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Publication: Travel Tips
Advice for airline amateurs.

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Tips & Adice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

July 24, 2007

I don't know many people who actually go out on New Years 
Eve any more. Not even those folks who usually enjoy 
alcohol-fueled nights on the town.

Several of them sniff at the television footage of bleary 
eyed, whooping crowds at midnight and derisively refer to 
the holiday as "amateur night".

Frequent fliers who this summer have found themselves in 
packed airport lobbies with bewildered families and retirees 
more accustomed to RVs and mini-vans than airline counters 
probably understand the sentiment.

This week's edition includes:




P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum


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Yes, it's been a miserable summer to fly - for all the 
reasons we’ve talked about ad-nauseam in the newsletter. But 
travelers who take to the air regularly have learned to 
adapt pretty quickly to overbooked airplanes, canceled and 
delayed flights, evolving strategies for finding low-priced 
tickets, changing security regulations (By the way, you can 
bring cigarette lighters now) and the disappearance of that 
"the customer is always right" maxim. 

Infrequent fliers, who tend to fill airports more than usual 
during the summer en route to weddings and long-planned 
family reunions or vacations, are much more likely to be 
caught off guard.

Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report, anticipating 
a rough summer for once-in-a-while fliers, published a list 
of survival hints from readers who fly a lot. Based on many 
of those responses and my own airport battles, I'm offering 
a similar mid-summer flying guide to you.  

* Fly off-peak. 

Lines are shorter, and if something goes wrong you'll be 
competing with fewer passengers for the attention of agents. 

But when is peak? Generally, most leisure travelers are 
taking off or landing on weekends. Business travelers tend 
to hit the road on Mondays and travel back Thursday or 
Friday. That leaves the middle of the week as your best 

* Look, but don't book.

Use the big three fare-finder sites - Orbitz, Travelocity, 
and Expedia - to search for the best flights and fares. But 
once you've used them to find the best price, keep 

At a minimum, go directly to the airlines website and book 
you're ticket through them, assuming you can get the same 
attractive ticket price. Frontier, for example, guarantees 
their Website will always have the lowest prices. 

If you go direct, it's easier to rebook if you need to 
change your plans, and there's a better chance the airline 
will waive any fees. And remember, third-party sites 
typically add a $5 to $10 service fee. 

One of my favorite sites, sidestep.com, searches and 
compares all airline and discount websites, but then you 
book directly with the airline. 

Some airlines, most notably low-price Southwest, don't list 
their fares on third-party sites, so you should always check 
with them directly when looking for a ticket.


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* Check out your seat

The airline's seating charts can leave out some important 
details, such as seats that don't recline or have the window 

When planning your flight, make use of seatguru.com. It 
lists everything you need know to pick the best seat on a 
particular aircraft. Details include pitch, width, legroom, 
and the availability and placement of video monitors.

* Overcome your fear of robots

I'm one of those folks who tended to avoid the automated 
self-checkout line at the grocery store or Home Depot. Once 
I got used to it, however, I can see how it's often a lot 

The same goes for the electronic kiosks set up in airports. 
They can help you check in quickly and also hunt for a 
better seat if you're on the second leg of a connecting

One frequent flier recommends using the kiosks to update 
your seat assignment up to one hour prior to departure. 
Last-minute seats become available that weren't there when 
you checked in at your original city.

* Extend yourself

Prepare for a flight delay. Years ago, that meant stuffing a 
paperback book in my back pocket. Now it means plugging in 
my laptop to get a little work done. 

But power outlets, however, can be scarce and inconvenient. 
Carry a 12-foot extension cord in your computer case with a 
three-prong adapter. I know one writer who tucks a surge 
protector into his laptop case so he can piggyback off that 
single power outlet that some kid has taken to send instant 
messages to his girlfriend about how boring it is.

* Break the etiquette rules

Yeah, I remember all that politeness stuff I said last week, 
and I still stand by it. But sometimes, you've got to fight 
a little dirty in the name of a larger cause. Namely, your 

I'm talking, of course, about the guy who reclines his seat 
into your lap. Without using one of those increasingly 
popular blocker thingees to stop him from squishing you, 
there are more subtle ways to discourage him. Consider this 
tip a frequent flier sent to U.S. News: 

"This may be not so nice, but my biggest complaint is the 
individual who throws his or her seat back into my lap so 
that I cannot even move. I discovered that by turning the 
overhead air nozzle as far forward as you can, it blows air 
on the person's head. Most people give me a look but move 
their seats forward.


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* Be polite, but persistent

If you're trying to get rebooked or you're asking the 
airline for a favor, make a firm, reasonable case and ask to 
talk with a supervisor or customer-relations official if 

When 'negotiating' with them, don't lose your temper. Try to 
argue your case based on logic. Even if they have a policy 
that doesn't allow for something, supervisors can often  
waive the policy if the argument is rational.

* Be a Boy Scout

No, it's not another item about politeness. It's about the 
Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

Whether checking bags for a weeklong vacation or making a 
day trip with nothing more than a briefcase, it's a good 
idea to carry on a toothbrush, a change of clothes, 
prescription medicines, your hair product and any other 
essentials in case you get stuck overnight. 

By the way, if it looks like you won't be flying out till 
the next morning, don't wait for the airline to arrange a 
hotel – they rarely do that anymore. Instead, use your cell 
phone to book a nearby hotel room before all the other 
stranded travelers beat you to it.

Look around you, they'll all be doing it. Nobody fires a 
starting gun, but it's a race all the same. 

* Take the obvious option

It's what I've actually been recommending to travelers since 
late May: If you can help it, don't fly.

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading. 

Your Tipmeister, 



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