COME FLY WITH ME
1. Morning routes are best for avoiding delays. Booking an early flight rather than a later one gives you more options in the event you are bumped; you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight the same day. Flying direct is best but, if a connection is necessary, try to fly through a southern hub like Dallas, Charlotte, or Phoenix, where you can at least eliminate weather as a problem. PS: Check out secondary airports, which are offering more flights and expanded, improved services.
2. Luggage regulations differ from airline to airline, but you can generally check two bags weighing less than 50 pounds each for free on domestic flights. Check with your airline as these rules are subject to change. Try to ship gifts ahead of time but, if bringing presents on your flight, don’t wrap them; they might be examined by security. Keep expensive or fragile items in your carry-on to cut down on the chances they’ll be damaged or stolen. PS: Completely avoid baggage hassles by shipping everything ahead of time. Try sportsexpress.com, skycapinternational.com, or virtualbellhop.com.
3. Check out check-in procedures. Many airlines’ websites make it possible for passengers to print out boarding passes at home. Use a curbside skycap if you’re checking luggage; some airlines let them issue boarding passes as well. Inside the terminal, look for a self-service check-in kiosk, where you can quickly get your boarding pass and sometimes check your luggage.
4. Try to use public transportation, as airport parking lots get filled quickly around the holidays. If you must drive, consider a private parking lot near the airport, which will shuttle you to and from the terminal. Find, compare, and reserve airport parking at major US airports at carparknet.com, airportparkingreservations.com, airportdiscountparking.com, and parkingaccess.com. PS: If you live far from an airport and have an early flight, you might want to stay at an airport hotel the night before; some allow you to park your car at the hotel until you return (parksleepfly.com).
5. No matter how well prepared it’s probably inevitable you’ll be stuck in an airport. So check out The Travel Detective: Flight Crew Confidential by Peter Greenberg. It lists pilot and flight-attendant picks for the best stores and services in major airports and cities around the world.
HIT THE ROAD, JACK
6. The AAA recommends mapping your route in advance using an online mapping tool. Gas up, buckle up, and get a full night’s rest before you set off. PS: Limit yourself to an eight hour driving day; take a break every two hours or 100 miles.
7. Prepare a road survival kit for each kid: books, crayons, coloring books, magnetic puzzles, etc. If your hearing can take it, consider All-American Car-i-oke, a book and CD that create the karaoke experience in the car. PS: Check out travelforkids.com and momsminivan.com.
8. Renting a car? Confirm your reservation. Car-rental outfits figure on a no-show rate of 20 percent, so calling to confirm before you arrive lets them know you won’t be among that 20. Try to arrive at the rental counter in late morning or early afternoon. PS: Inquire ahead of time about express check-in programs so you can skip any lines.
Don’t forget Spot and Fido! Whether traveling by plane or car, be sure your pet is properly identified with a current tag or microchip. For advice on air travel with pets go to http://www.aspca.org and click on Pet Care. If your four legged friends aren’t going, plan ahead and make sure they get the best care while you’re gone.