Whether you are an experienced world traveler or the ink is barely dry on your passport, there are a few things that are well worth remembering when planning, and taking, your next international flight.
Airlines have reduced the frequency of many domestic flights, making many of the remaining flights fill up faster. This capacity-crunch, combined with the fact that availability of “cheap seats” is already limited on any given flight, means waiting too long to book could result in less desirable flight connections, while bringing on a classic case of fare “sticker shock” from missing out on the lower-tiered fares. As always, being flexible about travel dates and departure cities can sometimes yield surprisingly good savings. Booking online is fine, but don’t be afraid to check with a travel agent for creative ideas and hidden deals.
Are Your Papers in Order?
Having a passport is (hopefully) an obvious first step to traveling abroad, but it’s important ascertain if there any additional entry and/or documentation requirements for your destination(s). Is your passport valid for several months beyond the foreseen end of your trip? Stopping in Costa Rica on the way back from South America? You’ll need proof of Yellow fever vaccination. Flying to Argentina? Chile? An entry tax of over $100 may be collected, in cash, upon arrival. Heading to Brazil? US citizens must obtain a visa, in advance, and it could take weeks. For details, US citizens can start here: http://travel.state.gov/travel/travel_1744.html or or otherwise review the information on each destination’s consulate website.
Get Seat Assignments
Not only will this give a better chance of sitting where and possibly with whom you prefer, it can also reduce the chances of getting “bumped” when the airline has overbooked the flight. Some airlines or flights restrict the ability to assign seats at time of purchase. Check with your agent, or the airline, to verify that you have seats, whenever possible.
While most major carriers still do not charge for the first checked bag for passengers traveling on international itineraries, many do charge for the second bag. Weight and dimension limits apply, depending on the airline and the specific route. Avoid having to pay unexpected baggage fees or otherwise be faced with re-distributing or even (yes, we’ve seen it) ditching personal items at the check in counter, by consulting with your travel agent, or the airline’s website for details.
Get Travel Insurance
Why? Refundable tickets are practically a thing of the past. Most likely, your medical insurance doesn’t cover you when you are outside of your home country. Unexpected trip delays, cancellations, and medical issues can equate to a baffling amount of expenses and logistical hassles. These days, travel suppliers are less willing to bend rules or waive fees for canceling part or all of a prepaid trip. Travel insurance can protect you from absorbing the full cost of many kinds of travel-related surprises, from lost baggage to missed connections to complete cancellation due to a covered reason. Most policies automatically cover emergency medical care, medical evacuation and a list of extra services related to handling the unexpected.
Confirm, then Reconfirm
Don’t be the last one to know if the flight you booked 5 months or even 5 days ago is suddenly leaving an hour earlier than originally scheduled. Although airlines and travel agents make an effort to notify passengers of major changes, it’s ultimately up to the passenger to verify the flight details, and arrive at the airport with plenty of time to check in. Confirm flights by viewing the itinerary online at the airline’s website, on another website provided by your agent, or by simply contacting the airline by phone.
Ready for more tips? For more details, including tips for a diverse set of circumstances and situations, check out some of the links below. Last but not least, don’t forget to leave home without even amounts of scruples, and excitement.