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Thursday 21 July 2022

Ten vital tips to help make international air travel less painful

Everyone wants to travel internationally right now.

My advice. Hold your horses and be patient. Maybe wait a month or two.

And if you really have to travel make sure you are super-prepared with every detail checked and re-checked.

And even if you've got everything right, still be prepared for ludicrous lines at ill-prepared airports, for for flights to be delayed or cancelled. 

And for it to take a couple of hours for your baggage to emerge at the other end if it makes it at all.

Certainly be prepared for your baggage to be delayed or lost (for a week if you are flying with Air Canada).

Also be aware it may be impossible to see a doctor overseas because on ongoing Covid demand. Like in Australia, appointments are as rare as hen's teeth. 

Expect trains to be full to the max with nowhere to put your luggage.

And for maskless morons to put your health at risk at every turn.

Apart from those issues, travel is back in a big way. It just depends on whether you want to risk sending your blood pressure sky high by dealing with the likes of the incompetents at Air Canada. and the fools running the airports at Heathrow, Toronto Pearson and Montreal Trudeau.

Oh. And paying double or triple for your over-booked flight than you would have paid pre-Covid.

Or being ripped off by avaricious airlines who have multiplied by dozens the number of frequent flyer points you need to get a "free" flight - that's the one you've maybe saved a decade to cash in.

If you do decide to brave the many obstacles and visit the rest of the world then here are some tips learned on my recent odyssey that included a dozen flights over five continents, half a dozen train journeys, four bus trips and six taxi journeys.

1. Make sure you allow more time than you think you could possibly need to check in. With flights over capacity it pays to make sure you have a boarding pass in your hand as soon as possible. Be first in line to avoid the risk of being bumped.

2. Do not trust connecting flights will actually operate. Be at the place from which you are flying internationally a day ahead. If your flight from Hobart, say, links with one to Asia and then Europe do not risk it being delayed or cancelled. There might not be another flight to your destination for two or three days and the airlines are less than helpful right now.

3. Confirm and re-confirm all your bookings on line. Hotels are over-booked as more and more people want to travel. Do not be the one turned away. But be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars a night on average accommodation. 

4. Pack all essentials in your hand luggage, and if at all possible travel with hand luggage only. Imagine being caught without your essential medication - pack prescriptions, too, just in case - and a spare pair of undies, for several days if your baggage goes missing.

5. Make sure you have fully comprehensive travel insurance. If things go wrong you want to be sure you will reimbursed for your ridiculously over-priced airport hotel and some clothes and toiletries to get you through the next few days.

6. Make sure you bring your own entertainment. Bring a book, games on your iPhone, anything to keep you occupied in the airports where you will be spending lots of hours; and in the air, where the airlines have jacked up the costs of in-flight wifi to ludicrous price levels.

7. Book every bus, train and accommodation choice online ahead of schedule. With everyone wanting to travel at the same time you might well find that bus between Venice and Ljubljana that you caught effortlessly a couple of years ago is now completely full for the next few days.

8. If you do have to check in luggage - probably essential if you are travelling for several weeks - then put a tracking device in your suitcase. It might help you locate your bag among the thousands piled up at Heathrow, or Montreal. Also take photos of every piece of baggage to help the airline track down your missing bag.  

9. Consider smaller airlines, which are likely to be more affordable than the big names, who are setting their own prices and getting them, such is the latent demand for travel.  

10. Be patient, be but be firm if your airline or hotel is jerking you around. A full-scale blow-up was the only reason Air Canada changed one of my delayed flights to an earlier one that was "full" - and actually had plenty of empty seats. Use social media pressure if necessary.

Or, perhaps, choose destinations closer to home that do not include transfers (which is where many bags go missing). Thai Airways from Australia to and from Bangkok is easy and relatively painless.

Whatever you do don't take wads of cash with you and expect to change it your destination. Banks are no longer keen, and airport exchange kiosks are an absolute trip-off.  
A survey this week showed Aussies are doing away with pre-planning and booking more spur-of-the-moment trips. Big mistake.

Research from Trafalgar, part of the wider The Travel Corporation group, revealed a 1,087% increase in bookings from April to June, compared to January to March this year.

With everyone keen to depart sooner rather than later, being fully prepared is the only way to guard against frustration and anger.

Or maybe just stay at home until the airlines get their acts together.

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