TIP SHEET: Flying during the Holidays
1. Shop Hard for Fares
I've been watching Christmas week fares rising, falling, rising again and then slipping back, as the airlines use their yield management programs to fill aircraft during this economic free fall. Don't see a fare that you like? Wait 24 hours and check again, especially on the airline's own site, where many of the best fares seem to be turning up these days.
2. Be Flexible
Now, more than ever, there can be hundreds of dollars worth of difference in an early morning departure versus mid-day, a measurable difference between traveling on one day versus another. If you have some play in your schedule, use it, and be rewarded with a lower fare.
3. Use Your Phone, Not Your Feet
Stuck in the airport when your flight is canceled or severely delayed? Rather than stand in a long line, use your cell phone to reschedule a flight or to get wait-listed. And remember, if you are involuntarily bumped from a domestic flight, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires the airline to pay you a maximum of $400 in cash if you reach your destination within two hours of the original arrival time (within four hours for international flights). If you haven’t been rerouted by then, you’re eligible for up to $800.
4. Ship Your Bags Ahead
Had it with baggage fees, delays and loss? The most price-competitive way to ship your bags is FedEx Ground or UPS Ground, which take about four days to get a bag to your destination. If you can take your bags to a local office, the cost is around what the airlines will charge you — but without the bag check lines at the terminal or the inevitable wait at the carousel.
5. Go To The TSA Website
If you're dreading the wait time in an airport security line, find out what's in store by visiting the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website (TSA.gov), which offers historical wait times at major airport security checkpoints for each hour of the day. If you're flying out of JFK at 8 a.m. next Friday, the TSA's site can reveal the average wait over the previous four weeks.
6. Know When Your Flight is Actually Departing
Visit Flightstats.com and sign up for alerts on departure and gate changes, delivered via email or text message. Or sign up directly with your carrier.