Quick Tips for Travel Ease
When you start packing, make a to-do list for the morning of your departure and review it before you walk out your front door. Add every small thing to it so you don’t panic at the airport because you forgot to take out the trash, pack your phone charger, or grab your passport.
Airline vouchers for giving up your seat or getting bumped can generally only be used on flights operated exclusively by that airline. They can’t be applied to codeshare flights, even though codeshare flights are available for purchase on your airline’s website.
When planning a rail trip, most tickets can’t be booked more than 30-90 days in advance depending on the country and carrier. Enter a date within 30 days of today to see general travel times and ticket fares – they rarely change much within the calendar year.
Roll a spare pair of socks and underwear inside a clean tshirt and store them at the bottom of your carry-on bag. It won’t take up much space, and it’s a lifesaver if your luggage is lost or delayed and you need to freshen up.
If you have no idea where to start with activity planning for your trip, google the destination and the month you’re visiting. This will give you an idea of the main tourist spots at that time of year and will help jumpstart your research. “New Orleans June” gives you more relevant travel and tourist information than just “Things to do in New Orleans.”
If you’re flying from, to or through an airport that frequently experiences weather delays, schedule your flight so you’re there as early in the day as possible. If your flight is delayed or cancelled, the more flights in the day there are after it, the better your chances are of being re-booked on an alternate flight without being stranded overnight.
Domestic airlines will not pay you for cash, electronics, jewelry, art or antiques lost, damaged, or stolen from your checked luggage. Put these things, and anything else of “irreplaceable value” in your carry-on bag instead.
Book everyone’s flights in one transaction to guarantee the tickets will be truly linked. This will generally give everyone traveling on the reservation the same baggage allowances and makes securing seats near each other in the plane more likely. It also makes re-booking easier in case of a missed or oversold flight.
Reduce the likelihood of declined transactions overseas by notifying your credit card issuers of travel plans in advance.
Long travel day? Many European airports (and train stations) have clean public shower facilities. Ditto for airline lounges in the US.
Checking in online 24 hours before your flight reduces your chance of being bumped from an oversold flight (as departure time approaches, airlines are more likely to bump passengers who have yet to show up or check in).
Airlines’ liability for your lost checked bag is $3300 on domestic flights, $1131 on international. Your carry on luggage is the safest place for anything more valuable than that. Most carriers exclude claims for cameras, art, electronics and jewelry from this coverage also.
Particularly with large chains, reservation agents are often at a call center far from the hotel. Increase the likelihood that your specific requests will be filled by calling your hotel directly a few days before arrival.
USDOT regulations give you the right to cancel any airline ticket, even a nonrefundable one, within 24 hours of purchase for a full refund. The only exception? If you’re booking less than 7 days before the flight.
If you want to try your luck asking for a room upgrade at check-in, do so when there aren’t other guests nearby that can hear. “But you just gave that guy one,” puts the desk clerk in an impossible position.
Notify the front desk at your hotel immediately if you are having an issue with your room or stay. Be polite and understanding, but persistent. Your chances of having the problem resolved on the spot are fairly high. Getting compensation after the fact is the exception, not the rule, particularly if you skip this important step.
Many major credit cards offer free rental supplementary car insurance coverage if you rent in the name of the cardholder and pay for the entire rental with the card. The savings can be dramatic. Check with your card issuer or look for this benefit next time you are applying for a card.
In Europe, a roundtrip ticket (to get to your destination and back) is referred to as a return ticket.
Not sure how to handle the dirty clothes you accumulate during your trip? Most luggage has a zippered interior liner (intended to allow access to the handles or wheel components in case they need repair). Store laundry underneath that liner to separate them it your clean clothes.
If your flight itinerary includes a really long layover, check ebay for lounge passes of the airline you’re flying. For as little as $20, you can often get a day pass. Pass the time with complimentary snacks and drinks, and amenities like luggage storage, showers and free wifi with more comfortable seating than your boarding area.
Traveling as a pair on a flight that looks mostly empty? If it has 3 seats in the row, choose the two outside seats. Since middle seats fill up last, it will likely stay empty. If it does get taken at the last minute, you can switch with the person sitting there. If not, you get a little extra elbow room!
Wondering if your flight is delayed or you have been rebooked? Updated information is often available more quickly on the airline’s app than to agents making announcements in the boarding area.
The GlobalEntry program will let you bypass the long and slow passport control line when returning from most international flights. Tied directly to your passport, it costs $100 to apply but remains valid for 5 years.
In most of Europe, seat reservations on trains are optional. Buying the ticket is just paying the fare. You can then choose to pay extra if you want to choose and reserve your seat in advance.
A double bed in most European hotels refers to two (American) twin sized beds pushed together. A single bed is a twin.
Try to plan travel between the final week of August and the final week of March. This is the “off-season” in Europe and flights will generally be dramatically cheaper and less crowded.
Too late to cancel your hotel room without penalty? Many hotels will be flexible on their cancellation penalty if you call in advance to reschedule for a later date, rather than cancelling outright.
Two quick ways to tell if you’re about to book a codeshare/partner airline flight: if the itinerary contains the words “Operated by,” or it’s a 4 digit flight number (1000-4999 generally indicate a regional carrier; 5000+ generally means a flight on a different carrier).
Always register for the frequent flyer program of any airline you’re flying on (even if you’ll likely never fly them again). This way you can log in and choose seats, check flight status, and see if there are any special perks available to you that you might not otherwise know about.
After your trip, you’ve probably got a ziploc bag full of half-empty toiletries from your carry-on luggage. Don’t toss them or try to use up the last of them at home. Put the bag in your desk drawer or your car’s glovebox for those emergency situations where you need to freshen up unexpectedly.