This is a bit overdue as Kevin Kline tagged me in a meme post to help people get ready for their travel to PASS. However, we were too busy with travel (we were in Australia at the time) to get to it. And, while this year's PASS has past, it's not too late for travel in general OR for next year! I suspect that a few folks are already planning for PASS, or Connections, or other business travel! So, here we go – my travel recommendations/tips.
- Join the frequent flyer program even if you're not a frequent flyer. As long as you travel within another 12 months (and sometimes even longer) your miles won't expire… Miles (for upgrades or free tickets) are always good :) and even if you're only a 2 or 3 times a year flyer – they'll add up (again, as long as you keep traveling).
- Try to pick an airline and stick with it. The more you fly, the higher the bonuses. In fact, I'm so focused on flying just one airline that I'll often fly two flights (for example, SEA -> DEN, DEN->MCO [Orlando]) even when another airline (like American) has a direct SEA->MCO. This happens more than I would like but it also means that I get things like extra bonuses as the end of the year. For example, as I hit each 25K after 100K (ah, I really do fly *A LOT*), I get 2 extra systemwide upgrades. These allow me to upgrade (at the time of booking) for any international flight from departure to destination. So, I can upgrade SEA->MEL (even though that's actually SEA->LAX, LAX->SYD and SYD->MEL). But, systemwides are only given at the highest levels… so, you really have to fly a lot and you MUST stick with the same airline. My airline of choice: United. Also, to help you earn points faster – be sure to check the airline promotions REGULARLY. For example, many airlines offered a "double your EQM (Elite Qualifying Miles)" for Sept to Dec flight… all solely for registering. This might get you to the next level with little work! Here's United's page on promotions: http://www.united.com/page/article/1,,52102,00.html?navSource=Dropdown07&linkTitle=earnmiles.
- When you book, start by doing some research online. Try general travel sites (Expedia, Travelocity, etc.) first but be sure to check the specific airlines as well. And, you *might* need to get creative if your itinerary is messy. Paul and I recently had to travel to Dublin and then Warsaw on the same trip but when we booked the entire set of flights the tickets were OUT OF CONTROL expensive. We ended up booking SEA->DUB and then WAW->SEA (it's called an open jaw) and we saved over 60% (no, I'm NOT kidding). Now, don't get me wrong – we spent something like 5 hours coming up with different options/combinations both online and on the phone. And, in many cases this kind of thing costs more not less so it can get tricky; it really isn't all that common but can really help. One thing of which to be aware is that connecting flights on a different ticket may cause you A LOT of grief (even though they can save you $$$). If your final destination if DUB and you purchase one RT ticket (let's say SEA to LHR) and then a separate RT ticket LHR to DUB but you plan to connect in LHR to fly immediately to DUB… some airlines/partners do NOT allow the baggage to be checked all the way through – this means that you'll need to pick up baggage in LHR and check-in again (and since this is international – it means going through customs/immigration). What this means is that you'll need more time (so pick those connections with 2-3 hours – maybe more). And, if there are any delays, etc. you won't be a high priority for them… this is where it can get messy. But, I have to admit this is something I do OFTEN. I always *try* to fly on partner airlines (meaning Star Alliance) as I have "Gold" privileges BUT, this doesn't always help (when checking in). However, it can help while en route. Again, fly the same airline/group and it does have its benefits.
- Seats – when you book, try and get your seats assigned. And, be sure to check out your seat on SeatGuru (http://www.SeatGuru.com). If you book online (which can often offer discounts) be sure to follow up by calling the specific airline to get your seats assigned. In fact, if the price isn’t all that much better you might be MUCH better off using the specific company’s website and/or phone system so that you CAN get your seats assigned. And, in the worst case, if you can’t get your seats assigned – get to the airport EARLY (really target the 1.5-2 hour rule) and then be VERY nice to the folks that check you in… see if you can get an exit row or bulk head. Hmmmm, bulkhead seating is debatable. On some planes, bulkhead
Getting ready for travel:
- A couple of weeks prior – go through all of your dates and itineraries and double-check everything. Once, I arrived at an airport for a flight and I had been booked on the wrong day. I remember the phone call well – I had been going back/forth about specific dates (and costs) and in the end, my E-ticket was wrong. Had I double-checked it, it wouldn’t have been a problem… Luckily, seats were available and all was well (and, I had elite status) otherwise, it could have been a nightmare!
- Is there anything special you’re taking? Does it need to make it to the cleaner, etc.? Are you going to remember to pick it up in time? Really, planning a bit for this is important. I’ve forgotten to go to the cleaner the night before a trip only to realize that my flight is so early that I can’t even stop on the way to the airport. Now I need to go to plan b. This is why Paul creates a comprehensive “Pack List” and he’s got it online. When he thinks of something he wants to take on a trip, he updates this doc. Then, the day before he packs – he double-checks it, prints it and then starts packing. I’m pretty good at remembering most things so I haven’t done this but I have forgotten a few things over the years and travels. So, I’d really recommend this and I’m probably going to do this moving forward too!
Making the travel less painful:
- Sleeping. Does melatonin work for you? Or, have you even tried it? If you’re crossing many time zones, you might want to pick up a bottle of this. It’s an anti-stress/herbal sleep aid and taking it right before bedtime might help you sleep better and adjust more quickly.
- Sinus rinse. I swear by this and I honestly think this helps me avoid getting sick on some flights. I rinse my sinuses twice daily regardless of travel but given that you’re traveling with so many other folks and breathing recycled air – rinsing your sinuses can’t hurt. And, you might want to pick up some saline solution for in-flight moisture. Here's a link for the specific sinus rinse I recommend: http://www.neilmed.com/usa/products.php#isotonic. And, they have a nasal moisturizer as well: http://www.neilmed.com/usa/products.php#nasogel.
- Flight socks. Honestly, I just recently found out about these and I LOVE them. My feet can swell up a bit while flying (I just recently had foot surgery) and now, I wear these even for shorter flights.
- Slippers. Yes, I actually travel with wool slippers. Seriously, I get cold…really cold… And, when I travel with these they make a HUGE difference. Especially for long haul flights. These aren't hard slippers – more like thick socks (easy to pack).
- Snack. Even if you do get an upgrade – having a snack with you might make an otherwise hungry time a lot more bearable.
- Water. I buy water in the airport prior to boarding so that I’m never without. Flying can be very dehydrating and that will only help you get sick.
- Entertainment. Have something ready for you to read, watch, work-on… whatever. This is always my excuse to buy the trashy mags at the airport before I board. However, I have to admit that I know fewer and fewer of the stars referenced. Not sure how I’m supposed to feel about that?! J
Well… I’ll plan to come back to this and update it with other tips/tricks as I think about them!
Safe – and happy – travels to all! And, I look forward to seeing you at an event sometime soon…if not, at PASS, or Connections again next year.
Thanks for reading!