Monday, June 11, 2007

JUNE 11, 2007

Making travel plans can be a royal pain. Here are seven helpful travel secrets that may make it a little easier. . .

1) SPEED THROUGH THE AIRPORT. Some larger airports have additional screening points that are a little out of the way. . . but are rarely used. Ask an airline employee where you might find them.

2) SCORE A ROOM IN A SOLD-OUT HOTEL. Some hotels have 800-numbers which connect you to their centralized reservation centers. Don't use that number. . . find the LOCAL number for the hotel and call it directly. Hotels often overbook reservations like airlines do because they know not everyone is going to show up. If calling them directly doesn't work. . . go to a third-party travel site like,, or

3) BOOK THE BEST FLIGHT. If you don't like any of the flights you see while searching online. . . call an actual airline reservation agent. Book the flight in advance. Three to six months before your trip is your best bet.

4) UPGRADE YOUR ROOM WITHOUT PAYING MORE. A lot of this is based on timing. Make nice with the person at the counter when you show up to check in. You can even make something up and tell them it's a special occasion. Do this before they lock you into a particular room. . . and it'll be a lot easier for them to hook you up.

5) GET A FIRST CLASS TICKET FOR A COACH PRICE. The trick to this is searching for a specific fare code designation. They're called a "Yup" or a "Q-up". Check out It has an online tool that specifically searches for these fare codes to get you lower-priced first class seats.

6) UPGRADE YOUR RENTAL CAR FOR FREE. When you reserve your car. . . get the cheapest one available. Rental car companies also overbook. . . and the cheaper cars are usually the first to go. You'll likely be upgraded without even asking for it.

7) GET BUMPED TO ANOTHER FLIGHT. If you have some flexibility in your schedule. . . you can get some perks for giving up your seat. Ask the person at the gate if your flight is overbooked. If you like what the airline is offering as compensation for giving up your seat. . . tell them you'd like to volunteer. But make sure you have a confirmed seat on your next flight.

Here are some other money saving tips...
1) CAR RENTAL INSURANCE. When you rent a car, they try to get you to buy insurance. Don't do it. Sometimes the insurance itself can cost as much as the car rental. What a lot of people don't know is that their own auto insurance probably covers the rental car. . . so check in with them before you head out on your trip.

2) HOTEL PARKING. Many hotels charge as much as $20 a night for parking. Before you confirm your reservation, ask if there is free parking for guests.

3) NEXT-DAY AIRLINE TICKETS. Airlines love people who wait until the last minute to book their tickets, because they can jack up the prices for last minute bookings. Before you book with the airline, do an Internet search. You'll be able to find cheaper fares.

4) BOTTLED WATER IN THE ROOM. The price for bottled water in hotel rooms is expensive, but people rarely drink out of the tap. Buy a bottle of water elsewhere.

5) WIRELESS INTERNET. Most airports and hotels have a charge of at least $20 a day for wireless Internet access. Check to find free wireless spots anywhere in the country before you book your hotel.

IN ARKANSAS, a dozen riders on a roller coaster spent half an hour hanging upside down — 150 feet above the ground — after a power outage shut down the attraction.

It took about 30 minutes for the city Fire Department to rescue the riders using a ladder truck Saturday evening, said Aundrea Crary, spokeswoman for the Springs & Crystal Falls amusement park.

Spectators cheered when the riders were brought to the ground from the highest point of a loop on the X-Coaster, but one passenger threw up after reaching safety.

IN CHINA, police have detained three people for running a high-tech cheating scam involving wireless microphones during the national college entrance exam, Xinhua news agency said Friday.

A record 10 million Chinese high school students sat for the exam Thursday and Friday, competing for just 5.7 million university places. It means make or break for the students and has spawned a string of cheating scandals in recent years.

Police in Jiutai, in the northeastern province of Jilin, became suspicious when a mini-bus remained parked outside a school hosting the exam Thursday, Xinhua said.

Inside, they found three people, "two of them staring at a computer screen and talking into a walkie-talkie," Xinhua said.

A student in the examination hall used a wireless microphone to read out the questions and received the answers from the van, Xinhua quoted their confessions as saying.

The three had charged the student 12,000 yuan ($1,500) for the service, it added.

Security for the exam is tight and exam papers are considered state secrets before the tests.

Authorities in neighboring Liaoning province spent 100 million yuan fitting over 8,000 exam halls with metal detectors and cameras to prevent tech-savvy students from cheating on national university entrance tests.

Police had found some 42 pairs of so-called "cheating shoes" with transmitting and reception ability, selling for about 2,000 yuan each, in a flat in Shenyang, the provincial capital, state media said Thursday, adding that they -- along with "cheating wallets" and hats -- had proved popular this year.

Three men in the southwestern province of Sichuan received suspended jail terms of 8-12 months last year for using pinhole cameras to send out images of the entrance exam papers to be worked out by "hired guns" for 19 students.