Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tips on How to Survive Traveling over Christmas

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tips on How to Survive Traveling over Christmas

Article excerpt

Here are some tried and true tactics for surviving the Christmas travel stampede:

* Rise with the roosters. Book the earliest flights out, even if it means traveling at the crack of dawn. Department of Transportation reports show that flights departing after 9 a.m. generally arrive on schedule just 60 percent of the time, compared with 80 percent for 7 and 9 a.m. departures. By going early, you may also land a cheaper fare.

* Minimize risk. Avoid standby, senior, frequent-flyer, charter, and other heavily restricted tickets. This is not a time to take chances; delays, cancellations, and overbooking may leave you stranded if you're not flying on a regular, published fare. * Lose your luggage, before the airlines do it for you. Send those holiday gifts -- and even your suitcases -- ahead by UPS or Federal Express. You'll avoid the carry-on crunch, and you'll be more nimble when making close connections or keeping up with unexpected gate changes. * Cash in on clout. Take advantage of elite status. Even if you're not flying premium class, you can check in with those who are, bypass extra long Coach lines, and slice as much as an hour off the wait. * Don't dawdle at the snack bar. Arriving at the gate with five minutes to spare is not only stressful, it's down-right suicidal. Most U.S. airlines have a 10-minute cutoff time; for some low fare and charter carriers, it can be as much as an hour in advance. If you're not there, your reservation may be canceled. * Forget row numbers. When overhead bin space starts disappearing on packed flights, gate agents are quick to impose the dreaded one- bag limit -- even though two are allowed. Your best hedge against checking that second bag? Board first (most carriers start 30 minutes before departure), and grab the first overhead slot you find, even if it's half-a-plane away from your seat. Having elite status helps -- you can usually board with the first class folks, even if you're not paying premium. And always take both bags to the gate, even if you think you'll be asked to relinquish one of them. Since they're the last to be checked, they'll often come out ahead of the pack. …

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