Ah, the holiday season! It can be the best of times and the worst of times for frequent travelers. For those aiming for the positive, here are six mistakes to avoid as you hit the roads and the skies in coming weeks.
MISTAKE #1: Shorting yourself on travel time to the airport.
Many fliers test the limits of time needed to travel to the airport, which is risky at this time of year. So be sure to leave enough time to arrive to the airport stress-free. Airlines have reduced fleet size in recent years, but demand is rising. This means nearly every plane will be full if not sold out during the upcoming peak Holiday season. If you miss your flight, the likelihood of getting on the “next flight out” is very small. You could end up waiting a day or two, which could spoil your entire trip. (Especially important for families traveling together! It’s one thing to re-accommodate a single traveler on a later flight….but it’s a different story for a family of four.)
MISTAKE #2: Choosing a one-stop flight instead of a nonstop flight to save a few bucks.
When you take a one-stop flight instead of a nonstop, you double your chances of encountering airport congestion related delays and frustrations. This is especially true during the holiday travel season due to high load factors and the possibility of bad winter weather. It pays to weigh your options here, and determine if saving money on the one-stop flight is worth the risk of lost time
MISTAKE #3: Overstaying your welcome with family or friends
You’ve likely heard the old saying about houseguests… that they are like fish… and spoil after three days. Well, it turns out there’s something to that. Best Western hotel bookings were up over 20% during Thanksgiving and are expected to be up over 9% for the Christmas/New Years period. That’s a sign that more people are foregoing the lumpy sofa bed at the in-laws for the privacy and comfort of a hotel during the holidays. Even better, hotel rates tend to plummet during holidays when business travelers stay home.
MISTAKE #4: Packing gifts in your checked or carry-on luggage
This is a really big mistake for two reasons: First, gifts in carry-on bags are subject to search and detention at security checkpoints. Second, gifts in checked bags are expensive considering new airline fees for checked bags. Check two bags round trip and you’ll now pay an extra $100 on most major airlines except Southwest or JetBlue. Instead, arrive a day or two early and do your shopping at your destination.
MISTAKE #5: MISSING OUT ON GREAT PROMOTIONS
The holidays are not all about high prices…. There are still deals out there! For example, book Best Western’s INTERNET ONLY RATE and get up to 20% off on stays before February 2nd, 2014. Best Western Rewards members who register before their stay and book a qualifying rate on bestwestern.com will also receive 1,000 bonus points per stay before February 2nd, 2014. Elite members get 500 more bonus points per stay. Plus, through January 5th, 2014, Best Western will donate another 500 points per Elite stay to Best Western For A Better World charities!
MISTAKE #6: Focusing on holiday travel only
Do you really need to travel during the actual holiday peak season, which runs from around December 20 through January 3 this year? If not, consider a trip outside the holiday comfort zone and you can save big. What is interesting about the holidays is that you have the most expensive days of the year next to the least expensive days of the year. In travel industry parlance, these are known as “dead weeks.” So when I examine prices for travel during the peak season, I’m astonished at how high they are. But if I look at rates just after the peak season (roughly January 5 – January 25), I’m astonished at how low they are. Additionally, frequent travelers should consider redeeming frequent flyer miles during dead weeks because availability is great, and upgrades are more likely.
Chris McGinnis is Best Western’s travel trends expert and business travel blogger on youmustbetrippin.com