Greetings my fellow travel buddies...this week we’re discussing cheap flights. Two ultra low-cost carriers Southwest vs. Jet Blue Airways are the subject de jour.
Southwest Airlines is a much larger airline than Jet Blue. But they do compete for the same dollar, so that is why we are comparing the two. Let's start with the basic facts:
Size of the Fleet
Before we go any further, deciding HOW you are going to get somewhere via flight can be a seemingly daunting task when it comes to price. But let’s demystify that for you. Let’s look at this idea from an airline’s perspective and then we will get to you.
Revenue management is a big deal for airlines. What is the highest price an airline can charge for a seat?
Let's use a quick analogy to answer. When you look at the produce section of a supermarket, an orange has a fast expiration date. It was picked off the tree, and now it’s ready for you to purchase. The grocer wants to charge as much as he or she can for that orange before throwing it away. Unless the commercial aviation industry radically changes they way they charge for seats, then think of every seat on every flight as a piece of rotting fruit. That seat on that day on that flight (or segment) is only going to exist once. If the flight takes off and a seat is empty, then it becomes a piece of fruit the airline makes no money on.
Now let’s talk about you. You expressed an interest that you want a cheap flight to wherever you are going. Many factors contribute to the cost of an airline seat. These include, the specific airline, the on-board experience, the class of seat, where you are flying from and where you are going and how long it takes to get there. And finally, in some instances how far in advance you book and pay for these seats.
For starters, in many cases getting the lowest or cheapest airfare has everything to do with where you live and what airport is your home airport. That’s where the word HUB comes into play or “cities of focus” or operating bases. To give you a clue, research online and check the number of gates an airline occupies at any given airport and then check to see how many flights depart from that airport or city per day. More gates and more flights equal more flexibility when things don’t go as planned.
The top five hubs for Southwest include Chicago Midway, Baltimore, MD, Las Vegas, Denver, Dallas Love Field. While Jet Blue’s top cities include JFK in New York, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Logan airport in Boston, Long Beach in California, San Juan Puerto Rico and Orlando, Florida.
Why is this important, because the more fights per day on the airline you choose from the place you’re flying from and to decreases the chances of issues on your air travel day. Issues such as missing your flight, weather delays, crew delays or airplane mechanical problems.
Now let’s look at the value of your time. The longer it takes to get somewhere...the less you might pay. Airlines know through years of industry research; the flying public wants direct flights. That’s point A (the place you are flying from) to point B (your ultimate destination) without having to stop, or change planes. Therefore, a direct flight might be slightly more expensive than an itinerary with stops or connections. Also, the time of day you depart often affects the ticket price. For instance, a 6:00 a.m. departure might be cheaper than the more desirable 9:00 a.m. departure.
Given all that, let’s get back to Southwest vs. Jet Blue. Southwest has one class of seating. Jet Blue was also built on this premise. However, on some longer Jet Blue flights you’ll find premium or business class seating. They call it Mint. On Southwest, they have an open seating policy. Each passenger is assigned a letter and you board by letter and take any seat you wish. Jet Blue has a more traditional seating arrangement whereby you select your seat, or one is assigned to you before you board.
Both airlines offer complimentary snacks and soft drinks. Both charge for alcoholic beverages and Jet Blue offers additional in-flight snacks for purchase on some flights. Both airlines have in-flight entertainment options. And both have frequent flyer programs.
Jet Blue has code share agreements with a long list of international carries while Southwest does not.
We announced last week that while the staff here at Erik The Travel Guy takes lots of trips, to help bring you the latest and greatest info, we want you to be a part of the selection process. You can vote at erikthetravelguy.com/vote or leave a comment on this video in the comments below.
Keep in mind, this information is for educational purposes only and contains editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research before making travel purchases.
Earlier this year, I wrote about TSA Pre Check which is essentially a faster way to get through airport security within the U.S.. Today, it’s time to discuss whether (or not) Global Entry is right for you.
For experienced flyers, getting back into the United States can be a long process when you arrive back at a U.S. airport. Personally, I think Customs and Border Patrol does an excellent job of making this process as pleasant as possible. Remember, every person (resident or visitor) must be screened and approved to gain entry into the United States. This is a good thing. But for those of us who fly internationally often, Global Entry is an excellent program to help speed up this process, especially after a long-haul flight.
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program which allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival back in the United States. Global Entry members enter the United States through automatic kiosks at selected airports.
In my opinion, this program is essential for anyone traveling internationally five or more times in the next five years. Your one-time, $100 fee is due before you are approved, but once you are a member, your membership is good for five years.
The application process begins online, their is a cost to enroll in the program and you must provide valid photo identification. Currently the fee is $100.00 per person for five years. In addition to the application you must give your fingerprints, have a photo taken of you and you must be interviewed.
Expedited re-entry into the U.S. for air passengers at select airports in the US.
Global Entry includes TSA Pre Check.
Not all airports participate
Surrender personal information to a govt. agency
In short, I love Global Entry because I travel a lot both within the U.S. and internationally. The application process was easy. If you’re planning on taking two or more air trips outside the US, then I suggest becoming a member of the program.
More detailed information can be found here on Global Entry from the official Department of Homeland Security website.
Whether I’m packing for a business or leisure trip, my soft-sided briefcase is always close by. Different from my carry-on (roller) and my checked luggage, my briefcase is essentially my man-purse and an extension of what I keep literally on my person (in my pockets). I’m not the most organized person in the world, but I have learned (over time and through trial and error), these are the items most-needed on my travels.
The bag itself. My briefcase is black, soft faux leather. I travel a lot so my luggage gets used and I usually go through about one briefcase every two to three years. I do not use expensive luggage when I travel (or in my personal life for that matter). My briefcase has a strap on the exterior so it can slip over the handle of my carry-on roller. Attached to the handle is an “Erik The Travel Guy” luggage tag.
Regardless of where I’m going, these are essentially what you will find in my briefcase:
Relevant file folders from my office
Laptop with my travel power supply and a wireless mouse (I’m a little old school)
iPhone (when going through airport security)
iPad (long haul flights) with downloaded books and movies
Sunglasses in case with alcohol wipes
Wallet (when going through security)
Passport (international travel and some domestic)
Boarding pass (if applicable...I usually use an airline app)
iPhone charging cable
Portable power supply (emergencies)
Pens, sharpie and business cards
Pad of paper
Two organic tea bags
Hand Sanitizer and travel antibacterial wipes
Travel-size Advil, Rolaids & Cough drops
So there you have it. The idea here is to spark thought on what works for you, but that’s what I’m working with…
You want to go on a cruise, but with so many options, how do you know which one is best for you? Today we compare two of the best on the ocean: Carnival Vista vs. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.
First a couple of quick facts. In 2015, 23 million people from around the world sailed on a cruise ship. More than 11 million of those were from the US. The top cruise destination was the Caribbean. According to industry experts, that number is expected to by 4% next year.
Both “floating hotels” were launched into service in 2016. Both ships are considered mass market cruise ships, and both are owned and operated by two of the largest cruise companies in the world, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Size may matter to you so here are the stats.
For more videos and information on these two companies you can check the Travel Company Video Index on my site.
Carnival Vista was introduced into the Carnival fleet in May of 2016. After a series of repositioning cruises, this ship arrived at its home port of Miami, Florida. It currently sails on six and eight-day Caribbean itineraries out of Miami. This ship is the first ship in the Vista Class ship with others already on order.
On board Vista, some of the most notable additions include the “Skyride”, which is essentially a self-propelled pod that you can peddle around an 800-foot track, suspended 150 feet about the deck. Seafood Shack is a new dining option and is only available on this ship. Look for lobster rolls, crab legs and other treasures from the ocean all available for an additional charge. If the weather isn’t cooperating, then you can relax and take in a movie at the only IMAX theatre at sea. Deck 2 is officially the family deck, with family-themed and sized staterooms, family common space and even a family concierge to completely satisfy the ever-changing needs of the modern-day sea-faring family.
MS Ovation of the Seas
April 14, 2016 was the maiden voyage for MS Ovation of the Seas. This ship is the first ship built for Royal Caribbean specifically for the Chinese market. It embarked on mini-itineraries for invited guests and members of the press and then began a 52-night odyssey cruise before making its way to its home port of Tianjin, China. This is the third vessel in the Quantum class...and if you know all about classes of ships on these lines, then you really are a cruise nerd...and I love that about you!
If you are a die-hard Royal Caribbean fan, then being on board Ovation of the Seas isn’t necessarily a must because it is virtually identical to the two other sister ships in the Quantum Class: Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas. All three are some of the most technologically stunning vessels at sea. Transformative spaces use using lighting, staging and special effects to dazzle guests. The cruise offers sky diving with iFly, a trapeze school, the North Star, and bumper cars among many other attractions.
Similarities between Carnival Vista vs. Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas
Both ships share some common ground in just about every area of interest. Both ships
Carnival and Royal Caribbean are two companies who understand their passenger’s needs. They have been getting better at it every year since cruising for the masses began being a “thing” back in the 1980’s. These ships are fine examples of cruise innovation and state of the art sailing.
You can book itineraries on both ships directly with the cruise line or with the help of a travel agent. Whichever you choose, I suggest you become a member of their loyalty program. The more you cruise the more perks you get and over time loyalty does have its privileges and rewards.
Will I get Sick on a Cruise?
Before we wrap up, let’s talk illness. Am I going to get sick on a cruise ship? First, I might ask, what type of sick are you asking about? Are you going to get motion sickness? That’s a tough one. That depends on your own tolerance for slight variations in your equilibrium. The rocking motion of ships is caused by the fluctuations on the water in which these ships are sailing. Cruise ships sail in calm waters for the most part. The have state of the art weather forecasting to avoid rough seas. They also are equipped with powerful stabilizers so even in rougher waters, the ship stays level and comfortable.
The other illness you may be asking about is some sort of GI outbreak or Norovirus. The media loves this one. But the short answer is...statistically speaking...no. Health officials including the CDC track these outbreaks, cruise lines are required to report outbreaks and the numbers speak from themselves. 23 million people sailed in 2015 and in 2015 there were 12 outbreaks affecting roughly 2500 people. Total. Drawing your own conclusion is simple.
Why I Love Cruising
I love it to explore new ports of call. I like the notion of letting someone else handle the logistics of travel, and I like knowing where I am going to sleep at the end of each day while I am on vacation. I’ve sailed with both lines numerous times and I have yet to be disappointed. For work, I have stayed in several different cabin types, but for pleasure I always book a suite or at the very least a balcony stateroom. In addition, I always arrive in the embarkation city the night before my sailing (just to be on the safe side) and I usually book a lot of my dining reservations and some shore excursions in advance.
This blog post is designed to help equip you with knowledge...because knowledge is power. This blog post also contains some editorial opinion by yours truly. Facts contained here may change without notice. We try to keep up with the changes, but I strongly encourage you to do your own research perhaps consult with a real live travel agent before making travel purchases.
Are we there yet?
Those four words make any parents’ shoulders rise and their molars grind. Whether they're still in the car seat phase or not quite a teenager, taking your youngsters on trips can be tricky. I have two girls, five and eight, and I've been traveling with them since before they could walk. Over the years, I've found that the key is to keep them entertained. Follow these steps, and with a little luck, the vacation will go smoothly…for EVERYONE.
Let Everyone Have a Say
At all cost, get in the planning process early. Not only is it important to pick a destination the drivers will enjoy, allow the little ones to have a say too. Narrow the search down to three options, preferably the favorites and then make the final decision. This way everyone is happy.
Birds of a Feather
The next step is to stress the importance of sticking together. Now, I'm not suggesting having family shirts made. You know, the ones that are color-coded and have the last name at the top like a football jersey (unless your family is major sports fans). Instead, I like to take the ‘wolf pack' approach, clarifying that mom and dad are the leaders, but no cub goes unnoticed.
Food, no matter what age your kids are, is essential for any trip. Smart meal options can lead to saved time and money. Stopping at a grocery store when you first arrive at a destination is a good rule of thumb. Purchase what I like to call "cry snacks," (don't we all get upset when we're hungry?) like granola, gold fish, cereal or even yogurt.
Book a Hotel with Breakfast Included
The Grand Floridian is a great example of a family-friendly hotel, which worked well for my family on our last Walt Disney World vacation. However, if it's a smaller trip, I'd suggest looking for a Holiday Inn option, where breakfast is included. Essentially, it was killing two birds with one stone since I was able to earn more IHG points, while also having the expense of breakfast covered before even departing for the day.
Tips to Keep Kids Engaged
Keeping kids engaged while sightseeing has a lot to do with getting them involved early in the planning. Highlight a few points of interest either before departure. This way, you can make a checklist of items that you know they will see on the trip. If your children are anything like mine, they usually love seeing new things that I get excited about, therefore include spots that appeal to you too.
One thing that helps keep my kids more occupied are the small notebooks I bring along. Decoration is encouraged and so is a list of attractions they liked to see at each place. This way, they can actively cross out the things we've seen. The notebooks can also be used to write down things they would like to buy. Instead of just "buying the souvenirs to keep them quiet," I say that there will be many items they'll want to buy, but set some limits. I give them a daily budget. For the things outside of their price range, I suggest they just write them down. This way it's easy to keep the items in mind for the next holiday or birthday (which I promise is right around the corner).
Traveling with Teenagers
The only thing different about traveling with teenagers is the additional ‘slack’ parents are willing to give. Even though my girls aren't at that stage yet, my friends who do have teens say they want more free time to explore on their own. Society considers them young adults, so parents should keep the "embarrassing" moments to a minimum. If you can gain approval points from the older ones, you can bank on more precious Kodak moments in the years to come.
Bottom line: plan, plan, plan! I can't say it enough and with the holidays fast approaching, a "Clark Griswald" persona is always appreciated, just make sure to not go overboard.
The outcome of air travel has a lot to do with the attitudes of the parents. Visiting an airport and flying can be fun…if you make it so. Flight delays can happen but if the parents remain in a good mood, chances are the kids will too. Keep it positive and follow these tips to reduce the stress of flying with kids!
Don’t Over Schedule
Getting from point A to point B can be long, so I try not to schedule any important events during a travel day.
Book transportation as early as possible
This includes the flight and car service (both ways). Making reservations in advance, not only allows you to budget the expenses beforehand but also eliminates walking time. Seeing a driver dressed in suit and tie, holding a sign with your name on it would make anyone feel special, including your kids. Maybe the driver will even let one of them wear his shiny black hat. If this happens, parents are awarded bonus points.
Plan for Security
If you haven't done TSA pre-check before, traveling with children is the time to do it. Lines are shorter through airport security, eliminating the hassle of standing for long periods of time, which is helpful when the kids are getting too big for that handy-dandy stroller. Slip-on shoes for everyone are also a good idea, especially if you're asked to remove them.
I allow my kids to pack a small carry on (yes, mine have the Frozen backpacks), for a change of clothes, their swimsuits, coloring books, iPad, a deck of cards…etc. If it fits, pack it. If I'm on my game, I sometimes prepare a route map for them and even an itinerary, so they can follow the course. Don't forget anti-bacterial wipes for the tray tables and chewing gum to help with the altitude changes (ear popping) often experienced during take-off.
Seat Kids Near the Windows
Not only do little ones like to look out the window, but you also keep them away from the food and beverage cart, where hot coffee and water could easily spill.
Budget or Bring Snacks
A budget for snacks or light meal on the plane is my usual protocol. Kids love to order from the menu, especially if it's out of their routine, so give them some freedom to the items you know they'll like and most importantly eat. Other parents I know pack easy, low-sugar finger food such as string cheese, Cheerios, pretzels, carrot sticks, and granola. You don’t want to bring anything too messy, but boys are these options helpful when your kids are hungry.
Do you have other tips for air travel with kids? Let me know in the comments below!
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. This blog is a reflection of my mission. I travel (on average) 30 weeks per year hosting and producing a television series for PBS. In addition, I host a weekly radio show and produce original travel videos for online distribution. I am very fortunate for these opportunities and it is my hope you will join me on my travels!