If you're a bit depressed by recent media reports about new airline fees, rising complaints and security snafus, relax. We show you how to overcome these hurdles and provide new ways to save on summer travel - and beyond.
1. Enjoy new competition to Hawaii
Beginning Nov. 2, Virgin American will begin flights to Hawaii. San Francisco to Honolulu is the inaugural route, which expands to include Maui in December. After that, who knows?
More competition usually brings prices down and a quick comparison of fares shows Virgin's Hawaii deals are among the cheapest.
Tip: Since fares can and do change without notice, always compare prices no matter where you go because no single airline always has the best deal.
2. Consider these red-hot destinations
Dallas: We knew once Southwest was freed from the restrictions of the Wright Amendment--federal law that governed traffic at Dallas Love Field, this Texas city would be the center of a fierce airfare war but who knew it would last this long? Dallas remains a terrific value and there's plenty to do there: See the Cowboys' billion dollar stadium from the Geo-Deck at Reunion Tower (plus a bird's eye view of the city); visit pioneer homes at the Heritage Village; shop luxury boutiques at the art-filled Northpark Center; and my personal favorite, chowing down on the city's signature Tex-Mex cuisine.
Scandinavia: Thanks in part to aggressive moves by Norwegian Air Shuttle, flights to Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm have never been cheaper. There’s so much to do there, too: see the Northern Lights (if you time it right; usually October is the best.), beautiful fjords, fairytale castles, and Viking museums. It's on my bucket list.
3. Avoid a new, higher bag fees
Frontier is raising some (but not all) of its baggage fees. Starting May 1, the discount carrier hikes 9 different carry-on and checked-bags fees by an extra $5 to $10 one-way. The new fees vary by type of bag and when and where you pay. The later you pay - at the airport, at the gate -the higher the fee. If you aren't careful, you could fork over as much as $60 to over $100 for a single piece of luggage.
Avoid the hassle and wallet depletion by packing one small bag. It's free as long as it fits under the seat in front of you. Impossible, you say? You can do it if you don't over-pack, roll up clothes, and wear the heaviest stuff.
4. Beware of seat selection fees
Delta's new Basic Economy fares mean no advance seat selection until 24 hours before take-off. We know what's left then, right? All those wonderful middle seats. Regular economy tickets offer more seats to choose from upon booking but it's about $10 more, which sounds like a seat selection fee to me. It might be worth it to you to pay the extra, but a true frugal flyer will muddle through in the middle.
5. Don't throw away money at security
Travelers all over the U.S. empty their pockets at security checkpoints every day only to forget to retrieve all those nickels and dimes and it adds up. Last year alone loose found by the TSA came to a whopping $670,000-plus. In fairness, security officers try re-unite lost belongings with forgetful owners but since coins rarely come with name-tags it's a near-impossible task.
Don't be a chump, pick up your change. It might be enough to pay for a soothing alcoholic beverage that'll help you forget all about the horrors of sitting in a middle seat with a small carry-on atop your feet.
Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site