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)
I recently spotted an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about a Department of Homeland Security request to technology companies for a light, handheld device that will be able to quickly determine whether an object on a passenger being screened is a weapon or explosive of some sort.
The Department of Homeland Security oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and all the screening that get travelers through the checkpoints before their flights. The TSA has about 700 full-body “backscatter” machines at 180 airports throughout the United States, but as of right now, backscatter machines do only part of the screening work. They can detect objects hidden on passengers during that full-body scan, but if the machines find something, TSA agents still have to do manual pat downs to determine what the object is.
I’ve been through a few manual pat downs — you can be randomly selected for them, too — and as a seasoned traveler, I’ve gotten used to the process. But some people are very sensitive to pat downs and feel violated when a TSA employee asks permission to do so.
There are many upsides to creating an electronic device that will do the work of a person who might do the pat down. The risk of offending travelers will be greatly reduced, and it will make TSA agents’ jobs easier, too.
Also, in general, if a company develops a great handheld digital product to detect weapons and explosives, the amount of human error in the search and detection process will be reduced, too, making the skies safer for everyone who travels.
It’s a win-win for everybody.
A solution like this takes time — companies will have to submit their proposals, and there’s no telling how long development, testing and approval will take both at the corporate and government levels — but moving to an electronic device that will digitize the entire screening process, from the backscatter machine’s full-body scan to determining whether the objects found pose a threat to other travelers, is a step in the right direction for travelers and the efficiency of the entire process.
I can’t wait to hear updates on this process as it moves forward.
- US Boosts Overseas Airport Security (newser.com)
- U.S. seeks device to replace pat-downs (newsday.com)
- House To TSA Officials: Stop Patting Down Beyonce (inquisitr.com)
- TSA working on way to reduce pat-downs (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- TSA Seeks New Devices To Cut Back On Pat-Downs – Really? (aviationqueen.wordpress.com)
The TSA is not known for its Christmas spirit, which can make everyone else a real Scrooge when it comes to holiday travel plans. It’s to be expected: there are certain travel rules everyone has to follow, and safety doesn’t take a holiday.
So if you want to avoid having your holiday gift giving ruined by some overzealous agents who think your fruitcake constitutes a security issue, try remembering these holiday travel rules:
1. No Snow Globes Allowed
In an article on Condé Nast’s Daily Traveler, writer Molly Fergusreminds us that your liquid limit is 3.5 ounces, which is less than the volume of most snow globes. Which means you’re not going to be allowed to take your snow globe gifts along with you. Your best bet is to pack it securely and safely, and ship it ahead to your final destination.
2. Ship your gifts ahead of time.
Just because a gift is nicely wrapped doesn’t mean the TSA won’t tear into it to make sure it’s safe. If you have to carry a gift with you, leave it unwrapped and wrap it when you get to your final destination. Pack some wrapping paper inside the box (pre-cut, of course, since you can’t take scissors on the flight), and wrap it. Or just buy the wrapping paper or a gift bag once you arrive.
Or, just like everything else we’ve discussed so far, ship it ahead of time. It may seem like an added expense and headache, but if you can save yourself the stress of trying to get everything through security, you may find it was worth the money. Also, compare the cost of shipping ahead to the checked bag fees that most airlines charge. You may be surprised on how small the cost differential actually is.
3. Save room in your luggage for the return trip.
If you didn’t have a full suitcase heading out, you will when you’re coming back. Be sure to leave some empty space in your suitcase to pack the gifts you’ll be bringing back with you. This is especially true if you’re worried about having an overweight suitcase. Only pack the bare necessities, because you don’t want to get hit with overweight baggage fees coming back. And ship back any gifts that you can’t take through security.
Holiday travel is stressful enough. There’s no need to add to the hassle, especially as you’re trying to get through security. Leave stuff at home or ship it ahead, but avoid packing the things that are going to make the TSA confiscate them. You’ll have a merrier time if you don’t have to worry about it.
- As Thanksgiving travel looms, complaints against TSA drop, study finds (nj.com)
- The TSA Announced They Might Unwrap Your Christmas Presents (thenewx1023.radio.com)
- Hassle Free Holiday Travel (allinclusiveguide.wordpress.com)
- TSA Tips for Safe Holiday Travel (abcnews.go.com)
- That’s a Wrap: Some Alternatives to Traditional Gift-Wrapping (getrichslowly.org)
One of the great joys of being a grandparent is watching your grandchildren experience new things. And, there’s no better way to share in these experiences than by taking trips together.
Traveling to exciting new places with your grandkids enables you to broaden their horizons, enhance their education and deepen your bond with them. Plus, your adult son or daughter will appreciate both your relationship building efforts and the “time off” from parenting.
But, remember that these trips aren’t for the faint of heart. You’re not only assuming responsibility for the children’s well being during your travels, but you’ll need to match their energy levels as well.
To minimize stress, it’s important to think through beforehand what everyone in your party will need during the flight. By anticipating the challenges of navigating your grandkids through a busy airport terminal and frantic security checkpoint and onto a crowded plane, you can plan and pack accordingly.
Here are some tips that every inter-generational traveler should consider:
Create A Handy “Trip Case”: While shepherding young children through the airport, you shouldn’t have to hunt through multiple bags to locate airline confirmations, boarding passes or rental car reservations. Simply tuck a “trip case” containing all travel documents into your Travelpro Rollaboard’s ticket pocket, and relax. Everything you need in now in one place for quick and easy access.
Be Prepared: You’re the children’s guardian during the trip, so make sure you have their proper identification, health insurance, contact information and notarized authorization from their parents in case they need medical attention. Plus, it’s your job to know all their medications and dietary needs.
Let Your Grandkids Carry-On: Have your grandchildren pack a backpack that they’re responsible for. By involving them in the planning process, they’ll be less intimidated (and more agreeable) at the airport. You should limit the number and size of items they take, and encourage them to make a list of their belongings which they’ll keep in their backpack.
Pack A Surprise Bag: Bring along a “surprise bag” containing books, games, dolls and other visually stimulating toys that you can pull out when they get restless. Engaging your grandkids will not only make the trip more pleasant for you, but for surrounding passengers, as well
Load Up On “Apps”: Instead of weighing down your Travelpro® Rollaboard® with a bunch of books, why not load some stories and games onto your iPhone or iPad? There’s a wide array of whimsical and delightfully illustrated online books available for kids.
Finally, don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you have many grandchildren, consider traveling with no more than two at a time. You’ll not only be able to provide each the attention they deserve, but you have a ready-made excuse for future trips with the ones left behind.
At long last, there are some sensible new rules to reduce air travel hassles.
According to an article in the May 1 edition of The Baltimore Sun, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced a new series of passengers rights designed to correct a range of issues that have outraged air travelers in recent months.
Addressing such irritations as involuntary “bumping” on overbooked flights, excessive flight delays, lost bag fees, and deceptively advertised discounted fares, these rules are scheduled to go into effect on August 23, 2011.
According to Ambrose, if you’re bumped from an oversold flight, you’ll soon be compensated more generously. Currently, you can receive the price of your ticket, up to $400, if the airline gets you to your domestic destination within two hours of your original arrival time (four hours on international flights). For longer delays, you can receive twice the ticket price, not to exceed $800.
The new DOT rules raise these limits. For short delays, you’ll get double the price of your ticket, but no more than $650. For long delays, you will be entitled to four times the value of your ticket, not to exceed $1,300. These limits are to be adjusted every two years for inflation.
Regarding extended flight delays (a recent blizzard at New York’s JFK airport stranded a group of passengers on the tarmac for 11 hours), carriers won’t be able to keep passengers on the tarmac for more than four hours. And airlines must make sure passengers have food, water, working bathrooms and medical treatment, if necessary, after two hours.
Plus, when an aircraft is delayed on the tarmac, airlines will have to give passengers a status report every half-hour. And carriers will have to notify the public within a half-hour of learning about a change that will delay a flight by 30 minutes or more.
In addition, the new rules will require that airlines not only reimburse passengers for lost luggage, but refund the baggage fees they assessed to transport those bags. And, to address the problem of undisclosed airline fees, carriers must now include all mandatory fees, including taxes, in their advertised fares and on their website.
Once you combine these updated DOT rules with the convenience of flying with Travelpro® Rollaboard® luggage, the skies are suddenly much friendlier.
Air travelers face an etiquette question every bit as challenging as who goes through the elevator doors first, should you take the last hot wing, or whether one should initiate eye contact in an elevator. . .
Who gets the armrests?
Is it the passenger who arrived first? (the “stake your claim early” approach)? Is it the passenger stuck in the middle seat? (the “pity the poor soul” method)? Is it the overweight passenger? (the “why not, he’s already spilling over into my space” theory)? Or, is it most aggressive passenger? (the “survival of the fittest” technique)? And, is an armrest up for grabs when one passenger momentarily abandons it to grab a magazine or accept a drink (the “you snooze, you lose” strategy)?
Difficult issues, indeed. Proper travel etiquette should provide guidance in these situations. But, as frequent fliers well know, good manners often stay on the ground.
In a two-seat row, cooperation is more likely since only two people are vying for the middle armrest. Communication is much easier and most people go along to get along.
Three-seat rows add another player, and increase the tension. Obviously, the aisle-seat passenger gets the aisle-side armrest, while the window-seat passenger gets the window-side armrest. Possession of the middle armrests often comes down to who’s least comfortable with having their personal space invaded.
So, what happens when two assertive, armrest-coveting people are seated side by side? In most cases, the passenger who fears social awkwardness more than claustrophobia will yield. But, it’s highly likely that he will employ the “you snooze, you lose” strategy at some point during the flight.
The bottom line is that most of the flying public are mature adults who accept the fact that air travel involves some inconvenience. When sharing an aisle with an inconsiderate jerk, they remain polite and avoid confrontation.
It makes sense. Why complicate an already unpleasant situation over an armrest (which, incidentally, can be raised to create more room for everyone involved).
If you’re stuck with a seatmate who has poor armrest etiquette, look at the bright side. At least, he’s not staring you straight in the eye in a crowded elevator or eating your hot wings.
With the seemingly endless amount of travel resources now available online, does it still make sense to book your trip with a travel agent? It often depends on the complexity of your trip.
If it’s just you and your spouse traveling to a familiar destination, the arrangements should be pretty straightforward and easily handled online. But, if your journey is to an unknown location, and involves coordinating the arrivals and departures of multiple people and the arranging of various outings and excursions, a full-service travel agent can be a Godsend.
In his article, “Why Use A Travel Agent,” Joseph A. Watters, President of Crystal Cruises, listed the important services travel agents provide their clients either free or for a nominal charge:
1. Distilling the product information: No one knows more about travel and trip planning than a travel agent. They’re up on the latest news, packages, and ways to save money.
2. Investigating and supplying competitive information: Airlines don’t share competing information, like prices, about each other. Travel agents have that information at their fingertips.
3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Since travel agents get all the information from industry-only emails, airline district managers, and other sources, they have the most up-to-date promotional information.
4. Analyzing the current promotions: Travel agents can also advise you on the best value over the best price. Remember, a cheap price is not always a bargain if you’re uncomfortable, have to pay extra costs, or get bumped.
5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions: A travel agent can tell you of any of the pitfalls you might not otherwise spot on a travel booking website.
6. Making recommendations for travel-related options: Since travel agents are always up on the latest news about the travel industry, including the destinations, they can give you ideas of how to pack, what to expect, places to shop and dine, and packages to try.
7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction: Rather than spending hours yourself looking for individual hotels, rental cars, flights, dining reservations, ask your travel agent to help you out. They can act as a personal concierge for organizing your itinerary, saving you the time you need to handle the rest of your life. And you can be sure they’re going to act in your best interest, not the destination locations’
8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: A travel agent, especially one who’s knowledgeable about your destination, can enhance the experience by putting you in touch with special packages and amenities that the average traveler isn’t going to hear about.
9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations: Travel agents have a little caché when it comes to their position, name, and buying power. Hotel owners, airline booking agents, and cruise organizers know that a big portion of their business comes from travel agents, and they’ll work to keep them happy — even to the point of getting perks and amenities that you couldn’t have gotten if you tried it yourself.
10. Getting problems resolved: Your travel agent will also, like a true concierge, handle any problems you have when something goes wrong. Get bumped from your flight? Call your travel agent to rebook. Need a different hotel or rental car? Rather than navigating everything yourself, place a call to your travel agent, and then wait for them to call you back with the information.
You’re going on vacation to escape planning, scheduling and hassles. Working with a travel agent helps you do just that, so let them handle your next trip for you.
Photo: MikeMcSharry (Flickr)
Of all the inconveniences associated with air travel, one of the worst is being squeezed sardine-like against your fellow passengers in an overcrowded coach cabin. If you resent having your “personal space” invaded, flying coach can be an ordeal.
But those spacious first class seats are too expensive for most of us. So, what’s a compressed, budget-conscious air traveler to do?
An effective approach is to request an exit row seat. While you may pay a little more (and will be expected to remove the escape door in the event of an emergency), you’ll enjoy significantly more arm and leg room.
A less obvious technique — if the exit row is already booked — is to request a seat in the row immediately behind it. Normally, exit row seats don’t recline, so you’re assured that the snoozing passenger directly in front of you won’t suddenly lean back into your lap.
You can also increase leg room by not storing anything under the seat in front of you. Simply pack your Travelpro® Rollaboard® properly, and place it in the overhead bin.
Another common approach is to request an aisle seat. While some travelers swear that window seats are roomier, most agree that having the aisle to one side gives you a greater sense of openness. On full flights, requesting a two-seat row instead of a three-seat row also lessens the number of bodies in close proximity.
If the flight isn’t full, you can always move to rows that aren’t full. Plus, you can choose planes with the fewest middle seats (for example, no middle seats are assigned on a 767 until it’s 87% full), or those flying at off-peak times (primarily midweek and midday), decreasing the likelihood of the plane being full. Use Orbitz’s Flexible Search tool to determine scheduled aircraft and flights booked at less than capacity.
Another option for making your coach class experience more enjoyable is comparing seat dimensions (on www.seatguru.com) and choosing flights with the roomiest seats. On domestic flights, coach seats vary from 16.5″ to 18″ in width, and 30″ to 36″ in pitch (total distance between rows). On international flights, the seat’s width ranges from 17″ to 20″ and pitch ranges from 31″ to 42″.
Finally, you should always select the best seat available when you book your flight. Then monitor seat maps online and, if a better choice comes up, change your seat assignment.
Flying coach class doesn’t have to be a claustrophobic nightmare. With a little planning, you’ll have plenty of room to maneuver.
Photo: knight725 (Flickr)