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Ask the Expert: Navigating Holiday Travel

Ask the Expert: Navigating Holiday Travel

Ask the Expert: Navigating Holiday Travel

Three experts discuss everything from bad weather, avoiding crowds and scoring cheaper fares.

Whether you plan to see family in Ft. Lauderdale or go sunbathing in San Diego, holiday travel can be exhausting. From maddening crowds to bad weather delays, just getting from point A to point B can seem impossible. Which is why we called on three travel experts to offer up some advice on how to get to your destination as easily and inexpensively as possible:

From David Weliver, Founder of Money Under 30, a website that offers financial advice to the under thirty set (but often applies to those of us a little older too):

  • Unfortunately, Thanksgiving and Christmas are the worst times of year to book award travel. Airlines typically make seats available for mileage awards that they don’t expect to sell, but most planes are full around the holidays.
  • Nobody knows the best time to book award travel, so keep trying. Conventional wisdom suggests that the earlier in advance you book, the more seats you’ll find. But a flight’s bookings change constantly…right up until the day of departure. If you saved booking for the last minute, keep checking flights a fews a part. You might get lucky.
  • On full flights, look at first or business class. Yes, you’ll need more miles, but during regular workweeks, first class seats are occupied by business travelers. During the holidays, however, flights are filled with more families and fewer road warriors. That means more competition for coach seats and — possibly — more availability up front. 
  • Book one way tickets. You might not be able to score the exact round-trip award ticket you want during the holidays. Instead, look at a combination of one-way tickets that can get you there. You may be able to use miles for one or both legs — or mix and match paid and award tickets on different airlines.
  • Use credit card miles. Generic credit card miles or points don’t go as far when you try to book award tickets, but they do have their place. Some credit cards like the Capital One Venture, Chase Sapphire, and Barclaycard Arrival cards pay miles that can be redeemed like cash on any airline, with no blackout dates. With these miles, you can snag a seat when award seats aren’t available, but you’ll have to pay the “mile equivalent” of the listed cash fare which, around the holidays, might be pricey.

From Tom Spagnola, Travel Expert for CheapOair, a comparative travel site that offers fares from multiple airlines at once:

  • The sooner you book, the more affordable your flight will be. That said, consumers should book their Thanksgiving travel now for the most affordable travel options. The longer you wait, the higher tickets will be. Also, flexibility is key when booking last-minute flights. For example, the day before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following Thanksgiving are typical travel days for people. If there are ways that passengers could leave earlier during the week of Thanksgiving or book return flights the following week, that would yield a tremendous cost savings to them.
  • When searching and booking flights, use comparative websites like CheapOair.com, to compare a wide variety of flight options and airfare prices.
  • Major cities typically have two airports in them. A lot of the low-cost carriers will fly into the smaller airports, which can offer tremendous savings on your travel and help you avoid holiday crowds. An example would be LAX as the major airport but Burbank airport being smaller but much cheaper option. These airports are only 30 miles from each other.
  • Atlanta-Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the most crowded airport in the world, according to data collected by the Airports Council International, this airport saw over 90 million passengers in 2014. 

From Carlos Monge, consultant for full-service travel agency, New Act Travel:

  • Always purchase trip insurance. Some Insurance companies quotes are relatively inexpensive and cover you for unexpected weather conditions. If traveling on a package created by a tour operator always include the travel protection, It might cost you a few hundred dollars more but you will travel knowing that, in case of any weather related issues, your investment would be protected.
  • Airlines are NOT obligated to help passengers for weather related issues. However during natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, some airlines provide waivers for stranded passengers. You would have to monitor the carrier’s website to see if a waiver has been issued and then call the airline and request alternative travel plans. (If you are working with an Agent and the airline provides a waiver, then the Agent would find other travel options to get them home and process the exchange with the airline on your behalf.)
  • Make sure that the airline has your cell phone number and e-mail address as many airlines send notifications on delays or weather related cancellations to the client’s phone as a text message or an email.
  • During winter weather season, it is preferable to take a nonstop flight whenever possible. This helps prevent delays en route.
  • If traveling during inclement weather it is always recommended to pack extra medication in carry on in case a flight get delayed.
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