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Save Your Money -- and Your Sanity -- On Air Travel
The holiday season is upon us, so there is a good chance you may find yourself on a plane. Consumer Reports offers some suggestions for spending less and reducing your stress at the same time:
Get the best seat. Even if you picked a seat when you made your reservation, check in with the airline website about 72 hours before takeoff to see if there are any better seats available, perhaps because people have canceled their reservation. You also can check online to get information on the dimensions and other qualities of the seats on major airlines, to help you make your selection.
Save on baggage fees. Southwest Airlines lets you check up to two bags for free, and some ultra-economy airlines charge you for carry-ons. Most airlines allow you one free carry-on that fits in the overhead compartment, although you might get a checked bag at some fare levels. Unless you are going away for a long time, you should be able to get what you need into a carry-on. But you need to board early, or you might not find space. On the other hand, if there is not enough space for all the carry-ons, airlines generally will gate-check your bag for free.
Get TSA pre-check. This won’t save you money, but it will save you hassle and time – which, as we know, is money. It also means you won’t have to take off your shoes, jacket or belt; take out your laptop; or remove liquids from your luggage.
Spring for an airport lounge pass. If you don’t have a lounge pass through your credit card or other means, you probably can buy a daily pass from an independent lounge. See what is available at your airport. If you are looking at spending hours at the airport, it could be a good investment. Not only do you get to stay somewhere quiet and pleasant, but you also get free Wi-Fi, food and beverages.
Stay comfortable and healthy. Bring a sweater, noise-canceling headphones, a travel pillow, and whatever else helps you relax. And bring some antibacterial wipes to use on germ-laden surfaces like the seatbelt buckle, the tray table and the seatback pocket.
Consider travel insurance. If you cannot travel as planned, or if delays or breakdowns cause disruptions in your travel, travel insurance can help you cut your losses. For a relatively small fee, travel insurance can reimburse you for the cost of your travel as well as for things like lost belongings. Before you buy, though, check to see if the credit card you used to buy your ticket includes travel insurance.