Travel is not just about any one facet. It’s a careful choreography of the ground transportation, airport, airline, bus, cruise, rail, ferry and car rental experiences. Lack of essential knowledge in any of these areas makes for a not so great travel experience. What’s the point of getting a low airfare, but sitting at the gate with everyone else, when you could be relaxing in the airline/airport lounge if you had the knowhow? Or, arriving at your hotel at 8 a.m. and having to wait until 3 p.m. to check into your room as you don’t know how to get early check-in? Or flying in Economy class when you could be sitting in First class, because you don’t know how to ensure that you stand a chance at getting an upgrade? Hopefully, these travel hacks will fix this.
Knowing how to capitalize on the different aspects of the travel experience takes time, effort and knowledge. If you are knowledgeable about travel, it makes a very big difference in the experience you will have on your journey. For me, it’s all about the journey not the destination, so I take great care in ensuring that I have a pleasant experience each time I travel.
These 25 travel hacks are designed to ensure that your travel experience is stellar when next you travel.
If you don’t want to pay to check your bags and can get it past the security checkpoint, the airlines will typically check it for free just before boarding.
They almost always make an announcement to check it for free since they usually run out of overhead room and then you have to check it anyways. Also, if its a smaller airplane, like a regional jet (Embraer 135, 145, 170, 175, 190 although the 170, 175 and 190 have slightly bigger bins) you’ll have to check it anyways, but they return it to you at the gate instead of at baggage claim like they do when you are on the bigger jets!
If you think you’ll have extra bags and/or overweight bags, don’t always buy the lowest fare.
Sometimes, the upgrade to first/business class is not too much and will cover the cost of the extra bags and weight of the bags. Typically, Business and First class passengers have more baggage and weight allowances so you are getting way more value for the price difference.
Store luggage on the side.
On most wide-bodied aircraft (twin aisles), the overhead bins in the middle of the airplane are smaller, so if you have a slightly larger carry-on bag, place it in the bins on the sides of the airplane as opposed to the middle.
Book non-U.S. airlines if possible.
Some foreign carriers have better amenities than U.S. carriers (even in economy) and oftentimes have cheaper fares.
If you search on some airlines’ Web sites and do not complete the transaction, then go to Facebook, you will see an ad to complete your booking.
Click on it and then you will be magically taken to where you left off in the booking process and usually, you will be offered a discount.
Use Google.com/Flights, Momondo.com and Skyscanner.com to research and book flights as these three sites usually have the lowest fares and give you many options.
You can see which dates will work best for low fares, plus the airlines serving the destination.
Always ask for late check out even though the hotel will tell you that the time is 11 a.m. or noon
The key though is to not suggest a time. Say this instead: “What’s the latest I can check out tomorrow?” then be quiet. If asked what time do you want? Say, what’s the latest I can get, then when you get your answer, which is usually later than the normal check out time, ask for an extra hour. If you are nice and respectful during this process you will get your late check out at or close to the time you desire. Of course you can avoid all this by becoming a super elite member and then you’ll get early check-in and guaranteed late check out at 4 p.m. Plus many other perks including room upgrades.
When buying a cheap fare, ensure that you check all the details of the offer.
For example, let’s say you spot a good fare on Turkish Airlines from London to Houston via Istanbul. If you book in the lowest fare and your frequent flyer program is on United MileagePlus, you will only get about 25% of the total miles for the journey due to the relationship of Turkish Airlines and United frequent flyer program. This is similar if you say get a low fare on Cathay Pacific in Asia and try to use American Airlines Advantage program to accrue the miles. So check the frequent flyer section of both airlines to ensure that you are maximizing the amount of miles you want to earn. Sometime it may be as easy as choosing a slightly higher fare.
Purchase connecting flights instead of non-stops as usually they are cheaper.
Look at airlines that fly to the U.S. from Europe as you can connect via their hubs and get some great deals. e.g. Aeroflot via Moscow; Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. These airlines have great service, but get a bad rap as you don’t know much about them. Plus you get more miles for the trip and get to elite status quicker.
Refill your rental car’s gas tank outside of the airport area as the gas is usually cheaper.
Ensure that you put extra gas in though so by the time you get to the airport, the tank still reads full. Check your contract as some companies in some states requires that you fill up within 4 miles of the airport. But I’d just fill up outside of the airport area, then top up within the 4 miles zone.
Do a challenge with one airline partner, then ask for a status match at another airline.
You can find out about the existing challenges by contacting the airline frequent program desk. All the big three U.S. airlines have a standing program of some kind since they are vying for each others customers.
Want even more travel hacks? Check out these 25 Travel Hacks You Need To Start Taking Advantage Of.
Become a frequent flyer of your favorite airline’s program and get elite status.
This opens the door to upgrades, airport club stays, extra legroom seats, free snacks and free drinks on-board just to name a few of the perks. When flights are overbooked in economy class, the airlines will look for elites to upgrade first.
Consider alternate airports; for example, if in New York, it may be cheaper to fly out of Newark-Liberty than JFK to Europe or South America.
But you must factor in the cost of commuting to the alternate airport including your time. Oftentimes, we forget about what our time is worth.
Always travel with your passport even for domestic travel.
If your airline has to reroute you, you can give them an international option. This may give you more miles towards frequent flier elite status. As an example, you could connect from Los Angeles to Mexico to say Houston if you have to be routed. No passport means you have to be on standby for a flight that goes via the U.S. only.
Book any combination of flight, hotel and car together instead of separate as oftentimes it’s cheaper.
Use online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Expedia, etc. to accomplish this task. I saved over $200 once in booking a deal when visiting the Gold Coast, Australia a few years ago.
Use online bulk shopping portals such as Cosco, BJs, Sam’s Club, your airlines’ mileage earning portals to book car rentals, cruises and flights.
The portals usually negotiate special deals with the travel partners so the rates are cheaper.
To avoid car rental extension fees, rent for longer than you need if you think you may keep the car for an extra day or two.
Typically, there is no charge for returning the car early, but there is usually a charge for extending the rental.
Rent with the same car company all the time; loyalty does pay off
Usually you get a discounted rate if you are a top loyal member. Plus you don’t have to wait for your car when you arrive. Some stations will even warm up the car for you if you give them your flight details. Others will allow you to drop off the car at the airport curbside.
Rent a car off airport as opposed to airport pickup.
Due to the airport taxes that are usually incurred; sometimes it’s cheaper to take a local bus to the off-airport location, rent the car there and then return it to the airport. This is because there is usually no airport fees for returning the car to the airport and the cost of the local bus is cheaper than the fees you’ll pay.
Once you’ve applied for a credit card from a hotel partner and received the status that comes with it and done a few stays; ask another hotel to match the status.
Usually they do since they want to steal your business.
Get Platinum status with Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) by applying for their credit card.
You will get a free hotel night each year on the anniversary of your application. Plus, get a free weekend second night at the Intercontinental hotels when you join their Ambassador program. The first year annual fee is $200, subsequent years is $150. You may also renew using points. I recently stayed in Singapore’s Intercontinental using this second weekend night offer; one of their best properties in the system. Plus with the current credit card offer, if you spend $1,000 in the first three months of the card you will get 60,000 bonus points. It’s 50,000 points to stay at the Intercontinental Park Lane in London which typically runs for 399 GBP/night. So you get that for free since you’d perhaps spend that $1,000 anyways on other purchases. Other hotel programs have similar offers.
Get Priority Pass Airport Lounge card for free from American Express (Platinum).
This will get you into over 850 Airport Lounges worldwide. Also, the American Express Platinum card gives you complimentary access to Centurion Lounges (at least 6 in the U.S. so far) and American Express Lounges in most countries. Note: Some of the American Express Lounges may require you to have residency in that region.
Get Global Entry for free as an American Express Platinum card holder.
Global gets you through U.S. Immigration in less than a minute and gives you access (individual charges apply) to similar programs from seven countries around the world, including NEXUS in Canada, Registered Traveller in the U.K. and SENTRI for southern U.S. border crossings. In addition, TSA Pre✓® comes with Global Entry for free.
If you’ve traveled to Hong Kong more than four times in any one year, you can apply for the eChannel.
This allows you to use the kiosk the next time you enter and bypass a human immigration officer (the lines can get pretty long at times). You will need the frequent flyer card of a participating airline (check with your airline). They won’t take your American Airlines’ frequent flyer card though, but they’ll take your Delta card.
When applying for a visa to visit the People’s Republic of China, always check the multiple entry box.
If you don’t, they will only issue you a single entry. It’s the same price for either visa.
About the author: Kerwin is an ex-airline employee who travels on average over 250,000 miles a year. He writes up-to-date airport, destination and ground transportation guides plus airline flight and hotel reviews with a mission to motivate airline employees to use their travel benefits at Passrider.com. He’s flown over 160 airlines and visited 114 countries/geographic regions and teaches travelers how to be loyal to travel brands at www.Cruisinaltitude.com/traveldeals.