Locked luggage, SIM cards, and cross-border flight savings are the topics this week's questions.
QUESTION: I understood TSA locks (Transportation Security Administration in the United States) are not recognized in Canada.
However, I recently read that may have changed. Can you clarify?
ANSWER: After 9/11 all countries began to more closely inspect checked bags.
Those people who lock luggage to prevent theft found their locks gone as a result of the TSA cutting them off to access the bags for inspection.
This created a high level of consumer frustration as the flying public felt their belongings were placed at greater risk for theft en route.
After many proposals from lock manufacturers the TSA agreed to implement a newly invented lock that gave each TSA location a series of separate access keys so they no longer had to destroy locks.
These locks were marketed under two brand identities, Travel Sentry and Safe Skies. They quickly became the only locks travellers would purchase.
Many believed Canada also subscribed to this program and had possession of these unique access keys at their various airport locations.
It was not until recently, years after they became the norm in America that CATSA, our Canadian security organization, agreed to implement the same program in this country.
This will bring comfort to many who felt there was no reason to lock luggage if the locks were likely to be cut off.
Many have asked me if locking luggage really provides protection.
It is true that professional thieves' intent on getting into your bags can do so easily with a sharp knife, or through zippers that can be easily broken. Most luggage theft takes place between the time you check your bags and pick them up. This falls under the category of theft of opportunity.
In other words, the easier the access, the greater the temptation. Locks curtail theft and they are cheap, so it can prove to be very inexpensive insurance.
QUESTION: You have written about a SIM card program in the United States that works well. But is there one that works as well in Europe and other countries?
ANSWER: Your question has become a very frequent one since I wrote of the success of the Roam Mobility SIM card program in the U.S.
I have been looking for such an option for quite some time and only recently found one.
The supplier gave me one to try, but since I had no plans to go overseas I could not test it personally. So I gave the card to a woman who will be returning to Canada very soon. I have asked her to test all of the functions from texting, to phone calls in each direction, as well as data usage and effectiveness.
The product, called OneSimCard, is available at a number of outlets. Notwithstanding the information in the report I hope to soon receive, one aspect of the program I wish were different is that all transactions are in American currency. Users will need to accept that a time/data purchase that starts at $50, between official exchange and bank surcharges that will rise by more than 10 per cent.
I like the free phone call option to the SIM card-assigned phone number to any overseas country from Canada. Outgoing texts are only 15 cents, and there are reasonable rates for both return calls and data packages.
I will report on my unofficial research assistant's comments after she returns.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org . Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found on www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca