Two Quick Travel Tips That Can Save You Money and Grief…

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On a recent trip via Frankfurt, I experienced two “incidents”. Nothing serious, but worthy of sharing two quick tips with readers…

Tip 1 – Don’t Book Non-Refundable Hotel Rooms

Plans change… they really do. You might think that you are 100% definitely going to travel, and have good travel insurance to cover any mishaps. But no travel insurance policy is going to cover this…

  • 2 August, 2018. Read blog post on InsideFlyer UK regarding great promotion from Hilton Honors and Lufthansa Miles & More.
  • 2 August, 2018. Cancel flexible booking at Sheraton Frankfurt Airport and, since summer sale pricing looks good, book prepaid room at Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport.

  • 6 August, 2018. Foolishly check prices again for HGI Frankfurt Airport.

Oops… I had done well by holding a flexible reservation at the Sheraton, but then it all went wrong when I decided that two weeks in advance was close enough to be confident about booking a non-refundable rate.

Of course, readers might point out that the actual lesson is to not double check pricing AFTER you’ve booked on a non-refundable basis. But my Best Rate Guarantee habits die hard…

Tip 2 – Select Your Seat in Advance

It’s bad enough when the airplane isn’t parked at a gate and you need to take a bus across the tarmac. But it’s rather odd when a random stranger asks you “Deutsch? English? Did you get a Business Class seat in the end?”  I suppose that he had noticed me in the lounge. After a short conversation I figured out that there had been an aircraft change on our Condor flight, meaning that instead of 30 seats in Business Class there would only be 18…

30 Business Class seats on this Boeing 767
Only 18 Business Class seats on this 767.

There were further complaints on board as a couple – presumably involuntarily downgraded – attempted to “self-upgrade” themselves into seats 1H and 1K, which happened to be designated as crew rest seats. (so of those 18 Business Class seats, only 16 were available for passenger use)

Me? I had managed my booking ahead of time and selected seat 1A. Since 1A exists in both aircraft configurations, I wasn’t singled out for a downgrade. Phew…

Even though Condor’s Business Class offering is little better than Premium Economy on other airlines (the champagne was decent though…), I had no interest in dealing with EU261 compensation for my Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan reward ticket. Maybe I was just lucky, and other airlines would have kicked a non-status, reward ticket passenger out of their pre-assigned seat. But I was happy to have pre-selected my seat, instead of just assuming that all Business Class seats would be equally fine…

What are your top tips for avoiding grief when travelling?


  1. TripleB says

    1) If flying longhaul and it’s easy enough to work out what the previous sector of your plane is (say you are flying BA NRT-LHR it’s pretty easy to work out what plane will be operating your sector – but it’s not so easy if you are flying oLHR-NRT where the airline can shuffle aircraft and rested crews) about the time that the previous sector is meant to depart check to make sure that it left on time. If it’s cancelled or severely delayed – knowing that before the return sector is officially cancelled or the ETD updated, which is often hours later and always prompts a flood of people to look for alternative options is in your interests. This has saved me many times.

    2) Have a sensible preferred ‘back up’ plan written down in case your flight gets cancelled/delayed. Especially useful if connecting on a shorthaul trip or flying domestically in the USA/Canada/Australia where it’s generally possible to get between A and B via any one of C, D or E. Suggesting an alternative to the airline staff is often much better than letting them offer up something to you. I always write it down so I can hand the bit of paper to the airline staff – so they can have it beside their keyboard as they type – much better than on a phone/tablet which have a screen lock etc. If they have a long queue of people to deal with – they will want to deal with you quickly and not be mucking about trying to unlock a phone with you.

    3) On domestic USA flights most airlines will let most fare buckets standby for an earlier flight. If you have any status then you will get priority on the standby list. Only downside is you will generally get a middle seat… but if you get to where you want to be a couple of hours earlier then it’s generally worth it. Now playing standby roulette is not always a game you will win … but you can easily find out how many people are on the list, what your number on that list is and how many seats are free. If you are 30th on a list and there are 3 seats free you’re toast. But if you are 4th or 5th on the same list you are in with a good chance.

    4) There’s a difference between the minimum connection time and a sensible connection time. You are almost certain to miss your onward connection if you book more or less the minimum connection time at say PVG (where passport control and baggage reclaim needs to be done before rechecking in landslide) or any USA airport if arriving on an international flight.

    5) Get a debit card with sensible FX rates and transaction fees. I’ve saved several hundred pounds with a debit card from a high street bank which uses the mastercard fx rates for european currencies and has no transaction fees (including for ATM withdrawals) in europe. Sure you don’t earn miles … but the cash savings have been incredible and far superior to any miles I would have earnt. Sadly they have increased the fees and fx spread on non european currencies – but there are alternatives out there.

  2. Craig Sowerby says

    All good points.

    Interestingly I was just on a plane that went “tech” and once they announced that everyone needed to offload, I bolted to the gate agent whilst everyone else was groaning, asked her to move me to flights on the next day, and I was in a hotel before the queue was probably even attended to…

    Turns out my original flight arrived at 1am instead of 5 pm and I would have missed my connection anyhow.

    So… definitely know your options and just suggest your preference quickly and concisely.

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