Experienced Flyers Travel Secrets


Follow these secrets next time you fly

David Rentsch

President, Cruise Holidays

When it comes to making a trip go more smoothly, experienced fliers have their own travel secrets -- from squeezing the most out of those affinity cards to packing bags to dealing with lost luggage.

And they don't mind sharing what they've learned.

Whether you're jetting across the pond to Europe, taking a short hop to your vacation destination or logging air miles for business, here are actual frequent flyer’s tips that could save you some time, money and hassle the next time you fly.

Cellphone has better odds

Sooner or later, it happens: A canceled or delayed flight forces a change in travel plans. Double your chances of getting successfully rebooked by getting on the phone with customer service as you stand in line. Stranded in London thanks to a snowstorm in New York, "I was able to rebook when, if I'd waited 10 more minutes, the flight would have been full."

Experienced fliers keep a phone handy while traveling, along with a list of customer service numbers for the airlines and a backup airline or two, just in case. If getting

Twice the cash, half the clothes

Experienced fliers travel light. Here are some travel-tested strategies.

  1. "My favorite travel tip of all time: Bring twice the cash and half the clothes." "I never get to the bottom of the suitcase, but I always have to go to the ATM."

  2. Skip the hair dryer. "Every hotel has a hair dryer." Ditto soap and shampoo. (Another plus: You don't have to pour products into those 3-ounce travel bottles.)

  3. Travel with a tablet instead of a laptop. "It's lighter, it's great, and it's better on the airplane."


The airline is responsible for checked bags

If the airline loses your luggage, disregard those signs (and even any language in your contract) limiting the company's liability. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the airline owes you the actual value of your bag and its contents -- up to $3,300 per passenger.

Also, it's not true that the airline has 24 hours to return that missing bag before it has to compensate you. According to the DOT, if you reach your destination and your bag doesn't, the airline has to reimburse you on the spot for items you need immediately. If someone challenges your source, cite the Code of

  1. "For me, traveling light means, ideally, that your bag will fit under the seat in front of you, instead of the overhead bin." "If you can do that, you'll be a lot happier. Everybody stuffs the bin overhead, and it's madness."

stuck on the tarmac means you'll likely miss a connecting flight, this is the time to use your phone to rebook. In some cases, if the connecting flight is with the same airline, you may find you've been rebooked automatically.

Federal Regulations, Title 14, Part 254. And if the bag is truly "lost" (permanently gone), and not “delayed” (temporarily gone), the airline must also refund any baggage fees you were charged for that suitcase.

Priority boarding?

Five-dollar bag of almonds? No. Ten bucks to board first - and stake your claim on that overhead bin? Maybe.

That's the kind of economic math that experienced fliers do all the time. Look at the cost of the fee versus what that service or perk will save you in time and stress. Also, be absolutely clear on what you're getting for the money. One example: With some airlines, priority boarding doesn't get you on the plane that much sooner than the rest of the crowd.

To ease stress, pad your airport schedule.

"Travel can be stressful," says virtually all seasoned travelers. "Better to give yourself plenty of time and be sitting at the gate for 20 minutes than be freaking out worrying about it."

Another travel secret: If you're navigating an unfamiliar airport, as opposed to home turf, build in a little extra time. Ditto dropping off a rental car. Allow an extra 30 minutes. "You cannot control those shuttle buses. And some airports are less efficient than others."