68 Secrets to Stress-free Travel
This Holiday Season—and Beyond
1. Do Know What a Great Deal Looks Like
“When to fly and buy” reports from hopper.com will tell you what price is a good deal for any given route. And Google Flights’ “tracked prices” feature will e-mail you when the price of a selected itinerary has gone up or down.
2. Don’t Stress if You Haven’t Booked Yet
“Data from the past two years suggest the best time to book a domestic flight for the 2017 holiday season will be between three and seven weeks out,” says Randi Wolfson, head of communications at the travelsearch site skyscanner.com.
3. Do Check Several Online Travel Agencies
“There’s a misconception that every online travel agency [OTA] has the same fares,” says George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com. “But because they sometimes cut special deals with the airlines, it’s worth it to check them all.” A site such as kayak.com will scan multiple agencies in one search.
4. Don’t Overlook Airlines That Aren’t in Searches
Delta has stopped working with certain OTAS, so make
Follow these no-nonsense rules to take the pain out of every trip this holiday season— and beyond
sure you’ve seen its fares for your itinerary before you book. And you’ll always have to check Southwest’s website for its fares.
5. Do Book Through The Airline
If there’s not much difference in price between an airline’s fare and an OTA’S fare, book with the airline. In the event of a delay or a cancellation, you’ll need to go back to whoever issued your ticket to get rebooked, and you could be better off if you dealt with the airline directly rather than with a third-party agent, explains Akash Gupta of thepointsguy.com.
6. Don’t Always Book the Family Together
If you’re buying multiple tickets, search for them individually and as a group. Airline ticket prices are full of quirks, and sometimes individual seats are cheaper than a block. If you decide to buy individually, make sure there’s no per-ticket processing charge that would offset the savings.
7. Do Fly on Christmas
If dinner doesn’t hit the table until early evening, consider flying on Christmas morning to save an average of $50 per person compared with traveling on the Friday preceding the holiday. Depart before that Friday to cut costs further. Flights on Wednesday, December 20, and Wednesday, December 27, are likely to have the deepest discounts this season, according to cheapair.com.
8. Don’t Ignore Air+hotel Bundles
Booking both at the same time may cost a lot less than booking separately. “If the hotel doesn’t have to show their price and the airlines don’t have to show their price, both are willing to give lower prices not available otherwise,” Tim Macdonald, former general manager of expedia.com, told the New York Times.
9. Do Subscribe to a Newsletter
Airlines often offer discounts via e-mail. Put your name on their lists and you’ll be in the know about promo codes, flash sales, and other special offers. We’ve seen discounts of up to 50 percent on certain airlines and routes.
10. Don’t Miss Out on Fare-drop Refunds
The law requires airlines to allow you to rebook your flight for free within 24 hours of buying your ticket, as long as you’re more than a week from the departure date.
After that, most airlines charge up to $200 to change flights, but Southwest will never charge a fee.
11. Do Review Your Group Memberships
AARP members get up to 10 percent off at many hotel chains and up to 25 percent off some car rentals. AAA offers similar deals. One surprising source of discounts: Costco. It offers its members deals on cars and hotels as well as on some excellent vacation packages. Many employers also offer airline and hotel discounts.
DON’T SIT WITH YOUR KNEES IN YOUR CHIN Jetblue offers the most legroom in economy, according to Consumer Reports. Each airline has its own signature amenity, so you might want to shop accordingly. For instance, if in-flight entertainment is your priority, opt for Virgin America, which offers free Wi-fi, movies, and television shows.
DO BE A (VERY) EARLY BIRD Delays inevitably stack up over the course of the day. The earlier in the morning you fly, the better chance you have of avoiding them.
DON’T GO NEAR THE COLD IF YOU CAN HELP IT If you have connecting flights, choose warm-weather cities for your layovers. Phoenix and Atlanta are less susceptible to severe winter weather—and the flight delays and cancellations it often brings—than, say, Chicago or Denver.
DO POP A PEPTO-BISMOL The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says travelers can reduce the risk of intestinal trouble by about 50 percent by taking Pepto-bismol or Kaopectate preventively—either two chewable tablets or two ounces of liquid—four times a day. If you have other health conditions, check with your doctor first.
DON’T FORGET TO CHECK IN THE NIGHT BEFORE If you end up getting to the airport late, the airline is more likely to give away your seat if you haven’t checked in.