Travel Tips compiled from Cheapflights.com and Transportation and Security Administration Tips for Travelers
Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees Confused about which airlines are charging for which "perks"? Our Ultimate Guide to Airline Fees puts every major fee from every major domestic airline in one place.
http://i.slimg.com/sc/sl/graphic/u/ul/ultimate-guide-to-airline-fees.pdf (PDF of current airline fees) http://www.smartertravel.com/blogs/today-in-travel/airline-fees-the-ultimate-guide.html?id=2623262
There is one more lingering activity to tackle before you head to the airport and board your flight - the tedious chore of packing, and it's often an arduous process. But the goal is a simple one: pack what you need, leave behind what you don't, and don't forget your toothbrush. If it were only that simple.
Your destination will ultimately determine what items are essential, and what items are frivolous for packing. When forced to choose between what you need for your trip and what you want to bring, the immediate reaction is to just cram it all in the suitcase. It’s possible you’ll wear the Hawaiian print shirt that’s been tucked away in your closet for over a year. It’s possible you'll go running on the beach and must bring an extra pair of shoes (even though you haven’t been to the gym all season). Airlines upped their over-weight luggage and extra bags fees so it costs more to pack more these days, and where will you put the souvenirs you've purchased when it's time to come home?
Packing doesn't have to be complicated. While every traveler's packing style is different the basic rules still apply. Take our tips on proactive packing and lessen your luggage load before boarding the flight.
The Many Faces of Beauty Products
The most over-packed item in most suitcases is the makeup bag. As most women know, the weather can dictate a lot when it comes to skincare and hair styling. But that doesn't mean you should pack your entire beauty regime.
Leave the Family Heirlooms at Home
Simply put, if you can't imagine life without it, leave it at home. Most hotels have in-room safes, but you can never be too careful. Your grandmother's pearls and your father's high school ring are better left at home or in the bank vault.
Keep Your Clothes to a Minimum
This is the most difficult of all the packing chores – what to wear. No one wants to run out of clean underwear or get a red wine stain on your only pair of khaki pants, but there is a happy medium when it comes to packing clothes.
The travel industry has some pretty awesome travel gadgets, but these gadgets aren't necessary for every type of traveler. Learn to live without when you're on vacation. Every traveler and every trip is different, but in general it's best to keep the gadgets to a minimum.
Here are some last-minute packing tips to remember before you set off on your next journey:
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Paper airline tickets have been curbed and travelers are now required to use electronic tickets for travel. This means shorter lines at the airport ticket desks and one less thing to remember before you leave the house. But, with paper tickets going away travelers will need to be cognizant of necessary information needed to check bags and board the plane.
No matter how you bought your tickets – online, on the phone or at a travel agency – be sure to check the airline requirements when you book your flights.
All tickets purchased for the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy are electronic tickets. You will not receive a ticket in the mail. You WILL receive an electronic ticket confirmation with your flight information and a confirmation number.
To check-in at the airport, you need a government issued photo-ID.
A printout of your flight confirmation helps if there is any confusion about your flight reservation.
Choose the check-in option that's right for you
Long gone are the days of arriving at the airport three hours early to stand in line at the airline check-in desk. With so many different check-in options available, you don't always have to spend time in line. But with options comes decisions. This guide to checking-in should help you decide the method that's right for you.
Online check-in allows you to complete the process yourself on the airline's Web site if you have an electronic ticket (or "e-ticket"). Typically, this can be done between 24 hours and 90 minutes before the flight is due to depart. When you check-in online you'll need to verify all your flight details, choose a seat if you have not already selected one, choose meals if applicable and confirm that you are planning to take the flight. Some airlines will then allow you to print out your boarding pass using your own printer; others will require you to pick up your boarding pass from a self-service kiosk at the airport. If you have bags to check-in there is usually a bag drop-off point in the airport. Bags will need to be dropped off at least an hour before departure.
Pros: The quickest and easiest way to check-in, you can do it from the privacy of your own home or office, avoid lines at the airport, and save on time before you fly.
Cons: If the airline expects you to print the ticket yourself, you need access to a printer. Faxes or photocopies of boarding passes are not accepted. If traveling in a group, each passenger needs to check-in individually. Some airlines will not accept online check-in for passengers under 16 years old or for those over 65 traveling with a senior discount.
Self-service kiosks are available for most airlines in most of the large airports. Though you still have to check-in at the airport, the self-service check-in lines are normally shorter and the process is much quicker. Bags to check-in can be dropped at designated baggage drop points for your airline. You normally need to have an e-ticket or a paper ticket with a magnetic strip to use the kiosks. The machine will read your ticket, credit card or passport and ask you to select the destination of your flight. It should then bring up the correct details of your flight and ask you to confirm. Kiosks are typically open between 24 hours and 90 minutes before a flight departs.
Pros: An efficient way to check-in at the airport. As kiosks open for flights many hours before check-in desks, lines are almost always shorter. If you live close to the airport, it's also possible to check-in up to a day before your flight leaves. This can be particularly useful if you have a very early morning flight, for example.
Cons: Not all airlines or airports operate self-service kiosks, and those that do may have restrictions. It is important to check with the airline before you plan on using this method, and check that it is available for your specific route, as well. Some airlines will only let you use self-service kiosks if you are traveling with no checked luggage or traveling domestically. Children traveling as unaccompanied minors are normally not allowed to use self-service check-in.
The traditional method of check-in still exists and is widely used. Travelers arrive at the airport between three hours and one hour before the flight, then stand in line at the airline desk to receive boarding passes and hand over any luggage. Check-in times for flights vary depending on your destination. For international flights, travelers are required to check in between two and three hours prior to the scheduled departure. Domestic flights require check-in at least one hour before departure.
Pros: Human contact at the desk means this is the least confusing option. If you have any special requirements, like a wheelchair or assistance from airline personnel, you'll need to check-in at the desk. There's also a (very slight) chance that you may get an upgrade if you're there in person. If you want to get bumped from your flight, then you'll need to check-in at the desk.If there are any problems with your flight, the airline agent at the check-in desk can reissue tickets or rebook you on another flight.
Cons: This can be the slowest and most tiresome way to check-in. If you're unlucky, lines can be long, and there's no option of arriving just before the flight leaves.back to top ^
What air travelers need to know
In this post-September 11 world of increased airport security, travelers really need to be informed and prepared. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has developed standardized security screening procedures for all airports. Therefore, you can expect that you will encounter essentially the same procedures at each airport you visit.
Although flying has never been safer, there are increased wait times and there is a long list of items that should not be packed in your checked or carry-on luggage. These are the obvious things like explosives, but there are other, seemingly harmless items, that are prohibited. See a full list on the TSA Web site. You could also check with your airline.
First things first, always make sure you have the correct photo ID and boarding pass.
Before you arrive at the airport
You don't have to dress well to get through security, but certain clothing and accessories can set off the metal detector and slow you down. These can include rings, watches, cuff links, body piercings, metal buttons or snaps, hair barrettes, belt buckles and pins.
Label your medication clearly so it can be identified. Place meds in clear plastic bags to make screening easier. If you don't want your meds or medical equipment x-rayed, you need to request a visual inspection before the screening begins.
Don't wrap gifts before you get to the airport. Wrap at the end of your journey or ship the gift ahead of your flight. Wrapped packages will be unwrapped by airport screeners.
Neither wind, nor rain, nor sleet, nor hail
Bring a self-addressed stamped envelope (make sure you have plenty of postage on it) in case you are prohibited from bringing an item on the plane. You can mail it back home. Without this, you may be asked to give it up, and there is no getting it back.back to top ^
Stringent security measures give travelers more time between security and boarding, so the availability of amusements at airports has become more important.
Quick tips to while away your time at the airport
If you have a Wi-Fi enabled laptop, you'll be able to connect at most airports either through access points in public areas (for a fee) or in airline lounges and clubs. Almost all of the American, Delta, United and US Airways airport clubs offer Wi-Fi access through T-Mobile.
Typical wireless networks can send signals over a distance of 300ft and such signals are not impeded by doors, walls, and windows - so you don't actually have to be in an airport club to use the service. To try it for free, sit close by the entrance. This tip is included on the Microsoft small business Web site, which rates the top five airports for Wi-Fi access.
The three major providers of Wi-Fi hotspots in airports are Boingo, T-Mobile, and Wayport.
Hungry? Eat Healthy
It's important to know what food choices are available at departure airports around the world. This is especially important to travelers, as many airlines no longer offer in-flight meals. The popular choices at many airports are national chains, like McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Starbucks etc. (Read Cheapflights.com's guide to healthy airport eating for the best nutritional options at fast-food restaurants). Tired travelers aren't up for unpleasant dining surprises, and many would rather eat at a well-known national chain instead of risking their stomachs at a local unknown.
This doesn't mean travelers don't worry about carbs and cholesterol while they are waiting at the airport, however. Luckily, many airports offer healthy options. Miami International Airport is one of the top airports for its healthy choices, which include La Carreta Cuban Cuisine, Casa Bacardi and a sushi bar. Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport has implemented a Heart Smart nutrition plan. Travelers can choose from vegetarian stir-fry and almond rice salad at the Mediterranean Grill, tabouli wraps at the Original Airport Café and veggie fajitas at Diego's Mexican Village. Other notables on the airport cuisine list are Denver International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Quick tips, if you decide to buy and eat at 35,000ft
The do's and don'ts of air travel
While some people mind their manners mid-air, others leave their airplane etiquette on the ground. While you can’t change the person sitting next to you on your flight, you can lead by example. We’ve compiled a list of common air flight complaints and airplane etiquette faux-paus that if avoided, could help make your next trip more enjoyable.
The Rapid Recliner: With the limited space available on airplanes, a reclined seat is sometimes the only way to get a few inches of extra leg room. The Rapid Recliner is the one who immediately leans back as soon as the wheels are off the ground. This creates a residual effect and soon everyone is falling back into each other’s laps. Do your backseat neighbor favor though, and wait just a few minutes before reclining. Keep the following mantra in mind: Give it some time and we’ll all recline.
Incessant Talker: For some travelers, the few hours on an airplane provide the perfect amount of “alone time.” That is, until your neighbor strikes up a conversation and just won’t stop. Incessant talking is a common airline crime, but it’s easily stopped. Start by introducing yourself when you sit down and if your introduction is met by a quick opening of a book or an immediate grab for the headphones, it’s safe to assume your neighbor is not in the mood to be social. Unfortunately, some incessant talkers can’t be stopped.
Arm Rest Bandit: Airplane space is limited enough so when it comes to sharing the 2-inches of arm rest space remember the simple rule: the arm rest is split 50/50. If your neighbor is stealing the arm rest there are a few things you can do. First, gently nudge the elbow and attempt to reclaim your 50 percent stake in the arm rest space. If that doesn’t work, wait until your neighbor gets up to use the lavatory and comfortably add your arm to its rightful resting space.
Multi-bag Mayhem: There’s a reason why carry-on luggage is limited: there’s only so much space to go around. Stuffing your bags into overhead compartments means crushing the items inside other bags. This can result in Big Jim taking a beating on your bag when you’re not looking, or Aunt Sophie accidentally dropping your belongings while reaching for her cane during the flight. And while you may have a hard time believing it, the space underneath the seat in front of you is not going to expand to fit your oversized carry-on. Pay attention to the rules. The simple fact is: if you forget to pack something, it’s likely you can pick it up in your destination.
Seat Grabber: You’re on a long flight and it’s time to get up and move around. Thanks to the limited space on airplanes this can be a tricky situation. Your immediate thought is to grab the seat in front of you as leverage to lift yourself up. But doing so will give the patron in that seat a slight case of whiplash. Instead, try this approach to getting up: engage your core and lift. You’ll get a mini-abs workout and you won’t injure the person seated in front of you. You can practice this at the airport before boarding the flight. While you’re seated in the boarding area, tighten your tummy and stand up from your seat without using the armrests for support.
Child Kicker: You’re enjoying the in-flight movie and miniscule bag of peanuts and you’ve finally found that comfortable spot to rest your head (the little nook right between the edge of your seat and the window). As you slowly close your eyes for what you hope will be a good solid hour of REM, a massive jolt pierces right through the middle of your back. Before you can turn around, it happens again. And again. It’s the child; the restless, sleepless, bored child seated behind you. Kindly stand up (without grabbing the seat in front of you) and ask the adult to please control the kicking. If that doesn’t work, a good evil eye from in between the seats will likely scare the child long enough to stop kicking your seat.
Flight DJ: The new Snoop Dogg CD is out and you had enough time to download the tracks to your iPod before leaving for the airport. As soon as the captain gives the all-clear to use portable electronic devices, you snatch your MP3 and hit “play.” As you start grooving you turn the volume up…and up…until your neighbor can hear the background voices of the Dogg Pound through your iPod. Keep it down, music lover. Even Snoop has manners. We realize airplanes tend to be loud, but it is possible to listen to tunes without holding a karaoke contest on the plane.
Boozer: Some people have a fascination with mini-wine bottles. So much so that they buy as many as they can during the flight and create their own mini-wine bottle wine bar. Of course, what most people forget is that the lack of oxygen is slightly less at 36,000-feet and the booze hits fast and hard. If you’re seated next to a boozer, politely remove yourself for a quick walk around the plane. Seek out an alternative seat or ask the flight attendant to find another seating option for you. After a few drinks, the boozer is going to want to pass out and it’s likely his head winds up in your lap if you don’t move fast.
Mad Bladder: When you gotta go, you gotta go. But before boarding the plane we suggest to try to go at the airport. It’s one thing to get up during the flight for a potty break; it’s another thing to get up every 30 minutes for the bathroom. If you have a window seat and a small bladder, you risk finding yourself in the awkward position of straddling your neighbor as you attempt to get out of the row to use the bathroom. This is especially awkward if your neighbor is sleeping and wakes up mid-straddle. If you know you’re a mad bladder, request an aisle seat on your flight. If you find yourself the victim of the bladder-straddler, kindly suggest the two of you change seats.
Diva Behavior: Airline delays are inevitable. Bad weather, mechanical issues and congested skies can create a delay in your flight leaving or landing. And if you’re like most travelers, you’ve got somewhere to be – pronto! When a delay happens, it’s natural to want to unleash your inner diva and demand some reimbursement for this unfortunate setback. However, the “do you know who I am!” conversation will only work if you’re the president of the airline. Take a deep breath and try to remember that everyone else is in the same situation. It’s likely the airline will offer you some sort of compensation once they get you to where you’re supposed to be.
Don't forget that basic rules apply, too. Proper airplane etiquette dictates that you follow airlines rules before arriving at the airport. Recent reports note flights being delayed because of half-dressed passengers, barefoot travelers and foul-smelling fliers. Remember: no shoes, no shirt, no service. Don't forget to bathe and if you're running out of time, don't use cologne as a cover-up.
Now that you have some tips on how to handle bad behavior and avoid being labeled a “bad etiquette airplane flier,” sit back and enjoy your flight. The airlines really do want you to have a pleasant flight, even if the person sitting next to you doesn’t.back to top ^
When airlines overbook, you might lose your seat
In some cases, travelers are "bumped" from their pre-booked flights. Airlines overbook and sell more than 100 percent of a particular flight's seats because they assume some people with reservations won't show up for the flight - the average no-show rate across the aviation industry is about 15 percent. Sometimes everyone shows up, which means there won't be enough seats to go around and someone must be left behind. Those who are left behind have been bumped from the flight and will have to take a later flight.
There are two types of bumping - voluntary and involuntarily. With voluntary bumping you choose to give up your seat on your flight for some form of compensation (usually travel vouchers or cash) and with involuntary bumping you are forced to give up your seat. However, those who are involuntarily bumped are protected under specific Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that spell out the minimum amount of compensation and other protections for those passengers. If you volunteer to be bumped, you are simply agreeing to a deal from the airline. This deal is not regulated and will depend on upon the airline's gate attendants and how good a negotiator you are.
For a business person hurrying to finalize a deal, getting bumped can be a disaster. For those with flexible travel schedules, it can be a great way to make a few extra dollars or get a free ticket for future use. Expert bumpees suggest making a reservation if a flight is near full. If there are fewer than eight seats available, some people will likely be bumped. Look for flights on heavily traveled days, but on small-bodied aircraft like 727s and 737s.
Remember that bumping compensation rules don't apply to commuter airlines (an airline that flies to smaller communities, often linking to a larger regional hub) or charter flights. If the airline asks for volunteers, speak up. The compensation could be as little as a $50 voucher or it could go as much as a free ticket. The airline will rebook you on another flight to your destination. You typically don't get a free flight if the airline can get you on another flight to the same destination within the hour.
When bumping does occur, it is often due to situations out of the airline's control such as cancellations due to mechanical or weather-related problems. Be careful. There could be many people needing to be re-booked and there are only so many seats on airplanes. You might just find yourself without a way to your destination, so plan ahead and make sure you know the airlines's policies for hotel vouchers and next day travel.
Compensation for voluntary bumping varies greatly from airline to airline and situation to situation. Most times it is based on length of flight or ticket value. Compensation for an international flight, for example, may be higher than for a domestic flight. Gate agents often have the authority to raise or lower the award and may do so at any time.
Most airlines offer free tickets or a voucher worth a dollar amount toward a domestic ticket or international flight (depending on your original destination ticket). While the free ticket sounds like a better deal and may well be, in many cases, the free tickets may come with many booking restrictions and limited seat availability.
Free tickets also do not earn miles, and many airlines have cut back on the amount of compensation. Some have cut vouchers altogether - so it's important to check on the compensation available before giving up your seat.
What you should know before being bumped
If you do volunteer to be bumped, you will be stuck with whatever deal is available. Don't expect extras. You'll want to know all the details of the airline's offer before you agree to accept their deal. If you are involuntarily bumped, work with the airline counter personnel to book you on another flight. Being nice and working with the agent will often bring much better results than losing your temper. You can let them know you are upset without turning your anger toward them. Know that there are written guidelines, some of which are required by the Federal Aviation Administration, that protect passengers who have been involuntarily denied boarding.
Ask to be protected under the airline's own written rules in the ticket conditions or contract of carriage for dealing with bumped passengers so you are given all the consideration you are legally due. This section of the contract is often called "Rule 245", but all airlines will have a section that specifies the action they must take to help you continue your trip and what compensation you are due, if any. The U.S. Department of Transportation mandates that a copy of this contract be available to passengers at airline ticket counters. Many airlines also provide this information on their Web sites so you might print it and take it with you for reference, if needed.
Some additional things to keep into consideration if bumping occurs:
How can I avoid getting bumped?
If you get involuntarily bumped, will you be compensated?
If an airline involuntarily denies a person boarding, federal law requires the company to repay 100 to 200 percent of the one-way fare to the final destination or up to $400, depending on how long the passenger is delayed from the scheduled arrival at his or her final destination. Know that compensation for delay will vary depending on the amount of time you were delayed, the type of flight you take and possibly even the class of ticket you hold. There are several situations where airlines are not required to compensate you at all, even if you are involuntarily bumped. In some situations, you might even be forfeiting your right to a refund of your unused ticket. However, in many situations, if you did everything right, the Federal Aviation Administration does require that the airline provide some compensation to passengers who have been involuntarily denied boarding.back to top ^
Based on statistics from the Department of Transportation, only 0.005% of all checked baggage is permanently lost. Most bags will catch up with you within hours (usually the next flight on your route) and the airline will deliver it to you by courier.
However, in the event that you become separated from your bag, here’s the information you need to track your bag down.
All airlines are liable for compensation if baggage is delayed or damaged due to their own negligence, but this liability doesn’t include fragile articles, liquids, or perishable items. Most airlines are not liable for damage to the following (at airline discretion):
Fragile items, spoilage of perishables, loss/damage/delay of money, jewelry, cameras, electronic/video/photographic equipment, computer equipment, heirlooms, antiques, artwork, silverware, precious metals, negotiable papers/securities, commercial effects, valuable papers, or other irreplaceable items and/or any item where a liability release was signed by the passenger.
A little extra care can keep your bags with you
The airlines have upgraded baggage tracking technology so reuniting you with your misplaced bags is much quicker and easier today. As a passenger, you can take certain precautions that can help the airlines return items you leave on a plane or get your bags back to you quickly.
As you pack, follow these tips
A guide for physically challenged travelers
Traveling when disabled can be particularly hard and planning for it isn't easier. There are travel agents and operators who specialize in package deals for disabled people. But planning a trip, especially if traveling in a wheelchair, can be exhausting. If you're traveling independently for the first time, or are making a trip with someone who is disabled, consider these tips.
Before You Go
Plan as far ahead as you possibly can. Many airlines will only allow one wheelchair per plane; many hotels have only a certain amount of accessible rooms and wherever you are going you need to let people know if you require special assistance when you arrive. Get in touch with the airline as soon as you can before flying. Make sure they can provide transport to get around the airport, if you need it, as well as help to get on and off the plane. Call hotels to request wheelchair ramps and find out about 24-hour room service - just in case you need it.
Research your destination. Accessibility can be very limited in some areas. Check with Web sites and guidebooks for details on accessibility for most cities. Cobbled streets, lots of old, tall buildings without elevators, or hilly towns can make travel difficult if you are in a wheelchair. Check on the transportation options available as well - especially if traveling on a budget. Are the trains, subways, or boats easy to get into? Will they transport wheelchairs? Taxis are a failsafe method of getting around in most places, but can be expensive.
Research your hotel. The excellent access-able.com Web site has a searchable worldwide list of cities that will suggest accessible hotels or hostels around the world. If booking on your own, call the hotel in advance and ask about the services that they have for disabled travelers. Don't rely on agents for information; make sure you speak to the hotel directly. Access-able.com advises you ask the person who picks up the phone if they have been in the rooms themselves. If they can't give you specific details about the room, ask to speak to someone who has stayed there. Then ask them to describe every facility in detail with open-ended questions, rather than simply asking whether they have it or not. Make sure you get all the details. If possible, get a written confirmation about the services they have available, especially if wheelchair access is needed.
Ask others. Forums can be the best way of finding information that isn't available anywhere else. The Thorn Tree forum for travelers with disabilities is great for asking questions. It also includes some horror stories about people being told they would get things that were not provided. Be very careful about getting written confirmation if you've been told you can expect any sort of special service.
Pack carefully. Make sure any medication that you will need is in your carry-on luggage, just in case your checked bags are lost. Some medication needs to be kept below certain temperatures. If you're traveling somewhere hot take a cooler bag with you and confirm that the hotel you're staying in has a mini-fridge in the room. Carry spare prescriptions if possible, just in case you lose anything, and ask your doctor to write the generic medicine name rather than a brand name in case this differs by country.
In the Air
Confirm with the airline 48 hours before you travel that they have details of any special requests that you've made. Check-in as early as you can if you need help with boarding and follow up on the following:
Be prepared to explain to people exactly how they can help you if you need assistance. Most people are willing to help carry or push a wheelchair, but are often too shy to offer unless you ask them. If anything is not what you've been promised, the only thing to do is complain. Refunds can be hard to obtain once you've returned home. Demand a new room if you need to, or even a new hotel.back to top ^