Friday, September 2, 2011

Guest Post: Belle-soeur Julie

This wonderful girl has a masters in math and works for the airline industry. She is sharing a bit of her extensive knowledge to help you all out. Enjoy!

Hi this G's husband's little sis! My life is pretty much awesome. In the past year of my life, I have gone on 18 flying trips. Some have been as close as 150 miles, some across the country, and one to the other side of globe. If I counted correctly, this comes to 44 take-offs and landings. This is quite a feat considering that when I graduated from college, I had only been on 5 flying trips, 4 of which were during college. With all of this flying I have become an expert traveler. Here are few tips for traveling:

 General flight tips that you probably already know:
  • Know your airport. Some airports you might need to get there 2 hours early, and some 40 minutes is enough. In general, get there 1.5 hours before your flight.
  • Don't bring anything that looks like a weapon onto the plane
  • Put liquids in 3 oz containers in a quart bag on the outside pocket of your carry-on for easy removal.
  • You CAN place razors, chapstick, deodorant, fruit, fruit snacks, breakfast bars, sandwiches, and other similar items in your bag. No one has ever questioned me about these items or asked me to place them into my liquids bag.
  • After you show your boarding pass and ID to the security officer, you don't need them anymore. Put them away.
  • Wear slip-on shoes and put your laptop in an easily removable place.
  • The new body scanners won't kill you, but most of them do practically give them a non-color picture of you nude. There are two types: the ones with the big boxes you stand between, and the clear round shaped ones. The ones with the boxes can penetrate your skin a small amount, so if you are worried about radiation, opt for the pat down. The clear ones, however, cannot penetrate your skin. I wouldn't worry about them.

Now, tips for getting a good deal:
  • Plan your trip on a non-popular time of year. Tickets around Christmas, Thanksgiving, and spring break are especially expensive because that's when everyone else wants to travel. Plus, the flying experience is less stressful when the airport isn't packed full of holiday travelers.
  • Check your favorite website (orbitz, cheap tickets, student universe, etc.) to find which airline carrier has the cheapest price, AND check, AND try Southwest tickets are only available through their website. Contrary to popular belief, Southwest tickets are NOT always the cheapest. Also, you can often find a killer deal on priceline if your travel times are flexible.
  • Buy your ticket in advance, but not too far in advance. Airlines decide how many tickets to sell at each of their prices from the beginning and they sell the cheapest tickets first. Once they run out of the cheap tickets, the price automatically increases. So, the first people to buy tickets get the cheapest tickets. However, sometimes tickets are more expensive far out because the airlines want to protect themselves from selling too many tickets to soon. Buying your ticket 1-3 months in advance should be good. More than 3 months is unnecessary. (Although, there are exceptions to every rule...)

  • Most airlines charge a hefty fee for checking bags. Try packing everything into a carry-on if you can.
  • If you want to "check" your carry-on bag for free, you can ask the gate agent to gate check your bag. There's rarely enough overhead space anyway.

  • It's worth multi-millions each year for the airlines to overbook, so all of them do it except Jet Blue. It's good for you too! It means that there are more tickets to sell on each plane which means that there are more of the cheaper tickets available to you as a leisure traveler.
  • When there are more passengers than seats, they offer pretty sweet deals to those who are willing to wait for the next flight---a travel voucher good towards a future flight, and if you have to stay the night, they'll pay for your food and the hotel room. If you ever get involuntarily denied a seat on the plane, I apologize. Try to talk the people around you into taking the travel voucher.

Flight experience:
  • Bring a book and a laptop (or ipod or tablet). Most airlines don't have TV's anymore, so bring your own entertainment. Sitting in a tight seat for a few hours can be horrible without something to distract yourself and the Skymall magazine is only exciting the first few times.
  • First class in the US isn't worth it. You get a bigger seat and a snack. On longer flights they'll give you a nice meal, but it's not worth the extra money. However, if you want to get upgraded for free, take G's advice. Dress nice and ask. Occasionally the back will be too full and they'll need to find someone to upgrade for free anyway.
  • Envoy/Business class overseas is amazing! Often, the seats lie completely flat, and they give you delicious meals, a nice blanket, and a traveling kit with a toothbrush, eye-covering, and other fun stuff.
I hope that was at least a little helpful and interesting. Happy travels!

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