Travel Tips: Flights

by Katie Yeaton

Every since elementary school I’ve had a growing list of travel goals.  The number one goal I am working on now is to visit every one of the fifty states.  I’m about halfway there now (if anyone in South Dakota, North Dakota or Washington wants a visitor...), and I am sure I will have a lot more knowledge to share when I am finished.

I wanted to dedicate this post to the travelers in all of us.  Whether you are traveling to a conference, interview or graduate school, I hope you find some of this information helpful and encouraging to share your own tips on easy, stress-free travel.

Flights.  Love’em or hate’em.  Whenever someone asks me the longest time I have been in an airport I will always tell them the story of NACURH 2013 and how I lost my voice, had internship the next day, and a 12.5 hour delay at the local airport.  Overtime, I started to be more strategic in my flights.  I joined rewards programs and started to study pricing trends.  Of course sites like Kayak can track these trends for you, but when you move far away from home you want the accessibility to a quick, safe, reliable flight.  Here are my five top tips for flying stress-free.

  1. 54 or 29 days.  When purchasing your flight, you want to look between 54 and 29 days before you depart.  54 is supposedly the golden day to buy, so compare the airline’s personal website and a travel website (i.e., Expedia, Kayak, Priceline).  You might be able to find a coupon for the airline’s personal website, but you are more likely to find a cheaper price on a travel site.  If you do not 54 days between now and your flight, do not worry!  Just keep searching and find the price that is right for you.  I typically like to purchase late afternoon/night on a weekday when less people are typically booking.

  1. Keep calm and carry bag.  When preparing for your trip, always travel light.  This tip is particularly crucial if you are flying with an airline that charges for a carry on item (I’m looking at you, Frontier and Spirit).  If you can minimize your items to one personal bag, awesome.  If not, then make sure you pre-pay for your carry on bag when you check in 24-hours before your flight.  Spirit will charge $100 for a carry on sized bag.  Avoid this crazy price and pay $25 to during check in to either claim a carry on or checked bag.
Traveling light is the most important tip I can give for y’all going to a conference.  Whether you are going to a five day or a one day event, be realistic with how much you pack and plan ahead to get swag.  When I attended ASHE in Denver this past year I packed one pursue with everything I needed --clothing, lint roller, two snacks, pens, padfolio, business cards, glasses, iPad-- and saved a bit of room for papers and books I would pick up at the conference.  Traveling with Frontier was the most fiscally savvy option for me, so keeping my extra purchases to a minimum was key.  So, for those heading off to TPE, remember to leave space for your thank you cards and your personal bag is all set!

  1. Check-In.  Check-in typically happens 24-hours before your flight’s departure, unless you pay for early check-in.  I recommend to print your boarding pass at home or download the airline’s mobile app.  Especially for airlines like Spirit that charge $10 to print your ticket at the gate, checking in the day before your flight and having your ticket in hand can save you a lot of stress.  I found myself flying more often times with Jetblue to get from Vegas to Boston, so I also recommend downloading airlines’ apps to check in as long as you save your ticket to your phone.  Always have a back-up plan in case you have a low signal! :)

  1. Join rewards programs.  Some folks will joke about how much I talk about rewards programs, but when it comes to getting your seat preference, this is how to do it with paying extra.  Please know that your preference will all depending on how early you check-in and whether or not you elect to change your seat.  Expedia, individual airlines, and some fellow travel sites will allow you to save your passenger settings.  I always select a window seat over the middle or aisle, so I save my preferences on my Expedia account and get lucky most of the time.  My last two flights with Jetblue I was able to get seat 7a because I was an independent traveler with window preference.  Even though I do not have enough frequent flyer miles to purchase a flight, the rewards programs do have some perks.

  1. Pack early if possible.  For all of you whimsical beings who bought a plane ticket for today just a few hours ago, ignore this tip.  If you have some time between the moment you purchase your flight and your actual departure, lay out your bags and start packing gradually.  Give yourself a day or two to sort through, organize, and repack if necessary.  If you are traveling to a conference, chances are you will be bring thank you notes and business cards you intend on giving away.  Yes, you will have a little bit of extra space when you return...ideally, but you will probably bring back a pack of business cards in exchange, along with some conference goodies.  Giving yourself some time to casually pack can be less stressful and can also give you time to assess what you honestly need for the conference/interview/large family gathering for Super Bowl 50.

I hope these tips help you all ease your traveling stress.  Happy application, interview, and conference season!

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