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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Christmas already?

This week, I booked my flights for my trip to my parents' house at Christmas. That's right, I booked Christmas tickets in June. Why? I started pricing tickets, just to see what they would cost (around $600), and on a whim, I decided to see what I could get using my American Airlines miles. Surprise, surprise! I could book a flight on the days I wanted and pay only taxes (a whopping $10). Additionally, American Airlines is starting to charge $15 per checked bag, but that's for tickets bought after June 15th, so I beat that as well (though I paid nothing for the flight - $15 for a bag wouldn't break the bank).

If you're planning to travel for the holidays, it doesn't hurt to check out ticket prices now. Airlines are reducing the number of flights, and from what I've been told, the flights are filling up as well. Sure, you might get a discount if you wait and grab something last minute, but personally, I'd rather have a guaranteed seat for my holiday travel. One less thing to stress out about.

I think my biggest travel tip is to pack well. Even with the hassles of checking bags, don't be that person who brings an incredibly large bag onto the plane. You will struggle to find somewhere to put it and you will be "that guy," the person everyone else on the plane is frustrated with. With the additional fees, I'd recommend only checking one bag, and be sure that bag weighs less than 50 pounds (or whatever restriction your airline places on checked bag weight). An easy way to do this is to weigh yourself, then pick up the bag and weigh yourself with the bag. Subtract, and there you go. Also, be sure that you can handle your carry-on bags. You will be carrying them. Heavy bags can just lead to injury.

To save money, bring snacks with you. I make a point of bringing snacks that are a bit of a "treat." It means that I'm less tempted in the airport. I pick up my standard granola bars, but I'll also pack some Peanut M&Ms or some other candy - stuff I could buy at the airport, but stuff I would have to pay airport prices for.

One tip for staying healthy while flying is to make sure you drink enough water. You can choose to bring an empty water bottle to the airport and fill it with water from a water fountain once through security, but you can't guarantee how clean that water fountain is. I know that Brita used to make water bottles with mini-filters inside. I haven't seen these in a few years, but they may still exist. If you can find one, or something similar, then it might be worth it. Otherwise, just be ready to shell out a few bucks for water in the airport. It's annoying, but it's better than getting dehydrated.

Show up to the airport early. It's better to be through security and sitting at the gate an hour before your flight than to be rushing through the airport hoping that your flight doesn't leave without you.

Carry the airline phone number with you. If you're worried about missing a connection, immediately call the airline - don't wait in line to talk to someone. Same goes with a cancelled flight. You'll get help faster by phone and you'll have a better chance of getting on a different flight.

Be patient. Above all, I've learned that just going with the flow makes the whole travel experience more enjoyable. Stressing out about something you can't change won't help anything.

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