With portions of the country experiencing record snowfalls and temperatures plunging into the single digits, those planning a winter getaway may be thinking twice about leaving the house. To take the sting out of travelers winter travel plans, ASTA is providing a series of useful travel tips for consumer media. The tips are part of a series ASTA has developed to promote professional travel agents.
“Travelers this winter are facing an increasing number of hurdles and challenges from security issues to weather delays, and we’re only a few weeks into January,” said Chris Russo, ASTA president and chair. “Now more than ever, an ounce of prevention is worth hours in line. Following common-sense advice and using a professional travel agent to book your trip won’t eliminate all travel hassles, but having someone on your side before, during and after your trip and when the unexpected happens, be it an Icelandic volcano or blizzard, can save you time and aggravation.
“Ask anyone who went through the recent holiday blizzards--those who had booked their own travel likely spent hours on the hold waiting to speak with an airline customer representative, assuming they ever got through. Meanwhile, those who used a travel agent were free to relax and maybe even spend a little more time with their families or out enjoying the snow."
General Travel Tips
• Plan ahead. Waiting to the last minute always leaves a great deal of your trip up to happenstance. Contact your travel agent to book your vacation in advance as soon as you can manage. Then, you'll be able to avoid peak travel dates, get lower airfare, fly direct (or minimize your connections) and fly early or late in the day to avoid the bigger crowds and delays.
• Constant contact. Keep your travel agent’s contact information handy in the event your flight is delayed or cancelled. Rather than spend hours on hold, waiting to speak with an airline ticketing representative, one call to your travel agent is all it takes to start the re-booking process. In fact, many travel agents have 24-hour hotline desks so they are able to start helping their clients immediately when trouble strikes.
• Leave at least an extra hour earlier. Give yourself more time than usual in order to anticipate the peripheral delays that could occur. Remember to bring some reading material while you wait in the security line or at your departure gate. In cities with snow or ice, arrival delays can exceed two to three hours and de-icing procedures can take an hour before takeoff. Security procedures are being ramped up, so make sure you pack wisely and remember the 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels in your carry-on luggage.
• Consider insurance. Many travel insurance policies cover trip delay and cancellations due to weather.
Winter Driving Tips
• Have your car examined before you leave. The last thing you want to worry about is your car breaking down, stranding you far from home. Take it to your local auto shop for a quick once over, and make sure your tires are winter ready and properly inflated.
• Be prepared for a change in course. Before you depart, make sure you know your route. It's very important that you're ready for anything on the road that could change your plans, including construction, road closings and traffic. Remember to keep the directions as well as appropriate state map(s) or a GPS handy, in case you need to reroute your trip.
• Stay hydrated. Dehydration might not seem very likely, but a Mayo Clinic study shows that a mere one- to two-percent loss of body weight can quickly lead to fatigue and decreased alertness, which could be deadly in icy winter driving. Also, your body requires more fuel in the cold — so rely on high-energy food including sandwiches, fruit and a thermos filled with soup.
• Pack a winter safety kit for the car. Don't leave without the essentials for a safe road trip — a cell phone (don't forget the car charger); ice scraper; tow rope and jumper cables; sand or cat litter to aid with traction; blankets; flashlights, matches and emergency candles; first aid kit; portable radio; and a good book, in case you do get stuck.
• Make frequent rest stops. Winter driving is much more fatiguing than in the summer, so you'll want to make time to stop and stretch your legs. Just a few minutes off the road will make all the difference in improving your alertness when you're back behind the wheel.
ASTA suggests that travelers find a professional travel expert who can help make winter vacations and travel enjoyable at TravelSense.org’s ‘Find a Travel Agent’ search directory, or request a free trip quote online.