The most common travel questions arise over and over, irrespective of whether you are a seasoned traveler, or it’s your first trip. It doesn’t matter that the questions are repeated, we all want our travel experiences to be the best they can be, so as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Here are what I believe to be the most common travel questions and their answers.
1. How Far in Advance Should I Book?
This is one of the most common travel questions, and one of the most difficult to answer because there are so many variables: airfare prices; time of travel; destination; and size of party being just a few. If you have flexibility in your travel, the answer is quite simple: book as late as possible so you can take advantage of late deals. If you are constrained by specific times and/or destinations, the general rule of thumb as advised by travel experts is one to two months ahead for domestic travel and two to three months for international travel. If you are going at peak times such as to Disney during school vacation or Christmas, allow extra time.
2. Is There a Best Day of the Week to Book Air Tickets?
Actually yes! The best day is Tuesday, the next best is Wednesday. This is because airlines release their sales early in the week – most often on Mondays. By Tuesday and Wednesday they are competing with each other for sales, so prices drop. Availability on the best prices is severely reduced by the weekend. There are various ways to keep up with the best prices – check out budget travel websites for alerts, monitor a few chosen airlines on Facebook, or sign up for some Twitter feeds.
3. Are There Ways to Avoid Travel Fees?
Travel fees seem to crop up everywhere, so it’s no wonder that one of the common travel questions is about avoiding them. The best way to avoid travel fees is to know where they are likely to appear in the first place, so be aware of additional and hidden charges when booking flights, hotels, rental cars and even trip insurance. There are airlines that do not charge for baggage, while others will waive fees for members of their frequent flyer program or hold their credit card. In hotels don’t use any service without first finding out if there’s a fee involved – for example, what are those freshly laundered fluffy pool towels left on your bed every day going to cost on your final bill? With rental cars, it is critical that you read the fine print of the rental agreement, checking for early-return penalties and fuel charges. For items like a Collision Damage Waiver, you might be covered by your credit card if you pay for the car with your card.
4. What Happens if My Flight is Delayed or Cancelled?
Having plans upset beyond your control is stressful and disappointing, and leads to another of the commonly asked travel questions. What you can do depends initially on the cause of the problem because each airline has a different policy. Delays and cancellations fall into two categories – within the airline’s control, e.g. mechanical failure and outside the airline’s control, e.g. adverse weather conditions like a blizzard or volcanic ash disruption. For situations within the airline’s control, most carriers have a policy of booking you onto the next available flight or offering you a refund. Some airlines will also offer additional support for delays such as meal vouchers, overnight stays or transfers to another airport. For anything outside their control, the most airlines can really do is offer a refund.
5. Do I Need Trip Insurance?
This is a matter of risk and balance. Reasonably, if your trip is short and hasn’t cost you a week’s wages, there is probably no need for insurance, especially in light of the fact that airlines have refund policies. However, if you have made a good investment in the cost of your holiday, insurance is a good idea. Delays aren’t covered by airlines, but are by insurance, plus insurance covers you while you are away and not just for the travel aspect. Insurance is particularly relevant if you intend to take part in some sporting activities while you are away, and to cover your valuables.
6. Is My Travel Deal Really a Good Deal?
It’s not surprising that this is another of the frequently asked travel questions. Going on vacation can be an expensive business. It might also be a trip that you have been looking forward to after a year of hard work, so you want to know you are getting a big bang for your buck. It is a difficult game to weed out the very best unless you spend hours and hours and hours on booking and comparison sites. Above all, find a package you like and then make sure you check around for the cheapest option. Be savvy with sums. Check out all-inclusive deal prices against other board/meal plan options and what you will spend to make sure the all-inclusive option is advantageous. Review the differences between a 4* hotel and a 5* hotel. Does the additional cost really translate to features that will make a significant difference to your stay? Watch out for gimmicks and scams and make sure you are dealing with a reputable company. Many countries have travel organizations like USTOA and ABTA where you can check tour and travel operators out. And finally, as with everything – check the small print. You don’t want to be caught out by things like blackout dates and restrictions.
7. What Are the Best Travel Locations?
Probably the most difficult and most frequent of common travel questions. There really is no right or wrong answer because so many factors go into choosing a destination: accommodation type, time of the year and climatic seasonality, adventure or culture, dirt cheap or splurge, size of traveling party, visa or not, plane, train or boat, mountains or beaches, journey time … You will find it useful to prioritize what is most important to you and work your way down that list. Finding your destination should be part of the fun of a vacation, so invest some time in looking at options. The most important thing to remember is that if you really have no idea where to go, it won’t matter where you end up because something will have attracted to you to book that particular destination – as long as you have read up about it before settling on it.
These answers to the most common travel questions provide the basics of making sure you get the best out of any trip or vacation.