Air travel is as common as walking nowadays, but if you have never flown you should spend time researching air travel and the many types of ticketing options out there. Your airline ticket will probably be one of the largest purchases you make for your trip and is therefore where you can save the most money. All flyers should also read up on the effects of air travel, especially people with medical conditions as there are also safety concerns to be aware of when traveling long distances.
Flying is the fastest and safest way to get about and these days, just about everybody and anybody takes to the skies when they go on holiday. Things have been tightened up since 9/11, although if you are well prepared and have everything in order with tickets and baggage, you should have no problems.
Type of airplane tickets
There are several different types of tickets that travelers should be aware of and knowing which one is right for you can potentially save a lot of money and hassles.
Round Trip: Round trip tickets allow for outward and inward flights to and from a given destination along a set route and date/time. If you want to come back from a destination, a return ticket is easier and cheaper than booking two singles.
One-way tickets: these single-use tickets are just for travel in one direction and are only generally cost-effective when used in one direction. For example, a return ticket to a given destination can often be the same price as a one-way ticket of the outbound journey.
Circle Asia tickets: this type of ticket is issued by member airlines of Star Alliance, covering scores of destinations throughout Asia and Australasia for up to six months. This ticket can save you quite a bit of money if you want to see a lot of places throughout Asia in a relatively short period of time.
Round the world tickets (RTWs): perfect for gap-year travelers, RTWs allow you to encircle the globe (in the same direction) with different airlines. They are particularly useful in the savings-versus-miles-flown but can be a bit inflexible.
While there are certainly great deals to be had out there in the world of the web, if you are short on time, consider using a good old fashioned travel agent. They can save both time and money and do all the legwork for you. The best thing is you don’t even have to go see them; you can simply call, or visit a travel agent’s website and correspond via email or live chat.
The other good thing about using travel agents is that they can offer advice on the given destination and then go ahead and make arrangements for travel, transport, accommodation, and tours, and so on. You can also pick up a decent all-inclusive package with a travel agent.
At the end of the day, though, travel agents are in business for one reason, to make money. They may be helpful in finding you well-priced tickets and accommodation, but cannot compete with a lone traveler who knows how to work the internet.
Travel agent pros and cons:
- Hassle-free booking and less legwork.
- Travel benefits, like reduced costs on transport and hotels.
- Able to specialize in specific travel destinations and traveler itineraries.
- Fallback space should your holiday go wrong.
- Travel agents are in this business for money and are unlikely to show you all the big discounts.
Purchasing Tickets Online
Booking your tickets online has now become a reality. There are generally two options: purchase tickets through online travel agencies or purchase tickets directly from the airlines. Both these services provide fare quotes, seat-availability information, and actual ticket sales. The best prices are offered by the airlines themselves. Either way, buying online is an efficient way to book and pay for your flight. You can rent cars and book hotels at these sites as well.
The major advantage of booking on the Internet nowadays, though, is that when you find the right site, everything is set so that you do minimal legwork to book your flight and hand over your credit card details. It can be so easy and yet such a big money saver.
Booking direct with the likes Ryanair, easyJet, Emirates, and German Wings is the way to go to save on hassle and for peace of mind. They have no-mess systems and generally offer the cheapest fares. In the case of booking online with the major airlines, you can even set your seat and meal preferences, and change them at a whim, availability permitting. Booking with the likes of Expedia and Travelocity travel engines sort of defeats the object of booking online as you will pay more with this type of site over a travel consolidator like Orbitz. The latter will automatically show the cheapest fares. This is good for a start although they do not list all airlines.
Pros and cons when booking on the internet:
- Beware of additional fees and restrictions when booking on the internet.
- Be sure they have a contact phone number/email address.
- Stick with the main internet booking sites and don’t hand over your credit card details online unless you are sure of the agent’s reputation.
- Book through airline websites where possible.
- Have a look at flight consolidators like Orbitz, who compare many airlines.
- Fares will generally be cheaper on the internet when compared to a travel agent as there are fewer people involved to pay; the agent needs to get their cut.
- If you are one for customer service, then you may be in for a shock when booking on the internet.
Price is just one factor to consider when booking your flight with a particular airline. Flight frequency and safety record are just as important, if not more important sometimes. If you need to catch a plane in Amsterdam tomorrow, but you are stuck in Turkey, flight frequency is going to have priority over cost. Larger airlines offer the greatest number of departures. Smaller airlines usually have a limited number of flights per day (or even per week).
Get to the gate and check in as early as possible, especially during peak periods. Airlines routinely overbook their planes, assuming that not everyone with a ticket will show up. But sometimes everyone does. The airline will then have to bump some of its passengers. Those who checked in late and those flying on discounted tickets usually get bumped first.
When planning your travel route, consider flying into one city and out of another to avoid wasting time and money. For example, if you are going to Europe, you could fly into London, travel through Europe heading south, then catch a flight out of Rome without having to loop back to London for an added cost and waste of time. Remember that this strategy will be cheaper if you can use the same airline for both your incoming and outgoing flight.
If you are at all concerned about the safety or risks of flying in and out of a particular region, check out the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA), a foreign assessment program that focuses on a country’s ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance. This program is maintained by the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Air travel health
Keeping hydrated is very important while flying as the heavy air conditioning dries the body out very quickly. Avoiding excessive amounts of coffee and alcohol is also advised, while moving about often is recommended for avoiding conditions like DVT in the legs.
Heart and lung problems are the main causes of medical emergencies while flying owing to the added stress and less oxygen. Medical emergencies are quite uncommon but if you have these conditions, speaking with your doctor and carrying any prescribed medicines is advised. Other health problems may come from dehydration, reduced mobility, and the changing air pressures on the ears.
Fear of flying: Aerophobia is the fear of flying, specifically of crashing and being hurt. Many people become apprehensive when flying, but the fear of flying is a very real condition that a significant number of people suffer from and can sometimes result in heavy sweating, panic attacks or being sick.
It can really upset someone’s life if that person has to fly often, when on business, for example. Fear of flying is treatable through behavior therapy. If you do have a panic attack when flying, take deep breaths, or breathe into a paper bag if hyperventilating. Taking a sleeping pill on boarding the aircraft is also an idea.
Airsickness: Airsickness is motion sickness and is particularly nasty when flying due to the change of pressures and the g-forces on the body. Symptoms of airsickness include nausea, dizziness, sweating and even vomiting. Although there is no cure for airsickness, there are methods for preventing it from getting the better of you.
You could take a pill for airsickness, such as dimenhydrinate or meclizine, which reduces the brain’s perceived motions of the aircraft and thus makes you less susceptible. Other treatments include lavender essential oil on your temples or acupressure bands on the wrists. One thing you mustn’t do if you suffer from airsickness is drink alcohol while flying.
DVT: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a thrombus, or blood clot, that can form in the lower legs through prolonged stillness such as sitting on a long haul flight without moving much. If the clot travels to essential organs in the body, especially the heart or brain, it can have dire consequences.
Those on long haul flights (longer than three hours), tall people, and especially people in economy seating are more prone to suffering from DVT. To help prevent DVT during a long flight, don’t sit with the legs in the same position for too long. Walk around the cabin at least every hour and move the feet in a circular motion when sitting.
If your legs or arms redden, are painful, or you have trouble breathing after flying, visit a doctor immediately.