I recently read The Wall Street Journal Guide to Power Travel by Scott McCartney. He is a regular columnist for the Wall Street Journal. I received this book as a present from my sister-in-law for Christmas and could hardly put the book down. I would consider myself a pretty experienced traveler, but found a vast amount of information in his book to be “eye opening”. The chapter on Air Traffic Control shocked and educated me – I will forever be leery anytime my flight is now “delayed”.
Below are 10 interesting points I noted in this book. Read on, you might find them helpful, too:
1. Know the best day to buy. Airlines file price increases on Thursdays to see if competitors will match these increases over the weekend. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays are the best days to buy.
2. Seasons and weather matters. During the winter, consider flying later in the day to allow for snow removal and delays to get worked out. In summer, travel early in the morning as opposed to late afternoon when thunderstorms are more likely. FlightStats.com is a great source for checking the history of a particular flight, airline, city and specific route – useful for determining delays, disruptions or cancellations. FlightStats.com will also give you a graphical image on a map of where a particular flight is.
3. Frequent Flier Programs. Did you know the first frequent-flier mile program was offered in 1981 by American Airlines? It was patterned after the Green Stamp program and became a great way to encourage brand loyalty. But not all frequent-flier programs are created equally. Know your program and the parameters (fine print).
4. Take advantage of technology. Airlines offer flight alert notifications for your cell phone, either as voice, text or email giving you gate information, departure or schedule changes, and baggage claim information. The alert comes in before the gate agent makes the announcement. This can give you an advantage over other travels if you need to rebook a flight or find a hotel before the rush.
5. Be prepared with travel information. Always have your hotel phone numbers with you for both your location destination and, if you have a connecting flight, for that location as well. You never know if your flight might get cancelled and you find yourself competing with a gate-full of people for the same grouping of hotels.
6. Travel light, but if you have to, know who can ship packages. FedEx, UPS, Luggage Forward and Sports Express can often ship your larger packages much cheaper than an airline can. Not to mention, these shippers can track your package – airlines can’t (and you don’t want your package lost - especially if it's your tri-bike).
7. Your ass isn’t getting larger, the seats are getting smaller. Airplane seats are based on a 1950s Harvard University study of New England passenger trains that found 18” inches as an acceptable seat size. So if 18” is acceptable, then, we don’t mind being squished in 17” seats for short flights. After all, who needs comfort for an hour or two? (Uhmm, me, that’s who and Kevin Smith!) Also, not all seats are created equal with respect to leg room – go to SeatGuru.com to find out the best seats for your particular airplane/flight.
8. If you feel wronged, get the Federal government involved. You can find a wealth of information as well as recourse information at http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov.
9. Booking your hotel is an important part of travel. I wasn’t aware that certain online sites have exclusive agreements with hotel chains. This means you might find one price for a Kimpton Hotel on Expedia and a different price on Travelocity. Check all sites and comparison shop, but also be aware that sites “own” each other – i.e., Expedia.com also owns Hotels.com. It's also a good idea to always check the individual hotel site just to make sure you're getting the best deal.
10. McCartney has a section called “Power Splurges”. I liked this section because we sometimes are fooled into skimping at some point on flying/staying/driving a rental car resulting in sacrificing comfort and pleasure. Remember, he says, that travel is an adventure and should be enjoyed. And I am a girl who sure does love traveling :)
I will definitely start following McCartney on his blog . As I try to cross off a few more states this year, resulting in more airplane rides and hotel stays, I will certainly remember the good advice I received from this book!