5 Tricks to Better Travel During The Summer

Traveling by plane is bad enough sometimes – delayed flights, unavoidable mechanical issues, and there’s always those times when you just miss your flight. But as you travel during the summer, it always helps to a few helpful tips to get through your travels relatively unscathed:

Be flexible (obviously)

If you’re flying from one place to another, there’s a good chance you’ll have to connect somewhere. While this can be a pain at times, it gives you options if you know your airline’s network.

For instance, I was stuck in Charlotte a couple weeks back because of weather; the airplane my flight was supposed to be on got stuck in Tampa because of weather (more in a minute) meaning I spent another two hours in lovely North Carolina. That said, I know US Airways (or American, rather) has hubs elsewhere – including Philadelphia and Phoenix – that offer connections to my ultimate destination, San Diego.

Unfortunately, taking an earlier flight through Phoenix and connecting on to San Diego wasn’t an option because I’d literally have just seven minutes to get from plane to plane. Not going to happen – and that was the last flight of the night.

I could’ve ask nicely for them to rebook me through Philadelphia, which has another flight directly to San Diego, or soon through Dallas. Or even Charlotte to LAX to San Diego (but again, I’d miss the last flight by about half an hour – a non-option).

United works similarly – they’ve got hubs in Newark, Houston, Chicago, and San Francisco, with flights between each of the hubs and nearby destinations as well.

My point: if you know where your airline flies and you’re stuck in an airport, it never hurts to ask. Customer service agents don’t always consider putting you on slightly-odd routes (and they may not book you on them even if they’re open), but it never hurts to be a little wiser before you walk up to the counter.

Make backup plans

Mechanical issues happen, as do cancelled flights. If you need to be at a wedding on a certain day, fly the day before, or even the day before that. Things happen from time to time, and as I’m experiencing first-hand, there is sometimes simply nothing that can be done.

BIG ONE: Travel earlier in the day

Two hours delayed and world's my oyster / Dave McCulloch

Two hours delayed and world’s my oyster / Dave McCulloch

When you travel earlier in the day, you simply have more options. There are more flights from A to B to C, or just A to B. But the other part has to do with weather; generally, severe weather happens later in the day than earlier – which can also help reduce turbulence once inside the aircraft if that bothers you. My flight today – and the subsequent delays – are a result of weather, something that would’ve been less of an issue if I traveled earlier in the day. I couldn’t avoid it, and so I paid the price: delays.

Be patient, be kind

As I was meandering around the airport, I passed a gentleman in the terminal who was upset because he had to walk to a different terminal for some reason or another; he was obviously displeased as he said loudly “I’m never flying this f***ing airline again!” as he walked away.

I get it – we all get frustrated. But taking it out on customer service agents and gate agents isn’t going to do you any favors. Rumor has it that being generous to agents (I wouldn’t calling it bribing) with fancy chocolates can sometimes help your situation – and sometimes not, but certainly getting terse with someone who stands between you and your next flight isn’t going to help your situation.

Find a bar – maybe inside an airline club.

An overpriced underhyped margarita at Charlotte-Douglas Airport's Tequileria / Dave McCulloch

An overpriced underhyped margarita at Charlotte-Douglas Airport’s Tequileria / Dave McCulloch

When all else fails, go have a margarita. It’ll probably improve your mood.

If you have access to an airline club, sometimes they offer adult beverages at a very nominal cost – or sometimes not at all (but bring tip money because karma).

Airline clubs generally range from $30/day to $50/day, but I know the American Airlines Admirals Club offers a 30-day pass for $99. Considering an airport margarita’s easily $10 in a bar, it only takes a few flights in 30 days to make up for it.

But in any case, my $10 margarita at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport’s Tequileria was worth it – and certainly helped with my mood.

Do you have favorite travel tips for the summer? Share them below.

6 great ways to fly for cheap during the holidays

Now that Christmas is quickly approaching, there’s a lot of travel going on – and in many cases, if you haven’t yet booked your holiday travel, it’s going to get really (more) expensive, really fast.

Fortunately, there are solid ways to find pretty inexpensive travel through the New Year – though that’s not to say it’s always straightforward. A recent Wall Street Journal article suggests that Sundays are now the best day of the week to buy tickets, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be significantly cheaper, especially if you’re buying within 7 or 14 days of travel.

Here we go with six ways to save big.

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It’s finally here: TSA PreCheck comes to San Diego International Airport

For those of us who fly through San Diego, there are a bunch of great things about the new Terminal 2. But one thing was missing: TSA PreCheck, the VERY worthwhile service which allows you to go through airport security without taking your shoes off, belt off, laptop out, liquids out and is pretty much like pre-9/11 security. Well, it’s now finally in place (despite the government shutdown)!

As posted earlier, PreCheck is worth its weight in gold, and by signing up for U.S. Customs’ partner program called Global Entry, you can use PreCheck – which has seriously saved me hours waiting in line at airports around the country.

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Reader question: is United’s $500 Economy Plus subscription worth it?

United Airlines offers Economy Plus seating on all its mainline fleet, giving you a few extra inches (generally about two inches) of legroom compared to its standard economy class for. Generally speaking, those two inches can be great, especially on transcontinental and on international flights.

To get these extra inches, you generally have to pay a fee (depending on how long the flight is, $25-$129), have a ‘subscription’ (starting at $499 for U.S.-only flights, other regions have additional costs), or have elite status with United (starting at 25k miles flown in a year).

Now here’s the thing: while the Economy Plus seats are very worthwhile in terms of comfort, it’s important to do some calculations to see if $500+ a year is worth it.

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Reader question: How can I actually use my British Airways Avios points?

From our Facebook page, one of our readers asked a question about using his British Airways Avios points for travel from San Diego to Istanbul:

I can NOT book BA round trip Club World from San Diego to Istanbul on the dates I want (or almost anytime it is not freezing) but even if I could, I would need to pay $1200+ in fees. Or I can just pay the same amount to United for an excellent one-stop round trip flight on the days I actually want, and earn United points (my airline of choice). What is going on out there? Why can’t I find any seats?

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