On the Spot: Advice from The Times Travel editor

Women travelers share their tips and secrets for staying safe

Tips from the pros who aren't immune to the perils of being in an unfamiliar place.

Trouble lurks for women traveling alone. Here's how to sidestep danger

Trouble can happen anywhere. Preventing it requires planning and being confident enough to take action. Here are experts' tips.

Overhead bin out of reach? What to do if flight attendants don’t help

You can't rely on a flight attendant to help you get your bag in an overhead bin so what do you do if you're too short or not strong enough? Some ideas to ease your way.

Are you asking for trouble if you buy a fare based on price? Here's how to decide

For many unaware customers, Wow became an "ow." It raises this issue: Should ticket price be the primary driver in booking an airfare? Or should you consider your well-being, financial and physical, be a part of the decision?

What you need to know about the authorization you’ll need to visit Europe

The system will be implemented in 2021. It's an authorization, not a visa. Meanwhile, Brazil drops its visa requirement.

California’s Real ID driver’s license? Still confusing. What you need to know now

The Department of Motor Vehicles is still trying to come up with solutions to problems it didn't know it had with the federally compliant license.

The facts on Real ID and TSA-compliant ID cards for senior citizens

What you need to know about Real ID compliance and ID cards for senior citizens.

If you’re going to miss your flight, call the airline. Immediately. And be nice

Here's what's hard to admit: that you messed up and missed your flight and that it's your fault. Here's what's harder: losing the entire value of your ticket.

Global Entry program turns this traveler down, then reconsiders--and here's why

Long-ago run-ins with the law trip up travelers denied Global Entry membership, and it's a long wait for answers.

For currency exchange and 5-star tourist service, Cuba is still a work in progress

Cuba has a ways to go when it comes to currency exchange and tourist services.

6 strategies for getting seats together with your kids on airplanes

Airlines are flying near capacity, which is why parents are finding it harder to get seats with the kids. But it's not impossible.

How to cover all the bases with car rental insurance

On the Spot: Before buying expensive insurance, check with your credit card company on its rental car coverage

Is your driver's license Real ID compliant? What air travelers should keep in mind.

An update on the complicated issue of whether states are meeting Real ID requirements, and what it means for air travelers.

Should you avoid travel to areas affected by the Zika virus?

What are the dangers of the Zika virus and should you avoid travel to affected areas? Will trip insurance cover a cancellation?

TSA's PreCheck revamped to restrict program to paying customers only

The airport PreCheck line used to allow selected people through who hadn't signed on to the program. No longer, the TSA says.

Is this fuel issue a rental-car ripoff? There's a reason, but drivers beware

Soon you won't have to eyeball that fuel gauge to tell you whether you have put enough gas in your rental car. Welcome to the age of telematics, where data can improve your experience. But is your information safe?

Why 'group tours' have been rebranded as 'guided vacations'

The cut-rate cattle herding with subpar food and generic sightseeing is so yesteryear; now it's value pricing on carefully curated excursions.

Here’s why you get sick after vacation — and how you can prevent it

It's not coming home that triggers a cold or a stomach upset. Generally, it something you pick up on the road. Here's how to avoid falling ill--and when it's serious enough to see a doctor.

Is travel insurance worth it? Seven things to consider

Travel insurance isn't inexpensive but can be well worth it. Thoroughly consider policies before making a decision.

Having problems finding parking on vacation? An app may be the answer

If you have trouble finding a spot, here are some strategies to help you find a place to leave the jalopy.

Before you think about buying travel insurance, consider these four questions

Catharine Hamm, in her On the Spot travel column, considers the need for travel insurance and poses four questions.

My hotel needed a plumber, and I needed a refund. Here's how I did it

My family's Portland hotel stay was marred by a plumbing crisis. When the hotel kept mum on refunds, the guests who got busy got the best results.

Learning a language means failure, embarrassment and the enrichment of your life

You've always wanted to learn French or Mandarin? Don't be afraid. Do know that it's not easy, but it is life changing.

If airfare drops after you buy a ticket, are you entitled to a refund?

If airfare drops after you buy a ticket, don't expect a refund of the difference. You're in the world of demand pricing.

New year, new tactics to keep your personal info safe after Marriott data breach

The Marriott data breach is the most recent example of compromised information. If you think large companies will protect you, think again. It's up to you, security experts say.

What to do when TSA PreCheck doesn't seem to work

Key things to do to ensure travelers get the TSA PreCheck benefits they paid for

Why rolling luggage is cool for travelers but a pain for airlines

Why rolling luggage is cool for travelers but a pain for airlines

Real ID hits a bump, but if you already have yours, don't panic. It will work

Changes are coming to the process for obtaining a federally compliant driver's license, starting April 1.

Would taking these two cruises violate an 1886 U.S. law? We asked two maritime lawyers

A travel agent's reluctance to book a double cruise for fear of violating a law leaves traveler and maritime lawyers flummoxed.

Why there's so much runway construction at LAX – and when it will end

Runway construction at LAX it to build Runway Safety Areas

How should airlines handle passengers sneaking vapes off an e-cigarette -- mid-flight?

When flying, vaping is as illegal as any other kind of smoking. If you spot someone doing it, notify a flight attendant.

Need a visa to Brazil? Brace yourself for a long process

Because getting a visa to Brazil is rarely an easy process, make sure you have that documentation in hand before booking a trip.

How to get where you're going when your flight gets canceled

Flight canceled -- now what? Be proactive and press the airline to fulfill obligations. Here are handy tips, apps and websites.

Want to bring back amaryllis bulbs from Amsterdam? Here's what you should know

You need documentation to bring amaryllis bulbs from the Netherlands to the U.S. Also, you can buy them domestically.

Her grandchild is due around Thanksgiving: What are her airfare options to arrive in time?

A Los Angeles grandma-to-be plans to fly to New York around Thanksgiving for the baby's arrival. Airfare experts offer advice.

Passport to trouble? Be safe, get a Chinese visa

A planned one-day trip to Shanghai elicits different answers on need for visa. Better to be safe than sorry.

Want to scatter a loved one's ashes abroad? Some travel rules to heed.

When it comes to traveling with cremated remains and later scattering the ashes, seek out the rules from each airline and country.

Booking a flight using airline miles and cash is a good idea, but tricky

Trying to mix frequent flier miles and points when booking a flight can be a complicated business, though it can often pay off.

Heading to Cuba? Some tips on exchanging euros vs. U.S. dollars

Here are some issues to consider when deciding whether to exchange euros or U.S. dollars for travel in Cuba.

How crooks try to hook you into scam hotel bookings

Beware false Internet sites and solicitations offering hotel deals too good to be true.

Delta blackout makes cheap airfare game even tougher

Delta blocking some search engines makes airfare shopping harder. Shouldn't we be able to see the information on any site we pick?

Bumped from online service's booking? It's probably airline's doing

Many online travel services are at the mercy of airlines, although passengers should check carefully and make calls.

Gemstone buyers abroad should avoid deals too good to be true

Travelers on the lookout for bargains on jewelry should be wary and know the 'rules of the game.'

Cruise lines' fine print limits their liability, your right to sue

Cruise lines, airlines have boilerplate clauses that often favor them over passengers, including liability and the right to sue.

Lessons in money management for a semester-abroad student

Credit cards, debit cards, cash each have advantages and caveats when used abroad. Here are a rundown, strategies (money belt!).

Must hotels disclose construction? It's better in long run if they do

Though resorts/hotels aren't required to disclose when there's construction on premises, not doing so could damage credibility.

Airline restrooms may challenge wheelchair users; here's expert advice

Strategies for wheelchair users facing air travel — straight from those who know.

Schengen agreement: Understand the 90/180 rule before European travel

The Schengen agreement allows for visa-free short-term travel in many European nations. For lengthy stays, you'll need visas.

How to help smooth trip through airport for passengers in wheelchairs

Travel advice for the disabled: Contact the airline and keep communicating on seats, stowage and special needs

Make sure germs don't hitch a ride on you during plane travel

Cough-cough. Hack. Germs are all around on this plane. How to avoid them?

Togetherness has a price when flying with family

Families flying together naturally want to sit together, but airlines don't always make that easy. Here are some strategies.

Chip and PIN? Chip and signature? Here's what travelers should know

As credit card companies and merchants work on making the change to chip and PIN cards, here's more information for travelers.

Do hotel thermostats with motion sensors have you waking up in a sweat?

Thermostats linked to motion detectors can leave guests cold or way too warm. Some turn to Mylar balloons, others to communication.

Thinking of a trip to Cuba? Make sure you're up for a 'raw' adventure

The easing of travel restrictions to Cuba creates opportunities for travelers but also misunderstandings over current regulations.

Unfortunate last-minute lesson in United's rules on kids flying solo

Children traveling alone on flights face different rules from different airlines. Check the company's policy before booking.

On the Spot: Airfares stay sky high despite oil price drops

Like everything having to do with airlines it's not simple, and the customer barely counts

Wi-Fi and cellphone data plans abroad: You have options

Some tips to avoid going deeply into debt while connecting online abroad.

Tips for getting cash while traveling overseas

When traveling abroad, avoid cash frustrations by carrying several means of access to local currency.

Credit card exchange rate? Don't worry. Foreign transaction fees? Worry

What's even more pressing for credit card users traveling abroad than conversion rates? Being aware of foreign transaction fees.

On the Spot: Honor seat reservations? That's up to the airline

Airlines aren't legally obligated to honor seat reservations. Don't like it? You can try for a refund, be crass or take high road.

Euros or dollars? The wrong choice will cost you

Is expat living on your horizon? Read up on extended travel abroad

If the expatriate life is calling to you, there's plenty of guidance online to help you plan extended travel or living abroad.

Cruising overseas? Don't forget to factor in the visa fees

Oceania's visa fees don't float with one cruiser. You can do it yourself, but it's better to use a third-party agent, especially if problems surface.

Flier's favorite L.A.-Portland, Ore., flights were discontinued. Why?

The reasons an airline may drop a flight are plenty, experts say, but it all boils down to economics.

Holiday travel: October is best bet for Christmas, Thanksgiving deals

Early October is the best time to find holiday travel deals, but if you've missed that deadline, there's still a little leeway.

On the Spot: Taking a stand when airplane seat mate has stinky feet

Options include requesting seat mate put shoes back on. Best bets are with flight attendants and carrier's rules on offensive odors.

On the Spot: Stranded in Florence between Lufthansa and Vayama

A passenger late for a Lufthansa flight on a Sunday was told to rebook through Vayama, which isn't open on Sunday.

Beware: Merged, code-sharing airlines don't always have prices in sync

Price differences can crop up even with code-share partners and merged airlines like US Airways-American, so always compare fares.

Pack light and carry on: Aer Lingus teaches a lesson with baggage fees

Checked baggage fees can be difficult to determine (at Aer Lingus, for one). Packing lighter and carrying on may be easier.

Airlines make first class ultra-luxurious; any hope for coach?

Premium service done correctly can mean significant financial returns for an airline. Will that mean improvements for those in coach?

For National Passport Awareness month, some info on 10-year rule

With National Passport Awareness month upon us, it's time to check to see if you need a new one.

The most fun you can have with air miles, on the ground

A reader searches for ways to cash in air miles without flying

On the Spot: Beware the phone and email scams

IRS calls? Stranded traveler emails from friends? Scams, both. Download and run reputable antivirus software — your PC might be infected.

A refund from Aeroflot over terrorism fears? Expect a 'nyet'

Some airlines are proactive in the face of trouble, others not. The best you can do is plead your case. And read the contract of carriage.

On the Spot: Overseas ATMs and the possibly too-long PIN dilemma

Most world ATMs support up to 12-digit PINs, but some do only four. PIN too long? Consider changing it or your bank, or try a different ATM.

What travelers should consider when Alzheimer's is in the picture

If you're thinking of traveling with a person suffering from Alzheimer's or other memory impairments, weigh the risks and rewards.

On the Spot: What to do with accidents involving rental cars

A reader's Tesla Model S was damaged in a hit-and-run by a driver in a rental car owned by Hertz. Here's what followed.

Four rules for minimizing your rental car cost

Rental car rates are going up. L.A. Times Travel Editor Catharine Hamm offers four rules for keeping your cost down.

Duty-free shoppers, make sure you've got rules on liquids in the bag

Buying liquids at a duty-free store? Make sure to pack items in TSA-approved bags, a.k.a. STEBs.

Secrets to getting a frequent-flier ticket

Frequent-flier-points experts say awards tickets at little cost can be obtained using three rules.

When travel insurance that's beyond the standard policy makes sense

For risk-averse travelers, cancel-for-any-reason insurance might fit the bill. But it's costly and won't result in a full refund.

Advice on tipping while traveling abroad

Advice on tipping while traveling abroad

Taking advantage of last-minute travel bargains

On the Spot: For bargains, look for package discounts and 'flash sales' on social media, and check out Expedia, AARP and other websites for last-minute deals.

Redeem air miles now to avoid devaluation losses

Redeem airline miles early to avoid devaluation losses

That favorite belt? Leave home without it when going on a trip

On the Spot: If you must take valuable items on a trip, and they go missing, report losses immediately. And remember, not all is covered.

Travelers on TSA's PreCheck program must still undergo screening

On the Spot: Confusion reigns over what the TSA's PreCheck program entails, but there's no escaping the airport screening process.

Only one toilet working aboard airplane: What are the guidelines?

Passengers on a cross-country flight are notified that just one lavatory is working. Are there regulations for such a situation?

Sore back? How to care for yourself during a hotel stay

On the Spot travel questions: How to care for a sore back during a hotel stay

Traveling with pricey items? Hotels aren't always thief-proof

On the Spot: If you must travel with costly items, here are some tips on how to help keep them secure, though nothing's foolproof.

Woe is the leisure traveler as frequent-flier programs change

On the Spot: Frequent-flier miles are becoming devalued and harder to use. Playing the game takes cunning, determination.

The smart way to travel with a smartphone

On the Spot: Surprise roaming and data charges can be staggering when using a smartphone abroad. Here's 14 tips to save cash while staying connected.

ATMs the best way to get cash when you're abroad

No restrictions on airlines changing air-mile programs

On the Spot: An angry airline customer wonders whether it's legal for his carrier to charge for maintaining his reward miles — it is.

On the Spot: Car rentals and the honor system

Car rental companies may have geographic restrictions and/or ask for a receipt from a gas station. Enforcement may be up to you.

TSA initiative could create passenger pileups during holidays

On the Spot: Clueless fliers are already slowing down the TSA's expediting screening lines. What'll happen during the busy holidays?

On the Spot: A new knee, a new reason to hate airport screenings

On the Spot: Knee and hip replacements can sound alarms at airport screenings. Will Transportation Security Administration ever adopt a standard exam?

He's floored by maid's pillow protocol

On the Spot: A man staying in a luxury hotel is aghast when his pillowcase isn't changed after his pillow falls to the floor. Is he being too picky?

The case of the icky latex glove 'gift' in suitcase

On the Spot: TSA policy is to leave notification if a bag is searched. No note? It could be the airline. In this case it'll remain a mystery.

Sky-high fare rivals fractured pelvis on pain meter

On the Spot: An emergency ticket change for a flight out of a small, remote airport results in sticker shock for a couple.

On the Spot: After losing Global Entry cards, must they re-interview?

They lost their Global Entry cards. But do they need them in hand to use the program? Or will a passport or driver's license do?

Consolidator tickets: The good, the bad, the ugly

Consolidator tickets fall into a gray area, so be sure to know the risks before booking.

Map or GPS? It all depends

On the Spot: Those comfortable with cartography might prefer their directions on a map. Otherwise, listening to directions may be the way to go.

Treat gift cards and certificates like cash

On the Spot: A lost airline award letter is a cautionary tale on why you should keep track of your bounty, via photos or an app.

On the Spot: Readers share ideas for traveling solo

Readers travel tips: Tours are opportunities for solo travelers to meet people and study programs allow for independence.

Budget-friendly options for solo female travelers

On the Spot: Solo travel can be difficult, but it is getting better, with single cabins on cruise lines, travel-matching services and specialized tours.

On the Spot: Travel policy's feeble protections

On the Spot: Reading the fine print — who does? — on that travel insurance coverage yields surprises but not much joy.

Tight connection could mean a missed flight

Travel: Tight airline connections can leave travelers stranded, especially in busy airports. Choose longer windows, if possible.

Clearing U.S. Customs with old arrest record can be tricky

On the Spot: Readers' stories on being detained at Customs for minor arrests in the past a mark of travelers' varied experiences.

On the Spot: There are ways to speed up passport processing

Expedited passports are available through the State Department, at the U.S. Passport Agency or by hiring a passport expediter.

Global Entry's zip through security, customs is money well spent

On the Spot: TSA's Global Entry program works as advertised: Quick entries back into the U.S., plus easier security screens at some U.S. airports.

On the Spot: When to call the airline and when to call the OTA

When your travel plans are disrupted, sometimes it's best to call the airline, and other times it's best to call the online travel agency.

Arrest from 1970 on record at airport customs but nowhere else

A 1970 pot arrest that resulted in an acquittal resurfaces at Miami airport customs after a trip abroad. How can you expunge a record that doesn't exist?

Wrong time, wrong place? Costly rental car mistakes

Return your rental car late or to the wrong drop-off location and prepare to pay extra.

On the Spot: The right way for hotel to suggest an accessible room

On the Spot: A hotelier wonders about the right way to suggest an accessible room without being offensive or running afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

FTC warns hotels about 'drip pricing,' but is it enough?

The Federal Trade Commission warned 22 hotel operators that the practice of adding resort fees might violate the law.

How to get around pricey airline ticket change fees

On the Spot: Tiered fees would be more fair, but you still have some choices. Think twice before buying travel insurance though.

The tangled web of airline change fees and how to avoid them

On the Spot: Change fees are a fact of flying, but not all airlines charge the same. Also, consider buying refundable tickets.

Correcting airline ticket errors a tricky business

On the Spot: When it comes to fixing errors on an airline ticket, it's not what you know but whom that can save the day. That's where travel agents can come in handy.

Company may be resigned to paying for ex-employee's airfare

On the Spot columnist Catharine Hamm writes of a company that can't regain a nontransferable airline ticket booked by an employee who then resigned.

It's hardly a travel secret: A pro can make all the difference

Using a travel pro may cost a little more, but he or she can make all the difference, On the Spot columnist Catharine Hamm finds.

How to get an American passport quickly when yours is about to expire

How to get an American passport quickly when yours is about to expire

Jet lag: What the tired traveler needs to know

Doctors say that as we age jet lag often gets worse, and Ambien and similar drugs may not be the best solution. Some details on how to find your rhythm.

Tipping's twists and turns

Los Angeles Times travel editor Catharine Hamm addresses tipping, an issue fraught with emotion, political overtones economic implications and more.

Travel to Cuba? Probably not worth the risk

Travel to Cuba? It's probably not worth the risk. The U.S. government still forbids it, and heading there anyway, out of Tijuana, can lead to big trouble.

On the Spot: Should a cruise be booked through a travel agent?

Planning a cruise itinerary can be complicated. A reader wonders if booking through a travel agent is helpful: On the Spot.

Luggage service vs. package delivery: Packing for the long haul

A reader needs advice about shipping toiletries ahead for a trip abroad for several weeks.

High-altitude flights and destinations: Such a headache

Travel: Headaches at high altitudes are common, especially if there's been no time to acclimate. Are some people prone to more serious reactions? What about jet rides?

Finding a cruise with wheelchair accommodations

A reader wants to take a riverboat cruise in Europe with her husband, who had a stroke two years ago.

Global Entry program for fliers: You don't have to be a VIP

Global Entry program for fliers: You don't have to be a VIP

On the Spot: Dealing with a lost passport? What you should know.

Airlines will usually try to locate the owner of a lost passport, but once the document is given to the State Department, there's little to be done but reapply.