Before leaving home
The reservation process. Many people have
become enamored of the internet when it comes
to making travel reservations. For straightfor-
ward travel itineraries, that’s a great option.
Here’s my advice: Research online, but if you
have any questions about your once-in-a-lifetime
dream vacation, be sure to talk directly with the
travel provider before booking. Remember, the
web doesn’t think creatively. A live person can
help make sure you’re getting the right itinerary.
It’s all about availability and inventory. When
you are planning a complicated trip, there may be
other options and solutions that you haven’t
thought of. So have a conversation when you feel
you may be in over your head.
Connecting flights. If you are booking your
own flights, pay attention to connecting times.
On connecting flights, what the internet may
consider a “legal” connecting time is often
delusional in real time. Too often, travelers have
connecting flights with just ;; to ;; minutes
between arrival and departure. At many airports, the walk between gates can be as much as
a mile or more. And even if you sprint to the finish line, what makes you think your checked
luggage will make the flight?
Legal connecting times vary at different
airports, and may not embrace any notion of
common sense. So make sure to build in connecting times that give you ample time to get to
the right gate.
Baggage. In my opinion, there are only two
kinds of airline bags: carry-on and lost. While
the airlines have improved their performance
in reducing the number of lost, damaged or
delayed bags, it remains a problem. I have rarely
checked a bag on domestic flights in more than
What I do is courier my bags (you
can use FedEx, UPS or any one of
;; other services) between points
A and B. For about ;;; more
than the airlines charge, by not
checking bags I save about two
and a half hours out of my life
every time I travel. No schlepping bags to the airport, no
standing in long lines, no waiting at the baggage carousel.
Instead, the courier service picks up
my bag from my house or my office and
it’s delivered to my hotel (or home).
If you absolutely have to check your bags,
there are a number of things you must do. First,
don’t just put a luggage ID tag on the outside of
your suitcase. Baggage conveyor belts love to
eat these tags. You must also tape your ID on the
inside of your bag—in large letters—because if
the outside tag gets ripped, the airline needs to
know who owns the luggage.
Also, use your cellphone to
take a time- and date-coded photo
of the contents of your bag. Why?
Luggage thieves don’t normally steal bags.
Instead, they steal individual items from bags.
And you need a record as to what you packed, at
the time you packed it.
These same thieves are counting on you
being so happy to see your bag on the conveyor
belt that you will simply pick it up and leave the
airport without opening it to make sure everything is still in there. Once you get home and
discover something is missing, it’s your word
against the airline’s, and you have no standing.
Always open your bag at baggage claim just to
If you take prescription medicine. Get a note
from your doctor explaining what the medicine
is and why you take it, to avoid awkward questions or delays at customs. Also, get the generic
name of the drugs you’re taking. If you need to
refill a prescription, be aware that in
other countries the pharmacists may
only know your drugs by their
Is your flight on time? There
are many apps these days that
can track your flight. Some
even have maps showing a
flight’s progress across the
globe. But you might be able to
get information on the exact
location of your plane to see if your
flight is indeed on time.
If, for example, you’re booked for
flight XYZ from New York to Miami, don’t
ask the airline representative if flight XYZ is on
time. Instead, explain that you hold a seat on
flight XYZ and ask if they can tell you the aircraft (or tail) number of the actual plane
assigned to that flight. (The reservation agent
has this information right on his/her screen).
Let’s say the aircraft number is ;;;. Your
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