Time Tested Travel Tips

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Summer has finally arrived and many of us will fly off to cooler climates to see family or take a vacation.  But before you pack and head to the airport, read on to see some travel tips and packing tricks that may save you time and money.  As a former marketing manager for Southwest Airlines and currently a busy Mom who flies several times a year, I have used some of my time tested travel tips time and time again.  Plus I've had to learn new tricks with the revised airline and FAA restrictions. 

Checked Bag Fees!  What To Know Before You Go
Our family traveled to Virginia last month because my son's hockey team made it to Nationals.  Lucky for us we have relatives there, so I saved money by sending a box of our clothes ahead of time.  Since many airlines now charge for baggage, I came out ahead by doing this. 

Checking bags on US Air can get expensive.  The first checked bag will cost you $23 if you check it online and $25 if you wait and do it at the airport.  And the cost of checked bags increases with your luggage count.  A second checked bag will set you back $32 for an online check-in and $35 if you check it at the airport.  And if you are checking a third suitcase, get ready to pay a whopping $100 with no online check-in option!  US Air lets you check in bags online beginning 24 hours and up to 60 minutes before your departure. You can check your bags at the airport starting four hours before your flight. All bag fees are non-refundable, per person and apply each way, so if you paid that $100 fee for a third bag, it is actually $200 if  you go roundtrip!  Since we were flying US Air to Virginia and had luggage for a family of four plus a hockey bag, we definitely saved money by mailing the majority of our clothing to my Mom's house first!  So consider shipping some of your stuff ahead if you can!

Southwest Airlines doesn't charge for the first and second bag, so if you choose this airline, you automatically save on baggage.  Southwest will charge you $50 a bag for a third through ninth suitcase.  Most of the other airlines do charge baggage fees, but I only did the research for US Air and Southwest since they are the two busiest carriers out of Phoenix.

Consider Carry On Rules Before You Carry On
TSA regulations require airlines to limit carryon items to one bag plus one smaller, personal-type item like a purse, briefcase, camera, food container, or laptop.   And make sure you know the carryon rules or you may lose something you love like I did on my last trip! I had to give up my favorite body spray on the flight out to Virginia because I completely forgot that it was too big for my carry-on bag.  At 7 fluid ounces my body spray was quickly discarded.  So, when I returned home, I went to Walgreen's to see if they carry my favorite brand in a smaller FAA approved size.  They did so I bought a 1.7 oz. bottle or my next trip.  So remember to look for your favorite items in a small travel size.  Many companies are now making travel-sized products.

An easy way to remember the carryon guidelines is to think 3-1-1.  Containers that are in your carry-on bag must be 3 oz. or smaller.  All items should be placed in a 1 quart size clear plastic zip-top bag and one carry-on bag per passenger should be placed in the security bin.  So in addition to remembering to remove your shoes and keep your personal items 3 oz. or under, you should also remember to only place one item in the box bin that you now have to use to pass through security.  If you know the rules, you will get through security much faster than those who don't. 

To ensure that your items are 3 oz. or under, check out a very useful website called alltravelsizes.com.  This cool website has been around for four years and carries just about every product you can think of in the FAA regulated size.  I ordered the Grab It & Go Essentials Travel Kit for Men that sells for $11.99 for my husband.  All Travel Sizes also sell a kit for women that includes 3 oz. items like hair spray, mouthwash, shampoo and more.  Other useful small sized items include toilet paper to go and flushable wipes, which most Moms find extremely helpful on a trip.  This website also offers tax-free shopping and free shipping on orders totaling $30 or more.

Proof Positive Packing Tricks
Knowing how to pack can also save you time and money.  My best suitcase space saving tips come from the flight attendants that I met when I was a marketing manager with Southwest Airlines.  Flight crews will tell you to think in terms of rolling, both in their packing and with their luggage.  The roll away suitcases are truly the best because they are easy to move and many of them easily fit in the overhead compartment.  Flight attendants and pilots also know to roll what's inside the bag, too.  Roll clothes instead of folding and you will not only fit more in your suitcase, but you will also minimize wrinkles.  This month's issue of Good Housekeeping Magazine suggests wrapping your rolled bundle in a recycled dry-cleaning bag for the best results.  Another ingenious idea that I hadn't heard of from the magazine suggests inserting chunky bracelets and necklaces in socks and then putting the socks in the shoes.  I absolutely love this idea!

I also invested in a really big roll away suitcase this year since I knew that most airlines are charging per bag.  By trading in my two smaller roll away bags for one larger one, I was able to combine my daughter's and my things into one bag, so I only had to pay one baggage fee, not two.  And the bigger bag was still easy to manage, but fits three times as much stuff than my smaller bag.  For $130 I bought a 27 inch big rollaway suitcase at Costco.  That was more than I wanted to spend, but with airlines baggage fees, I will save in the long run.

To get your luggage off the conveyer belt faster, consider buying a Luggage Hugger.  Mine is black and white polka dot and I can spot my own bag faster than all of the other folks waiting, squinting, grabbing and then examining each bag to make sure that they truly got their own.  The hugger looks like a big belt around my luggage.  It is easy to place around my suitcase and is machine washable.  Get one for $14.95 at Changing Hands Bookstore or simply tie a ribbon on your bag handle, but use a unique color, as most folks that do this choose red ribbon.

Although I have shown this several times this year, I've got to mention it again because I didn't forget one single thing on my last three trips.  The Pack This! checklist pad has tear-off sheets that display an exhaustive checklist of everything that you may need for your big trip. From stuff you expect like sunglasses to easily forgotten items like a lint roller or insect repellant, everything is covered.  I ordered my 60-sheet pad for $8 from a cool organizational website called knockknockstuff.com.
So happy travels folks and remember when it comes to air travel, knowledge is power.  Knowing how to pack and how to get through security smoothly will reduce your stress and save you time and money.  And that is the right way to kick off your vacation.