We are smack dab in the middle of “Holiday Season,” which also means the travel season. It, along with summer, is the busiest time to travel. Don’t we know it?! Have you been to an airport lately or stood in a security line? It’s crazy!
Planes are fuller, fares are higher, service is mediocre, and non-stop flights are harder and harder to find. Ten years ago around 10 airlines were in business, today it’s down to four, meaning 85 percent of air travel is controlled by fewer and fewer carriers. To make matters worse, those airlines are nickel and diming us, the flying customers, to death with checked bag fees, added costs for non-online purchases, and reservation changes. We pay their bills but they don’t seem to care! But, we are complaining! A recent study by Purdue and Wichita State Universities found that airline complaints have risen more than 20 percent. Could it be lost baggage? Delayed flights? Missed connections? Involuntary bumping? All of the above?
To avoid delayed flights, you might consider driving to your destination. I personally love long road trips but I know many of you don’t. To, driving for up to 12 hours can prove way less stressful than flying from airport to airport.
To avoid missing your connections, try your hardest to book non-stop or direct flights or, at the very least, avoid big hubs like Atlanta, Chicago and D/FW. Lost bag numbers are actually somewhat on a decline, but experts believe the reason is more people are choosing not to check their bags because of the extra fees most airlines charge. (So far Southwest and Jet Blue do not.)
As for trying to avoid being involuntarily bumped from a flight you have a confirmed reservation on, (and yes, it does happen), maybe opt for JetBlue or Virgin America, who don’t overbook or oversell flights. If that’s not possible, keep in mind that those most likely to get bumped are either the last ones to check in, paid the lowest fares, and/or don’t have an advance seat assignment.
I often use Expedia to book travel if I’m not flying Southwest or JetBlue, but online sellers like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz complain they are often denied “choice seats” on carriers. And what about using air miles or points? Good luck doing so during any peak travel times, including the holidays.
Some of you may still like to use travel agents or specialists, if you can find them. In general, experts say to use travel consultants not necessarily to find low prices, but rather top-rate travel experiences. Work with a specialist if you need highly-personalized itineraries, once-in-a-lifetime activities, or specialized guides and drivers. Work on your own if you want the least expensive trip possible, are looking for simple and popular day tours or restaurant reservations that concierge services can help you arrange, and if you have more time than money.
When booking hotels, if I’m not familiar with a property, I rely heavily on word-of-mouth and Trip Advisor. I know many live by the “you don’t spend much time in your room so it really doesn’t matter where you stay” motto, but I’m one of those rare birds that actually likes hotels (well, most hotels!), so it does matter to me! Keep in mind this tidbit shared with Conde Nast Traveler magazine by a front desk clerk: “Guests don’t know it, but we often have a lot of leeway to decide on which room you get right up to the very last minute. If you’re impatient or nasty, you’ll get a room in front of the elevator or one that overlooks the street, so be nice!”
As for what to do before you even leave town, Conde Nast Traveler recommends you make two copies of the contents of your wallet: one to give to a friend or relative and one to keep with you but separate from your wallet. It’s also recommended that you leave an extra set of car and house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor. And, always, always double-check your flight status before leaving for the airport. Delays are common and cancellations happen!
The most important things to pack? Patience and tolerance! Happy travels everyone!
Do you have any valuable travel tips you can share? We’re listening!