We all think we know the ins and outs of air travel, knowing as much about the rules and tendencies of airlines. But it turns out, these hard and fast rules aren’t nearly as hard or fast as we previously thought. Good Morning America and Yahoo recently busted four travel myths, and discussed how they’re not always correct.
Economy is always cheaper than first class. Not so. It depends on the route and how many stops you’re willing to make along the way. For instance, the same flight between LA and New York could be $500 less in first class than it is in economy if you’re willing to incorporate a stop into your travel itinerary. If you’re more interested in saving money than time, it’s a good idea to investigate flights with at least one stop. It might take you longer to get there, but the first class amenities might make you forget all about the time.
Non-stop flights are “never” cheaper. It’s possible they aren’t, but this statement misses the real question: how valuable is your time? Time is money, especially when you’re talking about valuable, not-getting-it-back vacation time. If you want to have more time on vacation, and less time traveling, you may want to spend the extra money on that nonstop flight.
Discount airlines “always” have the cheapest flights. Again, no blanket statement can ever bear the weight of being true 100 percent of the time! The only way you’ll know which airline has the cheapest fare is to comparison shop. Use a comparison website like Expedia or Travelocity, and then check out the airlines’ websites themselves. You may occasionally find the big legacy airlines are offering the cheaper flights.
Summer flights are “never” delayed as much as winter flights. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Thunderstorms can involve severe turbulence, lightning strikes, icing due to sudden temperature change, hail damage, and water ingestion by the engines. When thunderstorms occur at or near hub airports, the probability of any of these occurring can halt inbound and outbound traffic, which in turn can create ripple effects to more destinations than a severe winter storm in the Dakotas.
The takeaway is there are no absolutes in travel, and myths are often just that. If you can be flexible and do your due diligence, there’s a good chance you can find a flight that will suit your needs and your desires.
- What are your favorite travel myths? (flyertalk.com)
Whether you live across town or across the country, everyone dreads the travel hassles that seem to accompany Thanksgiving. This year we want to ease your stress by debunking some of the common myths surrounding turkey travel — you already have enough stress spending time with family.
We found a recent USA Today article that debunked a lot of Thanksgiving travel myths, and will hopefully put your mind at ease.
While many think the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest travel day of the year, that’s not the case. According to Julie Hall, public relations director for AAA, it is the busiest travel day of the Thanksgiving weekend, but it isn’t the busiest travel day of the year.In fact, the busiest travel day of the year in 2014 was August 8, according to the Department of Transportation statistics. The day before Thanksgiving is only in the top 10. See, we’ve already reduced your stress a bit.
Another myth is that more airline delays coincide with Thanksgiving; this also is wrong. According to Christine Sarkis at SmarterTravel.com, Thanksgiving travel has averaged a 19 percent delay record over the past three years, while there has been an average delay of 22 percent in travel just from January to August of this year alone. So, we’re already three percent better.
Frequent fliers also have reason to be relieved. Most airlines no longer have blackout dates, but they do charge more miles for tickets during Thanksgiving week. So, just avoid traveling back on Sunday, when airlines really jack up the “points price,” and you can get back home without losing your shirt.
In fact, you might even be surprised to find a last-minute deal to a popular tourist destination and decide to ditch the extended family gathering altogether! After all, the “you’ll never find a last minute airfare deal” myth is just that: a myth. Just don’t bank on it. Plan ahead as much as possible.
Finally, keep in mind that while the Wednesday before Thanksgiving isn’t the busiest travel day of the year, remember that car travel that day will be its heaviest between 3 and 5 p.m., so you can avoid sitting and do more cruising if you get an early start, like in the morning. You can always nap when you get there.
Better yet, leave on Tuesday morning. Tell your boss we said it was okay.
Happy trails, and happy Thanksgiving, from Travelpro!
When packing for a flight, travelers don’t always want to haul around one large bag, so they opt for carrying a few smaller bags instead. For example, we’ve known women who carry their cosmetics in a separate bag, as well as a small rollaboard or spinner, and a briefcase or purse.
This is fine for car travel, but what about plane travel? Is it better to consolidate all your luggage into one larger bag or carry some of the items you might ordinarily pack on the plane with you. Should you carry the cosmetics bag, which is about the size of a small tote, or figure out how to pack it with your clothes in a large suitcase?Let’s assume our female passenger doesn’t have room in her 20″ carry-on bag, so she’ll have to carry her cosmetics bag. Remember, airlines allow one carry-on and one personal bag, which includes a purse or briefcase. If she’s already got a personal bag, she either needs to make room in the carry-on bag, or get a larger piece of luggage and consider checking her bag.
So which is her better choice?
We should first look at the economics. If you take a larger suitcase, most airlines will charge for a checked bag fee. That’s one decision that has to be made up front. The whole reason we recommend carry-on bags is to avoid those fees.
Next, consider security, trust, and convenience. If our passenger has her medications, she absolutely won’t want to be separated from her bag. It’s also nice to have access to your toothbrush and something to wash your face and freshen up in flight, or to use the minute you get off the plane.
She’ll also need to think about how much she’s packing, and how long her trip is going to be. This is where packing fewer pieces that are more versatile, in order to create more outfits, pays off. Or rolling clothes instead of folding them.
Some people also like smaller bags they can put underneath the seat so they can access certain items during the flight. If you split your luggage between two carry-on items, you don’t have to worry about waiting to pick up your bag after the flight, and you can get important items during the flight.
However, juggling multiple items can definitely be inconvenient. It can be nice to have the airline take care of everything, which can be great especially when you have a layover during which you would have to keep all your luggage together.
Ultimately, this is a personal choice. Are you happy with a bigger bag that may require baggage fees? Or do you want to avoid fees, so you travel light, roll your clothes, and make sure everything is as efficient as possible to keep it all in your two carry-on items? Pick the method that suits you and your travel preferences.
What do you do? Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page.
A recent article on the Future Travel Experience website discusses a new initiative at the Brussels Airport: tracking customers via their personal electronic devices in order to create estimates of how long it will take passengers to travel through the airport. They’re hoping this will help reduce queues at the airport: If officials know when to expect passengers at the gate, they can effectively staff for the influx.
According to the article, “the sensors, which are supplied by BLIP Systems, track passengers via their personal electronic devices. They collect the unique Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of phones, tablets and other devices searching for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.”
The sensors will record as passengers pass by them to help predict the length of the passengers’ travel time through the airport. This can also provide accurate times to airport and airline personnel about how quickly travelers will get through security and so on.
But many folks may not have their phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection or their Bluetooth activated, especially when traveling internationally. So this type of tracking may not work for everyone. (Of course, most Europeans traveling through Europe will already have their phones activated, so it will track with intra-continental travelers.)
We think this kind of tracking will continue to be on the rise. In the airport of the future, there may be a way to do this easily, and it will be more common as time goes on. Recording and predicting traffic patterns of travelers is something we think will become more widespread as time goes on.
However, it’s not clear whether this is a voluntary tracking system from the viewpoint of the traveler, although the system will only aggregate non-personally identifiable information. Is this something that travelers should be worried about? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
One thing that we think about fairly often is frequent flier miles and programs. Since the airlines are changing how their programs are working, we’re always looking for new ways to earn and use miles.
A recent article on Vox.com gives us a few more tips on how to use these programs wisely.
The first frequent flier programs was started in 1981 by American Airlines and was such a raging success that it immediately inspired other airlines to follow suit. And of course, these programs remain in place to this day.
(Which also means if one airline does something, it won’t be long before another one joins them. This includes changes to your frequent flier program.)
When you travel, figure out which program best suits your travel habits. Don’t just think about the airline you always fly; look at the one that best suits your needs based on how you travel versus how you spend money.
There are two basic types of rewards systems: mileage-based and spending-based. Mileage-based systems award you for the miles you travel; spending-based programs (i.e. credit cards) award points based on your spending. In many cases, airlines are now basing their awards on spending as well (cost of ticket).
If you frequently travel long distances, a mileage-based system may be your best bet, although the article says those types of programs are becoming a thing of the past.
Also, choose your airline program based on practical considerations, such as living near and flying out of a particular airport’s hub. If you live near Chicago O’Hare, United Airlines is your main airline, so it doesn’t make as much sense to join Delta’s program.
Another challenge is time and cost. When do you need to fly and what flights are available versus the cost of those flights? If you have the time, you can wait for cheaper flights. If you don’t have time, you may spend more money to fly when it fits your schedule, which may affect whether you can fly on your chosen airline.
If this happens frequently, this is where the spending-based program is your better option.
Finally, we also like the tip, “don’t’ sit on your miles, spend them.” Spend them when you get them. There’s no need to hoard miles. Use them for upgrades, or swap them out for merchandise, or even in a points-swapping program, like Points.com.
How do you manage your miles? Let us hear from you. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.
- Alaska Air, JetBlue take top spots in JD Power airline survey (usatoday.com)
- This Chart Compares the Hidden Fees of Major Airline Rewards Programs (twocents.lifehacker.com)
You can’t necessarily get your degree on your next trip but you can spend some time learning while flying, which we think is a great way to multitask. A recent article in Money Magazine showcased two airlines that offer university level coursework to their passengers. You won’t get college credit for signing on, but you might learn something really interesting! Both airlines plan to rotate courses on a regular basis.
Jet Blue is also streaming lectures from some big name universities that are made available through Coursera, a well-known player in field of online and recorded education for large audiences. They’re also offering some cooking classes through another provider. With the rising tide of “foodie-ism” that could be quite popular
We think listening to classes while flying is something that could be of interest to many people. A couple of us at Travelpro are eager to try this out, although some of our colleagues say they want nothing but to be entertained when they’re on a plane.
If you’re not flying on one of these airlines, you can also use iTunes U, which offers a lot of different classes from around the world for free, or sign up for Coursera on your own. These types of classes are definitely gaining in popularity and can be quite interesting.
Do keep in mind that some of the classes may be a bit remedial so it may be best to sign up for classes where you don’t know a lot about the topic.
Do you do online learning? What are some of your favorite courses? Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page. Let us hear from you, and give us a couple ideas for our next trip!
Airline mileage mavens, take note. The days of making mileage runs to boost your frequent flier membership levels may be coming to an end.
A recent article in the Seattle Times says that United and Delta airlines are cracking down on a practice known as “mileage running”.
Basically, this practice entails purchasing a low-cost, long-distance ticket and just flying in order to make sure you stay eligible for elite flying status on an airline. For example, if you’re 15,000 miles short of keeping your Super Elite Titanium level, you might purchase the lowest-cost ticket to fly from Chicago to London to Frankfurt to Rome, and back again, all in a four day whirlwind trip.
It’s not that surprising airlines are cracking down on this. What is surprising is that people are willing to take such drastic steps, such as spending an entire weekend flying to Europe or South America and back just to gain these ticket points. I have to wonder whether it’s all worth the effort and discomfort.
I find that the elite airline mileage programs tend to be problematic anyway. I’ve had trouble booking tickets to the place I want to go and at the time I want them. A lot of blackouts and restrictions apply, not just for the free tickets, but also on what tickets you can use toward getting the free tickets. For me, getting rewards from my credit card has proven to be a lot more worthwhile. I find fewer restrictions in every area of the transaction. There are some credit cards that are specifically geared toward accruing travel points, and I use those whenever possible.
Plus, consider how valuable your time is. Many people don’t have the time to take a long haul trip over a weekend like that. It may be worthwhile to spring for a business class ticket once in a while rather than spending 36 hours traveling just to get upgraded. You have to calculate whether the benefit is greater than the cost, both concrete and abstract.
It’s lost to the annals of history, but up until 1978, there was a code that said if an airplane was delayed, the airline had to book you on a competitor’s flight. Unfortunately this code, Code 240, was dismissed in 1978 when the Civil Aeronautics Board was eliminated. However, three airlines still uphold this level of courtesy.
According to a recent USA Today article, Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines will still fly you on a competitor, in the spirit of Code 240.
Granted they do have some stipulations, such as if the delay was weather-related or an act of God, then they won’t. But that’s still better than nothing. Even in the 1990s, many airlines would honor the Code. But after September 11th, security became stricter, and fewer airlines honored it.
If you’re ever caught in a flight delay, you can still ask for Code 240 to see if the airline will grant it. After all, the worst they can do is say no. However, there is an alternative.
Some airlines have ongoing working relationships called a codeshare, where they work together and will sell tickets on each other’s behalf, and even fly their passengers. For example, the SkyTeam codeshare has 20 airlines, including Delta, Alitalia, and Air France. Star Alliance networks 27 airlines including United, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.
So if you booked a Delta flight to Rome, and have a Delta ticket, you may end up on an Alitalia flight because of the codeshare. If you want to fly Lufthansa to Germany, you may be on a United flight, and so on. This codeshare, in a way, works like Code 240. If your Delta flight to Paris is delayed, you may be able to get a codeshare seat on an Air France flight a couple hours later.
You can also use these alliances to get cheaper tickets. If you want to fly overseas, check the different ticket prices on each airline’s website. You may be able to get a cheaper ticket on one than the other, even though you’d be on the exact same plane.
Furthermore, if you’re a member of a frequent flyer program with one airline, but you fly with a codeshare airline, you’ll still get your miles.
If you ever find yourself stranded because of a delay, ask the airline about their codeshare alliances and see if any of them are available to get you to your destination faster. At the worst, you’re going to be late anyway. But if you’re lucky, you can get there sooner than everyone else waiting for the next regular flight, and you can do it without any extra fees.
Purchasing liquor in-flight can be costly, which has led many people to wonder if they’re allowed to bring their own bottles of liquor on board. We’ve seen many blog posts on this topic, and unfortunately, with the rules on this being a bit confusing, many travelers are being misinformed.
Since there’s so much misinformation floating around, we decided to do some digging on this topic and set the record straight.
So can you bring liquor on board a flight? The answer is yes. . . and no. (Mostly no.)
Full size bottles of liquor
Per the 3.4 ounce rule, full-size bottles of liquor are not allowed to be packed in a carry-on – you must pack these in your checked luggage. The exception to this rule are bottles of liquor purchased at the airport duty free shops past the security gates. But if you have to bring it through the security checkpoint, you won’t be allowed to keep it.
Mini bottles of liquor
Travelers are allowed to pack miniature bottles of liquor in their carry-on luggage, as long as the bottles are 3.4 ounces or smaller and are placed in a clear plastic bag for inspection. Note that in compliance with the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule, you’ll need to include these bottles into your quart-size bag. Visit the TSA website for more information.
Can you drink your own liquor in-flight?
While you may be able to bring your own liquor on-board with you, if you’re flying within the United States, you won’t be able to drink it. The Federal Aviation Administration’s rules state “No person may drink any alcoholic beverage aboard an aircraft unless the certificate holder operating the aircraft has served that beverage to him.”
While you may think that it might be easy to sneak a drink, think again. Unless you’re OK with paying thousands of dollars in civil penalties for breaking the FAA’s rules, you’ll want to bite the bullet, spend a few extra dollars for a drink from the in-flight beverage cart and save your personal stash for your hotel room.
The words “delay” and “layover” are apt to cause even the most seasoned air traveler to feel just a bit stressed out. Thankfully, airports are starting to recognize that they’re in the business of customer service and that nowadays, savvy travelers are apt to select layover airports based on amenities and comfort.
If you happen to find yourself stuck in an airport on a layover or flight delay, don’t spend your time stressing – instead, why not enjoy yourself? Here are eight of our favorite ways to not just survive, but actually enjoy a layover.
1. Do some shopping
Whether you’re interested in picking up gifts, shopping duty free or checking out designer wares, many airports are now increasing their retail options, making them an excellent place to get some shopping done! Even better? Denver, Los Angeles and Vancouver airports are all planning outlet malls next to their airport terminals.
2. Airline lounges
Think you can’t gain access to an airline lounge simply because you’re flying coach? Think again! Many lounges now allow travelers to pay per visit, making them a great place to kick back and relax.
It may seem like an oxymoron, but many airports are actually great places to squeeze in some relaxation. Listen to music, read a book, or take advantage of the free WIFI many airports now offer and watch a movie online.
4. Pamper yourself
Having a hard time relaxing on your own? Pamper yourself! Many airports now offer barber shops, salons, spas and massage kiosks.
5. Catch up with friends and family
In this fast-paced world we live in, it can be hard to find the time to catch up with friends and family. Why not take advantage of the down time and do some catching up? If your cell phone battery is low, fear not – most airports are now offer charging stations.
6. Meet other travelers
Airports, bars and restaurants can be a great place to meet people of all walks of life! Who knows – you may end up meeting a future client or love interest!
7. Squeeze in a doctor’s visit
Yes, it’s true! Many airports now offer clinics that conduct routine physicals and inoculations. If you haven’t been to the doctor lately, there’s no time like the present.
8. Go sightseeing
If you’re stuck on a long delay, venture out of the airport and do some sightseeing! Most, if not all airports have kiosks that provide tourism information. If you do venture out, just be sure you’re back in time to get through security.
Photo credit: PeterGarnhum (Flickr, Creative Commons)