Category Archives: Air Travel

Check In Flight Travel Tips

The first part of every trip is checking in.  It is also one that is most dreaded.  Between long lines at ticket counters and going through security it’s easy to be stressed before your tip even begins.  Hopefully the check in flight travel tips will help relieve your frustration and get your trip off with little or no headaches.

Check In Flight Travel Tips

Check In Flight Travel Tips

The first thing that you can do, if you have booked online, is to also check in online.  You can usually check in 24 hours before your flight, get your boarding pass, and even pay for any luggage you have to check.  Anything you can do before you reach the airport will speed up the process.

For domestic flights, ensure that you check in 2 hours before your flight time. For international flights you should check in 3 hours early. For either type of flights, make sure that you have all your documentation readily available. You will need your ticket, proper identification, and for international flights, your passport and, if required, your visa.

Don’t check in at the last minute. Even if you make the flight, your bag may not. If you miss the airline’s check-in deadline, the carrier might not assume liability for your bag if it is delayed or lost. If you have a choice, select flights that minimize the potential for baggage disruption. The likelihood of a bag going astray increases from #1 to #4 below (i.e., #1 is safest): 1) nonstop flight 2) direct or ‘through’ flight (one or more stops, but no change of aircraft) 3) online connection (change of aircraft but not airlines) 4) interline connection (change of aircraft and airlines)

Check with the airline on luggage weight restrictions. Different airlines and different classes of travel have different rules. Be prepared to pay for excess weight. When you check in, remove straps and hooks from garment bags that you are sending as checked baggage. These can get caught in baggage processing machinery, causing damage to the bag. The airline will put baggage destination tags on your luggage and give you the stubs to use as claim checks.

Make sure you get a stub for every bag. Don’t throw them away until after you get your bags back and you check the contents. Not only will you need them if a claim is necessary, but you may need to show them to security upon leaving the baggage-claim area. Each tag has a three-letter code and flight number that show the baggage sorters on which plane and to which airport your luggage is supposed to go. Double-check the tag before your bags go down the conveyor belt. (The airline will be glad to tell you the code for your destination when you make reservations or buy your tickets.)

Your bags may only be checked to one of your intermediate stops rather than your destination city if you must clear Customs short of your final destination, or if you are taking a connection involving two airlines that don’t have an interline agreement. Be sure all of the tags from previous trips are removed from your bag, since they may confuse busy baggage handlers.

When you get off of the plane, check and see what conveyor belt your luggage will be circling on. Ensure you pay attention and get your own bags. Many bags look alike. You may want to put some sort of identifying ribbon, tape, or band on your bags to make it easy to spot upon arrival.

If you have to go through immigration/customs, ensure that you do not open your suitcases until directed. The immigration officer usually asks a few preliminary questions and determines if you get the “green line” or if you need further checking. Cooperate with the security officer and it should only take a few minutes unless you have something illegal. Be honest on the customs declaration form. Telling lies can get you in some very big trouble.

Once you locate you bags and clear customs, it is time to start enjoying your vacation.  I hope these Check In Flight Travel Tips have helped!

Traveling on a budget?  Check out our 5 Tips for Families on a Budget!

Most Popular Destinations in the World – 2015

big-ben-449385_1280Are you planning to take an off-season trip this fall?  Or maybe an exotic holiday vacation?  Are you thinking of an international destination?  Do you wonder what the most popular destinations in the world are this year?

This is a great time to travel.  If you are looking for the tropical, warm-weather spots like the Caribbean or looking to do a European trip, you will see that the top destinations are showing that many travelers are heading to a variety of destinations.

According to aaa.com European destinations are going to be popular due to several factors.  According to  AAA:

“Travelers heading to Europe will enjoy favorable currency exchange rates, making now an excellent time to plan a trip overseas,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA Senior Vice President of Travel and Publishing. “Unique experiences such as river cruising are incredibly popular as well, as travelers look for opportunities to immerse themselves in a destination’s local culture while enjoying a hassle-free vacation experience abroad.”

AAA goes on to list London, England as the number one spot for tourist travel for this year.  Their list includes several European cities such as Rome, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam and Praque.  Their list is rounded out with warm-weather destinations.  Here is their list:

  1. London, England
  2. Rome, Italy
  3. Cancun, Mexico
  4. Paris, France
  5. Dublin, Ireland
  6. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  7. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  8. Montego Bay, Jamaica
  9. Vancouver, British Columbia
  10. Prague, Czech Republic

Other sites such as CNN.com differ, as they seem to lean more toward Asian destinations.  According to CNN the number 2 destination is Bangkok with several other Asian cities in the top ten.  They do, however, agree with the fact the London is the top destination.  It is also predicated that London will have the most visitor spending at $20.23 billion in 2015.

CNN takes its list from a MasterCard travel study which ranks 132 destination cities across the globe.  It is based on overnight, international visitors and spending across the border.  Here is their list:

  1. London 18.82 million
  2. Bangkok 18.24 million
  3. Paris 16.06 million
  4.  Dubai, UAE 14.26 million
  5. Istanbul 12.56 million
  6. New York 12.27 million
  7. Singapore 11.88 million
  8.  Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 11.12 million
  9. Seoul 10.35 million
  10. Hong Kong 8.66 million

Whatever you international destination, please keep in mind the thing you need to know before taking an international trip.  Passports, checking the State Department’s site for any advisories, notifying credit card companies and insurance are all thing you need to consider when planning your trip.  Check out this article for a more comprehensive check list.

Good planning can make your trip more enjoyable as you will have less stress and be prepared for any unforeseen incidents.  Above all, have a good time and enjoy!

Why Are Airline Tickets So Expensive?

If you were flying over the Christmas holidays from the West Coast to the midwest you may have seen an airfare for over $1,000.  This probably made you ask the questions ‘Why are airline tickets so expensive?’.  There may be several reasons why you may think so:

  • Planes are huge flying machines that are expensive to maintain
  • There are hundreds of people working at airports.  Think of the salaries!
  • Airports are expensive to build and keep up (they are huge!)
  • It’s Christmas and the airlines know you want to travel really bad
  • Look at the cost of jet fuel
  • They are greedy

Well, maybe these are all minor factors but if you examine them closely (fuel prices are down but not airfares) you will find that these are not the main reason.  Why are airline tickets so expensive?  Why do the airlines charge  for checked bags and many other incidentals that were once free?  Because they can.  And there is good reason they can.

This reason can be found in this article from Slate. It seems that many of the airlines share the same investors.  Here is an excerpt:

Although we think of airlines as independent companies, they are actually mostly owned by a small group of institutional investors. For example, United’s top five shareholders—all institutional investors—own 49.5 percent of the firm. Most of United’s largest shareholders also are the largest shareholders of Southwest, Delta, and other airlines. The authors show that airline prices are 3 percent to 11 percent higher than they would be if common ownership did not exist. That is money that goes from the pockets of consumers to the pockets of investors.

So you can see that it is not int the best interest of these companies to compete against themselves.  They want prices high across the board and a price war is the last thing on their minds.

To put it another way, what we have is collusion among the major airlines.  An article from The Jamaican Gleaner outlines this.  It says:

The United States government is investigating possible collusion among major airlines to limit available seats, which keeps airfares high, according to a document obtained by The Associated Press.

The civil antitrust investigation by the Justice Department appears to focus on whether airlines illegally signaled to each other how quickly they would add new flights, routes and extra seats.

And it goes on to say:

Thanks to a series of mergers starting in 2008, America, Delta, Southwest and United now control more than 80 per cent of the seats in the domestic travel market. They have eliminated unprofitable flights, filled more seats on planes and made a very public effort to slow growth to command higher airfares.

So in other words there is really no competition between major airlines anymore, in effect creating a monopoly.  The same investors own all of the airlines and call the shots while the smaller airlines have gone out of business.  Only a few remain and offer deals but they are not major players.

Also remember that the airlines are corporations and are in business to make money.  They don’t care whether you can afford to fly or not as long as they are still packing the airplanes.  As Frank Werner, an associate professor of finance at Fordham University’s business school says:

“As for people who can’t afford to fly, the airlines really are not interested any more than Daimler-Benz is worried that many people cannot afford to purchase a Mercedes

What can we do?  Unfortunately not much.  We can refuse to fly but that is not practical.  We can call our congressman but the airline lobbies are some of the most powerful lobbies in Washington so it will be difficult to get them to listen to you.

It’s not hopeless though.  Fly the smaller guys if you can.  Talk to people and make them aware.  Start a social media campaign.  The more public awareness and outrage that happens the more the powers that be will notice.

And be smart when you fly.  This is the system we have today so try to work it the best you can by doing your research when you must fly. Technology can help travelers find the lowest available airfare.  Use it to your advantage.  Be flexible.  These can all help you save

However, if the airlines are in fact colluding with each other to keep fares high, they are certainly not making it easy for everyone to fly the friendly skies.

How to Get a Refund on a Plane Ticket

You’ve planned your trip to the last detail, booking hotels and waiting until the exact moment that airfare was lowest to book.  Then the unexpected comes up and you must change your plans.  If this is the case you may find yourself stuck with an airline ticket that you can’t use.  You probably booked online and got the cheapest fare, which is usually non-refundable.  Is there anything you can do? Would you know how to get a refund on a plane ticket?  You probably won’t get a full refund (since it is non-refundable), but there still may be some ways to recoup some of your costs.

The 24 hour rule
If it has been less than 24 hours since you booked you are in luck.  The U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require that, as long as you’ve booked a non-refundable ticket 7 days ahead of your flight, you’re entitled to hold your reservation and the fare and change or cancel your reservation within 24 hours of booking, without paying a cancellation fee.  You can either cancel the reservation or change it within that window.  If you decide to change it you will have to pay the fare difference, but there is no penalty.

Rule 260 – The ‘Involuntary Refund’
There is a rule in airline contracts of carriage that states if the airline refuses to carry you for any reason, or if your flight is delayed more than a designated length of time, or if your flight is canceled, you can apply for a full refund.  This applied even for non-refundable tickets.  So if you bought a ticket and you have passed the 24 hour rule limit you can still avoid the cancel/change fees if something happens to your flight like being canceled or severely delayed.  You still have to check in for your flight, but it may be worth your time to show up at the airport and hope something happens.

Change of Schedule
You can also get a refund if there’s a significant schedule change before your departure.  For example, if your flight is moved from 10 a.m. to 7 a.m., or they change the layover time or cause you to have an overnight stay.  It could even apply on a change from non-stop to connecting flight. Just remember that the airline man not notify you it there is a qualifying change, so it would be in your best interests to check the flight schedule to see if there are any changes.  If there have, call the airline and tell the the change is not good for you.  Just make sure the change is significant as just a few minutes does not qualify.

If all else fails, review your airline’s policy on ticket exchanges.  You may not get a full refund but you may be able to get a voucher for another ticket though you will probably pay an exchange fee.  Also, if your reason for needing a refund is an emergency, check with your airline’s website or representative.  If you have to change plans due to illness or death in the family the airline may have more lax rules on exchanges. Just make sure you can provide documentation to prove the emergency.

Of course, if you are worried about losing your money on a ticket you can’t use you can always buy a refundable ticket or make sure you buy travel insurance.  You will pay more for the ticket or extra for the insurance but it will give you peace of mind if you are risk-averse.

10 Things to do Before Going Overseas

8443593091_f679c48cdf_zPlanning a trip abroad anytime soon?  If you are not a savvy traveler, or if it has been a while since you ventured out of the country, there are a few things to do before going overseas that you need to know or be reminded of.  These 10 little tips can save you a lot of heartache and grief.  These are things that should be done in addition to all of the normal planning such as booking flights, hotels, and transportation.  These were originally posted in Fodor’s and I have listed them here for you so hopefully your next international trip can go off hitch-free.

 

  1. Make sure your passport is up to date and see if you need additional visas.
    Hopefully you aware that you will need an up to date passport to travel overseas.  If you don’t have one apply now in case you experience any delays. If you have one and you know where it is check the expiration date.  You will want your passport to be valid for at least six months after entering a foreign country.  Some countries will let you get away with less; refer to the State Department’s website for full details, organized by country. If its expiration date is near get it renewed before your next overseas trip.  Many nations require tourist visas to visit many them.  The application process varies greatly from country to country. Check out the State Department’s website if you are an American.  That will be the best resource to let you know  if you need to apply for a tourist visa.  It will be based on the countries that you will visit and how long you plan to stay in each one. You must remember that applying for a visa can sometimes be costly and time-consuming, so get that taken care of as soon as possible. The important thing to keep in mind is not to wait until the last minute as things always seem to take longer than you think.
  2. Get your vaccinations up to date and get plenty of your prescription drugs.
    Before you leave check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.  Here you will find the most comprehensive and up-to-date medical recommendations and they list health advisories by country.  You may need to get special vaccines or medications depending on where you are going. Also, if you on any prescription medication, you need to make sure you have enough to cover the entire time of your travels.  You do not want to run out while you’re away. Lastly, and this is important if you’re going to any remote regions, you may want to pack non-prescription medicines (aspirin,  etc.) that may be hard to find.
  3. See if there are any travel warnings or advisories and make sure to register your trip.
    Be sure to check out the State Department’s Consular Information Program for Travel Alerts (“short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country”) and Travel Warnings (“We issue a Travel Warning when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all.”) before book your flight and just before you head overseas. Another thing I recommend if to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  This will allow the State Department to help you in case there are any emergencies. Another wise thing to do is to write down the addresses and phone numbers of any American embassies or consulates in the countries you’ll be visiting.  You never know when you will need them.
  4. Make backups of all your travel documents.
    Let’s start with your passport. You should have at least one color copy of your passport’s ID page stored in a safe place away from your passport. While you are at it make copies of any visas connected with your current travels. Have copies of hotel reservations, plane and train ticket confirmations, and all other travel documents. You probably have digital copies of these documents handy. If that is the case be sure that these items are saved to your device so that you don’t need an Internet connection to retrieve them. Also keep security in mind.  If you have sensitive information (like a scan of your passport) on your phone or in your email inbox, you need to have passwords that are strong enough to keep potential intruders out (hopefully you are already doing this!).
  5. Make sure your electronics will work.
    In case you were not aware, electrical outlets are different all over the world.  You’ll need to get adapters that allow your electronic devices to plug into these different sockets. Try to buy an adapter with different settings that adjust to most outlets.  That way you only have to worry about one adapter instead of one for every country. Also, check the strength of the electrical current wherever you go. Make sure all of your devices are compatible.  Sometimes cell phones and computers are not. If you find your device is not compatible with a higher or lower current, then you’ll need to buy a transformer not bring that device. Lastly, it’s worth investing in portable phone chargers and/or spare batteries that can be charged and swapped into phones, cameras, and other electronics so that your devices can stay up and running during your trip.
  6. Learn some of the local lingo.
    You should always take time to learn the basics such as “Hello,” “Thank you,” and “Where is the bathroom?”, but also be aware that the more you can say in the local tongue, the better.  Not only will you endear yourself more to the locals (even though your accent may be horrible) but there could also be times when communication can affect your health and safety.  Don’t feel like you can learn any of the language?  You can always cheat and have print-outs or flashcards of the phrases you need that you have with you.
  7. Get your finances in order.
    Credit card providers today are more aware of changes in normal card usage, so before you travel overseas, you might want to notify your bank and credit card providers so they can expect to see the foreign charges.  You don’t want them to freeze your cards because you will usually find this out while you are in a shop or trying to pay for dinner. Another thing to be aware of is the exchange rate and also how much things generally cost at your destination so that you can budget yourself accordingly. I would not recommend traveler’s checks. Nowadays they are not widely accepted and the exchange rate is not as favorable as what you’ll find at an ATM.  This is generally true anywhere in the world.
  8. You need to know about any entrance and exit fees.
    Even if a country doesn’t require you to obtain a tourist visa, it could levy an entrance and/or exit fee against you. For example, some countries allow U.S. citizens to visit for up to ninety days without a visa, but then levy a  “reciprocity fee” which must be paid before entering the country.  If you don’t have a copy of the receipt you won’t be allowed in. The Consular Information Program is the most reliable resource for finding out whether a country charges any of these fees; on any country page, look under the Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements tab for complete information.
  9. If you are planning on driving, get an International Driving Permit.
    Thinking of a road trip once you get there?  Won’t happen without proper planning. It is illegal to drive without a valid driver’s license and insurance in most countries, and, unfortunately  many of them don’t recognize U.S. driver’s licenses. You can usually get insurance from car rental companies, but you’ll need to obtain an International Driving Permit, either from AAA or the National Auto Club for your license. You might also want to get familiar with the  local driving laws wherever you plan to drive. You can find the rules and regulations regarding driving from the foreign embassies.
  10.  Get insured.
    Make sure your health insurance policy includes international coverage before you depart. If it doesn’t, you might want to buy a short-term policy that will cover you while you’re away. Travel insurance is also a good idea. It is a smart way to protect your trip and your money. There are many different policies and coverages you can get.  Just make sure that if your trip has to be cancelled, postponed, or cut short for any number of reasons you can have your money refunded .

You can view the original article from Fodor’s here.

8 Ways to Relieve Travel Anxiety Before Your Flight

Do you suffer from travel anxiety?  That is, do you find yourself worrying about all the things that could go wrong?  Try these 8 pre-flight tips suggested by Real Simple to help you learn how to overcome travel anxiety and let you focus on how you are going to enjoy your trip instead.

  1. dreamstime_xs_39436693Keep Tabs on Your Flight.
    Make sure you sign up for text and e-mail alerts for your flight with an online flight-tracking service. You should not depend on your airline to let you know when there’s a problem.  Services such as Flight-Stats (free, Android, iOs) or  Triplt Pro ($49 a year, Android, iOs), can help you keep up with flight alerts.
  2. Insure Yourself.
    Another worry people comonly have is that a flight delay or cancellation will ruin a vacation. You can get flight insurance such as Berkshire Hath-away’s AirCare insurance ($34, bhtp.com) which will reimburse you $50 for a delay of more than two hours, $100 if you miss a connection due to a delay, and $500 if your bag goes missing for more than 12 hours. The great thing about this company is that it tracks flight status automatically and makes  payments directly to a PayPal account or a debit card.
  3. Get the Seat You Want.
    So you are not going to spend that extra cash to get that  premium economy seat or a prime aisle seat ahead of time?  Okay, just sign up with ExpertFlyer.com.  They will alert you when the seat you want becomes free.  Then you just log on and grab it. SearGuru.com provides cabin maps which can help you find your prime seat.
  4. watchGet in the Zone.
    Another big worry people have is jet lag.  Alleviate those fears by following a personalized schedule for your itinerary at StopJetLag.com. They can provide you with an hour-by-hour plan that includes when to eat, rest, exercise, and get sun exposure so when you reach your destination you will be right in sync with your destination’s local time.
  5. Security? – No Worries.
    One thing you should really do to keep from worrying so much about long lines at security (or taking off your shoes, you know the drill)  is to sign up for TSA PreCheck ($85 for five years, tsa.gov).  This will expedite you through security in more than 150 U.S. airports. And if you are going international you can become a member of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program ($100 for five years, cbp.gov) and you’ll get PreCheck and you will be able to zip through U.S. customs.
  6. Is my Carry-on Too Big?
    There is a 22-by-14-by-9-inch size limit for carry-ons which has not always been strictly adhered to.  However, many domestic carriers are now starting to enforce this rule.  And many  bags advertised as carry-ons do not mee this criteriat .  If you want to avoid gate checking (and paying) for a bag, visit the airline’s website where you can find out the size restrictions before you leave. And then make sure you carry-on is regulation-size.
  7. Right-size Your Liquids.
    To meet TSA requirements you must limit liquids, gels, and aerosols to 3.4 ounces or less and place them in a one-quart clear plastic zip-top bag in your carry-on.  You can go to 3floz.com to find TSA-approved mini containers of more than 60 brands.
  8. Clothing is not Optional.
    In other words, dree properly.  If you want to move through airports with ease and finish your flight wrinkle-free, stick with the wrinkle resistant fabrics, such as knits, jersey, and stretch denim. For those who are cold-natured, a cashmere wrap or sweater is a life saver.  Also, a comfortable pair of slip-on shoes will help you speed through security  (if you didn’t follow number 5 and get PreCheck!)..

How to Snooze While Flying – 5 Questions Answered

If you are a frequent flyer but haven't yet mastered the are of sleeping on the plane then these tips from John E. DiScala, the editor in chief of the travel-information site johnnyjet.com could help. He would definitely know something about the subject as he takes more than 100 flights a year on 30 different airlines.

So if you are getting ready to fly that red-eye to the west coast (or wherever) then pay attention. This could be a lifesaver.

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1) I'm flying coach - where should I sit?
You may think just because you are flying coach there is no way to get comfortable. Try this: Take the window seat of an exit row. You won’t be disturbed when your neighbors get up and down, and you have the window as a head rest. There is also extra legroom so you can use your carry-on as a footrest. Do not sit near the bathrooms or flight attendant stations. You will find that people tend to hang out there and it can get noisy and cramped. Also ,if you plan to sleep on your flight, try to go online the day of the flight to see if you can change your seat to an empty row. That would be the ultimate comfort. If you can fly at a less than popular time, usually a Tuesday or Wednesday night, you will have a much better chance at this.

2) Do I Need any Special Sleeping Products?
Some people swear by a travel pillow. It can help if you’re in a middle or aisle seat. Another option is to wear an eye mask and use earplugs. Many people (myself included) travel with noise-canceling headphones. These come in quite handy since there is almost always a crying baby nearby, You can wear earplugs and put the headphones on top. Then you can play some soothing music or an audio book. This combination usually drowns out everything. I can find myself drifting off very quickly using this method. Another thing that I never do is use an airplane blanket. You are better off bringing your own blanket or a sweatshirt. 'Nuff said. (We will talk about airplane blankets another time).

3) How Should I Dress for Night Travel?
If you have a long flight and you are in coach you might try this trick: bring pajama bottoms and change into them after take off. Now I know many of you won't go for that but one thing you can do is wear sweatpants. If you tend to get cold during flights you might also bring a pair of warm socks to slip on before trying to sleep and make sure you have your blanket or sweatshirt (see above).

4) I Don't Want to be Bothered - What Can I Do?
Make sure you get your snack and water before you try to drift off and make sure you take care of the bathroom business. Another trick some people do is to buckle their seat belt over their blanket or sweater, not under it. Where there is turbulence and the flight attendant checks she can see that you’re safely buckled and won't bother you.

5) How Can I Make Myself Drowsy?
You should avoid alcohol and sleeping medications. Try these all-natural tips: a few days before your flight start going to bed and rising a little earlier than usual. Even a half hour before your usual bedtime can work. Also, some people like to work out because it helps them sleep. If you are one of those then make an effort to workout while you’re on vacation. This can help you rest when you take the return trip home

Original article posted at realsimple.

Can’t Afford to Fly First-Class? Here are Your Best Coach Options.

If you are trying to determine the best airline, you can find many reviews and write-ups about the many amenities provided by each airline.  The problem is that many of these are based on the first-class fares and they really don’t say too much about the coach offerings (with good reason).  If you have flown coach before you know that it can usually range from miserable to tolerable at best.

So given that, here is an article by USA Today which ranks the ‘best’ coach or economy airline offerings.  Check these out and feel free to comment if you disagree or would like to share your favorite economy airline product.

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Best overall coach-class airline in North America: JetBlue

Even after the current downgrading, JetBlue’s extra legroom still beats any other airline. The de facto charge for a checked bag, at $15 over the minimum fare, is less than on most other airlines. The satellite-based Wi-Fi is free, at slow speeds, and $9 an hour for enough bandwidth to stream movies. And seats in JetBlue’s Airbus planes are an inch wider than on any competitors’ 737s.

Most consumer-friendly coach-class airline in North America: Southwest

Its “two checked bags at no extra charge” and “no ticket-change penalty” policies make Southwest a clear winner for being nice to customers. Fortunately, at least so far, Southwest seems to have convinced Wall Street that those passenger-friendly policies gain more revenue in total customers than it would gain by imposing fees and losing customers. With other giant carriers charging checked bag fees of $25 a pop, even one checked bag gives Southwest a $50 round-trip fare advantage.

Southwest has even managed to tame the chaos of its unique no-advance-assignment boarding process: You get your boarding group and number when you check in, which you can do online starting 24 hours before departure; at the airport, you line up according to number, and get on the plane with a minimum of pushing and shoving.

Best frequent-flier program for occasional travelers, North America: Alaska Mileage Plan

At least for now, Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan seems more generous than the big-line programs that are moving toward dollar-based earnings and rewards. You still get one mile for every mile flown, and the award chart mileage requirements are less than the effective requirements on the giant airlines. Alaska still has useful partnerships with Air France/KLM, American, British Airways, Delta, Korean, Qantas and a few others. We don’t know how long Alaska will retain its current system, but it’s a winner as long as today’s rules remain.

If you accumulate miles or points through a credit card that allows transfers, such as American Express, the award chart for Air Canada’s Aeroplan is more generous than current big lines’ plans. But you get only partial mileage credit when you fly on Air Canada’s lowest fares.

Coolest coach-class airline in North America: Virgin America

Yes, JetBlue beats it by the measurements, but Virgin America keeps earning great survey ratings for its flashy decor, well-trained flight attendants, top in-flight technology and general flair. Obviously, lots of travelers like what it has to offer. You might like it, too. The “Branson cool factor” also applies to Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Best ultra-low-fare coach-class airline in North America: Allegiant

The nod for best ultra-low-fare carrier for coach-class service goes to Allegiant, not because of its base product — which is down there with Spirit in terms of sheer torture — but because it alone brings the only low-fare mainline service to dozens of communities where travelers would otherwise have to rely on regional flights to nearby hubs, with the usual hassle, wasted time and high fares of hub connections.

Allegiant’s “nowhere to somewhere” business model gives travelers to/from communities as small as Hagerstown, Missoula, Owensboro, Provo, South Bend and Stockton access to non-stop flights to 16 of the country’s primary leisure travel destinations, including Honolulu, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Orlando and Phoenix. If you live in or near a big city, you’d never even think about Allegiant. But it’s a no-brainer if you live in the sticks.

Best coach-class airline for seniors in North America: Southwest

Southwest is the only airline to offer useful senior fares for travelers 65 or over. Senior fares aren’t as low as Southwest’s initial lowest “Wanna Get Away” fares for travelers of any age, but when those lowest-fare buckets sell out or when they’re no longer available less than a week in advance, Southwest’s unrestricted senior fares are usually a lot less than any remaining any-age fares.

Best extra-legroom airline in North America: JetBlue

JetBlue, which starts out with a 1- to 3-inch advantage for regular coach, retains a similar advantage for its extra-legroom cabin. And the price, capped at $90 for a transcontinental flight, is likely to be lower than the variable prices other airlines charge.

This is a big advantage JetBlue has over Virgin America, the one airline that surveys usually place in the same class as JetBlue. On Virgin America, the extra-legroom seats, limited to bulkhead and exit rows, cost more than three times the regular-coach fare: more than $900 on a transcon, for example, compared with a base coach fare of $300. Yes, you get extras along with the legroom, but that huge fare premium is a deal breaker for someone who just wants enough space to use an e-reader or tablet comfortably.

Best coach-class airline for intercontinental flights: Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines’ new-design Sky Wider economy seats provide the roomiest international economy class you can currently find. Contrary to what most other airlines are doing, JAL is sticking with eight-across seats in its 787s and nine-across in its 777s. That’s one fewer seat in each row than the current standard among most other lines, and the remaining seats are almost two inches wider than competitors’ seats.

The new cabins also offer an industry-leading 34-inch pitch, compared with the 30- to 32-inch pitch you find on most other intercontinental airlines. The onboard catering generally earns high marks, as well; economy travelers enjoy individual 10-inch screens, and the new 777s and 787s provide satellite-based Wi-Fi.

Best coach-class airline for trans-Atlantic flights: Turkish

Like JAL, Turkish is sticking with nine-across seating in its 777s, and the onboard service generally earns high marks. Swiss International also rises above others for catering.

Best low-fare coach-class airline for trans-Atlantic flights: Norwegian

Norwegian flies 787s from a handful of U.S. cities to Scandinavia and from Los Angeles or New York to London/Gatwick. It recently started flying from Baltimore, Boston and New York to Guadeloupe and Martinique. Fares are usually — although not always — lower than on the giant airlines, and its 787 product is on par with what the big competitors offer.

Best business-class airline with coach-class prices: La Compagnie

The giant airlines will charge you around $1,200 for a non-stop summer round-trip flight between New York and Paris in a cattle-car economy cabin. But two people paying $1,495 each can move up to an angle-flat business-class seat, with business-class cabin service, on La Compagnie, the niche French airline offering low-cost business-class service from Newark to London/Luton and Paris/DeGaulle. La Compagnie’s current fare is almost $1,000 less than the premium economy fares on Open Skies or Air France.

The price gap between regular economy and La Compagnie isn’t always this small. But whenever it is, you sure feel better when you arrive in London or Paris after an overnight in business class than in economy. It’s worth considering.

Best coach-class airplane for short flights: Embraer

The Embraer 170/175/190/195 series might seem a surprise call, but seats are at least as wide as on A320 series, and they’re all two-by-two, with no middles. You never feel bottled up the way those 737s and A320s make you feel. And while it’s not technically an airline, this aircraft makes the list because you should look for it when searching for any short-haul coach-class flight.

Read the original article: The best coach-class airlines in the world

7 Common Air Travel Issues and How to Solve Them

If you have flown more than once then you have probably experienced at least one of the following: delayed flights, lost bags, and customer complaints.  According to a recent study things thing  are on the rise,   In continuing with our travel tips and tricks, here is an article found in Real Simple where experts explain how you can resolve some of these sticky air travel problems—and, even better, how you can totally avoid them.

1. You missed your connecting flight.

If you book all of your flights through one airline, there’s a better chance that airline will accommodate you, says Regis St. Louis, coordinating author of Lonely Planet USA. When it comes to rebooking your flight, “never stand on line—ever,” says Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News. If there is no line at the ticket counter, approach the attendant to see if you can get on the next flight (even if you just get on standby). If the ticket counter is crowded, call the airline’s 1-800 number.

If you were on the last flight of the day and the airline was responsible for the delay—a mechanical or staffing issue, for example—you’re in a better position to receive compensation for a hotel room and get on the first flight out the next day, says Greenberg. Grounded due to a storm? Sorry: “If weather was involved, all bets are off and you’re on your own,” he says.

 

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© Wavebreakmediamicro | Dreamstime.comDepartures List On Black Mechanical Board Photo

 

2 . Your trip was cut short due to a family emergency.

If you have travel insurance, some of your expenses may be covered—though the cost of purchasing insurance might only be worth it if your ticket is relatively expensive, says Greenberg. Otherwise, the expense may outweigh the benefit. If a situation arises that requires unexpected travel, St. Louis suggests calling the airline to explain the situation. Whether or not to accommodate changes is often up to their discretion, he says.

 

3. Your bags are lost.

If your bags end up lost, don’t panic: “Generally airlines are pretty good about getting your bags to you very quickly. It’s rare that your bags will disappear never to return,” says St. Louis. First, go to the customer service counter to report your bags missing and make sure to get a receipt or something tangible that says they are looking for the bags, he says. Inquire about how your bags will be returned to you—some airlines will deliver your bags to your final destination and others will not. If your bags are missing for a number of days, some airlines will also give you money towards a new wardrobe, says Pauline Frommer, editorial director for Frommer’s guidebooks and Frommers.com.

To avoid this sticky situation in the future, both Frommer and St. Louis recommend not checking a bag if at all possible. If you do decide to send your bags through, make sure they’re marked in several places, says Frommer. In addition to identifying tags on the outside of your bag, “it’s good to have a little slip of paper inside with your ticket number, name, and address, and your cell phone number,” she says. Another helpful hint: When connecting flights, ask the agent at your connecting gate to scan your checked luggage receipt to see if your bags made the flight, says Greenberg. “If your bags didn’t make your flight, you can start the lost and found process then—not hours later when you arrive at your destination.”

 

4. You forgot your identification.

Always double and triple check that you have your identification on you—especially a passport for international travel—before leaving the house. In the event you’re traveling domestically and leave your ID behind, “TSA has come up with some creative ways to get you through security,” says Greenberg. “A credit card, a checkbook with your name on it, even your cell phone may contain enough information to confirm that it’s you.” But for international travel, “no passport, no flight,” says Greenberg.

Take a photograph of your ID or passport and have it on your phone in case you lose your ID or forget it, says St. Louis. It’s up to the airlines whether or not they’ll let you on the flight, but it may help—especially if you have to replace your passport at a consulate.

 

5.  You’re bumped from a flight.

“It’s rare that you’d be bumped from a flight without being informed, unless you’re running really late and don’t make it to the gate in time,” says St. Louis. In other countries there might be different requirements, so you’ll want to check the carrier’s rules and regulations, he adds. If you do get bumped from a flight for some reason, do not accept miles or vouchers, which can be difficult to redeem, says Frommer: “Ask for cold hard cash.”

 

6.  You’re traveling with young kids, but can’t get seats together.

“The key is to speak up,” says St. Louis. “Be proactive and try to find an ally.” Ask the ticket counter for help before boarding. If they can’t help you, the flight attendant on the aircraft can help shuffle passengers around to accommodate your family, he says. Remember: “Courtesy and kindness goes a long way.”

 

7. Your flight is canceled due to bad weather.

If your flight is canceled due to inclement weather, the best course of action is to be persistent, says Frommer: “Keep calling. If you get an answer you do not like, hang up, and either call or email back.” During bad weather, things change quickly and passengers are often shuffled around to accommodate individual travel needs as best as possible, which means a seat that was not available minutes ago may now be available, she explains. And remember to consider alternate airports and other means of transportation if you need to get to your destination immediately. Try rental cars, buses, or trains.

10 Tips for Beating Jet Lag

Whether you are a frequently traveler or have only flown a few times, it you have crossed time zones then you have probably experienced jet lag to some degree. It can come in the form of headaches, irritability, or even worst symptoms.

Of course there is no magic cure or potion you can drink but there are certain steps you can take to mitigate these symptoms while you wait for your body clock to adjust.

Here from World of Wonderlust are 10 things that you can do to help you avoid jet lag and also avoid starting your vacation out on the wrong foot.

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1. Book your flight strategically

If possible, try booking a flight that will minimize jet lag. If you are flying west, book an afternoon flight. If you are flying east, book a morning flight. Landing at a sensible time will minimize the amount of swearing that happens when you’re landing in a strange country at 3 a.m. completely exhausted.

 

2. Shift your time for long trips

Depending on your schedule, try shifting your sleep schedule before you even leave on your trip. A few days before you leave, try going to bed one hour earlier or later each day. Try to also move your mealtimes. That might mean a super-early trip to the gym in the morning and going to bed before your favorite TV shows are over but you’ll be grateful when you arrive at your destination feeling a little more prepared to face the world.

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3. Adjust your watch

Even before you board the plane, adjust your watch to your destination’s local time. It doesn’t seem like much, but every time you glance at your watch, you’re telling your subconscious what time it’s going to be and that will help you mentally prepare before you even land.

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4. Drink lots of water

Yes, your seat mate will hate you, but being hydrated is worth all those trips to the bathroom. The cabin air pressure is dehydrating, which won’t help your travel hangover and not drinking enough water will leave you with a headache and dry skin. Drink as much water or herbal tea as you can, stay away from sugary juice and coffee and whatever you do, don’t drink alcohol. Sorry, but alcohol will only dehydrate you more and make your jet lag more painful.

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5. Try to eat light meals

During a flight, the only thing happening is either food or a terrible inflight movie. Even though the food isn’t great, it’s something to do, but try to resist eating too much. Heavy meals, especially ones heavy on salt will keep you from getting that much-needed rest. If possible, stick to protein and plant-based foods to beat jet-lag and keep you feeling fresh instead of bloated.

 

6. Sleep on the plane

Obviously, this is easier said than done, but if you can get a little shut-eye on the flight, it’ll seriously help your jet lag. Bring an eye mask, earplugs and try to unplug from the what’s happening around you. Just make sure that you’re falling asleep when it’s night time in your destination, not night time at home. However, if it’s daytime at your destination while you’re flying, it might be better to give up sleeping and use the flight time for relaxing or working.

 

7. Walk around during the flight

Try to keep the blood flowing during the flight by walking up and down the aisle or doing mini stretches in your seat. Keeping muscle aches away is key for keeping you relaxed and helping you feel a little happier when you actually get off the plane. That doesn’t mean you have to do pushups by the bathroom, just some gentle stretching will help.

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8. Get some sunshine STAT

Instead of chugging caffeine, go outside! Sunshine acts like a natural stimulant that triggers your body into “waking up”  and reseting your internal clock. If you arrive at your destination during the day, get as much light exposure as you possibly can. Go for a walk or relax by the pool- the more natural light you can get when you first arrive, the quicker you’ll get over jet lag.

 

9. Rest at sundown

If it’s still light when you land, fight the urge to instantly pass out. Push through your fatigue by doing an activity you’ve been looking forward to or just walking the streets and exploring. Then once the sun is setting, head back to your hotel to get some rest and get your circadian rhythm off on the right foot.

 

10. Take a warm bath

After a long flight, sometimes it’s really hard to unwind and fall asleep. Instead of resorting to sleeping pills, draw yourself a bath when you get to the hotel and treat yourself to some quiet time. If there isn’t a tub, drink a warm cup of tea. Don’t resort to the mini bar, since alcohol won’t help with that groggy feeling the next morning. Save the wine for the following night, once you’re feeling better than ever.

How to Cure Common Travel Worries

Are you someone who would really love to spend time traveling, seeing new places having new experiences? But do you also find yourself freaking out when you start thinking about planning such a trip? Don’t worry, this is fairly common. Many people suffer from what is referred to as ‘travel phobia’. Maybe you are not afraid of flying but you are afraid of all the things that can go wrong while flying. You have heard the horror stories so you hesitate to book that trip and find yourself missing out on some great experiences.
Well, don’t let these phobias get you down, there is a cure. These suggestions by Rick Seaney explain how you can alleviate some of the common travel phobias.  Don’t let anxiety keep you from enjoying life, try these tips and have yourself a stress-free vacation!

1. The Getting Started Phobia
You want to travel but don’t know where to begin. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and make a few lists regarding where you want to go and what you want to see.

Plan ahead: Go online and Google “official tourism site for [destination]”. Now, the fun part: Pick out attractions or activities you absolutely must see. Then, where possible, book tickets (or at least make reservations). Do it quickly because popular activities can fill up quickly (like a White House tour, for example). Finally, print out receipts and/or reservations (yes, these can live on your phone but paper copies are always good).

Don’t over-plan: Leave some empty space on your day-to-day trip calendar because sometimes you just need a break – time to do nothing more strenuous that bask on that beach in Florida or wander the Champs-Élysées of Paris.

 

2. Security Phobia

We all get this to some extent but security is here to stay. The good news is with PreCheck you’ll get a faster experience and a five year membership only costs $85 (and personally I think the shorter lines are worth $17 a year). If you travel much internationally, Global Entry makes returns to the U.S. faster and easier and it includes PreCheck.

 

3. Packing and Baggage Phobia

The trick is to pack light and pack early. With just a few exceptions, carry-ons are free while the vast majority of airlines charge $50 round-trip for a checked-bag. Packing only what you need as opposed to what you might want to bring is key and packing light is easy with the roll-your-clothes method.

Another tip: Pack a day or two ahead of time and place a list of last-minute items to add to the bag on top of it.

 

4. No WiFi Phobia

This is a vacation, so ease off on the email and text messages. Yes, we know you’re important but if the office really needs you, they’ll call. Free yourself so you can actually enjoy the vacation you’ve worked so hard for.

 

5. Fear of Glitches Phobia

Here’s another instance where ‘letting go’ is sometimes the best thing to do. Yes, a flight might be delayed but so what? Stuff happens and you can’t fix everything so just relax. If stuck in an airport, here’s where electronics will come in handy so fire them up (you packed the charger cord, right?) and find out what’s happening on Game of Thrones. Your plane will take off eventually.

 

One more thing: Be polite in all your dealings with airline representatives and it’ll come back to you, or at least that’s what a rep told me long ago: “Who would you rather help, Mr. Jerk or Mr. Nice Guy?”

So don’t let these little fears get in your way.  The reward of travel far outweighs the risk and most of these things are minor when you look at the big picture.  Happy travels!

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