Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Travel Tips

I love love love to travel. This is the time of year that I normally start planning a big trip for the spring, but we are in cost cutting mode at our house to pay for the new kitchen so for now I just read about places I want to visit instead. For anyone out there planning a trip, here are 13 travel tipss.

1. Book seat assignments on the airline's web site. Check seat locations on SeatGuru before booking your seat and it will warn you of seats to stay away from. For my husband and I, I always book a window and an aisle with an empty seat in between (if it is 3 across) and hope for the best that nobody will be in the center.

2. Fly as early in the day as possible to avoid delays. I usually try to get the first flight out.

3. Book directly with the hotel. You are more likely to get perks and if you really don't like it and want to leave, you may be able to check out early and go to another hotel, unlike with packages. Any other problems with the reservation will be more easily resolved as well. Also, if the price goes down, they will honor the new price. Sign up for hotel email clubs as well to find out about discounts.

4. Get a luggage scale to avoid over sized luggage fees. With the maximum luggage weight at 50 pounds (40 pounds for some smaller airlines), it is easy to exceed this, especially since the luggage itself can be heavy if it has wheels. Make sure to bring it with you as well in case you buy things to bring home. If your bag is over the weight, you can re-arrange between the bags and carry ons before you get to the airport to avoid extra fees.

5. Check in online and print your boarding pass from home. Then drop off your luggage at the curb side check in and you will be on your way. I really don't understand why people need to wait in all those long lines inside. Most hotel concierges will print boarding passes for you at no charge, or you can do it yourself if the hotel has a business center for about one or two dollars.

6. Keep checking to see if your airfare has gone down after you book. Most airlines will give you a credit toward a future flight that is good for a year. Some, like United, make you pay a change fee that usually negates this, but Southwest and Jet Blue don't.

7. The easier it is to get to a place means there will be more people. If you like quiet and seclusion, like I do, take the extra time to go off the beaten path. An extra small plane or boat ride makes a huge difference.

8. Check for online hotel check in. Hyatt has an online check in system now. You put all your information in the web site and then you just go to a kiosk to get your room keys. This also allows early check in if you check in online in advance.

9. If you are spending a lot of money or going to a foreign country, always buy trip insurance. Use a place like Travel Guard that provides coverage at a decent price. Things happen...if you get hurt or sick in a foreign country this will pay for you to get home or to a hospital of your choice. If buying a package, then look for the trip waiver from the provider that will usually let you cancel for any reason....this is separate from insurance though since the waiver does not cover medical or additional transportation costs. Most trip insurance is not "cancel for any reason" and is very strict on how to get your money back so the waiver (usually less than $100) is necessary.

10. Look for shoulder season rates since the weather is usually nice and crowds are usually less than high season.

11. Read reviews of hotels online at Trip Advisor. You will find out the the good, the bad and the ugly in the posts here since some of the people are overly critical. Also read the forums and ask questions from people who have been there.

12. For long flights bring food on board with you or buy something at the airport to carry on. Insulated tote bags are a great way to keep food hot/cold. It can double as your carry on and then you can use it as a day pack if you want to bring food/drinks with you on day trips.

13. Pack your liquid toiletries in small leak proof bottles. You can fit a bunch of these in a quart sized bag for carry on. Three ounces is actually quite a bit, so also look at the smaller bottles.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I used to do the aisle/window seating thing too. On my last trip I noticed one couple split with each of them taking an aisle seat next to each other with the aisle in between. That way they're next to each other but still aren't in the dreaded middle seat. I'm going to do this next time I think.