We want to know your airport secrets!
Hey BT readers,
Fran Golden here! I've been writing about travel for over 20 years and traveling even longer than that! I'm Budget Travel's new Trip Coach so you'll be seeing my name in the magazine before too long. In the meantime, I want to know your airport secrets!
Can you bring a turkey on a plane? What about the gravy?
OK, we know these may be far-fetched questions for most people, but we've seen firsthand someone trying to bring a full-size jar of mayonnaise—yes, mayo—through airport security (for what purpose we have no idea).
So in preparation for the holiday travel season, Trip Coach is looking at ways to help you navigate smoothly through airports, and that includes a rundown of the rules.
We'll look into such questions as:
What's the latest with the TSA's security measures? Does it pay to check-in online? Does it make sense to have your boarding pass sent to your smart phone? Is carry-on a better choice than checked luggage? Do wrapped gifts count as baggage?
We'd love to hear your experiences in these areas.
Have you been able to speed your way through the airport process? How? Have you been charged for overweight bags? Has your carry-on been taken away at the gate? What have you experienced in airport security lines? Is it worth it to pay an extra fee to board the plane before everyone else?
Tell us your secrets for navigating the airport below!
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Flight Network's got you covered when your airfare drops
We've all been there: you book a pricey flight, thinking "well, the airfare's only going to go up from here, right?" Later, you check the rates again, only to find out you could've saved yourself a decent chunk of change if you'd bucked conventional wisdom and waited until the last minute to book. Remember how your level of travel-planning anxiety was never quite the same afterwards? Canada-based online travel agency Flight Network feels your pain, and they're here to help with their new Price Drop Protection program, which aims to simplify and de-stress the booking process, despite those mercurial prices. "Our customers clearly told us that their number one airfare booking worry is price fluctuations after they make a purchase," explains CEO Naman Budhdeo, "and the Price Drop Protection plan is our response." Here's how it works: you book your trip with Flight Network; if the airfare drops, you're credited the difference in Price Drop Protection Dollars, which can be used for future airfare or travel insurance. There's a bit of a gamble involved—although you can check prices at any time after your initial booking, you only have one chance to commit to a lower fare (if the price drops again after that, you're out of luck.). The amount you can earn back from a price drop on an international flight is capped at $100, but there's no limit on domestic flights (whether your airfare drops $100 or $1000, you can get that money back in credits). There are some similar programs out there—the most prominent, Yapta (also free), alerts you to price changes and refund opportunities via email. MasterCard recently partnered with Yapta on an initiative called PriceAssure, which grants cardholders credits when airfare drops. FlightNetwork is carving out its own niche, however, by covering all the bases—booking your flight, tracking price changes, accessing and using your credits if the fare drops—in one place. Says chief marketing officer Gail Rivett, " The difference between this program and others is that you can get the credit if the lower fare is available on our site—no other customer has to purchase the flight at the lower fare. Other programs that we are aware of only offer the lower fare discount if another customer purchases. A service like Yapta, alerts customers when a fare drop exists on their flight that would exceed the cancellation or change fee. Only then does it make economic sense for the customer to change their fare. For Flightnetwork.com's PDP, there is no fee. So at any point that the fare drops on our site, it makes sense for the customer to grab that new deal then." Another plus—although Flight Network is based in Canada, US customers can still get in on Price Drop Protection by booking from FlightNetwork.com/us. What methods have you used to get the lowest airfare, or recoup your cash when the price of your flight drops? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Is the Era of Cheap Airfare Ending? World's Best Airlines Announced at Paris Air Show Cheaper Fares for Sneaky Risk-Takers
How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate?
Earlier this year, Gadling.com posted an article about finding love on an airplane. A weird topic, no? I may be alone in this sentiment, but I like to think of airplane time as one of very few moments in life when I get to be quiet, to unwind, to get some reading done, and to generally not have to deal with friends, family members, or coworkers. I'm a friendly person (I swear!), but leave me alone on a plane. I couldn't help but be reminded of the time when I was seated next to an extremely flirtatious older woman—easily old enough to be my great–grandmother—on a flight from Tampa to New York. Throughout the trip, she regaled me with stories of her newly awakened retirement community dating life and her list of current paramours. Then she asked me to adjust her seat belt for her and giggled like a schoolgirl when my hand accidentally brushed against her. Awkward. To escape what I perceived as her heavy flirtations, I put my headphones back on and turned to the seatback TV screen in front of me. Flipping through the channels, I passed by the movie Harold and Maude, a film in which a twentysomething young man and an 80-year-old woman fall in love. Identifying a bit too much with Harold against my will, I sped past the channel, but it was too late. "Was that Harold and Maude?!" she screamed. "That's my favorite movie—and I went to school with the lead!" Whether or not I was reading too much into harmless interactions as a nervous teenager, one fact remains true: I'm not a fan of onboard interaction, romantic or otherwise. And I seem to always attract the chattiest seatmates. I've developed a few non-verbal cues to try to give them the hint (in the politest way possible) that I don't want to chat: - Always keep in at least one ear bud during the conversation. It's a good indication that you'd much rather be listening to Beyoncé on your iPod than talking about your neighbor's upcoming conference in Scottsdale. - Keep your reading materials open to the page you were reading before being interrupted. This says: "I am only temporarily chatting with you, but I fully intend to get back to Harry Potter the second you stop talking." - Break eye contact frequently and look longingly toward whatever else you'd rather be doing (a book, the TV, a magazine). How do you deal with an unwanted chatty seatmate? Any tips or tricks to get a little peace and quiet? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Creepiest airline passenger ever? This summer, travel with your little one—and your sanity Why does everyone hate your baby?
Show off your photos, win a free trip.
Next month, your underwater photography skills could win you a free dive trip in the Seychelles, a check for $5,000, and loads of other prizes. Anyone with less–than–stellar equipment (or subpar swimming skills) can attest to the difficulty of taking underwater photos worth a hoot. All too often, the results are bubbly, blurry, or just–blue. Which makes any crystal–clear, full–color shot you manage to capture below sea level even more impressive—and valuable, thanks to Epson's annual World of Underwater Images Competition, coming up next month. Here's how it works: Amateurs and pros alike are invited to take their best underwater shots between August 1–August 8, 2011, then submit the most spectacular images via the Epson World Shootout web site. (Contestants must register by July 30, 2011, and will be given a specific date to program into their cameras to verify the timeline.) The contest is only for images taken in natural environments—think rivers, lakes, oceans, and swimming holes, not the Lazy River at the local water park. There are seven categories to choose from, each with their own rules and submission guidelines: fresh water, ship or plane wreckage, underwater conservation, wide angle, macro and super–macro, dive destination, and amateur (which is only for photos taken with compact cameras, not DSLRs). The cost to enter the amateur category is about $50 for three images, or $36 for one—but the prizes make it worth the investment. The 21 winners (three per category) will walk away with treats like dive vacations in the Seychelles, Galapagos, Micronesia, Palau, and Papua New Guinea; a $4,000 underwater camera system; and cash prizes up to $5,000. Winners will be announced November 19 in Eilat, a Red Sea resort town in southern Israel, and on the contest's web site. Of course, it doesn't cost anything to submit your underwater photos for our upcoming Readers' Best Underwater Photos slideshow. Just upload them here, and you may be featured on BudgetTravel.com or in a future issue of the magazine! Just getting your feet wet with underwater photography? May we recommend a hands–free camera like Liquid Image Works's mask-mounted snorkel cam? Also useful: Budget Travel's two-part series on how to take better vacation photos. Happy shooting! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 4 Tips for Tough Photo Scenarios How to Take Better Food Photos How to Take Better Sunset Photos
The case against code share flights
When a U.S. airline and its foreign partner each sell seats on the same flight, it's called a "code share." The result is that passengers are ping-ponged back and forth between the two airlines whenever any problem crops up, as problems often do when flying. One carrier's rules about carry-on luggage, for instance, could be substantially different, but it's the rules of the airline operating the flight that apply. For example, reader "bethpikegirl" has commented about her code share problem: "On a recent flight to Mexico, we were scheduled on AeroMexico through Delta. I thought we were on a Delta flight because that's who I bought the ticket from, and I didn't have the right flight numbers or airline when I arrived at the airport looking at the terminal screens. At first I thought we were not even confirmed as no one at Delta could find us in the system. It worked out, though, once we figured out which airline we were booked on." U.S. law requires airlines to clearly state when a flight is operated by another airline in their online listings. So it's wise to look at this fine print before you book a ticket. Here are a few of tips on how to handle code share flights: For questions about fees and baggage rules... ask the airline whose name is on the tailfin of the plane you're flying. For questions about re-ticketing flights... ask the airline or travel agency that sold you the ticket. In other words, if your flight is cancelled and needs to be rebooked, it's the airline you bought the ticket from that you need to call. For earning frequent-flier mileage credit... contact the airline that sold you the ticket. Be aware that the frequent-flier situation can become a nightmare if the operating airline is not part of the same alliance as the ticket-selling airline. For example, Star Alliance frequent-flier programs often do not count the codeshare flight toward status, unless the operating airline belongs to the alliance. If you instead want to redeem frequent flier miles for an upgrade and if the airline isn't helpful, contact a fee-based service, like BookYourAward.com, which knows the techniques necessary to make such a award redemption. For buying tickets in the first place... know that searching for tickets through an online travel site or a metasearch site like Kayak or Hipmunk makes more sense than using a single airline's site because the bigger sites offer a wider array of pricing on the same code share tickets. Case in point: the same U.S.–Mexico flight could cost hundreds of dollars less through United than through American Airlines, but if you're shopping only on one airline's site you wouldn't see the cheaper fare for the same flight that's available elsewhere. You can learn more about the problems with code share by reading Brett Snyder's authoritative post on The Cranky Flier blog: "Why code sharing provides no benefit to the traveler," along with a related discussion by experienced travelers in the Airliners.net forum. Have any code share stories? Sound off in the comments. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 8 Common Air Travel Snafus (And How to Beat Them) 6 Most Common Solo Travel Questions—Answered! The Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps