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Twice I’ve had to unexpectedly fly at the last minute, due to senior home care giving and grandparenting duties. In the process I’ve learned a few tips and tricks that are handy in a wide variety of travel situations. This is part one of a multi-part series over the next few weeks:
- Watch those connecting flight times! Even if you talk to the airline personnel and they seem confident you’ll make your connection, please be aware that NOT ALL DO! (I am writing this after having missed my own connections and winding up spending the night at a local hotel!) Your rush to help your loved ones can take two-three times as long if you miss your connection. There are no guarantees of getting there on time, of course, even if you have longer connections between flights. Bad weather or mechanical problems can crop up at any time. But choosing reservations that offer an hour or more between flights instead of only half an hour can make things less stressful for you!
- If you have to fly in late and your connections are close or weather is a concern, you might want to make your hotel reservations directly with the hotel and explain the situation. I only had a half hour to make my connections on my last trip. I called the hotel and explained the situation and gave her my frequent flyer number. The hotel manager was great. She explained she had 25 spots at 5 pm and wasn’t sure if they would fill up. She gave me the option of losing the room if they filled up or keeping it but getting charged. I chose the second to be safe. When I did end up missing my connection because of plane delays at both ends, I immediately called her and she allowed me to cancel my reservation even though it was past the normal time for cancellations. Needless to say, when I finally got to that hotel I filled out a STAR EMPLOYEE card for her!
- Many airlines offer cellphone and/or email alerts you can sign up for. These notify you if there is a gate change, flight delay, etc. As I sit in an airport (this time I have a whopping 48 minutes between flights going through Atlanta – the busiest airport in the world, according to our last pilot. Do you think I’ll make it this time?), I just got a buzz on my phone to let me know about a gate change on my second flight later today. Very handy! Particularly since I was originally scheduled for concourse B and now am going to concourse A. If I had run off the plane with only minutes to catch a flight, I might not have noticed that gate change on the board! I highly recommend these alerts. (By the way – it’s now a week later and I DID make that flight! Everything went smooth as silk! You just NEVER know! 🙂 )
- If you don’t mind writing on your hand, I’ve learned it gives me less stuff I have to juggle and keeps my ticket safe when I write the gate number, flight number, and take-off time for my connecting flight onto my hand. That’s especially handy when I don’t have much time to catch that connecting flight!
- Even if you are rushing to pack your bags due to a caregiving crisis, it can still be wise, and in the long run save you time, if you empty them first and then start packing from scratch. I had to toss two fairly expensive lotions when I forgot they were in my carryon from a previous driving trip and they turned out to be over the airlines’ maximum of 3 ounces. Not only that, it took five extra minutes for them to spot them with their machine then dig through my bags to find them. If I was tight on time when taking off, due to caregiving demands, that could have made me miss a flight!
More tips to come next week. And in the meantime, if you have some great flying or other travel tips, feel free to share them in the comments section. 🙂