Four things you need to know about travel in 2017

January 3, 2017 Amanda Johnson

1. It’s time to update your passport.

In 2007, passports became necessary for travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. That year, passport applications increased dramatically. Now, ten years later, those passports are coming due for renewal, meaning another surge in activity for passport offices.

Passport renewal can take six weeks. Plan ahead if you need to update yours this year, and read up on any new restrictions, including the new rule ban on wearing glasses in your passport picture. Remember also that many international destinations require a minimum of six months’ validity left on your U.S. passport.

2. 2017 may be the last year your driver’s license will get you through TSA.

If you’ve been to the airport lately, you may have noticed new TSA signage warning some travelers that their driver’s licenses will no longer be accepted as valid identification by airport security.

On January 22, 2018, phase 4 of the Real ID Act  goes into effect, forcing travelers from certain states to use alternate forms of ID when they travel. Residents of Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington should renew or apply for passports in 2017 to make sure they’re prepared for 2018’s new restrictions. Unless their states become REAL ID Act compliant, they’ll need a passport to fly. Visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Real ID Rumor Control page for the most up-to-date information on your state’s status . 

3. Your carry on may no longer be free, and your seats may no longer be assigned.

All three major U.S. carriers—Delta, United and American—are moving toward “basic economy” fares. On both Delta and United, automated seat assignments will be given at check-in for those with basic economy tickets, meaning you won’t be guaranteed a seat next to your travel companion. Recently, United became the first major U.S. carrier to limit carry-on bags to a single item that fits under a seat. American is expected to introduce its own basic economy fare early in 2017.

Basic economy fares offer less flexibility than other fares, however they can be convenient for those who focus on finding the cheapest route from point A to point B. These no-frills fares enable major carriers to compete with Ultra-Low Cost Carriers who have operated with a similar bare-bones fare structure for years.

Along with seating and luggage limitations, these fares may have additional cancelation, mileage and upgrade restrictions.

4. Security is more important than ever before.

For business travelers, you may notice changes in your company’s travel policy as duty of care continues to increase in importance . High-profile terrorism events result in an ever-changing map of world “hot spots.” Your company may increasingly emphasize the importance of including your hotel in your reservation so they can track you in case of an emergency. Additionally, many companies are including new policies aimed at navigating the sharing economy in a way that maintains duty of care for their travelers.

For leisure travelers, terrorism threats and viruses such as Ebola and Zika may mean an increase in travel insurance purchases. If you book through a travel counselor, he or she will be able to discuss your travel insurance needs and options with you.

2017 is finally upon us, and with it comes changes to how we approach travel. What are you doing to prepare for travel in the new year? Let us know at @tandtnews.

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