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Posted by on Aug 29, 2011 | 25 comments

Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: Planning

Essential Flying Tips for Travelers – Planning

I am not an airplane fan.  I would prefer to travel using another transportation method.  Even though flying is not my favorite part of traveling, I recognize planes connect multiple parts of our planet in an impressive way.  And if you travel, you will have to fly at some point (unless you want to punish yourself, who knows).

For that reason, I have put together some tips that can help a traveler during the flying planning/ticket buying stage.  You are welcome to add you suggestions in the comments area.  In that way, we can learn from each other. 

 

 

1. Use a flight aggregator

I have to admit I am not a flight aggregator lover.  However, since flights from airlines like American Airlines cannot be found anymore on Orbitz or Expedia, I have started to use aggregators to get a better idea of the prices out there.  Kayak is one of the most popular aggregators out there.  If you are interested in finding flight in Europe, use Momondo since this website includes low cost airlines (ex., Rynair).

2. Save a few bucks by booking directly from the airline website

Some websites dedicated to sell travel service charge a fee for each transaction.  For example, when you buy an airline ticket, the website may be charging you an extra 10 to 15 dollars fee for the service.  An airline website usually does not charge this fee. So, use an aggregator to find a good price and then check the airline website to see if the price is lower.

3. Know the difference between a direct, nonstop and connecting flight

Don’t confuse a direct and nonstop flight. Here are some definitions:

  • Connecting Flight – a flight with an intermediate stop and change of aircraft.
  • Direct Flight – a flight between two points by an airline with no change in flight numbers, which may include a stop over at an intermediate point.
  • Nonstop Flight – a flight which does not involve any intermediate stops.

A nonstop flight is the best option because it saves times and avoids potential delays.

4. Make sure you purchase your ticket under the exact name that appears on your passport or ID

This is a really important issue.  If the name on your ticket is different, by even one letter, from the name in your official ID, you can be denied boarding.  Plus, the airline may charge you a hefty fee for a name change (more than $100).  When doing your reservation online, make sure you have written your information correctly before completing the transaction.  When booking by phone, ask the agent to spell your name (even though you have spell it to him/her).  If you discover  a spell error in your reservation, call and fix it as soon as possible. Don’t wait till you get to the airport to take care of this.

5. Always review your confirmed reservation for errors

Nowadays, most ticket reservations are done online.  Usually, we get an e-mail with the confirmation details.  A lot of people I know never open the e-mail until the last moment.  It is a good practice to check your confirmation documentation once you get it.  This practice can save you a lot of trouble.  

6. Select your seats as soon as possible

If you prefer a type of seat or have a special need (disability, need extra space because you are tall), select your seats as soon as possible.  Visit websites like seatguru.com or seatexpert.com to learn what are the best seat selections.

7. Make sure you know what airport you are flying to

Big cities usually have more than one airport.  For example, if you fly to London, you can arrive at Heathrow, Stansted, Luton or Gatwick. Double check the airport you are departing from the day you are traveling.  People get confused more than you think. A friend lost his flight to South Africa because he showed up at the incorrect airport.

 Make sure you understand how far the airport is from the actual city center before booking. You can book a great deal without noticing you are actually flying to an airport 50 miles (100 km) from where you want to go.  It can be more effective to fly to a closer airport when taking into consideration the extra money you have to pay for ground transportation.

 Also, remember major cities (ex., capitals) usually have domestic and international airports.  You arrive at the international airport from a foreign country.  However, many times, you fly to a city within the country from the domestic airport.  First, determine if your international flight is arriving and your domestic flight is departing from the same airport. If this is not the case, make sure there is enough time between the connections to move from one airport to the other.  I know a lot of people who have discovered on an international airport that their flight is leaving in an hour but from the domestic airport.  That my friends, is what I call a big, big headache.

 Additionally, if somebody is picking you up at the airport, verify the person is clear about what airport you are arriving. A friend of mine had to wait hours after arrival because his brother confused the NYC airport he was arriving too. 

8. Fly as early as possible

The probability of getting stuck in a delay increases as the day progresses.  Therefore, it is wise to fly as early as possible to avoid an unwanted surprise.  Moreover, try to avoid rush hours when possible.

9. Make sure you have the correct foreign document requirements

This may be surprising but a lot of travel plans get frustrated because the traveler fails to acquire the proper documentation.  Bear this in mind: it is your responsibility to get the correct documentation.  Do not book any travel service before you understand what documents are necessary to enter a foreign country and how long is going to take you to get those documents.  Here are some things to take into consideration:

  • Always bring your passport when traveling out of your country of residence.  This may sound obvious but some people forget to take their passports when boarding a cruise or exiting their countries for a day (then, they can’t return like when trying to cross by land from the Mexico to the United States).
  • If you reside in a country but are not a citizen, bring your residence card.
  • Acquire any necessary visas and make sure you know where and how to get them. Government websites usually contain a list of complete entrance regulations (U.S. citizens go to www.travel.state.gov/travel).
  • Make sure your passport is valid for six months after your entrance to a foreign country.
  • Make sure you have at least two blank, unstamped pages.  Some countries require two blank pages not one.

10. Arrive to the airport early

Recently, I heard the following quote: “Plan for the worst, expect the best”.  I think this applies to this point.  A lot of things can go wrong in the way or at the airport.  We travelers know that.  So, make an effort to arrive early.  It is better to wait for some time at the gate, than enter the airplane stressed and cranky.

What are your flying planning tips? Let me know in the comments section below.

25 Comments

  1. i like your tip on arriving early – i fly pretty frequently but i still arrive very early, i’d rather be relaxed before my flight than totally stressed!

    One other tip for flying internationally, there’s a lot of travel agencies [that act as a ticket consolidator] that can get tickets for less than even searching on aggregators & online. For example, for travel to Japan from the US, i use a travel agency such as JTB or IACE. I *always* find tickets cheaper through these agencies than I can find online since they purchase bulk seating.
    jenjenk recently posted..Paris: Notre DameMy Profile

  2. Hi Ruth,

    These tips are very well said here. I agree with you in booking airline ticket through internet, because you might also get their promos and other discounts. And also, if you book at the earliest time, you can pay less than the original amount.
    Hanni recently posted..Have a Healthy LifeMy Profile

    • Hanni,
      That is a good tip. My experience is that ticket prices are way lower if you buy as earliest as possible (like you mentioned). Some people seem to be experts in getting good deals at the last moment. This hasn’t work for me.
      Ruth recently posted..Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: PlanningMy Profile

    • Laurel,
      You should check seatguru.com and other similar sites if you are really interested in getting a good seat. They have information on a lot of airplanes on different airlines (since the seats configuration change depending on the airline).
      Ruth recently posted..Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: PlanningMy Profile

    • Jan,
      I like Orbitz but now I have to check somewhere else because American Airlines is not there. American does not necessarily has the best service but it does have good prices on major city routes.
      Ruth recently posted..Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: PlanningMy Profile

  3. I use the tripit.com travel planning service and it has a built in link to seatexpert.com. I have a round the world flight in a few days time and I checked my seats and they were all very poor, so have managed to change them to the better economy seats available. Fabulous.
    John in France recently posted..Neighbors at War: the joys of Paris apartment livingMy Profile

    • John,
      Thanks for the tip. I have never used tripit before but will take it into consideration. Great to know you are going on a round the world trip. Wow, how exciting!! Wish you success and happy times.
      Ruth recently posted..Essential Flying Tips for Travelers: PlanningMy Profile

  4. I actually hate flying too- but I have saved a lot of money before by using different sites to book my flights. I love airfare watchdog. com. it was great.
    jade recently posted..Pimp My Treehouse: Houses of PohnpeiMy Profile

  5. These are all great tips! And thanks for teaching me about Momondo—I’ve never heard of it before but will definitely try it out in the future.
    Michael Figueiredo recently posted..Side Trip: Catalina IslandMy Profile

    • Momondo is not that well known in the United States but I think we should give it a try. I have heard very good reviews about the site from experts in the travel industry like Pauline Frommer.
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Pudong, ShanghaiMy Profile

    • I bring no snacks because I KNOW I’m going to Cinnabon.
      Stephanie and I should probably never travel together. 🙂
      Steve recently posted..JabbawockeezMy Profile

      • Hey guys, I think we can reach an agreement. Let’s eat Cinnabon at the airport and then the snacks on the plane. I suppose nobody opposes.
        Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Pudong, ShanghaiMy Profile

  6. Great tips, Ruth!
    I’d bring a pillow or neck pillow — I think some airlines here in the US are charging (or plan to) for pillows and blankets. You might also want to bring a blanket, especially on long international flights, they sometimes, they also run out.
    InsideJourneys recently posted..Travel Photo Thursday – HarlemMy Profile

    • Yes, I have heard some airlines intentions of charging for pillows and blankets. I have more “on the plane” tips in the second part of this post.
      Ruth recently posted..Papillon Photos: Pudong, ShanghaiMy Profile

  7. Great list of tips. Flying is a big pain but a necessary part of most travel. When picking seats don’t be afraid to select a window and aisle with the center seat open. This way, maybe no one will select the center seat and you can always ask that person to switch with one of you so you can sit together. I have never met anyone that wouldn’t trade that center seat for a window or aisle!
    Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista recently posted..Favorite European Travel MomentsMy Profile

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