Traveling to your summer getaway can be quite a pain right now: Long waits, lost bags and flight cancellations continue to plague the airline industry.
The chaos has not escaped money expert Clark Howard, who has been traveling heavily this summer.
“I fly virtually every week, and it’s been really interesting. As someone who travels constantly, I want to talk about the keys to you doing as much as you can to protect your sanity,” he says.
Clark’s 4 Rules To Avoid Travel Chaos Right Now
“People have been griping so much about what’s been going on in the world of air travel,” Clark says. “And it’s a flat-out mess. People who don’t travel a lot are completely rattled by what’s been happening with the delays and all that.”
Here are his steps to help ease stress while traveling during these difficult times.
1. Fly Nonstop
Clark says you should book a nonstop flight to your destination. Staying away from even a single connection can cut down on a lot of potential headaches with so much uncertainty with flight itineraries right now.
“Normally, I would talk about how much money you could save by changing planes instead of going nonstop,” Clark says. “This year, fly nonstop if you at all possibl[y] can.”
“It’s exponential problems when you go to a change of planes with how messed up the airlines are right now. Oh man, don’t do it,” he adds.
2. Book an Early Flight
Clark says he’s not an early bird when it comes to traveling. Perhaps you aren’t either, but in the current travel environment, you need to become one.
“What’s happening is that the delays cascade through the day,” Clark says. “If you end up in a flight situation that’s messed up in the morning, you at least have a chance for same-day service, getting to where you were intending to go that same day. On the other hand, if you’re on a later-in-the-day flight, you have a much better chance that the crew will time out, the flight will get canceled, or there’ll be a significant delay. And you could end up stranded because you’ve missed any kind of opportunity to be rebooked on any kind of later flight.”
3. Never Check a Bag
No matter how long your trip is, do all you can to see if you can stuff your things all in one bag. Clark says this is not the time to overpack.
“Do not, do not. Do. Not. Check. A. Bag. Don’t do it,” Clark says.
“Checking a bag right now? You’ve got to hate yourself to check a bag because you lose so much flexibility,” he adds.
To illustrate the point, Clark says his brother and sister-in-law recently had their flight canceled and couldn’t get booked on another one because they didn’t have their bags on the same plane. They ended up waiting nine days to get their bags returned to them.
Moral of the story? Don’t check your bag. “Even for a European trip, I want you to go carry-on,” Clark says. “And there are a million blogs and videos on Youtube – all kinds of stuff that people have posted – on how to get through a two-week trip with a carry-on bag only. I know that sounds like a crazy thing, but you can do it.”
4. Consider Paying To Skip the Lines
Depending on how often you travel, Clark suggests investing in some ways to largely skip the long lines at airports. Here are some options.
“Right now, it’s become such an intense chore to do the airport thing. Security lines, well, they’re not exactly great. And that’s why, if you do travel, I’d say three or more times a year, it’s actually worth the $85 for five years, $17 a year, for [TSA] PreCheck, which gets you out of the mind-numbing ultra, ultra-long lines,” Clark says.
TSA PreCheck allows you to pass through security without removing your shoes, belt and other items.
- Cost: $85
- Membership period: 5 years
- Passport required: No
If you travel a lot more than that, or you travel internationally, Clark advises that you get Global Entry: “It’s $100, paid upfront and that covers five years, $20 a year,” he says.
Global Entry allows international travelers to move quickly through U.S. Customs. It also includes the benefits of PreCheck.
Membership period: 5 years
Passport required: Yes
“If you travel all the time like I do, you can really open up the wallet and join CLEAR,” Clark says. “What it does is it gets you in front of the PreCheck line.”
CLEAR is a biometric identification verification program that allows you to bypass general security lines not only at airports but also at some big sports arenas and other exhibition venues.
Membership period: 1 year
Passport required: No
Traveling right now can be hard on the wallet, body and mind. Clark’s parting advice has more to do with the latter.
“You just have to be prepared that, when things go wrong, you don’t lose your mind,” Clark says. “You just roll with it. If you’re not someone where the water just rolls off your back, maybe you shouldn’t go right now.”
Want to know how Clark saves so much money on his trips? Here’s his #1 Rule for Cheap Travel.