Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Save Money by Changing Airports

I live less than 30 minutes away from a perfectly good airport. However, when I travel I often drive to airports in neighboring states. Why? Because departing from an airport just two to three hours away from home can save me as much as $600 on an international flight and $300 on a domestic flight.

When researching flights online, I always mark the box that gives the option of checking multiple airports. Many major cities have more than one. For example, if you fly into or out of Chicago, you can choose between Midway and O’Hare.

As lovely and convenient as our Indianapolis airport is, I rarely fly out of it. I usually find better rates out of Cincinnati but research is key. Sometimes the Cincinnati rates are only about $50 cheaper than Indy, so I’ll pass on those. It’s not worth the cost of gas to drive two hours for that slight difference.

Airfare shouldn’t be the only consideration. Ground transportation can be a principal factor. If someone can drop you off at your home airport and you don’t have to pay for long-term parking, it might be better to do that than drive two hours and then pay for parking.

Convenience can be important, too. When flying to D.C. for a conference a few years ago, I had the choice of landing at Dulles or Reagan. The Dulles flights were cheaper but Reagan was closer to the conference. I could take the subway straight from Reagan to my hotel. That saved me both time and money after landing, so I was willing to pay a slightly higher airfare in that instance.

When you’re booking your flights, a little flexibility can save you a lot of money. Just be sure to weigh all the factors (length of drive, cost of gas, cost of parking and convenience) to make sure that the money you save on airfare is more than any additional costs you might incur on the ground.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Overcoming Airport Anxiety

A dear friend of mine hates to travel. I once asked her why and it boiled down to the stress of navigating the maze that she perceived airports to be. Having to take connecting flights left her particularly nervous. She hates getting off a plane in a strange city, reading the connecting flight screens and trying to find her next gate. She is not the only person I know who finds all of that to be stressful. I’d say that roughly half of my friends and acquaintances hate airports.
Personally, I find airports to be fun and exciting. I love people watching, sampling different restaurants, checking out art displays and shopping. Once upon a time, though, I also found airports to be intimidating. Like my friend, I really hated changing planes.
How did I make the switch from being a timid flyer to a calm, confident one? The answer is simple: Preparation. The more you know before you go, the more relaxed and confidant you will be while traveling. Preparation eliminates that unsettling feeling that being in an unfamiliar place can bring.
Before you leave, check out the web page for your home airport and any airports that you will be in during your trip. Airport maps can be a wealth of information. If you’re going to be changing planes and your gates are far apart, there might be a short-cut tunnel or a train/bus that will get you to your departure gate faster than walking the length of both terminals. Those maps also show you where the restaurants, shops and restrooms are.
There are some free phone apps that help you navigate your way through the airport. I love Ifly, both the web and the app. You can plug in your flight info and get very specific directions to your next gate. I hear GateGuru is good, although I haven’t tried that one yet.
The most useful app to download to your phone is the one that your airline provides. I am currently a Delta devotee and their app is wonderful. Before you even book a flight, download the airline app to your phone and create a personal profile. You can book flights through the app but if you booked your flight using another tool or even an agency, you can add your flight information using your reservation number. Be sure that your reservation is in the app because the tools provided will come in handy before and during your flight.
Delta’s app allows me to:
  • See how many days are left until I can check in.
  • Check in by phone and keep my boarding pass on my screen, eliminating the need for a paper boarding pass.
  • Check my flight status and receive notifications regarding last minute delays or changes.
  • Pull down up those handy airport maps. The app knows what flights I have coming up and it has those maps in queue for me.
  • Track my checked bags.
  • Record a parking reminder for help in finding my car when I return.
  • See what movies are currently playing in-flight and download an app that provides free entertainment while in the air.
There is a lot of comfort in having all of that information at my fingertips. I am able to travel calm and confident knowing that I can find my gate, my luggage and my car simply by looking at my phone.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Finding Your Bag in a Sea of Black

Have you ever stood in front of the luggage carousel, waiting for your stuff and accidentally picked up one that looks identical to yours? Have you ever seen someone accidentally pick up your bag? Have you ever had a bag stolen at the airport?

The problem is that most of us gravitate to either black, navy or gray luggage. There are only so many suitcase manufacturers out there so it only makes sense that a lot of us carry identical bags.

You may have read on other blogs to tie a ribbon or a scarf on your luggage to set it apart. That’s not a bad idea except that ribbons and scarves are too easily removed, whether by intentional means (by a thief) or unintentional (excessive bumping around while being handled).

There are several affordable and effective ways to set your bag apart from the look-alikes at the airport. My favorite method is two-fold. First, I bought a set of big pink luggage tags. Luggage tags are easy to remove, so as a back-up, I bought pink Duck Tape and put a strip on the bottom of each of my bags. I put it on several years ago and it’s still hanging tight. With my bright tag on the top of the bag (if it has survived the flight) and the pink tape on the bottom of the bag, I can spot my bag quickly no matter which end comes off the conveyor first.

Big, bright luggage tags

Bright strip of tape

Duck Tape

Two other options are handle grips and luggage straps. It’s a matter of personal choice but I say the brighter the better.

Handle Wraps

Luggage Straps

If your luggage is uniquely marked, not only will it help you find it in baggage claim faster but it will help the airline find it faster should it be misdirected. It also deters thieves. Most thieves will avoid uniquely marked bags because they are too easily spotted by their rightful owners.