November 25 2009 by Chris McGinnis
When it comes to my frequent traveling lifestyle, I've got long list of things to be thankful for at this time of year. Here goes:
- Faster Flying: Last week, my flight from New York to San Francisco arrived one hour early! I thought the pilot was joking when he came on the P.A. to tell flight attendants to prepare the cabin for an early landing. Early arrivals (or just on-time arrivals) are increasingly common these days because over the last two years, major airlines have cut their capacity by 10 to 20 percent--and fewer flights mean less congestion. Recent monthly reports from the Department of Transportation show consistent improvements in on-time performance.
- Lower prices: Nearly every travel expense is smaller this year than last. Gasoline is averaging about $2.65 this month--that's down about $.54 per gallon compared to this time last year, according to AAA. In addition, not only are holiday airfares down slightly compared to last year, but they're much cheaper for trips on non-peak days. (However, extra fees such as those for checking luggage are rising, but there's a bright side here, too--fewer checked bags means fewer lost or damaged ones.) Also, hotel rates are down about 10 percent compared to last year.
- Technology is getting better, and cheaper: If you haven't shopped for a new laptop lately, you'll be amazed at what $400 can buy in terms of power and function, especially if you're like me and use your laptop for mostly Web access, email and word processing. A GPS device for your car can be had for as little as $75 these days, as well.
- Staying connected is faster, easier and cheaper: I've grown accustomed to getting free high-speed Internet access every time I stay at a Best Western...so much so that I grumble when I have to pay for it anywhere else. But this year, free Wi-Fi seems to becoming the norm-- lots of airports now offer it for free, airlines have found corporate sponsors (such as eBay or Google) willing to cover the cost of in-flight Wi-Fi and an increasing number of hotels are following Best Western's lead to include high-speed Internet access in the daily rate. Nice!
- Less travel: Like many business travelers, my crazy schedule slowed down slightly this year, which meant I could spend more time with my friends and family, grow a better garden, take my dogs on longer walks and enjoy more time close to home and hearth.