The Busiest Travel Season is Fast Approaching
What to do and How to Prepare
My BoomerGuy and I just returned from a two-week trip to the great Midwest, visiting South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Yes, these states are flat, but with an unparalleled beauty all to their own. It was harvest season and many of the grain fields were being groomed for next year’s planting, which offered a look at the rich top-soil that makes this part of the country so prosperous for farming.
The reason for the trip was to visit friends and family but also to help check off my BoomerGuy’s bucket list. He grew up in Nebraska and lived in Kansas City for a number of years before moving to California. So, we spent time in Fremont, Nebraska where he was born and went to high school, Lincoln where he was graduated from the University, in Omaha we visited family, and wonderful days in Kansas City visiting all kinds of haunts and memorable places.
This blog, however, is not so much about where we visited, but more a list of helpful tips when traveling this season, which begins today and continues into the New Year. As Bette Davis said, “hang on to your hat it’s going to be a bumpy ride.” So get yourself ready for a wild two months of travel.
The Airlines. Don’t think for a minute the travel industry is hurting. The round trip from southern California to the Midwest included perhaps 10 empty seats on one flight and none on all the others. With all the pent-up demand for travel due to the pandemic, people are booking flights everywhere and the airports are packed. Masks are optional, but as the winter sets in, it might be advisable to mask up to add an extra layer of protection. Also, be sure to bring a package of alcohol hand-wipes and use them liberally to ward off the spread of any of those bad viruses.
Boarding Passes. Try to get your board pass(es) right at the time you can apply (usually 24 hours in advance of the flight) for your seating preference. It’s important because the flights are so full you can make certain you board early enough to find room in the overhead for your carryon. Virtually all airlines have automated bag check, unless you have something considered oversized, then you have to go to the counter and bypass the automated section. They are really good about directing you.
Boarding Passes. Most of the higher quality hotels have a computer(s) somewhere near the lobby, often times in a separate room dedicated for business purposes. Make sure you check out the computer and printer compatibility if you are so inclined to have a hard copy, rather than an electronic version. In virtually every instance we experienced, the hotel printers were not functional. If you absolutely require a hard copy, then you might wish to email the boarding pass information to the hotel front desk and have them print it out for you. Most of us have cell phones and can access the boarding pass electronically, then have it printed at the airport for boarding purposes.
TSA. They’re taking their time screening, so the lines are long. I know it’s a hassle but try to get to the airport 1 ½ hours before your domestic flight and 2 hours before your international flight. If you’re a frequent flyer then you most likely have already paid for and belong to the exclusive club of TSA PreCheck, which allows you to avoid those long lines. Might be worth considering.
TSA Screening Equipment. TSA uses Millimeter Wave Advanced Imaging, cabinet x-ray machines and walk-through metal detectors. If you do not want to be one of those patted down, then prepare for the scan by removing everything from your person such as wallets, money clips, belts, jewelry, watches, extra sunglasses, etc. and placing them in one of the empty bins provided before your walk-through. If you’re unsure, ask the TSA agent and they will assist you before you get screened.
Shoes. Hurrah! If you’re 75 and over you do not need to take off your shoes.
Therapeutic Devices. Know that if you wear certain therapeutic devices under your clothing, like CopperFit back, knee and ankle braces they will most likely trigger a TSA search and pat down. Either take them off in advance or be upfront with the TSA agent and explain what you are wearing and why.
Airline and Hotel Prices. If you can, book now because prices are expected to climb the closer to the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you do need to alter your flight after you have paid, be prepared for a “change fee” with certain airlines, and of course, any difference in price from your original booking.
Hotels. They are certainly not what they used to be. Most are finding it difficult to retain a good and reliable work force so be prepared for substandard accommodations which was certainly our experience. Over the duration of our trip, we stayed in six different hotels including three different brands and only one was worthy of a high survey rating.
Hotel Fees. You can find deals on hotels, but the standard fare for a mid-range property is largely around $150 per room, depending on your accommodations. The prices will likely be higher in major metropolitan downtown locations and with premium brands. And be wary of the various taxes that get added on to bump that price, such as State Occupancy Tax, City Occupancy Tax, and State Sales Tax. Ouch! Hotels are grossly understaffed, especially with housekeeping. Be prepared to check into rooms that might not fit your standards for cleanliness and adequacy, also you might experience a delay getting to your room because it was not quite “ready.” My recommendation here is to call the hotel in advance to see if you can get an early check-in and beat the crowd. In any case, call the front desk to get resolution to any problems you might encounter.
Hotel Memberships and Rewards Programs. Use your hotel memberships and rewards for upgrading your room, often times with no additional monetary charge. Or better yet, when you check in, simply ask if there is an upgrade available to a better room and better location. We always try to book the top floor so we don’t have the chance of footsteps overhead.
Rental Car. If you choose to decline the expensive insurance coverage offered by the rental company, then use a credit (not debit) card that has a provision for collision and damage coverage, and always make certain you check with your regular automobile insurance company to verify their coverage and provisions if something should happen. During our trip, someone backed into the left rear bumper of our rental. No note and the hotel security cameras were not working. Great!!! Because we didn’t elect the rental company’s insurance coverage, we are using the damage collision provision offered by our credit card to cover the out-of-pocket. We booked with Enterprise, www.enterprise.com, and found them to be quite caring and efficient. Highly professional.
Climate. This is the time of year where climate plays a role in how you pack. Check your 10-day forecast before departure and prepare for changes in temperatures from morning to night, and sometimes large swings from day-to-day.
Wheelchairs. Don’t count on them being available at the airports. We found a limited supply, and if you are one of the fortunate to access one, there might not be anyone to push you. If you have a carryon and a companion traveler to push you, it is extremely difficult for that person to push the wheelchair and pull the carryon(s). If the airlines seat you first through pre-board, you might well be the last off the airplane making it difficult if you have a short connection. Just be prepared to ask for assistance.
The Bathroom. Plan to use the bathroom before you board simply because the flights are so full.
Bandages for Blisters. And for the last helpful tip. Protect those toes especially if you’re planning to be an active walker once your land. These are the best we found for adhering to and covering the affected areas. Believe me, we used them quite often as a result of developing a few blisters while tramping through museums, walking about various neighborhoods, and trapsing through airports and their respective parking lots.
So, seniors and boomers, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Your experiences will be different to be sure, but for the most part the common denominators are what I have shared above.
I trust you found this information helpful in your quest for upcoming travel.
As always, I wish you well in all your endeavors and to remain totally RELEVANT in all you do.
Your Number One BoomerGal, Connie.