Tips for Stress-Free Summer Travel
Memorial Day kicked off the summer travel season for Americans and with the usual trips to the beach and lazy days spent by the pool come dire warnings of high gas prices and economic recession not to mention overbooked flights, long delays at check-in and new baggage fees. So what's a traveler to do?
"Working with a professional travel consultant to plan your next trip, be it a grand tour of Europe or a long weekend, can save you both time and money," said ASTA President and Chair Chris Russo. "Travel consultants are committed to making their clients' trip the best travel experience possible. So while the summer travel season is always a busy one, this year if you work with a travel consultant to plan your summer vacations, it doesn't have to be a frustrating one. "
Despite the weak dollar, some travelers will be heading overseas this summer. For those looking to keep expenses down, consumers can opt for destinations whose currency is tied to the U.S. dollar or trips for which they pre-pay in U.S. dollars, such as Mediterranean cruises or an all-inclusive resort.
Tips for air travel include:
- Book your ticket ASAP. If you must book last minute, remember, you have options. The key to securing the best deal is flexibility in travel dates--ask your ASTA travel agent to check into special fares or consider flying into an alternate airport and renting a car. If your vacation includes international travel, make sure you have a valid passport. Your travel agent can advise you on the new rules and how to apply.
- Arrive early. Difficult airport parking, long lines at security checkpoints and the possibility of the airline overselling the flight and bumping passengers, should all be considered when deciding what time to arrive at the airport. Give yourself plenty of extra time. Need some incentive? Keep in mind that those who arrive earliest for an overbooked flight stand the greatest chance of staying onboard.
- Keep a close eye on all your belongings. Just as flights are becoming extremely crowded, airports can also be fraught with thieves. Be aware of your surroundings and maintain a close watch over tickets, wallets, purses, and other belongings at all times.
- Avoid getting bumped. 1) Get an advance seat assignment. Passengers with seat assignments are typically only bumped if they arrive late and their seat assignment is released. 2) Check-in online. Most airlines allow you to do so within 24 hours of departure. Seat assignments that were not available at the time of ticketing may be available when checking in online. 3) Don't be late. If all else fails, get to the airport early. Some airlines reserve a portion of their seat assignment inventory for airport check-in. If you are denied a seat assignment at check-in, put your name on the "standby" seat assignment list.
- Remember 3-1-1. New regulations limit the amount of gels and liquids passengers can take through security in their carry-on luggage to travel-size toiletries of three (3) ounces or less that fit comfortably in one (1) quart-size, clear plastic zip-top bag and the one (1) bag per passenger must be placed in the screening bin.
- Know your limits. Pack light and know baggage limits. Some airlines now charge for a second piece of checked luggage.
Tips for travel by car include:
- Plan itineraries and arrange accommodations well in advance. Reservations for hotels, restaurants and rental cars get booked quickly during peak travel times. Your travel agent can help you get the lowest rate and make sure your rental car has room for your family, luggage and whatever souvenirs you bring home.
- Get a tune up. Before any long-distance drive, make sure to have your oil changed and your brakes, fluids and tire pressure checked. The slightest deficiency in air pressure significantly reduces your car's gas mileage. On the flip side, too much air can result in a flat.
- Get an early start to avoid holiday weekend gridlock. Traveling during late night/early morning hours helps. The worst times to travel are after meals since most travelers postpone leaving until they've eaten with their families. Make sure that all drivers are thoroughly rested.
Check out this podcast with advice on choosing destinations where you can get the most bang for the U.S. dollar, as well as accommodations that will help you stretch your travel budget and a very good way to protect your vacation investment — just in case anything goes wrong.
Or check out this radio release to hear these tips put into practice!