SAN JUAN — Planning to squeeze some travel out of the rest of summer? Good luck — you will need it.
Flight cancellations have already soared past last year’s total. Delays affected 890,000 flights in the first half of the year. Prices have shot up as pandemic-weary travelers are desperate to go anywhere. Luggage ‘graveyards’ are piling up at airports worldwideas missed connections increase.
Welcome to the travel apocalypse.
“It’s definitely the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Meena Thiruvengadam, founder and editor-in-chief of the site Travel With Meena (travelwithmeena.com). “Now is definitely the time to be more strategic.”
To help you navigate through travel hell, we canvassed top experts for tips on discounts and how to sidestep potential disasters.
USE THE RIGHT CREDIT CARD
Have you had it up to here trying to get airline compensation for delays and cancellations? Even if you succeed, you may end up frazzled after a long battle.
“My best hack for navigating the travel apocalypse is to always book travel on a credit card that offers trip coverage,” said Brian Kelly, founder of popular travel site The Points Guy.
“When the airlines melt down, it’s much easier to get compensation from your credit card than it is from the understaffed airlines.”
Minimize the chance of things going wrong – and save money – by limiting yourself to a carry-on. Checking a bag amplifies the odds of your stuff getting lost, or delayed, or stolen or damaged.
The first checked bag typically costs around $30, and the second $40 on most carriers. The perk of a ‘free’ checked bag pushes up the airfare.
“Traveling light will make it easier if you have to rebook flights for any reason and give you a lot more flexibility,” said Thiruvengadam. “It will also minimize the chances of your bag getting lost or stuck in one of the many airport piles around the world.”
Cruises offer enticing deals as virus-phobic travelers avoid large groups in confined spaces.
According to the site Cruise Critic, August’s average starting cost per person is $108/night for the Caribbean, $56/night for the Mexican Riviera, and $125/night for the Mediterranean – with the lowest starting fares far below that.
“There are so many deals to be had right now because people are still a little nervous about cruising,” said Laura Begley Bloom, a travel expert and content strategist.
“One of the best value cruise lines is MSC, an Italian-owned line. Check out these rates: $498 per person for a seven-night trip from Miami to the Caribbean. That comes out to $71 a night – and includes all your food.”
THINK TWICE WHILE ONLINE BOOKING
Most people book trips online, leading to a couple of “classic mistakes,” said Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News.
The first is that the algorithm might show you flight connection times of barely over half an hour – because a computer does not know any better and assumes everything will go smoothly and on-time (highly unlikely).
“That’s not just ridiculous; it’s suicidal,” Greenberg said.
The second mistake is thinking that Expedia, Travelocity or any other site show all available options.
“You might have to do the unthinkable and actually have a conversation with someone, either with a travel agent or the airlines themselves,” Greenberg said.
“Because what they are seeing on their screens is not always what you are seeing on your screens. If you are only looking online yourself, you are doing yourself a disservice.”
Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang Follow us @ReutersMoney
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