Holiday travel time: Easing your way through the airport

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Holiday travel time is right around the corner!

Being with family during the holidays can be a wonderful and rewarding experience - unless you're so stressed out by everything you went through to get there that you find it hard to enjoy yourself.

In some ways, airline travel has become easier over the past year - fewer passengers should mean shorter lines, right? But due to airline flight reductions, flights are crowded and lines are as long as ever.

So what can you do to make your holiday trip through the airport a little easier? Let's take a page from the Scouts - Be Prepared!

Check in online - And pay for your checked baggage, too. Even if you don't print out your boarding passes - many airlines will print them again when you get there anyway - just knowing you've completed two big steps before you even arrive at Sky Harbor gives you piece of mind.

An additional piece of advice - when the airlines say check in online "24 hours prior to your departure," take them at their word, especially if you want to change your seats. The closer to the top of the check in window you actually log on, the better chance you'll have to get that aisle or window seat - at least for most airlines.

Arrive early - Yes, still, and especially over the holiday travel season. Fewer flights may mean fewer people, but the flights that are operating - and there are plenty out of Sky Harbor - are packed to the gills. You don't want to work your way through the long line to drop your check in bags - and the last three times I've traveled out of Terminal 4, the lines have been across the terminal lobby - only to arrive at the jammed-packed security checkpoints.

Remember to give yourself at least two hours for domestic flights during the holidays, and at least two and a half to three for international travel.

If you're traveling with little ones, you'll definitely want to arrive early - and check out the new "family friendly" security lines, which can be a great time saver!

Weigh your bags before you get tot he aiport - If it's been some time since you've flown, remember the strictly enforced checked baggage weight of 50 lbs. and those pesky overweight baggage fees.

As many of you know, I think paying for checking even one bag well and truly stinks, but unless you're flying Southwest Airlines, it's the way of the world, so be ready.

And unless you're independently wealthy and don't mind paying sky high overweight baggage fees, you'll want to get a handle on your packing before you head out the door. I have used my handy-dandy luggage scale from Magellan's tons of times since I got it, but even if you have to weigh yourself on your bathroom scale and then weigh yourself with your bag, try to have at least have SOME idea of what your bag weighs before you put it on the airport scale.

There's nothing more frustrating than having to open up bags in the check-in line to shift things around. Just ask my mom - I had to throw two pounds worth of stuff in her suitcase when we were coming back from Honolulu awhile back.

Pack a lunch - Or breakfast. Or dinner. The days of the free lunch are long gone for some airlines and newly gone for others. If you don't want to buy expensive "on-board café" food, bring your own.

This is a good rule of thumb even for a shorter flight - you never know when your flight may be delayed or you could be flying at a time when airport restaurants are closed. Have something on hand to keep your hunger at bay.

Pack you patience - Do everything you can do before you leave the house: Check in online, pay your checked bag fees (if any), have your government-issued photo ID handy and wear comfy clothes and shoes.

You'll still need to remove your shoes at Sky Harbor and the TSA's 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids in your carry on is still in effect. Leave early and once you're at the airport, be prepared for lines. Then take a deep breath and smile - you're going on vacation!


We've got lots to look at this week!

Italy's Great Cities Plus London
March 11 - March 22, 2011 -- From $2599.00 per person, double occupancy!

Last call! And only 3 seats left! Must book by Nov. 10!

I have to release any seats not yet spoken for to the tour company by Nov. 10, so if you've been thinking about joining us, give me a call or drop me a note at

Also - I have a lady in her 60's who is looking for a traveling companion. If you have been thinking about the trip, but didn't have anyone in particular to travel with, give me a call for more information!

This fantastic package includes round trip air from Phoenix, a fully escorted tour of Italy, with a total of four nights in Rome, two nights in Florence and two nights in Venice. Add in two nights in London as we make our way back home and you have four amazing cities in one fantastic trip!

Lots of wonderful sightseeing is included: the fabulous Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, Romeo & Juliet’s Verona, a private transfer boat in Venice and Chianti country. You'll also have a full day in London to do as you please! Air taxes are additional - currently running $185.00 per person.

Check out the itinerary below:

Day 1 Board your overnight British Airways transatlantic flights

Day 2 Arrival in Rome, Italy
Relax in your comfortable hotel after your evening arrival in this lovely city.

Day 3 At leisure in Rome
Time to start exploring the Eternal City with your entire day free! At 6 p.m. meet your Tour Director and traveling companions for a special Welcome Dinner with wine in one of Rome’s lively restaurants. (BB,D)

Day 4 Rome
Sightseeing starts with a visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (arranged next morning if closed today), for world famous for Michelangelo's ceiling paintings and The Last Judgement. Continue to monumental St. Peter's Square and Basilica. Cross the Tiber and visit the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Then there is plenty of time for independent activities and exciting optional excursion possibilities. (BB)

Day 5 Rome / Pisa / Florence
Follow the Aurelian Way along the Tyrrhenian coast to Pisa. Here take your pictures of the amazing Leaning Tower, 180 feet high and no less than 12 feet out of the perpendicular. Then on to Florence, the splendid capital of Tuscany. (BB,D)

Day 6 Florence
Guided sightseeing includes the magnificent Cathedral, Giotto's Bell Tower, the Baptistry's heavy bronze "Gate of Paradise," and sculpture-studded Signoria Square. To top it off, admire Michelangelo's celebrated David in the Academy of the Fine Arts. The afternoon is free for independent sightseeing and browsing through the shops in Piazza Santa Croce. (BB)

Day 7 Florence/Verona/Venice
Journey north through the fertile Lombardian plains to Verona, medieval setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. See Juliet’s Balcony and stroll around the picturesque market square before continuing to Venice in the afternoon. (BB)

Day 8 Venice
Start morning sightseeing in style as you glide by private boat along the Giudecca Canal to meet your resident expert. Highlights of your walking tour are St. Mark's Square and the Byzantine Basilica, lavish Doges’ Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Also watch Venetian glass blowers fashion their delicate objects in an age-old traditional manner. Afterwards enjoy Venice at your own pace or join an optional gondola ride. (BB)

Day 9 Venice / Rome
A kaleidoscope of Italian landscapes parades past the coach windows on the way through the lush plains of the mighty River Po and across the wooded Etruscan Apennine mountain range. An exciting detour then takes you off the highway into the vine- and olive-clad Tuscan Hills, home of the popular Chianti wines. Tonight in Rome, an optional festive dinner may be just the way to celebrate the success of your leisurely Italian vacation. (BB)

Day 10 Depart Rome/Arrive London
After a leisurely breakfast, we transfer to the airport for our afternoon flight to London. Transfer from Heathrow to our Chelsea-area hotel. Evening at leisure to enjoy this amazing city! (BB)

Day 11 At leisure in London
A full day to enjoy London! Stroll around London's beautiful parks or take the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the crown jewels! You might also consider one of London's famous double-decker bus "Hop On, Hop Off" tours, which lets you explore London at your own pace. Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace - your list of places to explore is endless!

Day 12 Depart London
Our nonstop flight departs Heathrow Airport this afternoon for our early evening arrival in Phoenix.

These dates are over Spring Break for many school districts, so make it a family affair! The weather in Italy will be very mild and the crowds should be lower since it's not a peak travel season.

You can see more information and a map of our Italy itinerary at my agency site, I hope you come with us!

Mexican Riviera on sail!

It's been a long time since I've seen rates like this for seven-night cruises out of Los Angeles to the popular Mexican Riviera!

With stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas, along with time at sea, these rates are fantastic values! Take a look:

Inside Stateroom from $499.00 per person, double occupancy! Ocean View Stateroom from $649.00 per person, double occupancy! Balcony Stateroom from $749.00 per person, double occupancy!

These rates are valid for December, January and February departures (away from the holidays, of course) and are "cruise only." Add a flight from Phoenix - or heck, drive over - and you've got a fantastic vacation value!!

Cancun is calling!

Some of my favorite properties in the Hotel Zone are offering terrific rates for a six-night stay!

The rates include round trip air from Phoenix, six nights all-inclusive accommodations as noted and airport transfers. For both properties, "all-inclusive" means all meals and beverages - including alcohol - along with your non-motorized water sports are included in the rate! Your tips are included, too - take a look:

RIU Cancun
Ocean View Room
From $989.00 per person, double occupancy

Royal Solaris Cancun
Run of House Room
From $849.00 per person, double occupancy

These great rates are valid for travel in December (away from the holidays), January (same thing) and February. Air taxes are additional - currently running about $90.00 a person. Grab your passport and go!

By land or sea, we're planning your next vacation at Travelation Online! Give us a call at 602-252-1140, or if you're outside the Metro Phoenix area codes of 602, 480 or 623 you can call toll-free at 888-751-2032. You can also reach me directly via e-mail at I look forward to hearing from you!