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Volcanic ash cloud still stranding travelers

I've been on vacation for the past five days and have missed all of the ash that's been flying - and also what is likely the largest travel story of the year. Luckily for me, I was in Scottsdale and not Scotland, so I had no problem getting a flight home.

I don't want to go over old ground here, but there's been a plume of volanic ash drifting from Iceland towards Europe that has shut down airspace over several European countries since late last week. The chaos has spread to airports across the globe, from Japan to Jersey. Jets can't fly because the chunky particles of ash melt into glass in their engines, causing them to stall.

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Travelers are losing sleep in airports and airlines are losing a ton of money. Meanwhile, ground transport like trains and rental cars are getting a big boost - although I've read reports that there's quite a bit of gouging going on. Cruisecritic.com reports that the next three transatlantic crossings on the Queen Mary 2 are booked solid - with a waiting list that numbers more than 1,000. Meanwhile, the UK is sending warships to pick up some of its stranded countrymen. Would the U.S. ever do that?

I talked with BWI spokeswoman Linda Warehime, who tells me there are no folks overnighting at British Airways terminal at BWI. However, the daily flight from Baltimore to London has been canceled since last Thursday. "We don't know about tomorrow yet. it's been kind of a day by day thing," Warehime said.

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I also checked with AAA Mid-Atlantic to see if they had any clients who were stranded overseas. Ragina Averella said she wasn't aware of any at the local Timonium branch, but AAA did offer some travel planning tips that could help ease the stress of a lengthy delay:

1. Never travel with a passport which expires within a short period of your expected return.

2. Have emergency funds available for hotel stays, food or basic necessities.

3. Take care of bills - and taxes! - which are due immeidately upon your return before you go.

4. Carry enough medication for two to three times the length of your trip.

5. Leave a house key with a trusted friend or relative and carry their phone number with you.

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