I like the relative convenience and speed of air travel. While air travel is often the best deal for one or two travelers, there are usually ways to make a good deal even better. Here are two travel tips that I’ve found to save time and money with air travel.
1. Use a Park & Fly hotel.
Early flights tend to depart and arrive more on time than flights scheduled later in the day. People on a tight schedule often seek out early flights for that reason. However, early flights are sometimes just too early if one has to travel an hour or two to the airport from his or her home. The hustle from home, the early morning traffic, and the search for parking can be very stressful and rushed. After all of that hurrying, then there’s the issue of getting all of the luggage from the fifth floor of the parking garage down the stairs and into the terminal. This mad dash is not fun. Oh, and on top of all that, the airport is probably charging $10-$15/day for the privilege of parking a long distance from their terminals!
When I have an early flight from such an airport, I like to avoid some of this confusion by finding an airport hotel that offers a “park & fly” option. Many airport hotels will let you park free with them if you stay just one night. And, perhaps even better, many “park & fly” hotels have a free hotel to airport shuttle (where they pick you up at the airport and return you to the hotel when you return).
So here are the “park & fly” benefits as I see them: extra sleep in the morning, no driving to the airport, no search for parking, no shuffling luggage to the terminal (since the shuttle driver drops me off at the terminal entrance), and no airport parking fees. Also, if my flight covers five days or longer, I often find the cost of the hotel stay a discount in comparison to the cost of airport parking. Trips longer than that tend to actually equal savings by using the “park & fly” option.
My “park & fly” hotel advice is to pick a safe hotel where your vehicle will be monitored by hotel security. Park in a visible place and don’t leave valuables in your vehicle. Be sure to let the hotel front desk and not just the shuttle driver know that you are using their “park & fly” option and will be leaving your vehicle with them and for how long. One more thing: keep your keys with you or in your carry-on luggage in case your checked (non-carry-on) luggage is lost by the airline.
2. Ship your extra luggage.
Given the speed and reliability of overnight shipping and the extra costs for checked baggage on airlines, I’m finding the option of shipping extra items to be very attractive. For example, many airlines charge between $15 and $25 for the first checked item plus there are weight limits and/or overage fees for heavy items. Also, all carry-on items are subject to restrictions and time-consuming inspections. It’s often worth the convenience and may even be more cost-effective to just ship some of your items instead of paying the airline to transport them.
If you are shipping items to your destination, be sure the hotel or receiving location knows to accept them and hold them for you. Verify their address and holding procedures so there are no surprises when you arrive. Also, you may want to use an expedited or guaranteed shipping option since you are on a deadline.
I‘ve found that shipping travel items is especially helpful for the return flight, though. In these cases, time is on your side so you don’t have to pay for expedited shipping. Also, given the tendency to have picked up some extra items from the conference or a shopping trip, we’re often overloaded anyway. It’s easy to think I’ll just carry it on the plane, but if you have a layover, the long walk between terminals can be very tiring to carry anything extra.
So, here’s a tip for these times: before your trip, buy a few USPS Priority Mail Flat-Rate boxes or envelopes and bring them with you. Here’s what the USPS says about them: “Whatever fits in the box or envelope ships for one low rate — anywhere in the United States. There’s virtually no weighing or calculating. And your packages reach their destination in 2-3 days.” You can collapse the boxes and either bring some packing tape or see if your hotel can provide you with some. Most hotels will also mail the packages for you since the postage is already paid.
I have a few packing tips. You can pack your clothing around fragile items instead of buying packing materials. You can also ship some things that you can’t take on the airline with you (liquids like perfume and wine or collectibles like knives and metal objects for example) so remember that as well. Heavy, “non-stuffable” items like books and shoes ship well. If shipping shoes, don’t forget you can put additional items inside them to save even more space and provide some protection as well.
I’ve found these two airline travel tips helpful. I’m sure you have some of your own so please share them in the comments section below. Also, I invite you to check out our airfare deals and hotel reservation specials sections. We also have a number of luggage coupons and specials that you might find useful.