From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  December 27, 2015

Subject:  Raleigh '16 Reunion

          The upcoming AFVN reunion in Raleigh, NC date is sneaking up on us and all of us should start thinking about travel reservations. 
          Anyone who has concerns about Handicapped Access or other special needs, feel free to contact me as I've got a little experience in this particular area. 
          Immediately prior to and following the reunion I'll have transportation to fetch people from the Raleigh/Durham airport or Raleigh train station.  Closer to the reunion date I'll post a cell # at which I can be reached so you won't have to deal with a cab. 
Steve Sevits, AFRS News Saigon 1963 
518/766-2059 (Eastern time),  character22@juno.com


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  November 1, 2015

Subject:  Raleigh '16  

          Those traveling to Raleigh '16 by car, or traveling elsewhere by automobile may find it useful to pack one of those big Rand McNally road atlas map books.  Normally selling for $10, these road atlas books are available FREE from State Farm auto insurance agents.  Visit one and you my be able to sweet talk the insurance agent into giving you one for free.  If you're already insured by STATE FARM  just ask for one.


    From:  Ken Kalish

   Dated:  December 27, 2015

Subject:  Raleigh '16 Reunion

Lila and I will be there early to help.

Ken

    From:  Steve Sevits
   Dated:  July 25, 2015

Subject:  Sorted Out  [Some additional information on the Bank of America's AMTRACK card.]

It didn't take long to figure out what BANK AMERICA is doing.  They've divided the AMTRAK card into two categories: one with a higher degree of perks and rewards @ $79/yr and one with a lesser degree of perks at NO annual fee.  It's pretty much as I figured, they are fooling around with previous no fee credit cards attempting to get people to pay for slightly greater perks.  I particularly loved their "occupation" list which did not include journalist or writer so I had to select the only other thing which applied to me, self employed "pilot" as I've had a commercial license for 44 years.  Who in their right mind is going to make sense out of a 77 year old commercial pilot?
Anyway the mystery is solved: on the www.AMTRAK.com site, the trick is to apply the the new grey card with NO fee.  Didn't take long to solve that mystery.  It will be interesting to see if they approve me since I already have a regular BA card and a BA AAA card.  Just goes to prove BA has a new set of crazies running the store.

    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  February 10, 2016

Subject:  Travel Credit Card

AMTRACK CREDIT CARD

          When traveling by rail (AMTRAK) it makes sense to have their credit card issued by Bank of America. Two cards are available, one of them has an $80/year membership fee, get the card with no annual fee.
          The current BA AMTRAK cards replace the previous credit cards affiliated with AMTRAK. The current AMTRAK credit card, as of January 2016, has a special promotion which awards the holder of a new card 12,000 points for a thousand dollars worth of purchases within the first ninety days after the card is activated. 10,000 points permits redemption for a $100 dining gift card.
          The AMTRAK card earns “one point” for each dollar spent and two points form each dollar spent with AMTRAK. Double points accumulate even for onboard train snack and meal purchases. AMTRAK points are redeemable for travel on AMTRAK or for welcome premiums such as gift cards for good restaurants. This alone makes the AMTRAK card worth having. AMTRAK cards can buy gift cards for Applebee’s, Macaroni Grill or Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. AMTRAK points are also redeemable for movie tickets or at Disney.
Steve


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  January 27, 2016

Subject:  Airline Travel to Raleigh '16

MORE INFORMATION REGARDING AIR FARES

          Airline tickets may be price sensitive down to the day on which they are bought.  It may be worth checking reservation prices late on a Sunday evening or late on a Tuesday evening according to radio talk show computer expert Kim Kommando.  She explained the technology of how business travelers book reservations influences specific time frames during which reservations may sometimes be cheaper for other travelers. 
          Booking flights while fuel prices are lower may also save some money. When making your airline reservationAA--that’s the time to make any special requests you might have for special dietary needs or handicapped access.


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  December 12, 2015

Subject:  Cheap Air Fares

CHEAP AIR FARES

          There is no “magic bullet” for zeroing in on the cheapest air fares, but a December 10th Wall Street Journal article provides some useful clues.

          It’s suggested that 60-70 days before departure may be the “sweet spot” for low fares, while making the actual booking on the weekend may save money as fares climb almost daily during the week starting on Monday climbing through the week, reaching the highest on Friday.
         Businesses usually don’t book fares on weekends which makes this a bargain period for personal travelers. Cheap seats selling during the week are replenished on weekends. Airlines don’t start managing seat prices until about three months before the departure date.
          Airlines are aware that price conscious shoppers target weekends for buying tickets so Saturdays and Sundays are often the best days to book an airline reservation and businesses usually don’t buy on weekends.
          Airline fares are in constant motion so be aware of the possible pitfalls of changing a reservation to a lower priced seat when you book.


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  July 25, 2015

Subject:  Raleigh '16  

​COME HOME TO ME 

          Years ago when we ran a small business we had an incoming 800 number, which cost callers nothing to call. 
          When the business was sold we kept the number and labeled our keys, luggage, cameras, cell phones with “cash reward for return, call toll free 800-XXX-XXXX. It works, I actually had a cell phone returned to me because of the label. 
          An ongoing toll free number which rings on your house phone or cell can be very inexpensive for monthly charges plus a few cents per minute on each incoming call. When we travel, we put our home phone on call forwarding to our cell which accompanies us so a report of lost keys or misplaced luggage reaches us wherever we are. 
          Too much technology? Maybe so, but the first time you keys or cell phone come back to you, the toll free number will more than pay for itself. Especially if you travel this could be a lifesaver. 
          Jst another example of how a little technology can be made to work for us.


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  July 13, 2015

Subject:  Raleigh '16  

TRAVEL ACCOMMODATIONS 

         Traveling involves finding a nice place to stay while away from home. Making room reservations can be a hit and miss proposition and using a recognized national chain can tilt the odds in your favor although you can still encounter a less than a stellar accommodation since individual properties are individually owned. Playing the averages will allow you to come out far ahead in experiencing good lodgings. Concentrating your business with one chain will enable you to build an “experience record” which gets the company to recognize you as valued regular customer. 
          A number of benefits can be recognized by doing business with certain lodging chains. While there are many fine lodging chains we prefer to use Choice Hotels www.choicehotels.com for several reasons. Their website is easy to use, easier than most, asking you for your destination and travel dates then listing nearby properties. Choice includes accommodations under several names: Quality Inns (usually older properties), Comfort Inns, Sleep Inns (newly built) and upscale Comfort Suites. Almost all include FREE breakfast (my wife loves to play with their waffle making machines). 
          Choice has several discount programs for Senior Citizens, AAA and AARP. Be sure to check various pricing discounts on their website, when making your reservations. Choice doesn’t accept reservations more than one year in advance. Internet availability is almost universally available. 
          Booking through Choice (toll free 877-424-6423) earns you points for accumulated travel. Accumulated points can be used for FREE nights at various Choice Hotels properties. 
          Overall, Choice is a superior group to do business with, the are unusually very accommodating to do business with. Reservations can be guaranteed with a credit card. A few years ago Choice made an agreement with Barclay’s Bank to issue credit cards. In our personal experience Barclay’s Bank is NOT someone with whom you want to do business. Barclay’s frequently holds payments and does not post them to your account until after they are due (sometimes holding payments for several days), incurring late charges every month. Once we caught on to what they were doing we sent payments by certified mail proving the date payment was received. Payments by certified mail were promptly credited. Rather than bother with Barclay’s, we fed their card into the shredder. Barclay’s eventually cancelled our account because we weren’t using it frequently enough to suit them. 
Without the annoyance of Barclay’s, the Choice Hotels chain is good to do business with, from their easy to navigate website to their good variety of fresh breakfast items. Every Choice Hotels property where we’ve stayed seems to be easily handicapped accessible. Choice isn’t alone in the lodging business but they are certainly worth consideration. 


Any issues involving special needs or handicapped travel, don't hesitate to contact me. Steve Sevits


    From:  Steve Sevits

   Dated:  July 3, 2015

Subject:  Amtrack

Hi Ken,
Excellent point which reminds me of the old saying “you can’t get there from here.” You’ve come to the right place with your concern. I love these questions, there is an answer.
First of all forget “Julie” the automated answer system. Your intended trip needs more intense attention.
I looked at the AMTRAK travel planning map and your journey is from Detroit Lakes, MN [station code DLK] to Chicago [station code CHI] then from CHI to Washington, DC [station code WAS] and the final leg is from WAS to Raleigh, NC [station code RGH]. For each leg of the trip you’ll need the station identifier codes.
To figure a trip, the start date is required then www.AMTRAK.COM will list the available trains, times and fares for each separate leg of the trip.
DLK -> CHI
CHI -> WAS
WAS -> RGH
Somewhere on the AMTRAK site I’ve seen a “travel planning map” which shows the routes as above. I didn’t look at all the train possibilities to determine connections and layovers, that’s something which you can do on a rainy evening. I suggest loading a couple of movies on your laptop to occupy your time on the trip.
As noted above, don’t deal with the “automated agent ‘Julie’ “ your best bet is to talk to a live AMTRAK agent and the best time to talk to them is about 2 AM when they aren’t busy and will spend lots of time with you. The agents have the authority to cut deals to fill up the space.  Everything other than coach fare is negotiable in price. 1-800-USA-RAIL.  When you talk to the live agent, tell him or her you want to go from DLK->CHI, CHI->WAS, WAS->RGH.  See if they have any other routing from Detroit Lakes to Raleigh, according to the system map, I think this is the way to go.
The longest stretch is going to be from Chicago to Washington for that I highly recommend getting a roomette for privacy, complete with private toilet. The roomette makes up into beds. Along with a roomette you eat FREE off the menu in the dining car. If you can qualify instead of a roomette get “accessible” accommodation for the handicapped, the space is much larger and costs less. They do require proof, a handicapped hang tag from an automobile will do.
I hope this gives you someplace to start. For the Raleigh Reunion, I’d seriously consider making reservations around Dec. or Jan. the further in advance, the cheaper they are. Apply now for an AMTRAK credit card and you’ll earn points redeemable for restaurant gift cards. Make the reservations but don’t pick up the tickets until shortly before the trip, this way with un-issued tickets you preserve your cancellation and refund rights. Once you book the trip, and have identified the specific trains you can download the dining car menu for the CHI -> WAS leg of the trip. Eating FREE off the dining car menu it’s customary to keep track of the listed menu prices and tip just as if you were paying cash for the meal.
If I can shed any more light on the AMTRAK system, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Steve Sevits
AFRS News Saigon 1963
character22@juno.com
518/766-2059

    From:  Ken Kalish

   Dated:  July 2, 2015

Subject:  Amtrack

Ok, I went to the Amtrack site and found that I can catch a train from Detroit Lakes, only 30 miles from the farm.  Unfortunately, Raleigh is not listed as a destination.  Is there someone I should call for information, or is the automaton offered on the website my only recourse? 
Ken

RALEIGH  '16 

The attached PDF is sourced from the 7/2/15 edition of the Wall Street Journal includes info on Smart Phone apps as used by airlines.  It may be of some use in planning your 2016 trip to Raleigh. 
Click Here

 Steve


RALEIGH  '16 

The AFVN reunion in Raleigh is scheduled for September 28th through October 2nd in Raleigh, NC. 


          Raleigh is served by airlines at the RDU airport and by AMTRAK.  Numerous airline fare sites are available to track airline fare prices.  Airline fares bounce up and down and by using an air fare tracking site you can assure yourself of paying the lowest fare.  
I'm in the process of compiling a selection of sites to track airline fares.  Some fares, once purchased cannot be re-booked at a lower rate, others can.  The rule of thumb is that often the earlier a fare is booked, the lower it may be - but not always.  When buying AMTRAK tickets, the best option is NOT to pick up your tickets until a few days before travel, this preserves your refund options.  The further in advance AMTRAK tickets are purchased the cheaper they are, many AMTRAK options are negotiable except for coach fares.  Special considerations are available for senior citizens and the handicapped. 

Steve

           With the reunion in Raleigh 2016 set for 9/28 -> 10/2, it's not too early to give some thought to travel plans, especially if special handicapped needs come into the picture.  Dickie, our host in Raleigh has asked me to pay attention to the needs of the handicapped since this is an area with which I have some experience.  This time I refer you to a website packed full of good information for the handicapped.

 Click Here

I          n particular anyone with special needs of any kind is welcome to contact me by email: character22@juno.com or by phone: 518/766-2059.  I may not have the answer to your specific question at my fingertips but through experience I may know where to find the information you need and I'm always glad to help.

 Steve  May 25, 2015

          Raleigh is accessible by both train and plane and at that time a couple of us will have SUVs available to pick up arriving participants to avoid the necessity of dealing with taxicabs.  Steve Sevits will be available from 9/27 -> 10/3 to pick up people at the airport or train station, a contact phone number will be made available later.
          Dick Ellis and a whole cadre of others are planning a fun filled session for all of us.
Now that we’ve got firm reunion dates, it’s not too early to make AMTRAK reservations, because the earlier they are made, the cheaper they are.  Two things on Amtrak have fixed prices: coach tickets and menu prices in the dining car, everything else is negotiable.  The further in advance of the travel date a reservation is made, the more negotiable the price. In addition to coach prices extra charges are made for roomettes.
           For a trip of several hours duration consideration may be given to booking a roomette which is suitable for two people.  A roomette provides privacy and even an-in room toilet.  Even if the trip is not overnight, an extra cost roomette makes the travel a bit more comfortable than coach. 
           For those who may be handicapped, travel with a wheelchair or walker, AMTRAK has a few “accessible” accommodations which are larger than a roomette and have a separate enclosed toilet.  These facilities are in short supply and must be booked well in advance of the travel date.
           When using a roomette or “accessible” accommodation, the extra cost includes complimentary meals and beverages (not including alcohol) in the dining car.  You can order whatever you want at no additional charge above your train fare.  It is traditional to tip the server as appropriate to the menu price of the meal items offered.  Booking an “accessible” room which is reserved for the handicapped, proper handicapped identification may be required, your automotive handicapped parking tag will suffice.
          When making AMTRAK reservations it is best not to pick up your tickets until just a few days before your actual travel.  This preserves some of your refund rights in case of a change of plans.
 Before making AMTRAK reservations it makes sense to apply for an AMTRAK credit card which accumulates “points” redeemable for restaurant gift cards.  Booking your trip well in advance may allow you to score a $50 restaurant gift card for use on the trip or elsewhere.
          When making AMTRAK reservations it is best to have their site www.AMTRAK.com up on your computer while talking to a reservation agent at 1-800-USA-RAIL.  That way you can let the reservation agent steer you through the reservation process. 
The best time to chat with a reservations agent is in the middle of the night, they are not busy, can spend a lot of time discussing your options and best of all the reservation agents are under pressure to fill up the space.  As such they have authority to negotiate prices for roomettes and handicapped spaces.

Steve  May 15, 2015


AFVN Reunion

September  29 to October 2, 2016  Raleigh, NC


Please come if at all possible


Getting There, Accommodations and Information for the Disadvantaged

Steve Sevits and Others