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Travelers' Aid: Hoof and Mouth Answers, and an Airline Strike Update

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We've received a lot of emails over the last few weeks about the outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the UK. Do you need to cancel your trip to England? And, now that hoof and mouth has spread to the European continent, will things there start to shut down too?

First, let's answer one basic question: hoof and mouth disease - called "foot and mouth" in Britain - DOES NOT affect humans. This is not mad cow disease. You could stand dead-center in a flock of 400 infected sheep, and you would not get hoof and mouth. You might get knocked around a bit - but you wouldn't get sick.

The British Tourist Authority has set up a special database, listing all rural attractions in the country. You type in where you want to go, and get updates on whether the spot is open or closed. Search online, at visitBritain.org.

Currently, there are still no "official" precautions for travelers on the Continent, but EuroDisney, for one, has suspended the carriage rides and sent all deer, sheep, pigs and goats into quarantine. Okay, they are horse-drawn carriages and, no, horses can't contract hoof and mouth, but, well, you get the idea. We're making sacrifices.

Okay, the second, related question we've been hearing a lot is "what about deals?" Now, they haven't been announced yet, but once the Hoof and Mouth outbreak has been contained, look for the "Great Value Britain" campaign. It's rumored that it'll feature up to half-off on airfares and hotel prices all over England, Scotland, and Wales.

Okay. The other big question these days has to do with whether or not you'll even make it to Britain. With so many airlines heading straight into labor trouble, it's time to start planning your strategy for the upcoming "season of strikes".

First, the rundown: the small airline Comair is already canceling flights. If you're holding a Comair ticket, call the airline right away and straighten out your travel plans.

Delta's pilots are threatening to strike - but both they, and the mechanics over at Northwest, are still one major step away from walking out. United's facing a potential situation in May, and American's seeing trouble with both its pilots and flight attendants later this summer. Just this week, all three major unions at American came out against the proposed TWA buyout.

So, what's a savvy traveler to do? Nothing's going to happen overnight. But if you're booking now, here's some advice: number one: wait and see. Odds are the airlines will offer great deals when the strike cloud clears, so waiting might save you more than aggravation.

Second tip: if you can, avoid the airlines with labor trouble. Again, that's United, American, Delta and Northwest. Tip number three: get paper tickets. If you end up caught in a strike, paper tickets are valuable because they're easily signed over to another airline. E-tickets? Uh-uhh.

Other rules of thumb: If you do get stuck, grab a phone and call the airline's customer service number. The operators are just as helpful, and often a good deal nicer than the gate agents. You may also want to think about travel insurance.

If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or, you can snail-mail them in. The address is The Savvy Traveler, in care of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California 90007. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.

Savvy Resources:

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