The Ultimate Guide to Traveling Obsessively (Part 3): Buy the Ticket
Free martinis, fold-flat massage seats, and Champagne bubble baths at the hotel might be the norm for Warren Buffett and the 1%-ers, but the rest of us are lucky to survive our trips without having a complete meltdown. With pay-toilets on the airplane, $30-a-day hotel Wi-Fi, and this lady at the check-in counter … these days, travel can royally suck.
But it doesn’t have to. You just need to retake control of your travel destiny. Call it: “being a Control Enthusiast“. In this three-part series, we reveal our favorite tips for doing just that …
“Better travel planning through technology.” That’s my personal motto. These days, there’s constantly a smarter, faster, better way to plan and do everything on the road. I mean ev-er-ee-thing. And when you’re a Control Enthusiast, that means being able to travel exactly how you want.
Here are my favorite tips for obsessive travelers looking to squeeze every last bit of control out of their next trip:
Registering for TSA Precheck is pretty sweet. It’ll cost you just $75 and a nice little heart-to-heart conversation with the charming folks at Homeland Security. But it’s more than worth the effort to be rewarded with expedited security clearance at many of the United States’ major airports.
But, for international travelers, Global Entry is even sweeter. For just $100, it goes a few steps further, offering:
No processing lines
Access to expedited entry benefits in other countries
Available at major U.S. airports
Reduced wait times
TSA Precheck Eligibility
… or Put Everything in Your Carry-on at Security
Of course, if you’d rather not submit your fingerprints to The Man, at least be sure to pack everything the TSA wants you to take out of your pockets into your carry-on before heading through security. This includes every last thing (jewelry, wallet, cell phone, etc.) except your boarding pass and ID. This also streamlines the process of having to put on your jewelry, pocket your wallet, find your cell phone, etc. on the other side of security.
Airlines are notorious for telling customers that a flight is on time when they know full well it isn’t. To their credit, sometimes their own systems are just blisteringly slow to update. Use a free mobile app like FlightStats (free for iOS and Android) while you’re on the road, as it can tell you whether your inbound aircraft actually left on time.
If you know, for example, that the inbound plane is coming from an area with an active hurricane threat or some other act of God, it’s likely not going to arrive in time for you to depart for your destination.
Show Your Loyalty and Skip the Check-in Counters
In the last post, I talked about loyalty programs for hotels, airlines, and car rental services. Aside from providing regular customers with miles and points to be used for future trips, they can also help you save boatloads of time on your trip. Many major hotel brands offer expedited check-in for loyal guests and most car rental companies do the same.
Assuming you’ve already signed up for National Car Rental’s Emerald Club (which is free by the way), for example, you can bypass the rental counter entirely at many major U.S. airports. You don’t even need to find your “assigned” rental car – just pick any ride from their Emerald Aisle and drive away. Pretty sweet, no?
When situations go south (delayed flights, inclement weather, locust plagues, etc.), the already understaffed and overwhelmed airline help desks get inundated very, very quickly. Program your airline’s 800 number into your phone so you know how to reach a human fast in these situations. They’re also far more likely to help you before things get really bad on their end than they are if you happen to be Angry Customer #1,266 in the same situation.
Board Like a Boss
Few things make us more hopeless for the state of humanity than watching throngs of passengers board an airplane. Zones are called and elbows are thrown as herds of people all jockey for position to be *the* next one to board. To board like a boss, keep an eye on the zone immediately ahead of yours. Once you see the last of that group lining up, get in line. By the time they call your zone, you’ll likely already be at the head of the pack.