Plan ahead for winter get-away

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

With portions of the country experiencing record snowfalls and temperatures plunging into the single digits and below zero, those planning air travel for a winter get-away may be thinking twice about leaving the house.

Travelers are facing an increasing number of hurdles and challenges from security issues to weather delays. 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 can save travelers time and aggravation.

*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 canceled. 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 hot-line 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 have been 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.

By taking the necessary precautions and better organizing your trip ensures that your special vacation will be as fun and relaxing as you had hoped for.