Travel Tips to Know This Fall and Holiday Season
Remember those viral TikToks over the summer capturing never-ending lines at the airport, flight delays and cancellations, and rooms full of unsorted luggage? While those nightmare scenarios might not be the norm for would-be travelers at the moment, the busy holiday season is looming. And with that comes a new set of headaches, especially when you couple it with high ticket prices and everyone swarming the airports at the same time. As stressful as it may be, the bright side is, we get to travel again, and better yet, the list of places we can finally go to has grown. With all of that in mind, there are, in fact, several ways to keep your stresses and costs to a minimum, according to the expert traveler behind The Points Guy, founder Brian Kelly. From the top spots on everyone’s list to how to score that coveted business class upgrade, Kelly has five tips to keep in mind before you book that next big trip.
Flight Prices Are High, So Embrace Technology
Back in pre-Covid times, you could capitalize on a good sale, or perhaps even a site error that gave you an extremely cheap fare. Sadly, those days are long gone. With the rise in gas prices and the pent-up demand for travel, it’s pretty difficult to find good deals, especially if you’re looking during peak times. Kelly recommends using Google Flights to track fares for specific dates and destinations. But if you’re more adventurous? “Consider using their Explore Map feature to search for cheap flights from your home airport, if you’re flexible on where to go,” he says.
Keep Track of Your Luggage
We’ve all seen the horror stories play out, with baggage backed up at airports or straight up lost. Kelly says things are better, but don’t rule out the same scenario repeating itself again this fall and winter. “There are still issues due to staffing shortages, especially at the main Europe airports like the ones in Amsterdam and London Heathrow,” he cautions. While the best advice is to pack light and jam everything into your carry-on luggage, that might not be possible. In that case, he suggests getting an AirTag so you know exactly where your bag is, even if it never makes it onto the plane.
Know Where to Go (Or Avoid)
Depending if you’re the type to jump on travel trends or looking to avoid the crowds, Kelly has noticed several destinations emerging as the top spots in the next few months. Domestically, cities like New York, Orlando, Los Angeles, and Seattle are popular, while internationally, it’s everywhere from Mexico (namely Cancun) to Dublin to Qatar and other Asian locales. “Doha’s extra popular this November as it’s hosting the World Cup. And we suspect an increase in bookings to Asia, particularly Japan, which recently opened up, as well as Thailand,” he says.
Maybe Wait on That Big Asia Trip
Speaking of heading across the Pacific, Kelly says while you might be eager to finally revisit countries that have only just opened up to tourism, it’s probably better to give it a few more months. “Know the rules! There are still restrictions in place such as vaccine booster requirements. I’d recommend waiting a bit after a country reopens, hear how travel is going, and then plan your trip,” he advises.
Business Class Upgrades Are Getting Rarer, But Not Impossible
Have you been hoarding all of your credit card points in hopes of snagging a coveted front of the plane, lay-flat class seat at no extra cost? Well sadly, those chances are getting slimmer—unless you’re willing to spend big. “It’s been a tough summer for loyalty program redemptions as travel has rebounded and business class award space has either been unavailable or incredibly expensive,” Kelly says. That’s not to say it’s impossible though, and you can leverage your frequent flier miles. The easiest way is to bid for an upgrade, as a lot of the airlines let you do that when you check in. Another way to score a seat? Sometimes it pays to be nice and ask for what’s called an operational upgrade. “This is when planes oversell economy tickets so they’ll bump passengers to business or first class,” Kelly explains.
If you’re set on gaming the system and getting the most out of your points, flexibility and waiting until mid-2023 for that big vacation will be your best bet. “Most airlines open their booking calendars 330 days out. Searching now for next summer’s redemptions will likely get you some of the cheapest pricing,” Kelly says. To really make every precious credit card point count, you can also check TPG, which alerts readers to when the likes of Amex or Chase offer transfer bonuses to airline loyalty programs. This can bring down the cost of redemption significantly. Lastly, should you prefer to straight out buy those fancy tickets, a tool like ExpertFlyer, which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures, will alert you when discounted award space opens up.