Traveling for the summer holidays can be quite a pain right now: Long wait times, lost bags and flight cancellations continue to plague the airline industry.
The chaos has not escaped money expert Clark Howard, who has traveled extensively this summer.
“I fly almost every week and it has been very interesting. As someone who travels constantly, I want to talk about your keys doing as much as you can to protect your sanity, he says.
Clark’s 4 rules to avoid travel chaos right now
“People have been freaking out so much about what’s been going on in the aviation world,” says Clark. “And it’s a flat mess. People who don’t travel a lot are completely rattled by what’s happened with the delays and all that.”
Here are his steps to ease stress while traveling during these difficult times.
1. Fly non-stop
Clark says you should book a direct flight to your destination. Staying away from even a single connection can reduce a lot of potential headaches with so much uncertainty with air travel right now.
“Usually I’ll talk about how much money you can save by changing flights instead of going direct,” says Clark. “This year, fly nonstop if at all possible[y] can.”
“There are exponential problems when you change planes with how messed up the airlines are right now. Oh man, don’t do that, he adds.
2. Book an early flight
Clark says he’s not an early bird when it comes to travel. Maybe you aren’t either, but in the current travel environment, you need to be.
“What happens is the delays go through the day,” Clark says. “If you end up in a flight situation that’s messy in the morning, at least you have a chance of same-day service and getting where you intended to go the same day. On the other hand, if you are on a flight later in the day, you have a much higher chance that the crew will be timed out, the flight will be canceled, or there will be a significant delay. And you could end up stranded because you’ve missed any kind of opportunity to get rebooked on any kind of later flight.”
3. Never check a bag
No matter how long the trip is, do everything you can to see if you can cram your stuff into one bag. Clark says this is not the time to overpack.
“Do not do it. Do. Not. Check. A bag. Don’t do it, says Clark.
“Are you checking a bag right now? You have to hate yourself for checking a bag because you lose so much flexibility, he adds.
To illustrate the point, Clark says that his brother and sister-in-law recently had their flight canceled and could not be rebooked because they did not have their luggage on the same flight. They ended up waiting nine days for the bags to be returned to them.
The moral of the story? Don’t check your bag. “Even for a European trip, I want you to go carry-on,” says Clark. “And there are a million blogs and videos on YouTube – all kinds of things that people have posted – about how to get through a two-week trip with only carry-on luggage. I know it sounds like a crazy thing, but you can do it.”
4. Consider paying to skip the lines
Depending on how often you travelClark suggests investing in a few ways to largely skip the long lines at airports. Here are some options.
“Right now it’s become such an intense chore to do the airport thing. Security lines, well, they’re not exactly good. And that’s why, if you travel, I’d say three or more times a year, it’s actually worth $85 for five years, $17 a year, for [TSA] PreCheck, which gets you out of the mind-numbing ultra, ultra-long lines, says Clark.
TSA PreCheck allows you to pass through security without removing your shoes, belt and other items.
- Cost: $85
- Membership period: 5 years
- Passport required: No
If you travel a lot more than that, or you travel internationally, Clark recommends getting Global Entry: “It’s $100, paid up front and it covers five years, $20 a year,” he says.
Global Entry allows international travelers to move quickly through US Customs. It also includes the benefits of PreCheck.
Membership period: 5 years
Passport required: Yes
“If you travel all the time like I do, you can really open up your wallet and join CLEAR,” says Clark. “What it does is it gets you in front of the PreCheck line.”
CLEAR is a biometric identification verification program that allows you to bypass general security lines not only at airports, but also at some major sports arenas and other exhibition venues.
Membership period: 1 year
Passport required: No
Traveling right now can be hard on your wallet, body and mind. Clark’s parting advice has more to do with the latter.
“You just have to be prepared so that when things go wrong, you don’t lose your mind,” says Clark. “You just roll with it. If you’re not someone where the water just rolls off your back, maybe you shouldn’t go right now.”
Want to know how Clark saves so much money on his trips? Here is his #1 rule for cheap travel.