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7 Ways to Avoid Lost Luggage

Posted by Caroline Costello on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

(Photo: Luggage Carousel via Shutterstock)

Nothing undermines a well-planned vacation quite like no-show luggage. When your suitcase fails to appear on the baggage carousel, you're guaranteed a stressful experience filling out baggage-claim forms and futilely waiting. So how can travelers safeguard their stuff? The obvious solutions are to book a nonstop flight or pack everything in a carry-on, but clearly this won't work for everyone. If you need to check a bag, the following seven strategies will help ensure that your luggage stays on track.


(Photo: ReboundTag)

Upgrade Your Luggage Tag

Opt for a smarter luggage tag. Several high-tech brands of tags feature codes or microchips that travelers can use to detect lost bags. SuperSmartTags, for example, contain unique codes with which airline personnel can trace off-track luggage. (Many bags get lost when paper airport tags get ripped off.) ReboundTag, another sophisticated bag-tag brand, tracks missing luggage with an embedded microchip.


(Photo: Bangkok Airport via Shutterstock)

Check in Early

Travelers who check in late—whether they arrived at the airport with only minutes to spare or got held up in a meandering check-in line—are more likely to get separated from their bags. Baggage handlers need time to process luggage and load it onto planes. Many experts say that 30 minutes ahead of departure is the cut-off, but it all depends. In our opinion, the earlier you can check in, the better.


(Photo: Itinerary via Shutterstock)

Place Your Itinerary Inside Your Bag

Luggage tags can easily be torn off in the rough-and-tumble handling process, but a copy of your itinerary, placed on top of your belongings inside your bag, will almost certainly stay put. We echo this tip in Don't Make These 10 Common Itinerary Mistakes: "Place a copy of your travel plans along with contact information in a prominent place inside any checked bags; if your bag gets delayed, this will make it easier for airline staff to forward your luggage to you. (Airline staff members sometimes open delayed bags when looking for contact information.)"


(Photo: © 2007 FedEx Corporation)

Ship Your Bags Instead of Checking Them

It sounds a little crazy. But it's not. This strategy kills two birds: By shipping your luggage, you diminish the chance that it'll get lost, and you also avoid costly overweight-, oversize-, and checked-bag fees. For example, American Airlines charges $100 for checked bags weighing more than 50 lb. on flights within the U.S. In comparison, UPS charges $66.24 to ship a 55-lb. bag from Los Angeles to Chicago. Sure, it takes longer to arrive. (In this example, the $66.24 fee is for four-day shipping.) But if you plan ahead and ship your belongings to your hotel in advance, you can save money and track your shipment, and you won't have to worry about your suitcase ending up in a warehouse somewhere in the Deep South.


(Photo: puroticorico via flickr/CC Attribution)

Take Some Photos

If your bag has gone AWOL and you're attempting to get it back, photo evidence will help. Take a picture of the outside of your bag to show the airline staff member who is helping you locate it. It's also wise to take a quick photo of your baggage-claim ticket, in case you lose it. Snap a picture of the inside of your bag as well; this will come in handy in case you need to file an insurance claim for your lost belongings.


(Photo: Luggage Strap via Shutterstock)

Use a Luggage Strap

Suitcases, unfortunately, sometimes suffer from a case of mistaken identity at the baggage carousel. This is especially likely to happen when half of your plane is traveling with the same slate-gray upright Samsonite. So give your bag a makeover with a colorful luggage strap, some neon duct tape, or whatever your creative little mind can conjure up.


(Photo: Airport via Shutterstock)

Avoid Short Layovers

Tight layovers increase the likelihood that your bags will go missing. If your flight is late, the window of time for airport staff to transfer your bag from one plane to the next narrows. Pay attention to the length of your layover, especially when booking with an online travel agency (OTA) like Expedia or Orbitz. Often, these sites sell domestic multi-leg itineraries with layovers of less than an hour, which doesn't leave any wiggle room in an industry in which flights are frequently delayed.

If you have an international connecting flight, know that you may have to pick up your checked luggage at the baggage claim, clear customs and airport security, and then recheck your bag, all before boarding. This is also the case if you're arriving in the U.S. from an international destination and then taking a domestic connecting flight. For this reason, it's important to allow plenty of time—two or more hours, ideally—on international layovers. Confused? When checking in, ask airline staff if you'll need to recheck your bag at your connection.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Ways to Prevent Lost Luggage.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

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9 Things Not to Wear on a Plane

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, April 14, 2014

(Photo: Legs and Suitcase via Shutterstock)

The rules of in-flight fashion are different from those on the ground. When you're sitting for hours in a metal tube flying 35,000 feet in the air, comfort trumps style. Wear an outfit that keeps you cozy and relaxed, and you'll likely appear more chic than the traveler struggling with heavy bags in four-inch stilettos or the one sweating in too-tight synthetic fabrics. To look and feel your best while jet-setting, avoid the following in-flight fashion faux pas.


(Photo: High Heels via Shutterstock)

Uncomfortable Shoes

This one seems obvious. Still, I've yet to board a plane without spotting at least one flyer tottering down the aisle in pumps. A good pair of comfortable shoes will make it easier for you to hoof it around the airport and sprint to the gate if you need to make a connection. Furthermore, wearing your bulkier shoes instead of stashing them in your suitcase while donning sandals or stilettos will free up some room—and some weight—in your checked or carry-on bag.


(Photo: Knee-High Boots via Shutterstock)

Complicated Shoes

Look at these boots. They're the nightmare of every in-a-rush business traveler who must stand behind you as you undo myriad straps and laces. Wear simple slip-on shoes or sneakers when flying, as you'll have to take them off in the airport security line.


(Photo: Leather Pants via Shutterstock)

Fabrics That Don't Breathe

Shun any fabrics that lack breathability, such as nylon or leatherette. Add your rubber raincoat or waterproof jacket to this list as well. (Note, however, that some high-quality waterproof jackets, like outerwear made from Gore-Tex, are quite breathable. It all depends on what it's made of.) Less breathable fabrics hold sweat on the skin when it's hot as well as prevent air circulation. You won't feel very fashionable sweating in too-tight, synthetic clothes as your plane rests on the tarmac under the hot sun.

A foolproof way to find breathable clothes for the plane: Stick with moisture-wicking activewear (I recommend Prana) or clothes sold from travel suppliers like Magellan's, which are designed specifically for travel.


(Photo: Maegan Tintari via flickr/CC Attribution)

Tight Clothing

Have you heard of deep vein thrombosis? Also known as DVT, this condition occurs when dangerous blood clots form in veins. Those blood clots can lead to a pulmonary embolism, which is potentially fatal. According to the University of Washington Medical Center, sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk for DVT, and so can constrictive clothing: "Avoid tight clothing, nylons, or socks (especially the type that are too tight at the top and/or leave marks on your skin) that might restrict blood flow through veins." Compression stockings are a good choice for travelers interested in taking further steps to reduce the likelihood of DVT.


(Photo: Frederick Dennstedt via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

Complicated Clothing

Aircraft lavatories are tiny contrivances, about the size of a small closet or a very large Manhattan apartment. So maneuvering in and out of your pants can be, well, tricky. (That's why someone invented Claspies.) Lest you drop your wallet in the toilet or fall and smash through the bathroom door, wear something that isn't likely to cause difficulties in the plane bathroom. Avoid bodysuits or complicated wrap shirts or dresses, as well as long pants or skirts that may graze the unsanitary (and often disturbingly wet) lavatory ground.


(Photo: Contact Lenses via Shutterstock)

Contact Lenses

According to Frommer's, "The air in plane cabins is so dry (usually 10 percent to 20 percent humidity, sometimes as little as 1 percent, compared to the Sahara desert's 20 percent to 25 percent humidity) that your health is challenged every time you fly." Contacts can become uncomfortable to wear if your eyes dry out in the arid cabin, so either avoid them altogether or bring a pair of glasses to change into.


(Photo: Perfume via Shutterstock)


Avoid this one for the good of your fellow passengers. Strong-smelling perfumes, colognes, body sprays, and so on shouldn't be worn in flight. Some passengers may find your CK One offensive; others might suffer allergic reactions to synthetic fragrances. If you really must smell of the finest department-store brands upon arrival in your destination, pack a sample size and apply it once you land.


(Photo: Blonde Woman via Shutterstock)

Warm-Weather Clothing

The key here is layers. It's fine to wear lightweight fabrics on a plane. It may even be a smart strategy if you're flying to or from a sweltering climate. But planes are often very cold—and blankets aren't exactly freely distributed on many flights these days. So fight the air-conditioned chill by layering up.

Getting warm? Remove a few layers, bundle them, and then use them as a pillow.

Bonus: The more layers you can pile on your body, the less clothes you need to pack in your suitcase.


(Photo: Censored/T-Shirt via Shutterstock)

Offensive or Inappropriate Clothing

Carriers typically leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether a passenger's garb is inappropriate for wear in the air. So how do you know if your outfit is appropriate? Learn from the past: Passengers have been removed from planes for wearing everything from low-cut dresses to baggy pants to T-shirts splashed with expletives or offensive (well, depending on whom you ask) political messages. If you can't wear it to church or dinner with your mother-in-law, you probably shouldn't wear it on a flight. Read more about airline dress codes in Are Airline Dress Codes Too Extreme?

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 9 Things Not to Wear on a Plane.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

10 Best Hotels for Free Bath Amenities

Posted by Caroline Costello on Thursday, April 10, 2014

(Photo: Fairmont Hotels)

There are plenty of reasons to care about what's on that hotel-room sink. When top-quality bath and beauty amenities are offered, travelers can leave their TSA-friendly bottles at home or take souvenir toiletries to go. Hotels, happily, have taken notice. More major chains have bid adieu to generic soaps and shampoos and upgraded their offerings in recent years. Now, complimentary brand-name skincare products, once limited to luxury lodgings and independent boutique hotels, can be found at less exclusive properties.

Here are 10 major hotel brands with superior bath and beauty products, along with tips on where to buy the products in case you're not traveling anytime soon.


(Photo: Gilchrist & Soames)

TRYP by Wyndham

TRYP, Wyndham's midscale chain with more than 90 properties around the world, provides guests with the Zero Percent Collection from Gilchrist & Soames. It's a luxurious, earth-friendly product line formulated without sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and artificial colors, and it is not tested on animals. TRYP further boosts its eco-friendly cred by providing body wash, shampoo, and conditioner from the Zero Percent Collection in refillable dispensers installed in the showers of guest bathrooms. If you want to grab some travel-sized bottles to take home, however, just ask at the front desk. TRYP properties have a supply of small bottles of its Gilchrist & Soames products on hand, which are available for guests upon request.

Where to Buy: Shop for Gilchrist & Soames online.


(Photo: Su--May via flickr/CC Attribution)

W Hotels

W Hotels bathrooms have long been stocked with upmarket Bliss skincare products. And many W properties have Bliss-branded spas that incorporate the Bliss line in treatments, such as a facial with the line's Triple Oxygen+C Energizing Cream massaged into the skin. For a free Bliss fix, W guests can snap up the sink-side six: Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash, Lemon+Sage Soapy Suds, Lemon+Sage Body Butter, Lemon+Sage Supershine Shampoo, Lemon+Sage Conditioning Rinse, and a Lemon+Sage Body Bar.

Where to Buy: Pick up Bliss beauty products from the company's website, or buy your Bliss at the W Hotels online store.


(Photo: JW Marriott)

JW Marriott

In 2013, JW Marriott added an exclusive line of bath amenities created by London-based Aromatherapy Associates (the same brand available at Mandarin Oriental hotels). The line, which features all-natural ingredients like lavender, rosemary, ylang ylang, and almond oil, was specially designed to soothe harried travelers with calming scent. Aromatherapy Associates founder Geraldine Howard said she imagined "a traveler who had taken a red-eye flight and needed to be prepared for an important meeting or, on the other hand, someone who had just finished up a long day and wanted to relax," when she created the custom products.

Where to Buy: Marriott sells exclusive Aromatherapy Associates skincare and beauty products in its online store.


(Photo: Joie de Vivre Hotels)

Joie de Vivre

Joie de Vivre provides complimentary bath and beauty products from Lather, an aromatherapeutic, cruelty-free skincare line made from natural ingredients, in guest rooms at most locations. But you'll find a very special amenity at the hotel brand's Carmel Valley Ranch location: a one-of-a-kind soap crafted with fresh-pressed lavender harvested from the more than 7,500 lavender plants that grow on the property.

Where to Buy: Buy Lather products online from the company's website.


(Photo: Onefinestay)


Onefinestay lodgings in New York and Los Angeles are some of only a handful of properties to offer complimentary Kiehl's beauty and skincare products. Onefinestay isn't exactly a hotel. Branded the "unhotel," these digs are individually owned, yet managed by the same company. Rooms are appointed with amenities similar to what you would find in a standard hotel: fresh towels, clean linens, and toiletries. And since those toiletries are Kiehl's brand—the popular New York City-based skincare line that features natural, high-quality ingredients—Onefinestay earns a spot on this list.

Where to Buy: Buy Kiehl's online or visit your local Kiehl's store.


(Photo: Fairmont Hotels)


American perfumer Le Labo stocks guest bathrooms at all Fairmont properties with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and soap in the line's unique Rose 31 scent, which was created exclusively for the hotel chain. Le Labo artisans handcraft one-of-a-kind fragrances in the company's New York City lab, using high-quality raw and organic ingredients. Bottles are recyclable, and Le Labo's formulas are 100 percent biodegradable and are not tested on animals.

Where to Buy: Le Labo products are sold at independent boutiques around the world. See a list of suppliers on the Le Labo website. You can also find Le Labo products at Barneys New York. Products with the Fairmont-exclusive Rose 31 fragrance are available for sale at Fairmont Stores in the U.S. and Canada.


(Photo: The Standard)

The Standard

Stay dapper and clean-shaven at The Standard properties, which sell custom grooming kits by Harry's. The kit contains the brand's red Truman razor with an ergonomic handle and nourishing shaving cream made from essential oils. You can buy the kit for $15 from your room's minibar. But don't fret—there are quality free products, too. Complimentary beauty and skincare offerings at The Standard include an exclusive line of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, and bar soap by Kiss My Face.

Where to Buy: See the store locater on the Kiss My Face website.


(Photo: Morgans Group Hotels)

Morgans Hotel Group

Travelers will find lavish Malin+Goetz products at some luxury hotels, such as the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago or The Betsy Hotel in South Beach. But Morgans Hotel Group, which operates roughly a dozen properties in the U.S. and Europe, is the only hospitality company that offers Malin+Goetz in all of its hotels. Crafted in the U.S. from natural botanicals (locally sourced whenever possible), Malin+Goetz skincare is free from parabens, synthetic perfumes, and dyes and is not tested on animals.

Where to Buy: Get your Malin+Goetz fix directly on the company's website.


(Photo: Hilton Hotels & Resorts)

Hilton Hotels & Resorts

In 2011, Hilton Hotels & Resorts introduced amenities from the Peter Thomas Roth skincare line. In the bathrooms of Hilton guest rooms at more than 500 properties in 78 countries, guests will find Peter Thomas Roth's vitamin-packed Mega-Rich collection of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and body wash, as well as the brand's Moisture Infusion Facial Bar and Massage Body Bar.

Where to Buy: Purchase Peter Thomas Roth skincare products from Sephora, or buy them directly from the hotel on the Hilton to Home website.


(Photo: Hyatt)


Hyatt upgraded its bath products across all of the company's brands last year in response to guest feedback. According to a representative from the hotel, Hyatt conducted the "largest guest-listening exercise in the history of the brand" and adjusted its offerings accordingly. Now, Hyatt guest rooms are stocked with complementary products from KenetMD Skincare (at Hyatt Place, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt, and Hyatt House), Le Labo (at Park Hyatt), June Jacobs Spa Collection (at Grand Hyatt) and Aromapothecary (at Grand Hyatt).

Where to Buy: Visit the Hyatt at Home online store for products from KenetMD and June Jacobs. Le Labo is available at upscale department stores such as Barneys.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Hotel Chains with the Best Free Bath Amenities.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

10 Reasons You're Packing Too Much

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Do you struggle to make it through the airport with your unusually large suitcase? Do baggage fees dominate your credit card statements? Does your luggage frequently come apart at the seams? If you're giving a somber nod, it's time to lose the dead weight. To alleviate your packing troubles, let's uncover the root of your problem. Here are 10 factors that could be the cause of your overpacking ills, along with some handy tips for lightening your load.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

You're Packing for the Worst-Case Scenario

When in doubt, leave it out. Will you really need a bathing suit on your business trip to Cleveland? Realistically, will you have an occasion to wear long jeans on your Caribbean cruise? Yes, unexpected things will happen on your trip. But contingency planning—from trip-insurance policies to backup copies of identification—shouldn't extend to the entire contents of your bag. Pack the essentials for the things that are by and large certain: the activities you have planned, the predicted weather, the prescribed length of your trip. In the event that a cataclysmic pole shift causes the weather in your destination to drastically change, you can always buy warmer clothes while there.


(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Your Bag is Too Big

If your bag is enormous, you'll be hard-pressed not to fill it to the brim. The solution is to use a smaller bag to impose reasonable limits on yourself. Once you've bound yourself to the confines of a 22-inch vessel, you'll be compelled to pack a lot less. Plus, a lightweight, good-quality piece of baggage that is well within major airlines' baggage-size requirements is a worthy investment. (See some of our favorite carry-on bags here.)


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

You're Under the Tyranny of the Weather

Trips through multiple climates or during transitional seasons may lead you to overcompensate and overpack. An April afternoon in Europe could yield anything from wind and ice-cold rain to balmy sunshine. So does that mean you should pack a complete outfit for each possible weather scenario? Not exactly. The trick is to bring lightweight pieces that layer well. For example, a thin sweater packs the same warming punch of bulky outwear when layered over a warm long-sleeved waffle tee and topped with a cozy scarf. For more tips, read A Guide to Packing for Every Season.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Hemera)

You're a Procrastinator

It's essential to create a packing list before leaving for a long journey. For procrastinators, though, this comes as a challenge. You can't pull together a smart list of things to bring when you're throwing the contents of your closet into a suitcase several hours before your flight takes off. Eliminate the temptation to put off packing until the eleventh hour by focusing on the negative consequences of your procrastination. If you don't think ahead and come up with a good plan, you're going to be stuck with an overpacked bag and thereby spend your trip lugging around pounds of unnecessary supplies and paying overweight- and oversized-bag fees.


(Photo: SmarterTravel Staff)

You Don't Have the Right Stuff

Invest in travel products that will ease your packing for years to come. With the right gear, you can pack less by including lighter, multifunctional travel products in your bag. Some of our favorites include foldable shoes, compression bags, and ultralightweight clothes, such as this Helium II Waterproof Jacket.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Tetra Images)

You're Not Being Honest with Yourself

Sometimes we find ourselves stuffing our suitcases full of hope. You pack your running shoes and your travel yoga mat because you'll definitely keep up with your workout routine while on your trip. This time it'll be different! Or maybe you throw that slinky, glittery dress you never wear into your bag because you think the adventure of traveling will incite you to sport the kind of attire you normally wouldn't put on at home. Think hard about what you'll use on your trip, in actuality, and take note of which items you've used on your former travels. After all, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

You Lack a Laundry Strategy

For trips longer than a week, plan to do laundry on the road. Bring laundry soap and wash your clothes in the hotel sink. Buy a Scrubba Wash Bag. Look up the locations of Laundromats near your accommodations, or investigate prices for laundry services on your cruise or at your hotel. (Hotel laundry services tend to be a rip-off, so choose the do-it-yourself method for maximum savings.) Another option is to consider arranging an apartment rental via booking sites like Airbnb or our sister company FlipKey, as rentals commonly have laundry facilities.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Wavebreak Media)

You Don't Color Coordinate

The secret to pulling together an interesting and diverse assortment of outfits with only a small number of pieces packed in a tiny little bag is color coordination. First, opt for mostly neutrals. Next, when you add in color, keep your choices within the same family, such as blues and blacks, or soft coral and peach tones. Once you get the hang of this, you'll find that you can pack in such a way that all of your tops coordinate with all of your bottoms, yielding exponential outfit options. Read more about how to color coordinate your clothes for a trip in How to Pack for a Week in a Carry-on Bag.


(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

You're a Newbie

You've underestimated the importance of packing light because you haven't yet experienced the hell on earth that is dragging three vending-machine-sized bags onto the Paris Metro. It was Benjamin Franklin who said, "Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it." Don't be foolish. Take the advice of the umpteen travelers who have gone before you and pack the absolute bare minimum.


(Photo: cogdogblog via flickr/CC Attribution)

You're Addicted to Gadgets

Gadgets and gizmos can prove useful on a trip. (We love us a good pair of noise-canceling headphones.) But they can also take up a lot of space and add weight to your bag, especially when each electronic item must be paired with its own proprietary charger. Universal chargers, such as this rechargeable external battery, are gold—we highly recommend picking one up if you normally travel with an armload of tangled cords and power accessories.

Then there's the problem of packing the necessary converters and adapters for the countries you're visiting. Our advice? Call your concierge in advance. Hotels commonly keep chargers, adapters, and converters behind the front desk for complimentary guest use.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Reasons You're Packing Too Much.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at


Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

Why You Should Book Your Flight Exactly 54 Days in Advance

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A study from aims to answer that instrumental trip-planning question: How far in advance should I book my flight?

Number crunchers from, an airfare booking site, monitored 4,191,533 trips last year to find a solution. They looked at fare fluctuations from 320 days to one day in advance of departure to determine how far ahead of time travelers should book plane tickets. All in all, the folks at analyzed the booking data from roughly 1.3 billion airfares.

According to the results of the study, the best time to book a domestic flight is 54 days (or seven and a half weeks) in advance. For international flights, generally advises travelers to buy earlier rather than later, but prime booking dates vary by destination.

The worst time to get that ticket? At the last minute, as you would expect. The lousiest airfares were booked a day before departure, the second lousiest airfares were snagged two days before departure, and so on—up to 13 days before takeoff. According to, "Buying a flight with less than two weeks' advance purchase is the last strategy we would recommend."

The reverse case yields overpriced tickets too. Book too early and you're missing out on the price slashing that happens as airlines attempt to fill empty seats on unsold flights. Here's what has to say about it:

"According to the data, sometime around 225 days out (seven and a half months), on average, fares started to drop and by 104 days out (three and a half months) they had fallen to within $10 of their low point. From there they continued to drop, slowly but steadily, until reaching a low 54 days before departure. After 54 days, fares started to climb again, remaining within $10 of that low until 29 days out. Then, the increase began to accelerate and once you were within 14 days the fares really shot up dramatically."  

The takeaway here isn't a hard-and-fast solution to your grueling airfare search. The smartest thing you can do is keep that prime booking window in mind when browsing fares. Don't book too early. Don't book late. And ramp up your search efforts about 100 days in advance of your trip. These guidelines coincide with what we've advised in the past; broadly, there's a best time to book if you want to snap up discounted tickets before they run out: between three to four months and one month before departure.

There's one big exception to these ground rules, though. When traveling on highly popular routes, such as a flight to Orlando during spring break or flights around Christmas or Thanksgiving, it's definitely best to book early rather than late. Airlines won't slash prices on mostly sold-out flights, and you'll want to grab the best seats as soon as you can—especially if you're hoping to sit next to friends or family. The data from showed that the best time to book flights for Christmas travel is six months before departure. 

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Why You Should Book Your Flight Exactly 54 Days in Advance.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at


Like this story? Join the 1 million other travelers who read our free Deal Alert newsletter. It's full of our best tips, trip ideas, and travel deals. Subscribe here today!

10 Signs You're the Worst Person on Your Flight

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, March 7, 2014

(Photo: Thinkstock/iStock)

Are you a candidate for most-hated passenger on the plane? If you're guilty of any of the following bad habits, you'll likely be the subject of disdainful glares, sanctimonious whispers, and violent revenge fantasies on your next flight. Here are 10 signs that you're the human embodiment of all that is wrong with modern air travel.


(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Your Seat Is in the Lap of the Person Behind You

Don't get us wrong: We support seat reclining—within reason. Look behind you. Avoid reclining during mealtime. Maybe don't recline your seat at all if you're sitting in front of Shrek. This is how you can handle that button on the armrest with grace. But passengers who cruelly swing their seats back dentist-chair-style and leave it leaning from takeoff to landing? They give considerate recliners a bad name. Look behind before you recline!


(Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

You Smell

Where are your shoes? If they are not fastened to the ends of your legs, then there is a problem. Don't tell me that your feet don't smell, because according to an extensive body of scientific research, the majority of people with smelly feet are completely unaware that they have smelly feet. And it's more than just your naked extremities: From supersonic farts to smelly snacks to bad breath, there are untold ways to offend the olfactory nerves of your fellow flyers. If you or your belongings emit a perceptible odor, we can pretty much guarantee that everyone in the neighboring rows wants you to go away forever.


(Photo: dieter-weinelt via flickr/CC Attribution)

Your Kid Is Out of Control

The polite tolerance of screaming babies is a generally accepted part of the social contract. A baby can't help screeching like a cat being murdered. Babies cry; this we understand. Out-of-control seven-year-olds are another matter altogether. If your kid is old enough to read (and doesn't live with a sensory-processing disorder or other medical impairment), he or she is expected to follow basic commands such as, "Don't touch that lady's hair." Otherwise, your failings as a parent will be noticeable to everyone on the plane.


(Photo: bradleygee via flickr/CC Attribution)

You're Captain Grabby Hands

If you grab the seat in front of you every time you get up, you are the worst. There's not much more to say about this. Flying is uncomfortable enough without having your seat pulled back and released like a slingshot at unexpected moments. Don't touch anyone's seat unless you're about to fall and it's the only way to prevent a face-plant on the drink cart.


(Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images)

You're Loud

Yes, Bridesmaids is funny. You like jokes. We get it. But not everyone on the plane is watching the same in-flight feature as you. Many of your seatmates are actually trying to sleep. In the confines of an airplane cabin, your shrill cackle has the auditory effect of squealing breaks or the Aflac duck. Same goes for chewing food with an open mouth, listening to loud music on cheap headphones, playing any kind of game with sound effects, making bodily noises, crying because your vacation is over, or having a boisterous conversation.


(Photo: bradleygee via flickr/CC Attribution)

You're Feeling Very, Very Friendly

In-flight dating apps like Wingman should be illegal. Can't the airlines do something to block usage of these hellish apps that enhance the possibility I'll be reaching for the barf bag? Airplanes are gross enough as it is. Even a platonic attempt at stranger-to-stranger human connection can quickly become inappropriate and aggressive when made in flight. The object of your attention has nowhere to hide in the event that he or she really isn't interested in talking about weekend plans and the weather. So whether you want to make a friend or a "friend," table it until the plane lands.


(Photo: hoyasmeg via flickr/CC Attribution)

You're Doing Things That Should Only Be Done in Private

Use your imagination here. This could include anything from picking at your bare feet to examining your split ends. You might think that your seatmate doesn't notice that you're scratching at the scab on your arm throughout the flight. But trust us—he does. And it's making him uncomfortable.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)

You Think You're a Special Snowflake

You may be surprised to learn that you are not the only person on this plane. Look to your left. Look to your right. There are other people! In the event that you are not flying on an empty ghost plane and that you have purchased a coach-class ticket, follow these simple rules: Do not use the flight-attendant call button as your ring-for-service bell. Do not snap your fingers at the flight attendant because you want more ginger ale. Do not spend 30 minutes looking at your phone in the bathroom. Do not ask to switch seats on a full flight because you are in the middle seat and you don't like it. And so on.

Basically, pack away your delusions of grandeur and try to behave in a cooperative fashion. If you didn't spring for a ticket upgrade, don't expect a superior, personalized flying experience.


(Photo: C Jill Reed via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)

You're Drunk

One of the worst conceivable places to lose your inhibitions in a sea of SKYY vodka is on a flight. You're packed in a metal tube, where boozed-up conduct that would, at worst, garner an eye roll on the ground could easily attract the attention of federal authorities. Yell and use profanity in your local watering hole? You'll be asked to leave. Yell and use profanity at 30,000 feet? You'll face a police escort and disorderly-conduct charges in federal court.


(Photo: Thinkstock/Photodisc)

You're Invading Space

Your carry-on items are commandeering the floor space of your seatmates. Your butt is in someone's face for an interminable period of time as you wait to use the bathroom. Your fat duffel bag takes up an entire overhead bin. Your elbows are poking across adjacent seats. If these statements describe you, then you're an airplane space invader and you need to be stopped. The solution is easy: Check your oversized bag, and keep your butt and elbows (assuming you know the difference) in check.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Signs You're the Worst Person on Your Flight.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

What to Do When a Kid Is Misbehaving on the Plane

Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, March 5, 2014

On a transatlantic red-eye flight, the kid behind my traveling companion would not stop kicking the seat.

My friend did his best to ignore the rhythmic banging for a while, but the child persisted with his behavior. After some time, my friend snapped. He turned around and demanded that the child's mother control her kid. He was perceptibly angry.

Had my friend asked the mother to put an end to the kicking before he allowed himself to become so inflamed, a more pleasant interaction might have taken place.

The child's mother apologized and told her tot to stop striking the seat. Not all adults are as accommodating. At times, parents can forget that their strong enthusiasm for their own kids isn't shared by the entirety of the human population. This becomes evident during air travel especially, when sleep-deprived and cranky grownups are locked in close quarters with other peoples' histrionic tots. Your kid is dancing in her seat, hungry for the thrill of the spotlight, waiving her arms like little windmills. Her adult seatmate, meanwhile, is struggling to keep a composed facial expression while silently screaming, "Please please please stop it stop it stop it stop it!"

It's a delicate situation. Avoiding confrontation with the harried parents of misbehaving young flyers isn't always an option.

I asked travel expert and mom of two Wendy Perrin, author of the Perrin Post, for advice on what to do when a toddler or older child is being disruptive on a plane. (Infants, of course, are a different story.)  Is it rude to ask a parent to quiet his or her child? "Yes, unless the noise is excessive and the parent isn't stepping in," said Perrin. "Don't scold a parent before you've given him a chance to rectify the situation. You never know when a child might be sick or have special needs."

What if a kid is misbehaving and disturbing nearby passengers—kicking seats and such? According to Perrin, "I would ask the parent to switch seats, so that the parent ends up separating me from the child. Say the parent is in the window seat, the child is in the middle, and I'm on the aisle. I'd say something like, 'I have a lot of work I need to get done on this flight. Would you mind switching seats with your child?'"

Compassion and courtesy are necessary. Give the parent the benefit of the doubt, and keep in mind that illness, special needs, or even sleep deprivation could be at the root of the behavior. If the parent, for whatever reason, refuses to cooperate and his or her child is out of control, talk to a flight attendant.

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title What to Do When a Child Is Misbehaving on the Plane.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at


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$10 Flights from U.S. to Europe on the Horizon, Vows Ryanair

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, March 3, 2014

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary promises to get you across the pond for 10 bucks.

Speaking at the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Meath, O'Leary vowed to sell 10 buck flights across the Atlantic, as soon as his carrier acquires the necessary aircraft. Flights from the U.S. to Europe would sell for $10, and transatlantic trips going the other direction would cost €10. According to O'Leary, budget airline Ryanair already has a business plan in place to make this happen.

O'Leary said no-frills Ryanair "would fly from 12 to 14 major European cities to 12 to 14 major U.S. destinations, and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so."

How long before Ryanair gets enough planes to sell $10 transatlantic flights? O'Leary said it could be a while before this budget traveler's dream becomes a reality. And according to a report in the Independent, it'll be four to five years before Ryanair has the purchasing power to buy enough planes, as rapidly expanding Gulf carriers are creating intense competition for new aircraft orders.

This plan isn't entirely preposterous. Ryanair would characteristically tack on a harsh amount of additional fees for passengers buying these bargain-basement tickets. The Irish carrier has a track record of selling gimmicky cheap seats offset by crazy ancillary charges—and therein lies the rub. These next-to-nothing transatlantic fares wouldn't include the extra fees and surcharges that Ryanair dumps on travelers, such as credit-card fees, baggage fees, booking fees for tickets purchased over the phone, et al. Plus, the actual flying experience will likely be soul-destroying.

The airline would also offset the cost of $10 seats with higher-priced business-class and premium tickets. "Not every seat will be €10 of course," said O'Leary.

Would you spend seven hours in hell crossing the pond in a cut-rate Ryanair seat?

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title $10 Flights to Europe from US Cities, Vows Ryanair


Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

Never Wear This at the Airport

Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, February 28, 2014

(Photo: Thinkstock/LuminaStock)

The best way to ease through airport security is to dress for success. Certain garments and accessories could get you flagged for extra screening, slowing down your progression through the airport. Want to roll through the security line like a pro? Avoid wearing the following attire.


(Photo: Maria Morri via flickr/CC Attribution)

Shoes That Are Difficult to Remove

We advise travelers to wear slip-on shoes in the airport security line. You'll have to take your shoes off and put them in the screening bin before walking through the metal detector, and flyers fumbling with tangled laces or strappy sandals could hold up the line. Plus, if you're in a hurry to catch your flight, slip-on shoes will be easy to put back on and thus will hasten your transit from the end of security to the terminal.

Note that children under the age of 12 and adults ages 75 and older may leave their shoes on during screening.


(Photo: Amy Gaertner via flickr/CC Attribution)

Jewelry or Piercings ... or Anything Metal, for that Matter

If you set off the metal detector, you're in for additional screening—or at least a wave of the wand while other travelers stream past you. Everything from metal fasteners on clothes to body piercings to keys in your pocket could cause alarm in the security line. Additionally, metal items could hold you up when going through backscatter scanners (also known as Advanced Imaging Technology machines). According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), "The officer viewing the image cannot see the passenger, so any irregularity that appears on the screen will require inspection to determine what it is."

If you are wearing metal body piercings that cannot be removed, you may request a private screening in lieu of a patdown.


(Photo: Ollie Crafoord via flickr/CC Attribution)


If your pants fall down the moment your belt comes off, don't wear them to the airport. You can probably imagine why. Flyers must remove belts before walking through metal detectors, so choose a belt-free outfit, or at least be prepared to remove your belt if you want to wear one.

Belts aren't permitted through airport security because their metal clasps set off the metal detector. However, even if you are wearing a belt without a metal clasp, an agent might request that you remove it anyway. It's standard procedure.


(Photo: lululemon athletica via flickr/CC Attribution)

Coats and Jackets

It's airport screening 101: Travelers must remove coats and jackets—this includes outerwear like hooded sweatshirts, vests, and such—before going through the metal detector. It's perfectly fine to sport a jacket in a chilly airport. Just remember to take your outerwear off and put it in a screening bin before proceeding through the checkpoint.


(Photo: Shirt and 'Censored' via Shutterstock)

Anything Offensive

Offensive clothing may get you kicked off a plane, but it could also draw extra attention from TSA agents (though it's more likely that airline staff, rather than an airport security agent, will ban you from flying due to inappropriate or offensive clothing). Stories of flyers prohibited from planes due to poor wardrobe choices abound, and, for most of them, the trouble occurred after they made it through the screening process. Still, agents may pull you aside for additional screening if they perceive a threatening or questionable message on your slogan T-shirt. Bottom line: If you woudn't wear it to a family-friendly restaurant or even to church, don't wear it for air travel.


(Photo: Maegan via flickr/CC Attribution)

Loose-Fitting Clothes

Loose clothes aren't prohibited. But travelers sporting baggy apparel, such as droopy pants, flowy skirts, bulky sweatshirts, or even loose garments worn for religious purposes, may be subject to extra screening. According to the TSA, you might be selected for a pat-down inspection if your clothes are "large enough to hide prohibited items."

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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title What Not to Wear in the Airport Security Line.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at

7 Things You Should Never Do on an Airplane

Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, January 27, 2014

(Photo: Boy in Airport via Shutterstock)

Your plane ticket is your pass to far-flung destinations—on several conditions. Check your airline's contract of carriage; there, buried in pages of text, you'll find a list of violations that'll get you banned from boarding or even kicked off a plane. Contracts of carriage vary slightly by airline, but most contracts have some kind of language prohibiting passengers from doing anything that endangers the safety or comfort of fellow flyers. This is all subject to interpretation by airline employees, which is why we often see so many wild stories of passengers getting the boot. So what, specifically, shouldn't you do? The following seven behaviors should be avoided at all costs.


(Photo: Seatbelt via Shutterstock)

Refuse to Buckle Your Seat Belt

If for any reason a passenger can't or isn't willing to buckle his seat belt, flight crew will probably show him the door. It happened to a three-year-old boy who wouldn't buckle up on an Alaska Airlines flight. It also happens when passengers are too large to fasten their seat belts. Travelers are required by federal law to wear a seat belt on some phases of all flights. And until recently, passengers of size could bring a seat belt extender onboard to help with fit. But in August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared that flyers must be able to buckle up using the aircraft's original seat belt or with an extender offered by the airline, if available.


(Photo: Crying Child via Shutterstock)

Bring a Crying Kid

Passengers who get loud, become aggressive, and spoil the comfort of fellow flyers could get kicked off a plane—even if they're still in diapers. The crew of a JetBlue flight to Turks and Caicos forced the family of a tantrum-throwing toddler to debark the plane in March 2012. According to SmarterTravel editor Caroline Morse, "The parents tried to hold the screaming toddler down in her seat with the seat belt on, but the pilot and flight attendant made the decision to kick the family off the flight and leave without them. Undoubtedly, the people trapped near that toddler on the plane were grateful, but the Daily Mail reports that the family ended up paying more than $2,000 for a new flight and hotel room for the night."


(Photo: Shocked Man via Shutterstock)

Wear Something Inappropriate

Airlines generally leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether or not a passenger's attire is inappropriate for wear in the air. As a result, instances of flyers getting the boot due to unsuitable attire are relatively common. In the past, we've reported on flight crews banning passengers for wearing low-cut tops, rocking baggy pants, and sporting offensive T-shirts. For more in-flight style tips, read Nine Things Not to Wear on a Plane.


(Photo: Janitors via Shutterstock)

Get in a Fight

When a man smacked a fellow passenger in the head on a United Airlines flight to Ghana in 2011, the pilot, like a parent driving a car with feuding kids in the backseat, turned that plane around. But unlike your average parent, the pilot had the wherewithal to call up a few fighter jets as backup. The Air Force was summoned and two jets trailed the plane as it circled for half an hour, burning off fuel. The aggressive flyer, naturally, was removed from his flight once the plane touched down.

Here's the most unbelievable part of this story: The whole brawl started when one passenger reclined his seat into the space of the guy behind him. Some travelers might even argue he deserved the smack.


(Photo: Phone on Plane via Shutterstock)

Ignore the Request to Turn Off Electronic Devices

You've undoubtedly heard the notorious tale: Alec Baldwin was kicked off a flight for neglecting to pause his game of Words with Friends when the flight crew requested that passengers power down their devices. It's important to note, however, that you likely won't be removed from your flight if you simply forget that your device is turned on and your phone rings on the tarmac. It's not that easy to get booted. But Baldwin seemed determined. He reportedly became aggressive and ignored repeated requests before the captain decided to leave the 30 Rock star behind.


(Photo: Pig via Shutterstock)

Neglect Your Hygiene

You don't have to wear a naughty T-shirt to offend fellow passengers. Simply skip the soap. A few years ago, a flyer did just that, and ended up on the wrong side of the boarding gate. According to ABC News, when passengers on an Air Canada Jazz flight to Montreal complained about a foul-smelling flyer, the malodorous man had to forfeit his flight before departure. A person on the flight told ABC News, "People were just mumbling and staring at him. The guy next to me said, 'It's brutal.'"


(Photo: Drunk Woman via Shutterstock)

Drink Too Much

Visibly intoxicated passengers aren't welcome on flights; most airline contracts of carriage contain clauses that specifically state this. US Airways' contract, for example, states that the airline can refuse transport to passengers who "appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs."

Some people apparently missed the memo, like country singer John Rich (of Big & Rich), who was removed from a Southwest flight for being too drunk to fly, and an intoxicated Bahraini prince, who lost his seat on British Airways. (It's safe to say that these airlines offer no special treatment for the rich and famous.)

Even if you appear drunk but are really sober, your ticket could be in jeopardy. In July, we reported on a sober woman who was removed from a Southwest flight because a gate agent thought she was intoxicated. After being booted, the women obtained a toxicology test from a hospital, and her blood alcohol level was less than 0.003. Nevertheless, she wasn't permitted to board that initial flight.


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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Ways to Get Kicked Off a Plane.

Follow Caroline Costello on Google+ or email her at