Consumer

Planning to Fly This Summer? Consider These Tips to Avoid a Travel Disaster

NBC10 Boston asked Boston Consumers’ Checkbook for its best strategies to avoid trouble during your summer vacation and set yourself up for success

NBC Universal, Inc.

The world is open again and vacationers are making up for lost time.

Traveling can be stressful during the best of times, but it looks like the summer of 2022 is going to be defined by airline delays and cancellations, continued COVID requirements, and astronomical gas prices.

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“Everything is very busy. Flights are booked, hotels are booked, demand is high across the board,” said Jamie Lettis of Boston Consumers’ Checkbook, a non-profit consumer advocacy group.

NBC10 Boston asked Consumers’ Checkbook for its best strategies to avoid trouble during your summer vacation and set yourself up for success.

Number one, give yourself plenty of time.

“Plan for delays and cancelations,” Lettis said. “Give yourself an extra day or two. If you're getting on a cruise and the boat is leaving, the boat will leave without you. And sadly, it doesn't care that you've been canceled three times and you've been in four different airports.”

If you can, fly nonstop -- even if it’s more expensive. You won’t have to worry about connecting flights.

A cat disappeared after taking a long flight from Germany to Boston.

Don’t check a bag if you don’t have to. It will save you time and hassle if your luggage is lost or your flight is changed. And always pack a carry-on with everything you need for a day or two.

“If you're flying and you take medication, you wear glasses, bring them in a carry-on bag,” said Lettis. “Put essentials in there or put a toothbrush in there, a change of clothes or pajamas. Just something that can tide you over for the time until you can get your bag if there's a mishap.”

Know your refund rights. For travel within the US, you’re entitled to a full refund if the airline cancels your flight or makes a significant schedule change to your itinerary that you don't accept. Ask for your money back.

If you're traveling abroad, check the state department website to learn of each country’s travel warnings and alerts, COVID testing requirements, entry, visa and exit requirements.

Take pictures of your ID, vaccination card and passport and email them to yourself in case they get lost or stolen.

And if you have one, always pay with a credit card instead of a debit card.

“That credit card will give you an extra layer of protection,” said Lettis. “If the merchant does not resolve the dispute to your liking, it gives you, we call it a super weapon, to use to get that money back when you are entitled to it.”

Whether you’re flying or driving, plan ahead and book any must-do activities so you're not shut out.

And if something goes wrong, complain, but do it effectively.

“The number one thing is to just be gracious. Don't go in argumentative,” Lettis said. “You just want to talk in a firm way, but you also want to talk in a polite, gracious way, just like you would in a business transaction. If you go in and you're argumentative and you're yelling, you're more than likely not going to get the action that you want and definitely not as quickly as you might be able to get it.”

And finally, consider taking the road less traveled to avoid crowds this summer. And don't let one bump in the road ruin your vacation.

“Keep in mind, traveling is an adventure, and that's one of the reasons why we love it,” said Lettis. “So keep your eyes on the prize. Right? If your flight's delayed four hours, but you're going on that amazing tropical vacation that you couldn't wait to take, you know, enjoy a cocktail, some snacks, read a book, relax. Don't sweat the small stuff!”

And if you really want to actively demand that travel companies do better, join Travelers United. The non-profit fights for travelers and works with the US Department of Transportation, the FAA, Congress and other travel regulators and stakeholders to make sure consumers voices are heard.

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