alarm-clock. My pager has not had wireless service for years, but I tend to prefer this over my mobile phone when on the road. Most of the the time I keep my mobile phone set to my "home" rather than resetting it to local time. Since I do not reset my phone, I have no problem resetting my pager to local time. More important to me is the alarm on the Motorola Advisor Elite, it is loud and can wake the dead. Now when you are jet lagged, dead tired and have to be up 3 hours after you land what do you want? You guessed it, an alarm that can wake the dead. You can often find a Motorola Advisor Elite on eBay for less than $10.

2) When packing my bags I have always had trouble keeping my cords and small items organized. I have tried ZipLock bags, but they rip. I have tried small pouches, but often airport security makes me open them and empty them and then it's just a waste of my time. My solution to this was to purchase the Think Tank Cable Management 10 case (http://thinktankphoto.com/ttp_product_CblMngmnt.php). The Cable Management 10 usually holds my CF card reader, iPod, USB cords, iPod charging cord, power supply for an Apple MacBook or PowerBook, international power conversion tips and other random small items. The case comes with elastic zip-ties to keep your cables together, it is make of a durable, flexible and clear plastic that will take the abuse of travel and still allow airport security to see through the case so they don't ask you to open it. At under US$15.00 it's a great tool for packing more effectively.

3) Don't like the paper thin pillows on the plane? What's that, your airline no longer has pillows? Yep, some of my preferred airlines got rid of pillows too! While browsing a Brookstone store a few years ago I stumbled upon the Tempur-Pedic 3-in-1 Travel Neck Pillow (http://3in1pillow.notlong.com ) and found it to be an amazing travel companion. This pillow is incredibly comfortable and durable. Once rolled up in it's travel case it fits into my backpack, usually stuffed just on top of my Canon 70-200f2.8. Because it is Tempur-Pedic pillow it can be crushed, rolled, squeezed and shoved into almost any carry on bag with very little space. The pillow is well worth the US$80.00 and can save you a lot of neck and back pain when your cramped into your airline seat for a long flight or while taking a nap on the airport floor when you're delayed.

4) I am not a huge tripod fan. Let's face it tripods are impossible to pack for carry on, and awkward to walk around with. I use a tripod when I need a tripod, but often they are left behind and I am left wishing I had a tripod. My solution to this problem was the Gitzo Gitzo 0012 Compact Tripod with Gitzo G1277M compact ball head. While the Gitzo 0012 was replaced with the GT-0530, I still prefer the 0012. The 0012 is more compact and easier to pack. The Gitzo G1277M head is still available and a great head on a compact tripod or a standard tripod. If you can find the 0012 Compact Tripod, pick one up (the replacement tripod is around US$370 with no head!). I am exploring a few ultra-compact tripods, but for now I have enjoyed this tripod for general landscapes, night time long exposures and even with tilt-shift lenses when shooting architecture. I generally stick this tripod in my Pelican 1514 case and then attach it to my Mountainsmith Tour pack as I shoot.

5) We all wish we had a macro lens at times, but many photogs don't carry them in their bags to save space or weight. For a long time I gave up my macro because I figured I really didn't have a use for one. Not to long ago I became annoyed with myself and my lack of a macro lens on a few shoots. My solution was purchasing two Canon EF12/EF12II Extension Tubes. The 12mm Tube (Canon EF12) is for wide angle lenses while the 25mm tube (EF25) is for lenses longer than 50mm. To avoid having one long tube and one short tube , I made my own all purpose kit and just travel with two Canon EF12 tubes stacked. If I am using a wider lens I use one EF12 tube, if I am using a longer lens I use both tubes stacked together. This was not only more cost effective, but it takes up less space in my bag and makes my set up more versatile for my shooting set up and style. At US$80 for the EF12 (and US$130 for the EF25) it is a very cost effective and space effective way to always keep a macro on you

Happy Flying!

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29 December 2007

29-December-2007 : The New Question - Can I Bring This Battery On Board?

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

29-December-2007 : The New Question - Can I Bring This Battery On Board?

Yesterday, the 28th of December 2007, a simple press release was sent out by the the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. On most days none of us know who the the US DOT PHMSA is, and most days we don't care. Yesterday however photographers all over the United States were reading the new rules set down by the US DOT PHMSA on www.safetravel.dot.gov and on news sites.

Why does the US DOT PHMSA now affect us? Because they released a new set of rules that may directly our ability to carry spare batteries on-board aircraft while traveling with our camera equipment. On the surface the rules that go into affect on 1-January-2008 look like this

From: http://safetravel.dot.gov/whats_new_batteries.html
- Spare batteries are the batteries you carry separately from the devices they power. When batteries are installed in a device, they are not considered spare batteries.
- You may not pack a spare lithium battery in your checked baggage
- You may bring spare lithium batteries with you in carry-on baggage
- Even though we recommend carrying your devices with you in carry-on baggage as well, if you must bring one in checked baggage, you may check it with the batteries installed.

The following quantity limits apply to both your spare and installed batteries. The limits are expressed in grams of “equivalent lithium content.” 8 grams of equivalent lithium content is approximately 100 watt-hours. 25 grams is approximately 300 watt-hours:

- Under the new rules, you can bring batteries with up to 8-gram equivalent lithium content. All lithium ion batteries in cell phones are below 8 gram equivalent lithium content. Nearly all laptop computers also are below this quantity threshold.
- You can also bring up to two spare batteries with an aggregate equivalent lithium content of up to 25 grams, in addition to any batteries that fall below the 8-gram threshold. Examples of two types of lithium ion batteries with equivalent lithium content over 8 grams but below 25 are shown below.
- For a lithium metal battery, whether installed in a device or carried as a spare, the - Almost all consumer-type lithium metal batteries are below 2 grams of lithium metal. But if you are unsure, contact the manufacturer!

The full text of details from the US DOT PHMSA can be found here : http://www.USDOTPHMSA.notlong.com

OK, there are some huge loop holes in this new rule and there is potential for a huge problem for TSA Agent-Screeners at check points who are not trained to differentiate battery types or "gram weights" of Lithium in batteries. The TSA Agents get knocked all the time, but they really do have a hard job and this just makes the job harder and potentially more confusing for the regulations they must enforce.

The ban only technically applies to "extended life" lithium batteries, such as those for "professional" audio/video/photo equipment. The batteries sited are between 8 grams and 25 grams of lithium. If you look at he 3rd party PB511A 1800 Mah batteries they have only 0.98 grams of Lithium, well under the allowed amounts of Lithium in weight allowed on board for spare batteries.

For those with the Canon 20D/30D/40D/5D or Nikon D200/D300 bodies, these are considered consumer and prosumer bodies, and would not qualify as "professional photo equipment" with the US DOT PHMSA's new ruling for flying with spare batteries.

A spare EN-L4 or PB511A is also not considered to be an "extended life" battery by the manufacturer, this should also, in theory, exempt it from the US DOT rules.

Of course the problem , as always, is dealing with under trained TSA Agent-Screeners at the check points. These people are not qualified to make the decisions they are forced to make at the check points in regard to what is 'extended life" vs "standard equipment", what is "professional" vs "consumer" (your Canon 5D and PowerShot G6 use the same battery, remember that). How will a TSA Agent-Screener determine what is a Li-Ion vs NiMH onsite? If they determine Li-Ion how will they determine the amount of grams of Lithium in the battery on-site?

To avoid any problems or confusion at security check points, I will be removing all the hard to decipher OEM stickers from my camera batteries (currently NP-E3 Ni-MH batteries), much like how the 3rd party Black Diamond batteries are shipped. In the place of the OEM stickers I will be placing on a printed label that simply reads this "NiMH - FAA/DOT Compliant For Air Travel." This should cut down on the problems you may face flying with batteries as of 1-January-2008.

I also strongly suggest printing out the info from the DOT and bringing it with you. Why? Yo may need to remind over zealous screeners that this new rule ONLY affects Lithium Batteries and that it should only affect (in theory) Extended Life Spare Batteries.

Your NiMH rechargeable AA batteries for your flash? They are not affected at all, pack 100 if you want. If you use Energizer Lithium batteries, ditch them and pick up some NiMH batteries instead.

Happy Flying

28 December 2007

28-December-2007 : A Few Links For Wandering Photogs

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

28-December-2007 : A Few Links For Wandering Photogs

As a traveler I do a lot of research. I research for my trips and I often do research for other people as well, both photogs and non-photogs alike. As I research trips, ranging from seat preference to visa requirements, I refer to a few web sites. Some of these web sites are nuts-n-bolts factual web sites and others are portals to a host of links that can be very helpful.

When I start my research I often first refer to two web sites, Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com) and Tourist Click (www.touristclick.com).

Lonely Planet is an incredible resource on traveling. You can find general information on every country you could travel to. You'll find maps, information on governments, electrical power, currency, language and an overview of the area you are traveling to. This site is almost always my first stop in my quest for information.

Tourist Click is a site that links to hundreds of other specific web sites. While searching this site can be a bit tiring to navigate, the wealth of information that can be found via Tourist Click is great. The site has started to add travel blogs to the site, these provide a new depth to the information available and a more personalized view of some of the information you may be looking for.

While there are many (MANY!) sites out there I have a short list of first stops and these two are often my first stops before moving into more specific sites as I narrow down the information I need for my research.

Happy Flying!

27 December 2007

27-December-2007 : No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop : 5-Feb to 8-Feb 2008 : Limited Seats Still Available!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

27-December-2007 : No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop : 5-Feb to 8-Feb 2008 : Limited Seats Still Available!

As February 5th approaches there are a few remaining seats for the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop available, from February 5th to February 8th 2008.

This is your opportunity to take a few days off to push yourself in a whole new direction as a photographer. Whether you are a professional who is seeking to streamline your travel skills or hobbyist seeking to learn a whole new set of skills and test your photographic abilities, there is something for everyone in the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop.

This workshop instruction starts a few weeks prior to the workshop, and the begins with a 6,383 mile flight to Hong Kong, the hands on instruction begins at 30,000 feet and the practical in the field shooting begins with your body clock backwards and a one-and-a-half day sprint to overcome challenges and produce images of The Chinese New Year, in the streets of Hong Kong, China.

During the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop you will learn the following

- Learn to pack what you need rather than what you want, packing within specific guidelines

- Learn to work through jet lag and physical body clock obstacles to complete assignments. Learning how to "get in and get out" saves you time and money as a photographer and can allow you to maximize your time and make yourself potentially more attractive to clients

- Learn to quickly sort out and plan shoot logistics to maximize your shooting day potential when working in a constrained time frame

- Learn to juggle multiple daily assignment deadlines, such as those facing not only editorial photographers, but also public relations and corporate communications photographers

- Learn to asses and rapidly overcome potential obstacles to ensure you can deliver your images to your clients, regardless of what stands in your way

- Learn to look past the adventure (and the adventure is always worth the trip!) to focus on producing images that not only meet your assignments but that also visually satisfy you.

The fee for the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop Is
- US$2,200* in Economy Class

- US$3,200* in Business Class (includes access to airport lounge, showers, in-seat power, priority check in & more comfort on the 13 hour flight)

Costs include airfare from Vancouver to Hong Kong, private transportation while in Hong Kong (to and from hotel) , instruction & logistics.

*Costs based on special seat fare costs and may be subject to change depending on seat availability

If you are interested in more information please visit www.comeflywithfish.com/hongkong or drop me an e-mail at fish@flyingwithfish.com

Happy Flying!

27-December-2007 : Show The World Where You're Coming From............Show The World Where You've Been!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

27-December-2007 : Show The World Where You're Coming From............Show The World Where You've Been!

OK, fellow photog, fellow former news photographer, fellow Connecticut resident Seshu Badrinath (www.seshu.net) must be having a lot of free time during the holiday season because he is just finding subjects for me to write about this week here on Flying With Fish!

Today Seshu sent me a link to some of the coolest total flyer nerd clothing available out there, Hub Wear (www.hubwear.com). Hub Wear has a cool little interface that allows you to customize your own "route shirts" The front of the shirt has where you're coming from and headed to, the back lists the return route.

The shirts only have point to point routes, not full routes, but I guess it would be lengthy for a shirt to have
(the route I have flown most in the past 3 years)

From New York and like to get away, take a holiday from the neighbourhood. Maybe Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood? (Thank you Billy Joel)
Why not JFK-FLL (Ft. Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport)?

The most common single flight I take now is one I refuse to put on a shirt, HVN-PHL / PHL-HVN , I am not putting the Philadelphia International Airport on my shirt! Great city, but wow that airport needs some serious help.

Anyway, show some pride in your home airport and the airport you frequent most!

Happy Flying!

25 December 2007

25-December-2007 : Staying Organized.......Three Essential Items

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

25-December-2007 : Staying Organized.......Three Essential Items

I will be the first to admit it, I am about as organized as a trailer park after a tornado has dropped down in the middle of it. The upside to this is that I know I am disorganized and I actively try and organize the essential parts of my life. First off, I know where my kids sleep and where the food is to feed them in the morning when we get up. The second things is that I am obsessive about packing and labeling all of my equipment , from lens caps and CF cards right up through my bodies and lenses. The third thing I am organized about, and getting better about organizing, is my calendar , my travel receipts and my notes for traveling.

The last organizational area on list is probably of the most interest to you people reading Flying With Fish , so I'll skip the obsessive packing rituals at the moment......and chances are you don't care where I keep the cereal to feed the kids in the morning (it's on top of the fridge if you must know).

When I travel and I find there have become three essential items I use to make sure I know all the information about my trip, make sure I have all my receipts in one place making taxes easier and to ensure I can write down much of the information I share on this Blog and when any of you ask me a question.

The first essential item is the Moleskine (www.moleskine.com) , and is the Moleskine Memo Pocket. The Memo Pocket has six small card board pockets in this pocket size mini book. The Memo Pocket is easy to carry at 3.5"x5.5" (9cm x14cm). In this small set of pockets you can drop credit card receipts, boarding passes, or anything else you desire. At US$10.00 the Italian Made (French inspired) Moleskine Memo Pocket is a real essential.

Below are two photos of my new Memo Pocket.

The second essential is also by Moleskine Sketch Book. Moleskine makes a dozen different style notebooks that were once used by Van Gogh, Hemmingway, Oscar Wilde and others throughout France. At an easy to carry 3.5"x5.5" (9cm x14cm) they take up a little space (and when I pace space, every inch, in precious to me) this is the easiest way I have to copy all my information down. My note book has seat preferences for various airlines, notes on airports, notes on airline lounges, notes on things I see as I travel. While much of this info is in my head, it is much easier to write it down and refer to my notebook later. Note books range from US$7.00 and go up, some come as single books, others in three packs.

Below are two photos of my Moleskine Sketch Book......for those trying to figure out the page of text, it is my seating preferences for Delta Airlines Fleet and for those trying to figure out the 'code' on the page it is easy "F" at the start of a line = First Class ; "Y" after a thick darkened dash = Economy Class ; "J" at the start of a line = Business Class.

The third item on my essentials list is the most expensive, with many less expensive alternatives, but it is an item that I would be lost with out, my Louis Vuitton (www.louisvuitton.com) Small Ring Agenda. We went from two inexpensive Italian made an French inspired to just French made and expensive. While I write my schedule down on m computer, I have found that copying my schedule into my agenda helps member remember dates and times better, also it is easier to pull the agenda and out a write sometimes that to pull a whole laptop out and start typing. When I have an appointment or a job it goes in the agenda almost immediately , this prevents any mix up in my schedule. The front page has three credit card/business card slot, and also a large slot that you can slide your passport into when traveling. You can get a calendar in a day at a glance or a week at a glance, I like a week at a glance, this lets me see the big picture much faster and it also keeps the agenda thinner. At 4"x6" (10.1cm X 15.2cm) the agenda is small enough to pack 90% of the time and I usually make space for it. At US$275 you can find much more affordable agendas, I like this one as it is very durable, the binder rings are very strong and the set up meets my needs.

Below are two photos of my agenda.

Happy Flying!

18-December-2007 : To Register Or Not To Register That Is The Question! Should You Be A Registered Traveler?

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

18-December-2007 : To Register Or Not To Register That Is The Question! Should You Be A Registered Traveler?

The subject of the "Registered Traveler" system comes up often among those who travel in the United States and even those who don't travel often but are looking for a way to travel through the airport faster. This subject recently came up again about a week ago from a photographer friend of mine Seshu Badrinath (www.seshu.net), who lives just up the road from me in Connecticut.

I remember being approached about the Registered Traveler Pilot Program a number of years ago while traveling through Washington DC's Reagan National Airports (DCA) and thinking that the system was a huge invasion of my privacy. I am not a conspiracy theory person and I don't believe that there are black helicopters that hover over my house, however I do like to keep my private information........well private; nevertheless I was not totally turned off to this new emerging concept.

As I have increased my travel I have revisited the idea of using the Registered Traveler Program, even at the risk of giving up a scan of my retina, a copy of my finger prints and giving up US$100 per year for the privilege of a speedier journey through the airports security lines.

As I weight the pros and cons or what the system I get caught up in certain details that I find important.

1) I don't find the security lines all that irritating. Most days the wait is 15 minutes if there is no "elite" security line, and honestly I only see the Registered Traveler Program as something useful for heavy frequent fliers who would have access to the "elite" security lines when they are present.

2) The Registered Traveler Program is limited a very small number of airports. For me only one of the five "local" (within 100 miles of my house) airports I look at has the program, and that one airport does not have it in all terminals. Only one of the airports I travel through with any frequency has the program, and they offer elite security lines which I have access to.

3) Right now the front runner for the Registered Traveler Program is Clear, www.flyclear.com . The only airports that have Clear Lanes are
Albany, NY (ALB)
Cincinnati, OH (CVG)
Denver, CO (DEN)
Indianapolis, IN (IND)
Jacksonville, FL (JAX) ........expected soon
Little Rock, AK (LIT)
Newark, NJ (EWR)........NOT at all security check points
New York (JFK & LGA) .....but only NOT at all terminals
Orlando, FL (MCO)
Reno, NV (RNO) .......expected shortly
San Francisco, CA (SFO)
San Jose, CA (SJC)
White Plains, NY (HPN)

For me the only airport I would actually use Registered Traveler for would be at JFK's Terminal 7, which is used by United Airlines and Air Canada (and British Airways, however I don't tend to fly British Airways). While I fly through SFO often, they have dedicated Elite Lines which I will continue to have access to through my status with BMI (BD)while flying United Airlines (UA), US Airways (US) and any other Star Alliance (*A) carrier in SFO.

I am sure I may reevaluate this again the future when the Registered Traveler Program expands beyond a group of airports that make up less than 1% of the commercial airports in the United States. As for now, I don't see my three primary airports, New Haven (HVN), Providence (PVD) or Hartford/Springfield (BDL) having the Registered Traveler Program in place any times soon (although who would have though White Plain (HPN) or Albany (ALB) would have had it at this point?)

Happy Flying!

11-December-2007 : Feeling Helpless? We Need A Passengers Bill Of Rights!

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

11-December-2007 : Feeling Helpless? We Need A Passengers Bill Of Rights!

As passengers we know unfortunately that we are at the whim of the airlines. Whether you fly once a year or you often fly three times a day, once that door shuts and you pull away from the gate, you are at the whim and mercy of the airline.

As passengers we need need and deserve a Passengers Bill of Rights in the United States and in fact in every country. As a citizen of the U.S. I can only vote in the U.S., thus I can only try and try and help push for a U.S. Passengers Bill of Rights.

If you feel frustrated by being stranded on a plane on the ramp for a few hours or by airlines turning a blind eye and saying "Sorry it was an operational error" then you should sign the petitions that are currently being circulated to form a legal Passengers Bill of Rights!

Below are a few links to take a look at

The Coalition For An Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights

Sign The Coalition For An Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights Petition

Stranded Passengers Blog

The Travel Insider's Four Part Article On The Passenger Bill of Rights

JetBlue's Customer/Passenger Bill of Rights (it isn't perfect but it is a start!)

For my neighbours up in the Great White North, you can learn about the PIAC's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights here:

Being stranded can be frustrating. You can do something about you! You can contact your Member of Congress in Washington D.C. and tell them that you fully support the passing of a Passengers Bill of Rights!

Happy Flying!

24 December 2007

3-December-2007 : Travel Logistics - Departing Prepared

Web: www.fishfotoworldwide.com -- E-Mail: fish@flyingwithfish.com

3-December-2007 : Travel Logistics - Departing Prepared

Let's face it, planning your journey can be more stressful than the actual journey. I know I can spend a week carefully laying out the logistics of a trip that will only last one-to-three days.

When planning your travel for either work or pleasure there can be many factors to look at to ensure everything goes smoothly and as planned. Some basics you should make an outline for are below

1) Know your dates:

This is obvious I know, but you have to start somewhere

2) Decide if your dates are fixed or flexible:

If your dates are flexible you may be able to find less expensive air fares by +/- 5 days. Sometimes leaving a day early can save a few hundred dollars, but then you need to decide if that extra day saves you money working or will you be losing money on an extra night in a hotel.

3) Decide if you are flying to save time or to save money:

Sometimes when we travel we can spare a few hours to save money and sometimes when we travel we need to arrive by a certain time or there is not point to the traveling. With this in mind you need to decide how you want to travel.

For example if you want to fly from Washington's Dulles (IAD) to London's Heathrow (LHR), you can fly it non-stop for $875 (example air fare) and you'd arrive by 6:55am to start your day and shoot a job by mid-day.......... or.............you can fly from IAD to LHR via Toronto's Pearson Airport (YYZ) for $650 and arrive by 9:55am. This three hour difference may affect your ability to shoot your job if you are on a tight schedule or if you have a more flexible schedule you could simply just save $225. Only you know if you want to save time or if you want to save money.

4) Know if you have alternate airports you should look at for routings or cost savings:

Knowing your alternate airports, if there are any, can be a great way to find lower fares or more direct flights. My home airport, New Haven Connecticut (HVN) only has five flights per day and all five flights only fly to Philadelphia (PHL). With such a limiting home airport, I often look to Providence Rhode Island (PVD) or Hartford/Springfield's Bradley Airport (BDL) and at times I expand my search to New York's JFK and Boston Logan for international travel. By primarily looking at three airports and expanding to five airports that I can easily get to, I not only find more direct flights, but I can save hundreds of dollars at times.

A good example of this was a flight I needed to take to Tokyo (NRT). Both BDL and PVD are an hour from my house, so I look at them equally. My flight to NRT was $1,300 from PVD but the same exact routing, except the initial flight with the same departure time, was only $850 from BDL! Identical travel times for me with a $450 savings!

5) If you have defined travel date deadlines know your "escape routes" to get you where you need to go with alternative routings:

If you are on a tight travel schedule having defined escape routes can be very important. An escape route is when you need to leave your destination for another destination (home or another job) and you need to arrive reasonably on time.

If you are flying a red-eye flight on either United Airlines (UA) or American Airlines (AA) from Los Angeles (LAX) to Boston (BOS) via Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and ORD is closed or operating on a five hour delay you need to start exploring your other options.

Who else flies these routes? You'd need to keep on you a list of options, such as United via Denver (DEN) or Washington Dulles (IAD) ; Delta (DL) via Atlanta (ATL) or Cincinnati (CVG); Northwest (NW) via Minneapolis (MSP) or Detroit (DTW). You also need to know some alternatives may not exist, such as Southwest Airlines (WN) does not fly red-eye flights. Knowing your way out can be costly, but it can also save you and a job when on a tight schedule.

6) Know the likely hood of delays for the season you are traveling:

Knowing your travel delay potential can cut down on frustration. If you are flying from Paris (CDG) to San Francisco (SFO) a common routing is through Chicago O'Hare (ORD) on two major U.S. Carriers (UA/AA) and their Star Alliance (*A)and One World (OW) partners. ORD is prone to winter delays and missed connections due to weather. When flying between November and March you might want to look into flying direct or flying through alternate airports, such as New York's JFK, Atlanta (ATL), or even flying down and through Houston (IAH) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). Looking for better options, before a delay happens can save you some headaches. I am not saying avoid ORD as this post might suggest, it is a great airport that can get you anywhere in the world, I have just been subject to closings and delays one to many times in my travels.

7) If you are traveling internationally know if you need a visa:

Simple....Know If You Need A Visa! You may need a visa to enter a country, find this out wellin advance to same time, money, headache and the risk of being denied entry. Also find out if you need a visa to transit through a country. You cannot transit through China (except Hong Kong, although check the rules for your Nationality & Passport) without a visa, they will not let you change planes in Beijing (PEK), Guangzhou (CAN) or Shanghai (PVG) without a visa. China and other countries do not allow for any visa-upon-entry, you need it before you arrive! Know this....Know this.....Know this about your journey!

8) Find out the carry on restrictions for both the country you are traveling AND any country you may be transiting through:

Forget airline restrictions, not all countries have the same carry on regulations. Some allow more size or weight; some allow one piece of carry on plus a personal item; some allow one piece of carry on and no personal item. You do not want to be caught in this trap!

For example, if you are flying Air New Zealand (NZ) from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) via London Heathrow (LHR)......or the reverse of HKG to LAX via LHR.......you can easily board the flight with one legal carry on bag and an additional personal item. No one will stop you, smooth sailing! Once you get off in LHR to catch the continuing flight the gate staff will tell you you that under UK regulations you are limited to one carry on bag only and that you must either consolidate your bags or check one bag. For photographers that can be a disaster. You'd think it would be easy as you are not even leaving security or the airport, but this happens to anyone flying through the UK. Flying British Airways (BA) from Toronto (YYZ) to Frankfurt (FRA) via LHR, you never even leave Terminal 4, but you will be snagged and forced to check your carry on bag or personal item if you can't shove all the contents into one legal carry on bag.

Flying Emirates(EK) from anywhere to anywhere is the same as flying through the UK. EK allows for one carry on bag only, even if you are flying in first class.

Save the headache, know all this up front!

With this basic information you can plan even the most complex trip easily. The more information you have available to you the smoother the journey, the more relaxed you are to arrive with a clear mind and ready to get to work!

Interested in learning how to travel quickly, effectively and how to handle the the touch choices we make as photographers traveling with tight restrictions? Come fly with me at February 5th to February 8th during the No Jet Lag Intensive Photo Workshop! www.comeflywithfish.com

Happy Flying!