Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Springtime Travel Advice from an Industry Expert

Maureen Russell has been a travel industry expert for almost two decades, sending her clients and their families all over the world by plane, train and automobile. With Spring Break and Summer travel seasons getting ready to take off, airports can be the most crowded and confusing places to be. Many travelers get frustrated and feel like they are wasting valuable time. With a little planning and some inside advice, however, you can make your air travel experience easier, so you can spend more time concentrating on the fun!

What are the three traveling mistakes and how can they be avoided?

a) Not being on time. This is the worst thing a traveler can do. No the airline will not hold the plane for you, this is not your mother's travel industry anymore. The airline will start giving away your seat 1/2hr before the flight departs if you are not checked in.

b) Don't assume. Ask questions. Do you need a passport, visa, shots. A recent story came out that a couple booked their honeymoon to Russia on Orbitz, they were never advised that they needed a visa to visit Russia and were de-boarded in Germany.

c) Take the time to reconfirm your flights and check in online. It saves on headaches and avoids many issues.

What, if anything, can or should someone do in the event of a long flight delay or a cancellation?

It depends on if it is a weather or airline issue such as 'mechanical difficulties'. Each airline varies, you can ask for a meal voucher and or hotel voucher. If you know that there will be issues such as a major storm heading your way and you are flexible call your airline, they often love it when you are proactive and will change your flights with no fee and possibly an upgrade.

Don't ever be afraid to ask for a voucher or an upgrade. Also, utilize the Internet, go to the airline website, see what their policies are and then ask the gate agent or the agent on the phone 'What can you do for me?'.

While you are on that long line at the airport, check via your iPhone what the next flight is on any carrier. Often an airline can get you on another carrier if their next flight is oversold they just don't want to do the voucher.

What about tips on packing and planning?

Do you really need 4 pairs of shoes? No. Then don't pack them. Remember you're paying for this now, the weight limit per bag checked is 50lbs. Check your bag online and pay less. I always use the sky caps rather than traipse through an airport alone dragging a bag behind me, and you don't have to wait on those long lines. (on my last trip my bag was too heavy, instead of charging me the sky cap said 'oh honey, just reach in there and pull out something to make it light') Oh and yes, you should always tip the sky cap -- it's worth the service!

What about advice for carry-on bags?

For women carry on luggage is the hardest decisions to make. The airlines allow one carry on and one 'purse or laptop bag' If you can leave your coat behind do so! It just takes up space and that is a valuable commodity. Medicines should be clearly labeled and in a separate clear baggie. Don't over stuff your carry on, you will want to get that book that fell to the bottom of the bag!

My mother told me that once I was dressed and ready to go out to look at myself in a mirror and take one thing off. That is how you should pack.

Check with your individual airlines for their carry-on policy too and make sure you adhere to those restrictions. Also, remember to always check TSA guidelines for what can and can't be carried on; is your best course of information.

What about when you arrive at your destination? Any hotel advice?

At the hotel, ASK, always. Is there an upgrade available? The worst thing they can say is no. Always be firm and friendly. Remember the person behind that hotel counter may be at the end of a 12hr shift.

In this electronic age utilize the web. Sign up for all the hotel and airline frequent flyer programs. Find out who their partners are. Did you know that you can link some [grocery store rewards] cards with your Continental miles? Check out your credit cards [and reward memberships] to see where you can accumulate miles and perks.

In this economy everyone is looking for and giving out a bargain. It's just a matter of doing your homework!

What are your best travel tips and tricks? Be sure to leave a comment and share them!


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