Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Planning For Weather Delays That Can Ruin Your Vacation

The necessity of having pre-determined alternate travel plans should be clear after this weekend’s crippling snowstorm in the Northeast.  Having dumped 1-2 feet of snow along one of the busiest interstate corridors and throughout key metropolitan areas, this storm resulted in thousands of canceled flights and closed airports, leaving the travel plans of many families in it’s wake.

Trying to second guess mother nature is a losing proposition, but planning for it certainly is not.  Whenever making winter travel plans, always presume that there will be a major winter weather delay.  What will you do if a major storm cancels flights out of your airport?  What if inclement weather at your destination prevents you from getting there?

There are a few simple steps that you can take to prepare for weather related flight delays -

First, reserve early morning flights (before 10AM).  Morning flights on a stormy day are the most likely to depart on or near schedule as the aircraft more than likely arrived the prior evening.  Delays tend to worsen as the day progresses.

Second, plan on flying from and into the most reliable airports in the area.  Large metropolitan areas like Washington DC, New York and Boston have several airport choices, but one of them may be better equipped to deal with severe weather.  For example, in the Washington DC metropolitan area, the most reliable airport (that is typically always open) is Baltimore Washington International Airport, while other area airports are known for closures (this storm was no exception).

Third, when scrambling to salvage your flight plans, explore all options.  Can you drive to your destination?  Are there flights from or to any other airports within a reasonable drive?  Can you take the train?  Can you take a bus?  Lock in an alternate flight and keep checking for something better.

Fourth, check the weather often in the days leading up to your trip.  If you suspect that there may be severe travel delays, you should make arrangements to change your flights in advance.  Most airlines will issue a weather waiver and allow changes without penalty.  For example, during this recent storm, airlines issued the waiver on Friday, so travelers had time to depart prior to the storm arriving.  Be proactive!

Finally, if you have a date and time certain for your vacation, plan to leave a day early.  If you are cruising or taking an organized tour, you’ll be responsible for meeting the group or ship on their regular itinerary if you miss the departure.  Although cruise ships have been known to delay sailing in extraordinary circumstances, don’t count on it for a weather delay impacting a fraction of it’s passengers.

Although travel insurance can help defray the cost of the delay, it isn’t likely to reimburse the cost of  alternate transportation or costs associated with changing your flight’s destination.  You may, however, be protected when inclement weather forces a cancellation.  But, who wants to cancel their tropical winter vacation?

Planning is critical.  Don’t panic – know what your alternate plans are in advance and don’t delay in executing them.  Be decisive, lock in the most reasonable alternative, then keep looking for a better alternative. 

A Caribbean cruise would feel pretty good right about now!  Travel safely and good luck.

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Flying First Class With Baby

Flying first class with a baby is not only possible, but likely easier than flying in coach.  The fear of baby spitting up or having a smelly diaper is a deterrent for many parents, not to mention the crying and other uncontrolled behaviors of an infant.  What will people think?  After all, it is first class.

Despite the recent chatter advocating the creation of separate seating for families on airplanes, it really isn’t that bad.  Although we’ve endured a few dirty looks and snide remarks as we’ve settled into Row 1 with our little cherub, most passengers and flight attendants have been very gracious and helpful.  The trick is to be prepared and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.

Like when flying coach, lap infants in first class fly free on domestic flights.  Be careful if you are flying internationally, however, as the infant fare is typically 10% of the least expensive fare for your cabin.  If you are seated in the first class or business cabin, you’ll pay a bit more for an infant than if you were in coach.  Okay, so that’s great, my baby flies free, but I can’t afford first class!  I hear what you’re saying…there are economical ways to fly first class, many of which you’ll learn about by reading my blog every day.  In our case, we typically use frequent flyer miles to fly first class on longer itineraries and red-eyes.  The incremental mileage cost is small compared to the benefit.  When you’re traveling 5+ hours, it really does make the trip easier.

No matter where you are sitting on the airplane, you’ll want to make sure you have ample supplies (wipes, diapers, extra clothes, food, etc) handy.  Although we do bring along a few baby toys, there is usually enough on the airplane to keep baby busy.  For some reason, those flight safety cards and in-flight magazines are fascinating toys.

Flying First Class

However, the main goal is to coincide the flight with nap time.  A sleeping infant will make the time pass quickly and keep everyone else on the airplane happy as well.  The best part about first class is that if things don’t go as well as planned, the liquor is free.

Being seated in first class will have its privileges.  Even if the gate agent has overlooked pre-boarding (which happens very frequently), being seated in first class will automatically entitle you to priority boarding.  We always recommend sitting in the first row, also known as the bulkhead row; you’ll be able to get settled more quickly upon boarding.  There is no storage on the floor for baby’s many necessities, but your flight attendant will be happy to assist you in retrieving them when necessary.  Having no seat in front of you will allow easy entrance and exit as well as eliminate the problem of baby kicking or grabbing the seat in front of them.  These seats are often blocked, but you may call the airline and request these seats upon making your reservation.  Tell them you are traveling with a lap infant and they will assign the seat of your choice as well as add your infant to the passenger record.

The first row will typically accommodate a bassinet.  Let me just say now, don’t use the bassinet, you’re flying first class and there will be plenty of room for you and baby in your seat.  Airplane bassinets can be dangerous, unreliable and undoubtedly more trouble than they are worth.

If your flight is more than 2 hours, you’ll likely be served a meal during mealtimes.  If you are traveling alone, it will be a challenge to partake in the first class meal service, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.  You may be able to find a sympathetic neighbor or flight attendant to help out for a few minutes, but don’t rely upon it.  Make sure that everyone is fed and fresh before boarding.  Traveling as a couple, it will be fairly easy, you can take turns eating and entertaining baby.

The extra space that first class affords for you and baby will make it a much smoother and more enjoyable trip.  Don’t worry about what those around you think, but do be respectful.  Enlist the assistance of the flight attendant.  As a first class passenger, you will receive more attentive service, which can be of great value when traveling with an infant.  Need something to sooth those swollen gums…one bottle of whiskey coming up.  How about a warm bottle…no problem.  They’ll take your coat, help fetch baby gear, give you a blanket to keep you warm and make sure that your flight is a pleasant one.  First class with baby is definitely the way to go!

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Winter Travel Update – More Cancellations And Delays

Once again, thousands of flights are being cancelled at more than a dozen airports along the east coast as a severe winter storm bears down on the region.   Hopefully you’ve planned for a problem like this, but even if you have, what do you need to know?

Airlines began issuing winter waivers on Wednesday in anticipation of this storm.  The following policies are in effect for Southwest, United, US Airways, American, Delta/Northwest, Continental, JetBlue, AirTran, Spirit, Virgin America, Frontier/Midwest and Alaska Airlines.  Most travel waivers cover flights scheduled between February 4-7, 2010 to/from airports stretching from New York to the Carolinas.  If you haven’t already re-scheduled your flight, do so immediately by contacting your airline.

Amtrak has also cancelled most passenger service in the region beginning this afternoon, so make reservations now on the few trains that are operating on Saturday.  Limited trains are still available, but don’t expect them to be running on time.

On the cruise scene, Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas is scheduled to sail from Cape Liberty today at 4PM.  No delays have been reported and hopefully everyone will make the ship.  Unfortunately, Carnival’s Pride is scheduled to sail from Baltimore on Sunday, February 7, 2010.  With up to two feet of snow expected through Saturday, there are likely to be delays at the port.  If you had planned on parking at the port, you may want to make alternate plans or be prepared to arrive after the arriving passengers have had a chance to dig out.  We’ll tweet any delays as they’re posted.

Here are some basic tips on getting around this storm if you absolutely need to get in or out of the area:

  1. Try to rebook on an earlier flight on any airline
  2. Check flights into alternate airports that are farther north, then rent a car or take the train or bus to your destination
  3. Check for airports in all directions that have flights departing to your destination or to an airport near your destination
  4. Drive to your destination

If you choose to drive, do so only after roads are clear and treated.  If you’re traveling with young kids, don’t go to the airport unless you’re fairly certain your flight will depart.  Check other departures for your airline and check the inbound aircraft that will serve your flight to determine if your flight is likely to depart on-time.  Don’t rely on the FAA’s website as it is rarely updated correctly.  Instead, go directly to the airport’s website for more accurate and up-to-date information.

The major airports impacted by this storm are Regan National/Dulles International Airports, BWI Airport, Philadelphia International Airport and Richmond International Airport.  If you plan on departing from any of the airports in this area, it would be advisable to utilize covered parking.  Stay safe and good luck in your travels.

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Final TSA Security Guidelines For International Flights

In issuing it’s most recent security requirements for international passengers flying to the United States, the TSA narrowed the list of countries subject to enhanced screening measures to 14.  These suspect nations include Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Read the rest of this entry »

Updates To New TSA Security Rules

Our post entitled New TSA Security Requirements Impacting Families has been updated to reflect additional clarifications from the airlines and TSA.  Implementation has been left to the discretion of the airlines, which will likely result in inconsistency, so be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.  Safe travels!

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