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Dealing With The Pressure Of Holiday Travel
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The good news is that there remain plenty of cheap travel options, including cheap airplane tickets, discount hotel rooms, cheap auto rentals, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages. The bad news is that airports are expected to be packed over the holidays, with planes having few, if any, empty seats.
If you are traveling with others, you may find that you have to sit apart from a family member or friend, unless you already have assigned seats or you are willing to pay extra.
Slightly over 25 million people are expected to fly during the 12 day Thanksgiving travel period this year, an increase of about 2 percent. If people fly as expected, this will be the busiest flying holiday since 2007, when as estimated 26 million took to the air.
The busiest travel day will be Sunday, December 1st when over 2.5 million people will fly, followed by Wednesday, November 27th, with 2.4 million passengers. The slowest travel day will be on Thanksgiving when about 1.4 people are expected to fly.
The following are suggestions as to how best to deal with the surprises you may face traveling over the holidays:
• If you miss your connection or your flight is cancelled, your airline should automatically rebook you on the next available flight. Unfortunately with planes flying at near capacity the next open seat could be several days away. If you don’t want the flight you are rebooked on, call the airline directly. Sometimes sending a Tweet that describes your situation helps.
• If you are stuck at an airport for an extended period of time, consider purchasing a one day pass to an airline lounge associated with your airline. Such lounges usually offer free drinks and light snacks. Airlines tend to staff their lounges with some of their best and friendliest ticket agents. These agents are sometimes able to magically find empty seats. One day passes usually cost $50.
• If you do not already have assigned seats together with whomever you are traveling with and do not want to pay extra for premium coach seats, it is likely that you will sit apart. However all hope is not lost. Arrange to receive alerts for seat openings. The website “ExpertFlyer” provides free notifications when a window or aisle seat becomes available. For 99 cents it will send an email if adjacent seats are vacant.
• Start checking your airline’s website five days before departure. That is typically when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Additional waves of upgrades occur every 24 to 48 hours.
• Check in exactly 24 hours in advance of the scheduled take off time of your flight which is when airlines start releasing more seats. Don’t give up. Even if you are not able to find seats together online, seats can often be changed at airport kiosks and on some airlines’ mobile apps.
• Make a point of weighing any bags you are planning on checking at home. Bags in excess of 50 pounds (40 pounds on select airlines such as Spirit) result in an expensive overweight surcharge that usually runs $100 in addition to the $25 checked bag fee.
• Before dropping off your bag at an airline counter, make certain that the airline’s tag has your name, flight number, and final destination. Place a copy of your flight itinerary inside of your bag with your cellphone number and name of where you will be staying. Otherwise a lost bag may never reach your destination and instead simply be returned to your home.
• Remember if there is something in a bag that you cannot live without (such as medication, an outfit for a meeting or wedding, or jewelry or electronics), then pack those things in your carry-on.
• Since overhead space is particularly limited during holiday travel periods, pack a small bag inside your carry-on. That way you will be able to retain your valuables if you are forced at the last minute to check your carry-on.
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