I recently took a gorgeous river cruise through Bordeaux as a guest of Viking River Cruises. You don’t go to the heart of French wine country without buying wine, but the otherwise terrific Viking staff advised American passengers we could only bring back two bottles.
That’s accurate—up to a point.
For years, I refrained from buying bottles of wine—especially expensive ones—to bring home to the US when I was in Europe. I knew I’d have to pay customs duty on any more than two bottles.
And that’s where the Viking staff was right: You can bring back two bottles . . . duty free. But in Italy years ago, I couldn’t help myself. I brought back a case, declared that to US Customs, and was stunned that I only had to pay a dime for every additional bottle, no matter its price.
Today, you’ll pay less than a dollar per bottle. So don’t be shy about asking a good wine store to put your three, six, 12, or whatever number of bottles in a sturdy box that can be checked as luggage on your homeward airline. I paid no Custom fees on my case of Bordeaux last week because the Custom’s official at the airport said the amount of duty really wasn’t worth collecting. He added, however, each US Customs’ office can exercise discretion in that regard.
Here’s a link to the US Custom’s rule on importing alcohol from abroad for personal use.
I think it’s a great time to visit South Korea or Egypt. Yes, I know the MERS virus is present in South Korea, and the police had a shoot out with terrorists in Egypt’s Luxor recently. But would you not visit Charleston, South Carolina, because of the horrendous church killings there last month?
First, the easiest: Korea. In the past six weeks Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has made the headlines in South Korea. But keep in mind, almost all incidents have been confined to health care facilities. This is not a widespread outbreak as SARS was in Hong Kong 12 years ago.
Egypt is a bit more dicey because of general political uncertainty. And I cannot equate the Luxor incident—in which no tourists were injured—with South Carolina. But keep in mind that since Barrack Obama has become President, he’s had to make twelve grim speeches following mass-killings in the United States.
I’m not avoiding Aurora, Colorado, or Charleston, South Carolina. I live in St. Paul, adjacent to Minneapolis where three years ago a guy killed five people in a workplace. I didn’t move out of town, and so I wouldn’t hesitate to visit South Korea or Egypt.
Two Grand Velas resorts–one on the Riviera Maya (pictured), another on the Riviera Nayarit–offer a package deal that includes a flight by private jet from anywhere in the US to Mexico for a kid celebrating a birthday, Bar or Bat mitzvah, or any other celebration that may require a grand gesture.
Now, I know hotels and resorts concoct these packages in order to get publicity—someone may take advantage of them, but if not, at least the property gets a lot of ink. Or, in this case, a bit of broadcast exposure.
In addition to the private plane, gold popsicles and an Apple iWatch are welcoming gifts to a three-day stay in the resorts’ two-bedroom, presidential suite. In-suite breakfasts for up to ten guests are also included as are all meals and drinks during the stay in these all-inclusive resorts.
There’s a designer dress if the celebrated kid is female and a birthday bash with a rock group that could be someone as famous, as the resort’s press release promises, Maroon 5 or Pitbull.
You’ll find a link to the resorts in today’s “Travel Minute” transcript at rudymaxa.com.
Am I the only one who thinks that Americans make for pretty messy airline passengers? Just take a look deep down into that seat back pocket in front of you. And hope you don’t find already-chewed gum, used tissues, or even a discarded baby diaper.
But, wait, you say—that’s because the airlines don’t do a thorough job of cleaning their planes. That may be true at times, but let’s not ignore who trashes them. Recently I talked about germs on planes, but today I’m just talking about trash. Is it all that much trouble to keep discarded newspapers, gum wrappers, napkins, and other debris in one place to discard when flight attendants come down the aisle to collect trash?
Or to wipe down the little counter in a lavatory and pick up stray pieces of paper on the floor?
A recent worldwide survey of frequent flyers revealed the top ten airlines with the cleanest planes. All ten are Asian airlines. I’ve flown those airlines, and I note that flight attendants collect trash regularly and often slip into lavatories to make sure the facility is tidy.
But it would help a lot if all of us passengers also accepted some responsibility to avoid littering aloft.
I and others often take the TSA to task for sloppy work, rudeness, or plain, old lack of common sense. I thought it might be nice to note that since 9/11, not a single US airline has been a victim of terrorism.
Oh, folks have tried. Remember the failed effort of the so-called “Christmas underwear bomber” who tried to blow up a Northwest Airline flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009?
And let us keep in mind that terrorism targeting airliners is older than most know. Way back in 1933, a bomb blew up a United Airlines Boeing 247—a Chicago gangland murder was suspected–but the case was never solved. The first in-flight bombing of a jet liner was in 1962 when a Continental Airlines flight was blown up over Iowa while flying from Chicago to Kansas City, MO. An investigation determined a passenger had brought a bomb aboard in order to commit suicide as part of an insurance fraud scheme.
And while Islamist terrorists have attacked Russian aircrafts—two in 2004—and a Chinese carrier was brought down in 2002 in another insurance scam, US carriers have been blessedly free of a successful terrorist action in the last 14 years.
I don’t know that the TSA can take full credit, but I am certain that security curtain has caused some terrorists to re-think strategies.