by Military Diva
This year has proven to be especially stressful for air travelers. Flight delays, weather issues, cancelations due to software issues, and a stressed public have all led to decreased confidence in our airlines.
If you’re like our family though, flying is still the best option for reaching our travel destination. Our most recent trip to Disney World was scheduled to leave January 2-right in the midst of this year’s Holiday Airline Fiasco! While it was frustrating to watch flight issues develop so close to a booked trip, we chose to take our chances. We followed a few wise tips, took a deep breath, and packed our patience.
I’m happy to say that with a few extra planning steps, we were able to minimize our stress and were lucky enough to board our flights as scheduled. WE MADE IT!!
Tip #1-Book the First Morning Flight
Yes, you read that right! If available, book the first-morning flight out of your destination. It will likely be very early and you will need to arrive at the airport before the sun rises. But, you will typically have shorter lines at both baggage check and TSA. And you will be less likely to be on a canceled flight. Most flight crews are fresh in both energy and flight hours. Your flight won’t be delayed due to previous flight backups. And if you are delayed or canceled, you will be first in line to reschedule.
Tip #2-Book a Non-Stop Flight
I spent a bit of time monitoring flight schedules, cancelations, and delays over the past few months. I noticed a trend of flights leaving their destination, arriving at their layover destination, and being canceled there. This was a nightmare for many travelers over the Holidays and during early January. I can’t imagine being excited to leave on vacation, get part way there, and then get canceled. Imagine dreaming of warm temperatures only to be stuck in a cold airport, spending your hard-saved vacation money on airport meals! No thank you! Your best bet to avoid this situation is to book non-stop flights.
Tip #3-Avoid Checked Bags
If possible, try to pack all your travel gear into carry-on bags! You can save tremendous amounts of time by skipping the checked baggage line. And in the event that your plane is canceled or delayed, you will have your luggage with you. You avoid the risk of having your bags sent ahead on another plane without you. If able, make sure to adhere to the following rules and suggestions…
- Check with your airline for specifics on carry-on size limits, costs for these bags, and what counts as a separate, personal item.
- TSA uses the 3:1:1 rule. All liquids in carry-on and personal bags must be under 3.4 ounces per container. All liquid containers must fit in (1) quart-sized, clear, zipper bag. Each passenger is allowed (1) bag of liquids. These rules do not apply to medically necessary liquids, baby formula, or breast milk. You must declare these items and allow for inspection when entering the TSA checkpoint.
- Gate check strollers and car seats to ensure they make it onto your plane.
- If there are items that you might need but cannot fit in your carry-on or clear TSA, consider purchasing at your destination or having them delivered to your hotel/resort.
Tip #4-Make Sure You Have Enough Medicine to Last a Few Extra Days
Check your prescription and medically necessary needs in advance of your trip and make sure you have enough on hand to get you through your trip and for a few days after. Our family always takes an extra week of meds along for a weeklong vacation. You do not want to get stuck due to delayed flights or weather issues without your medicine! Extra tip…always pack these items in your carry-on or personal bag. NEVER PACK MEDS IN CHECKED BAGS!
Tip #5-Know the Terms of your Airfare!
Read the fine print and know what you have purchased! We all know that emergencies happen and we may have to adjust plans. Make sure you are aware of how your funds will be affected if the change is on your end. Is your airfare refundable? Are the refunds in the form of returned funds or travel credits? When do travel credits expire? Can you just rebook?
And make sure you understand your rights in the event that changes or cancelations are made by the airline. Southwest is working diligently to recover and reimburse all guests that were impacted by the Holiday Travel Disruption. But, knowing your rights and what the airline should cover will make any possible disruptions easier to handle at the moment.
Tip # 6-Consider Purchasing Travel Insurance
Many travel suppliers, including the Disney Travel Company, offer insurance in conjunction with their travel packages. Many travelers wait until their final payment is due to add the coverage. But, if added prior to purchasing other travel components (airfare, transfers, etc), these are often covered as well. There are also several private companies that offer insurance outside of the supplier packages.
- Check with your credit card, homeowner’s insurance, and car insurance policy to see if they provide any travel coverage.
- If considering Supplier Travel Insurance, read the terms and coverages prior to adding to ensure you are comfortable with the payment, covered components, and refund/credit options.
- Consider private travel insurance such as Allianz or Travel Guard. These can often be added after purchasing a travel package, are often more affordable, and may provide better coverage. Several also offer annual plans that will cover one year of travel for one set price.
Tip #7-Have a Back-Up Plan!
What’s the saying about best-laid plans? Expect things to go awry? Hopefully, all of your careful planning is perfectly enjoyed. But in case your schedule experiences a hiccup, it’s a great idea to have a backup. And be ready to act on it as necessary! We always have it in our minds that we can drive to Orlando if necessary. On our most recent trip we were golfing though. We didin’t want to take two vehicles or have to drive our aging Yukon if our flight was delayed. So we booked a refundable SUV rental (checking the terms carefully!) and sat on the reservation until we received word from Southwest that our flight was scheduled to leave on time. We were prepared with a vehicle, funds for gas and food during travel, and a plan to recoup our airfare in the event our flight was canceled or delayed beyond an acceptable timeframe. Fortunately in our situation, Southwest notified us 24 hours in advance that our flight was on time. We were able to cancel the rental and travel as originally planned.
Tip #8-Always have Reserve Funds for Emergencies
Make sure you leave room in your budget for alternate plans, on-site emergencies, and travel delays. Many stories emerged this month of travelers being stranded in airports and running out of funds for hotel and food costs. Always have a backup form of payment or cash on hand while traveling. And resist the urge to spend it at your destination!! You still need to make it home and could run into delays on that leg of your trip. Best case scenario…you get stuck and are able to stay comfortable until the situation is resolved. Worst case scenario…all your plans go smoothly and you have funds set aside for your next trip!!
Hopefully, these tips will help your family prepare for your next trip. While we hope you don’t need to use any of these options, they’re great to keep in mind while planning.
And if you’re interested in receiving more tips like these, contact Patricia with All for Dreams Travel. Patricia is an independent agent with Gateway Travel/Gateway to Magic Travel, an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. She is experienced in many destinations, small family, and large group travel.