AFTER ANSWERING 9 MILLION QUESTIONS, 2,000 VETERAN AIRPORT CUSTOMER SERVICE VOLUNTEERS SUGGEST PRACTICAL TRAVEL TIPS
As the holiday travel season approaches, the veteran Travelers Aid volunteers who assist the nation’s air and rail passengers have some tips to ease potential travel delays.
Travelers Aid staffs the information desks at 18 U.S. Airports and 4 North American train stations. The Travelers Aid Transportation Network consists of more than 2,000 volunteers who annually assist more than 9 million travelers.
The airline industry projects there will be 54 million passengers traveling for Thanksgiving. Sunday, Nov. 25, is expected to be the busiest day with Wednesday, Nov. 21, projected to be the second busiest day. The airlines expect 4.2 million to fly for the holiday.
Based on the multitude of questions posed each day at the Travelers Aid information desks, the volunteers offer these travel tips:
• Confirm everything – plane, car, hotel, pick-up service reservations – at least 24 to 48 hours prior to departure, especially if booked through online or third-party services. If you have to change planes, allow for three hours even if the airlines or your travel agent suggest a shorter window.
• While many now travel with itineraries and travel paperwork stored on their phone, still have at least one hard copy readily available as a back-up and that should include emergency contact numbers – family, travel agents and travel booking websites, airlines and doctors. Give a printout to your family and friends, especially if you are expecting them to meet you.
• Its sounds very basic, but verify the airport you are using. In cities with multiple airports, such as New York, Washington, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and the Bay Area, some travelers will arrive at the wrong airport. Likewise, some travelers don’t know which airport they just flew into and give the wrong information to those meeting their flight.
• Don’t depend on cash – many airlines will not accept cash for additional charges at the ticket counter or for in-flight purchases. If you don’t have a credit or debit card, some airports have vending machines that sell pre-paid debit cards that the airlines accept.
• Arrive early – this is the week to follow the suggestions to arrive 2 to 3 hours before a flight. Checking in online will save time at the ticket counter and so will traveling only with a carry-on piece of luggage. However, check with your airline because some have changed their carry-on luggage rules. But, be prepared to wait in line. On-going construction and packed parking lots will disrupt normal traffic patterns.
• Visit the TSA website (www.tsa.gov) to review their rules on liquids, medicines, gels, food and gifts. Travel in as light-weight clothing as possible to facilitate as faster trip through the TSA screening process.
• Upon your arrival – know the name of your car service, where to get it and have your pre-paid receipt ready. Research the anticipated cab or ride service fare to your destination and know if your driver will take a credit card or only cash. And, budget these local transportation fees when calculating your travel budget.
• Finally before you even begin, develop a back-up plan if your flight is cancelled or delayed. Weather is always an unexpected variable at this time of the year.
To assist travelers, especially those who may travel infrequently or only at the holiday, Travelers Aid (www.travelersaid.org/faq/) has several online resources, including mobile-friendly websites for JFK (www.travelersaid.org/jfk), Newark (www.travelersaid.org/newark), Washington Reagan (www.travelersaid.org/reagan), Washington Dulles (www.travelersaid.org/dulles) and Washington Union Station (www.travelersaid.org/union). These websites have tips, local resources and maps.
Beyond answering the most pressing travel questions, the Travelers Aid volunteers assist passengers with navigating airports, finding emergency hotel accommodations when flights have been cancelled, translation services, family escorts, recovering lost items and info on local tourist destinations.
Our 18 Travelers Aid airports are now recruiting for their first class of 2019 volunteers. If you are looking for a way to give back to your community, please explore this volunteer option. We have a number of volunteers around the country who are in their second or third decade of service!
More information can be obtained at www.travelersaid.org/volunteer-form.
About Travelers Aid:
Founded in 1851, in the stage coach era, Travelers Aid has been assisting stranded travelers for more than 165 years. The Travelers Aid Transportation Network consists of customer and information services at 17 U.S. airports and four North American railroad depots. The Beltsville, Md.-based Travelers Aid International also consist of 33 members who are now devoted primarily is assisting their local homeless community. For more information: www.travelersaid.org