Category Archives: Airline/airport news

Airport Layover Tips

Nothing beats the thrill of traveling – the excitement that comes when you’re packed, passport in hand, ready to explore a new country or return to a favorite city. As fun as the adventure is, the act of travel can be daunting, especially at the airport. From long lines to strict TSA agents to finding a reliable Wi-Fi signal, there are countless ways your new trip buzz can be stifled before you board the plane. To keep your trip running smoothly, here are some expert flying hacks and layover tips that work.

Most airlines offer lounge access to top fliers; however, you don’t have to be George Clooney in Up in the Air to enter one. Credit cards like Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum also give members exclusive lounge access simply by owning the card. You can also pay to enter many of the airline lounges for the day for approximately $50.  Not a bad price if you have several hours to kill.

As you’re going through security and you arrive at the screening zone, pick the lines to the left. These are typically shorter, in the United States at least, partially because American’s drive on the right-hand side of the road and tend to maneuver in that direction. Inversely, aim right in England, Ireland and Australia.

Breakfast on the run – bring a bag of instant oatmeal in your carry-on, along with your favorite toppings, be it diced fruit or brown sugar packets. When the beverage cart is pushed down the aisle, simply ask for a paper cup, some hot water and voilà—you have a healthy snack.

My favorite one is pre-order lunch or dinner. If you’re stuck in a long security lines that seems to be moving at a snail’s pace, and you’re worried you won’t have enough time to grab a solid meal before your flight, worry no more. With the Grab app, you can pre-order a meal anywhere in the airport—if your airport is one of the 40 it currently supports. You can search restaurants that are near your gate, order and pay through your phone, and your meal will be ready when you arrive.

Borrowed from our Travel Tips Quarterly Newsletter.

 

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Airline Tips from the Pros

There’s nothing like a fabulous flight at the right price to kick off your exciting vacation. Here are some tips from our pros to make sure you and your luggage arrive in one piece.

Make the Best Deal
It’s tough to determine the best time to buy your flight, but as long as you purchase more than 30 days in advance, you likely won’t be greatly overpaying for the trip. Economy airlines, while offering bargain fares, charge for many other services, like checking or carrying on bags, assigned seats, snacks, and beverages. Check with us to see what’s included in the ticket price before booking.

Make Sure Your Luggage Arrives with You
While the overall number of lost bags may be decreasing, it still happens from time to time. To up the chances of your baggage arriving as soon as you do, consider investing in a RFID tracker, such as ReboundTag. These small, portable tags (or microchips) can be clipped onto your bag for an added level of security. If lost, the chip will automatically update you with location information by SMS or email.

Avoid Delays
There’s no surefire way to avoid flight delays, but there are some ways to increase your odds of an on-time departure. If you book a flight earlier in the day, there’s a better chance of your flight leaving on time, weather permitting. You can also consult resources like Flightstats.com to help determine which flights are more frequently delayed.

Skip the In-flight Wi-Fi
Pricing can sometimes be complicated with the in-flight Internet and the service is often slow and frequently disrupted. If you have to use it, opt for the cheaper package to cut costs. Important to note, many US airline carriers lose connection as soon as they hit international skies, so keep that in mind before you click buy. If you can, consider enjoying the in-flight entertainment (if offered) or simply disconnect for some moments of peace.

These tips will help you enjoy your next flight without breaking the bank. Call us for your next flight. Happy flying! This is from our Travel Tips Quarterly newsletter.

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Packing Tips for Newbies

You got a new job that requires travel or it’s your first cruise that requires some dress-up clothes. You’ve booked the trip, you need to pack, and you don’t want to spend the entire first day ironing your dress or dress shirts. Here are some tips to help you save space and arrive wrinkle-free.

Don’t wait until the morning of your trip to clean your dirty laundry. Clean and fold your clothes a few days ahead of time. Save space by adding items that can be mixed and matched and worn several times over. You can avoid packing multiple blazers if you have one that matches several different pairs of dress pants or jeans. Also, try to pick items that can easily transition from work to play.

When you’re putting those clean clothes in your suitcase, roll whatever you can. Folding causes creasing, and awkward creases lead to ironing…which is what we’re trying to avoid here. Place your dress shirts at the top of your bag to help cut down on wrinkles. Most importantly, hang up these items as soon as you arrive. Though it’s tempting just to pull what you need as you need it from your suitcase, hanging your dress items will keep you looking sharp throughout the trip.

Keep your shoes looking sharp too! Save space by packing your extra socks in your dress shoes to keep the shoes from folding while in transit.

When packing a suit jacket, turn it inside out to help protect it from wrinkling. Then fold it twice and pack it on the bottom of your suitcase so that the clothes on top keep it from moving around too much.

Most importantly, lay out your essential items the night before your trip. Make sure you’ve got your travel documents, keys, wallet and other essentials in a spot you’re sure to see it. Stay organized, and you’ll have everything you’ll need for a successful trip.

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Tips for a Fearful Flyer

My family and I are planning a vacation this summer that involves a flight to get there. My youngest son is a fearful flyer. This will be his first flight. He even asked if he could stay home with his nana so as to not have to fly. I’m afraid he’s going to make himself sick. So, being a good mother – I’ve started doing some research on things to do to help him out. I got to thinking about how many people out there have this fear even some who’ve been flying for a while.

Keep in mind that air travel is the second-safest mode of mass transportation in the world. This is second only to the escalator and elevator. Your chances of being involved in an aircraft accident are approximately 1 in 11 million. Your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5000. The most dangerous part of your flight is the drive to the airport. Of course, those statements do little to allay the fears of a 9 year-old.

One of the best pieces of advice was – don’t conceal it. Let the gate agent, your flight attendant and those around you know so that they can be supportive of you instead of suffering in silence. I plan on letting them know so they can help us. Hopefully, they’ll give us a seat in the front of the plane which is where turbulence is less than in the back.

Another good one was to keep yourself distracted. Listen to music, watch a movie, do a crossword puzzle or color/draw in your notebook. It helps pass the time and keeps your mind from hearing sounds that either don’t exist or are perfectly normal on a plane.

The best tip for a fearful flyer I found was to avoid drinks with caffeine. A hyper state of mind will only exacerbate your anxiety. I’ll definitely keep the soft drinks away from him the night before and the morning of. However, make sure you stay hydrated as dehydration can contribute to the fear process.

So, I’ll keep you guys posted on how it went when we get back. I hope these tips helped those of you who are fearful flyers too. For more tips, give us a call at Thunderbird Travel to plan your next vacation.

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Traveler Helpful Links at Your Fingertips

Take a closer look at our improved website with it’s Helpful Travel Links page. We cover customs and passport information for your international travel as well as what to do if you lose your passport. Along with international trekking, you’ll need information on travel warnings (depending on where you are going) and what kind of shots you may need. For your flights, TSA information is available to let you know what you can and can’t pack. We also give you access to a site that can help you find out if you flight has been delayed. We have currency calculators and so much more. Give our new website a look and find out what information and links we have for you.

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Don’t Forget to Clear Your Cookies

According to Ed Hewitt at Independent Traveler, don’t forget to clear your cookies before looking for airfares. I have read so frequently that your browser history can lead to higher airfares and this information shows you how. In fact, even the type of computer you use can affect what fares and options booking engines show you; Orbitz CEO Barney Harford reveals how the site recommends different (usually pricier) hotels to Mac users that to PC users.
Many sites use cookies to identify you in various ways as you surf the Internet, most easily seen in “Welcome back, Ed” notices when I return to a shopping site, even while not logged in — and most obviously in ads for things I have recently researched in the same browser (our family recently visited Disney for a day, and after I bought some tickets, it was like my browser was taken over by mice and princesses). These cookies have real and useful applications that benefit the user — an obvious one is to track items you put into a shopping cart without requiring a log-in — as well as real and useful applications for the website you visit, such as serving up targeted ads and knowing your general preferences. In recent months, many travel experts have reported that airlines and booking engines are using cookies to show potentially higher airfares on routes that you have searched often. So if you are researching an upcoming trip from Cleveland to San Diego and have checked airfares on the route frequently in recent days or weeks, the site “knows” you really want these fares, and “guesses” that you might be willing to pay a bit more for them.

Some even think the airlines are tracking IP addresses, which is your unique address on the Internet that allows computers to find you. Beating this trend would entail changing not only browsers, not only computers, but also your location. You can give this a try if you are desperate — search at home, then again at work or a local coffee shop before booking (or vice versa) — but otherwise clearing cookies, using a different browser or even checking on your mobile device vs. your computer is a good place to start.  You can skirt the IP issue by using your phone as long as you make sure it’s not using your home Wi-Fi connection — connect through your phone provider and you’ll have a different IP. Amazing – isn’t it? So, don’t forget to clear your cookies and you can also call your local travel agent.

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Filed under Airfare, Airline/airport news, Family Travel, Holidays, Honeymoons, Miscellaneous News, Traveler Tips

Driving During Winter

When it comes to driving during winter, there is really only one concern you need have: safety. It’s not miles of rubber on the road that you should concern yourself over; it’s what gets between the rubber and the road that causes most of the problems. Here are some tips on how to get ready for winter driving conditions, and how to handle them once you’re in the thick of a winter storm.

1. Put some extra clothing and emergency items in your vehicle; these will come in handy if you break down in very cold weather. It doesn’t take much — assemble a basic kit including a pair of gloves, weather-resistant pants and/or coat, maybe an old pair of boots, a blanket, jumper cables, a flashlight with some extra batteries, and a windshield scraper (and maybe a de-icer), and you should be in good shape. You might also toss a few nutrition bars in as well; those things won’t spoil until the next millennium, are packed with calories and can bail you out in a pinch.

2. Make sure your car is checked over for winter weather readiness. In particular, you or a mechanic should check your tires before the first big winter storm. For folks living in northern regions, checking tires during the fall is an almost sacrosanct ritual, and it’s a good idea even if you’re just a weekender in the snowy parts of the country.

3. Once your vehicle is inspected and equipped, follow this advice we heard a while back from Montana’s snowplow drivers: “See and be seen. Keep your headlights and taillights clean, especially in stormy weather. Keep windows clean and make sure defrosters work well. If snow has built up on your vehicle overnight or after a break from driving, clear it away so it doesn’t blow off and obscure your windows.”

4. Slow down. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends slowing down by about 50 percent in very bad weather; additionally, leave extra space between you and the car in front of you. You’ll want to use your best judgment, but the slow tend to survive this race.

5. Remember that not all stretches of road are created alike. For example, many recently built small bridges and overpasses have been designed to blend into the surroundings, with a gradual or nonexistent change in elevation. These bridges nonetheless remain susceptible to icing over much more rapidly than regular blacktop. Look out and look ahead for these short stretches of road when temperatures near or drop below freezing. If you don’t know the ropes of driving on icy surfaces, this primer on how to drive on black ice is recommended reading.

6. Avoid using some of the modern features. They may actually serve you poorly in bad conditions. In some SUV’s and four-wheel-drive vehicles, for example, you may have better traction when the vehicle is underway, but the four-wheel drive won’t help you stop any faster. Also, skip the cruise control; your cruise control feature may accelerate when you least want it to, such as when you are climbing an icy bridge.

woman cleaning windshield snow ice scraper7. In college, a friend of mine taught me to put a bag of kitty litter in the trunk, both for added ballast to offer better traction, and to put under the wheels if you need to get yourself out of a slippery spot. (This can get messy in a minivan or other trunk-less vehicles, of course.)

8. If you are stranded and have to stay in your car, you can run the engine for heat, but make sure the exhaust pipe is not obstructed by snow or mud. If you prefer not to have the engine running the whole time, close the windows to keep heat in, and run the car for perhaps 10 minutes every hour, opening a front window a crack when you do so.

9. If you are parking at your hotel or near attractions in bad weather, opt for a spot in an indoor parking garage when available.

We hope these “driving during winter” tips help you, and may you never need to travel where the sun doesn’t shine!

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