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April 2013
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June 2013

A view of Temecula's City Hall - from down the hill. This is always one of my favorite trips that I look forward to. I'll even tolerate a trip delay to come back to Temecula! What is your must see destination?It had been too long since I set foot on an airplane. But I’d say that even if I just got off an airplane last week. My thanks go out to the citizens of the Temecula Valley, who were gracious to host me in April. I always look forward to my annual visit, and already can’t wait to visit next year.

Why do I go back to Temecula every year? Three years ago, I got involved in a fundraiser for a local breast cancer resource center that does so much great work in the community. Their work encompassases more than just research: they provide counseling, prosthesis support, and much more. Which is why I'm more than happy to get on an airplane and go back to my home state every year to help out.

This got me thinking about the greater good that travel does in our communities. Did you know that travel and tourism is one of America's largest industries? In addition to raising money for a great cause, my travel generated great revenue for the local area. In fact, travel in America generates $129 billion in tax revenue annually for local, state, and federal governments. And travel supports 14.6 million jobs around the country - including 6.9 million not directly involved in travel!

It seems that my travels did more than just help a great cause - it also helped growth in the communities I visit, and create jobs. Multiply that by everyone coming into the city for the event, and we're talking about a major impact!  

What made this trip rather strange for me (among things) was the fact that, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t suffer with a single trip delay! No mechanical failures, late airplanes or sick crews this time. The feeling of being on time was absolutely foreign to me – because I had already packed enough gear to be prepared for a nice set of trip delays. In this case, it was all dumb luck and circumstance. But, in looking back at my itinerary, there were some things that diminished my odds of suffering a trip delay. Here’s what I did right (entirely by accident):

1: Fly on subprime routes
My home airport only connects to a handful of places before I get to my final destination. Some of them are the bigger airports in the world that I shudder at the prospect of traveling to: Newark, Chicago and Denver, to name a few. But in this situation, I planned to travel to a non-impacted hub (Cleveland) that connected directly to my final destination. Additionally, I flew in subprime hours: before 9 AM heading out and after 9 PM heading back. By flying through less-impacted hubs and at non-prime hours, I was able to get to my destination, and then home without any problems whatsoever.

2: It’s good to have status
Remember earlier this year when I earned Silver Status across Star Alliance via Aegean Airlines? Coming through LAX, it really helped out. I had priority baggage handling from the airport and was able to use the priority security line once I got there. It was also nice to be able to board in the first two boarding groups as well and not have to wonder where I was going to stow my bags in the overhead compartment. This made getting in and out a breeze! Now if only they hadn’t lost my lucky bag tag…

3: Pack early, pack often
This time, considering it was a five-day trip with plenty of costume changes, I was forced to pack a checked bag. But with my free bag perk thanks to Silver Status (see above), packing was a breeze.  I threw everything I didn’t want to carry with me on a regular basis in the checked bag (including my liquids and toiletries) and everything else went in the carry-on garment bag. This worked perfectly in my favor – and allowed me to get on with my plans not worrying about having a baggage loss or trip delay.

Sometimes when you travel, things work in your favor when you need them to. And every once in a while, when you plan things just right, they all work out better than you could ever expect - not only for you, but for the greater global community you serve. When was the last time your travels aligned to work out perfect for you? Where are your favorite places to go? Let me know in the comments below!

For many years in my youth, I thought this was the command center for Los Angeles International Airport. Come to find out, I was absolutely wrong. Maybe when I'm stuck at LAX under my next trip delay, I'll actually get to visit the Theme Building. How do you get reservations there, anyways?Personally, I think this title is a bit misleading. Writing headlines was always my weakness back in my newspaper days. But I digress – there really is good news to be had! The good news is that last week, Congress approved a bill that would end the furloughs of air traffic controllers across the United States. The official bill, without type-o's, was signed into law on Wednesday.

For the thousands of travelers that cross the United States, this news is so nice! It means the end of summer trip delay, right? In the eternal words of that scholar of college football, Lee Corso: not so fast, my friends.

Congress taking a step forward to once again allow air traffic controllers to keep eyes on the skies is a good start to ending the trip delay. But there are also bigger systematic problems that still exist, which could create some major frustrations around your summer travel plans. For example: both the FAA and the TSA – two key players in the air travel world – have announced hiring freezes that will at least last the summer. If turnover ends up being as bad as expected (projected to be over 1,000 by the end of May for the TSA alone), travelers could end up waiting even longer in line. This is compounded by the constant threats of summer storms, equipment breakdowns and anything else that could cause a trip delay for an airplane.

While this is good news that airplanes can now take off and land on their regular schedules again (within reason), the bad news is that the chance for trip delay is more on the front end for the traveler. This news is not so nice – but will be part of the flying experience that we all go through every time we want to fly.

So what happens now? How do we try to minimize the possibility for trip delay? While we can’t control the weather, hiring freezes and other ground delays, we can control our process through the airport. Here’s how I plan to get through the airport and, hopefully, avoid having to rethink my travel plans altogether:

  • Arrive early. Seriously.
    This should go without saying – but it’s a reminder for me as well because I’m notorious for getting to the airport with just enough time to do what I must. Anytime you’re flying somewhere, it’s important to get there early – at least one hour for domestic travels and more for international travels. While you may have more time in the terminal, I use this time to get a coffee, catch up on my reading list or raid the airline lounge for free cheese.  
  • TSA Pre-Check, Airline Status, or both.
    I’ve previously written about how Pre-Check may be the greatest thing that has ever happened to airport security. And if you’re a regular international traveler (or really want to be one), it is easy enough to get when you apply for Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI. If you’re a regular domestic traveler, it’s also possible to get Pre-Check through your frequent flyer program but that’s not necessarily guaranteed. I also included Airline Status in the same category here, because having the right status can help you jump the line. For instance: I have Star Alliance Silver status – so anytime I fly United or US Airways (for the time being), I get to use the shorter preferred line.
  • Have a contingency plan if things get pear-shaped.
    So you’ve done everything right – but the outside factors cause you to have a trip delay. Always have a backup plan for when you’re traveling. If your flight gets delayed, have an idea of what other routes can still get you where you're going. If you can't get there on time, know who you can call to create alternate plans. It may seem redundant, but it will help you figure out how to be a part of that meeting, get the project done on time or help facilitate alternative arrangements to get you where you’re going. Remember: just because you don’t control the travel schedule doesn’t mean you can’t plan around everything else.

This summer is not going to be pleasant when it comes to trip delay – but with the right attitude, a little luck and by taking matters into your own hands, we might just get through this after all. How do you plan on escaping the travel woes this summer and minimizing trip delay? I’d like to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below!