Some of you may have heard the song "There's No Place Like Home for the Holiday's" -- whether the original by Perry Como or later versions from artists like the Carpenters or Barry Manilow. However the simple truth is that today, many people travel for the holidays, whether it is to see family or to simply take a vacation. And that often means getting on a plane. With that in mind, here are some ways to help take the stress out of flying this holiday season.
#1: Save Money
Holiday travel needn't be expensive. There are lots of tricks you can use to save money on flights, as well as some of the extras attached to flying:
- Try searching for fares with travel dates that fall on the actual holiday. Prices can be lower because there is typically less travel demand at those times.
- Search for flights that operate out of smaller airports, for instance San Jose, instead of San Francisco. These airports may be slightly further away from your end destination but they often provide better deals than flights out of larger, more popular airports.
- Consider flights with a layover -- but make sure to avoid cities known for inclement weather, like Denver, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis.
- Use calendar tools like Fly.com's custom airfare calendar to find the cheapest days to fly.
- Check for discounted parking or car service coupons online before you leave as these savings can really add up.
- If you're planning to drive during your trip, use GasBuddy's app to locate nearby gas stations that offer the cheapest prices.
#2: Ship Luggage Ahead of Time
Since most major carriers charge baggage fees of at least $25 each way these days, why not pay a little more to have a luggage shipping company transport your bag ahead of time -- especially if you have your suitcase jammed full of holiday gifts? Show up to the airport bagless and breeze past the bag-check line and avoid the wait at the luggage carousel on the other side. Not to mention, you won't have to deal with the hassle of lost luggage which can put a damper on any trip. For door to door service check out sites like Luggage Concierge (also a great option for international travel as it's the only service that ships to South America) and Lugless which offers free insurance on baggage up to $500.
#3: Set-Up Access for Flight Notifications
Almost every airline has a mobile app or email alerts function that will update you on the status of flight delays and cancellations. You can set these services up individually with each airline or download the FlightTrack app from Mobiata which covers 3,000 airports and 1,400 airlines. Having access to instant updates on the status of your flight can help eliminate some of the frustration associated with late departures.
#4: Have a Back-Up Plan
So you've checked-in for your flight, cleared security and purchased a few magazines from one of the local news stands in the airport. You're feeling pretty confident about the trip until you hear an announcement that your flight has been cancelled. It is important to realize that, at this moment, about 200 people are trying to re-book their flight. Keep your cool and initiate Plan B.
The airline will advise you to visit a customer service desk to re-book your flight. But as you are doing this, call your airline's customer service number (helpful to have it pre-programmed in your phone) and try to re-book with an agent over the phone for a better chance of getting on a good flight. The airline may have automatically booked you on a different flight, but calling as soon as possible might help you get a more convenient departure time. (Note that checking baggage can make the re-booking process more complicated. So, if possible, try to travel light so you can run over to a new gate -- another reason to ship luggage ahead of time, per suggestion #2.)
Another good app to have in your back pocket is Next Flight. It searches for all available flights from more than 1,200 airline carriers and 4,200 airports worldwide. You can quickly find seats on the next flight departing to your destination.
#5: Make Flight Delays Less Painful
Hopper.com recently named the 15 worst airports in America. If you find yourself stranded at one of these airports, equip yourself with the GateGuru airport maps to find the best food and shopping options available to you. Instead of snacking on dry pre-made ham and cheese sandwiches during a long flight delay, use the app to find a decent meal and a nice glass of wine.
#6: Hire an In-flight Nanny
We haven't used this service yet, but we think it is a genius concept. Nanny in the Clouds is a website that matches parents with nannies that are booked on the same flight. Nannies register their travel itineraries on the site and make some extra cash entertaining children while up in the air. Who wouldn't want an extra set of hands to help with the kids, particularly on long flights?
Feeling inspired? Start searching for cheap flights today.
- - Michelle Erickson is the director of public relations at Fly.com and is based in California. A British native, Michelle has lived on three continents and is an avid traveler.
-- Allison Hollins is a project manager at Fly.com and is based in New York City. As an avid traveler and new mother, Allison is becoming an expert at traveling with a baby after some interesting cross-country and transatlantic flights with an infant in tow this past year.
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