Ah, the joys of winter travel. Bad weather, flight disruptions, and crowded hotels and resorts during school vacations. How can you not only survive the challenges of winter travel, but thrive in spite of them? Virtuoso’s global PR director, Misty Ewing Belles, shared the network’s winter travel survival guide Jan. 2 on NBC’s TODAY Show.
Conventional wisdom held that Tuesday was the best day to purchase flights, both domestic and international. But that’s recently shifted. “Your best day to actually purchase the ticket is on Sunday because the fares are going to be less expensive then,” counsels Belles.
Picking the best flight days
What’s the best day of the week to fly? Belles names three choices: “The best days to fly will be Monday, Thursday and Friday and that’s because the planes have more capacity on those days, which means more seats and lower fares.”
Getting a seat assignment
Did you reserve a seat when you booked your flight? If not, there’s still a lesser-known way to score decent seats. First, try calling the airline. Staff may not be able to help, though, if you have a last-minute request or flights are busy. If they can’t, go directly to the gate agent. “Your best bet is to get to the gate agent just as soon as possible because most airlines have about four to six seats that are blocked from their inventory,” advises Belles. “The only person who can open them is the gate agent. So plead your case and see if you can keep the family all traveling together.”
Printing boarding passes
Belles’ advice for smoother travel: print your passes well before you leave for the airport. “Print the boarding passes 24 hours in advance because there’s going to be long lines at the kiosks and then those kiosks break as well, which really slows down the process.”
Driving vs. flying
Belles recommends considering a “time-cost equation”: how much is your time worth? “If your trip is less than six hours, it may be more cost-effective for you to drive. If it’s over six hours, it may be more cost-effective to drive as well, but then you have to look at the value of your time.” She recommends travelers ask themselves, “Do you want to spend those additional hours in the car or do you want to spend them in your destination?”
Selecting destinations with great value
Belles also named her top three picks for winter travel destinations that provide great value for the budget:
- Scottsdale, Arizona: “Scottsdale we love for a number of reasons. One of the key reasons, though, is that it’s a great value. It’s going to run about 40% less than other warm-weather destinations. And Scottsdale is great for families, for spa-goers, for golfers – it really has a lot to offer.”
- Los Cabos, Mexico (including Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo): “We are really passionate about Cabo now. The reason being is that Cabo was so impacted by the hurricane last year and a lot of the resorts that were closed are now reopening their doors in 2015. They’re very eager to receive guests back again.
- Park City, Utah: “All this cold weather translates into great skiing conditions. Park City is wonderful. It’s accessible, it’s close to Salt Lake City. They’re going through some major improvements. It’s about to become the largest ski resort in the country. But the best thing is that the lift tickets will run you about 40% less there than other destinations. It’s great for non-skiiers as well, so good for families, great culinary scene there or my favorite, the après-ski.”
Working with a travel advisor
Having an actual human being to serve as your personal advocate is invaluable, particularly during the winter travel season when cancelations or delays are more likely. Travel advisors can rebook you quickly if your flight is canceled. They also provide advice honed from years of experience – everything from destinations with the best value to tips for a smooth trip. “A travel agent or advisor is going to provide you with advice and advocacy,” Belles notes. “They’re going to sort through all those things like the best days to fly. So they’re really going to help you when you’re looking to put together a full itinerary and when you’re really looking for some advice and guidance.” If you don’t have a travel advisor, find one that suits your needs and preferences through the Meet Your Advisor tool at virtuoso.com.