For those of you traveling this summer, here are some tips that are not generally common knowledge to most people:
Rent a car by the hour. It’s not always necessary or cost-effective to rent a car by the day. Several major U.S. cities now have hourly rentals. Hertz, Enterprise, and Zipcar ($50 annual fee and $25 one-time application, but this includes gas, insurance, and tolls) offer this service, subject to availability. Prices range from $8.50 to $15 an hour.
Drive Fee-Free. Most rental car companies charge a daily fee to allow a second driver. One little-known fact is that spouses and domestic partners are often exempt (they confirm status by comparing addresses on your ID’s).
Book at the Right Time. Carriers release new airfares at certain hours; the best times for weekdays are just after 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and midnight. Tickets that were reserved but never paid for appear after midnight. On weekends, fares are updated around 5 p.m.
Get the Most from being Bumped. If you agree to be bumped from a flight, ask for a travel credit voucher instead of a free domestic round-trip ticket. Vouchers for round-trip tickets are subject to the same restrictions as frequent-flier rewards, so they are more difficult to use. The monetary voucher is good for any flight and doesn’t carry any restrictions, and they do qualify for frequent-flier miles.
If you’re involuntarily bumped from a flight and scheduled to get to your destination two or more hours later than your original arrival time, the Department of Transportation requires airlines to pay you up to $400. (Known as the “Bumping Rule.”) Even if the airline puts you on an alternate flight that is supposed to get in within two hours, they may still have to pay you up to $200.
Up-to-the-Minute Security Line Wait Times. Denver International (flydenver.com) and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (Atlanta-airport.com) airports provide real-time updates on their websites, refreshed every 15 to 30 minutes. Hartsfield-Jackson will send updates directly to your PDA or cell phone. Security wait times are published by TSA (tsa.gov) for 450 commercial domestic airports, but they do not reflect actual conditions.
Seek out the Best Seats. The distance between rows of seats (referred to as “pitch” in the airline industry) varies from plane to plane, and even from row to row. On domestic carriers it varies from 30 to 38 inches, and a few inches can make a big difference. Exit rows are not equally spacious, depending on their alignment. For more information, go to SeatGuru.com
Yes to Y-Up Fares. A Y-Up fare is a special kind of seat category which can put you in the front of the plane for half the price of a first-class ticket. Also called a Q-Up or a Z, the airlines describe the elusive code as deeply discounted first-class or full-fare economy class with an automatic upgrade. They usually cost about $100 more than a ticket for a full-fare coach seat.
Extend the Hold on your Reservations. Most airlines won’t hold your flight reservation for longer than 24 hours, but there’s more flexibility than you would think. If you’re working with an agent rather than booking online, or traveling during off-peak periods or internationally, chances are your reservations can be held longer. An example: A Continental agent held a ticket from New York to Paris for three days, at which point she canceled the hold and rebooked it for another three days.
If you’re traveling with bulky luggage items, consider sending them ahead with United’s Door-to-Door Baggage service.
Hopefully you will find this information helpful in planning your next family vacation. We are here to assist you in getting the very most from your next RV trip – please give us a call (800-247-0970) if we can be of service!