Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Airlines’

Travel Apps and Websites

August 31, 2012

 

The cover of the current Travel & Leisure magazine has a headline “60  Apps and Websites Every Traveler Needs to Know”. I think it’s great there are a lot of tools available and competition is what fuels innovation but seriously, 60?

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make better use of technology so I perused the article.  Several of the apps and sites listed I have used in the past or plan to use in the future but day to day, what do you really need on your phone and/or your computer?

On my computer I have a folder on my search engine bar called “Travel”.  There are the bookmarks for the various airlines we use, hotel groups, car rental and off-site airport parking (to make a reservation and print discount coupons).  I don’t use a lot of “search for the best price” sites on airfares simply because I have never found a fare there I couldn’t get from the airline directly.  Most people who travel a lot quickly learn the benefits of being “brand loyal” and wouldn’t trade the perks of free upgrades, late checkouts, skipping the counter, preferred seating, free baggage, early boarding and even shorter security lines for the couple of dollars they may save.

We are living a more “mobile lifestyle” so let’s look at my phone.  After all, as the Travel Queen I am on the go more than the average person so let’s see what apps I keep on my phone.

First, all my travel apps are on one screen of my phone.  Across the top I have the airlines I use.  RARELY do I will fly another airline and if and when that happens, I will load their app for the duration of that trip.

Why not just load it and forget it?  Apps take up memory.  They also update and that can unwittingly use your data plan.  Even if you set them to be updated manually, as I have with many of my apps, you still get reminders that updates are ready and they still take up memory.  So my rule of thumb, if you don’t travel a lot, only load the apps you need for a trip and then uninstall them when you get home.

Next row I have my QR code reader.  I have found this most useful when I’m on the go.  Airports will post them to link to maps of the terminals including restaurants and restrooms.  Ads on public transportation often include them as an easy way to access the website for restaurants, shops and entertainment.

My calculator.  Handy for figuring out tips or dividing expenses between friends.

Then I have 2 things you likely only need if you travel internationally.  One is a super simple metric converter, the other a currency converter.  Knowing temperatures, distances and how much something costs is important to me!  I’ve got my eye on some translation apps for future use.

I have my preferred car rental vendor, Hertz.  I book my car rentals on my  computer usually but I’ve had to change drop off dates or airports while a trip was in progress.  I’ve also rented a car using the app when a flight cancelled and we opted to drive.

There is no hotel app on my phone.  These I book from my computer.  In all my traveling, I’ve only changed hotels ONCE – rare enough not to warrant an app.

I do have OpenTable for restaurant reservations and TripAdvisor which I use two ways.  At home I use it for more reviews and more extensive “real” photos of hotels.  On the road I use it for things to do in an area.

There is also a magnifying/light app which comes in handy everywhere!

I do use my maps and navigation all the time but they are on another screen because I use them – all the time!  Locally as well as when I’m away.

Lastly there is a new app I’m trying out.  It’s called “TripIt”.  The object is to keep all the confirmations related to a trip which come in your email in one place for easy access.  That part seems useful but even with all the privacy and “don’t bug me” settings in place, I still get little email reminders like, “You have a trip coming up, time to pack.”  Seriously?

Even with this new app I’m not ready to abandon my paper backups.  Yes, the app does work without internet but sometimes my phone battery dies by the end of a long day.  I keep all the papers related to a trip in a plastic, zip top “envelope” you can purchase at Office Depot or Staples.  No misplaced boarding passes, hotel confirmations or even concert tickets.

At home we maintain a large binder with monthly tabs and then these plastic pockets (also an office supply store purchase) where all the printed copies are kept.  Sure, it’s all in my computer but if my husband or another family member wants to know something about an upcoming trip, this is the fastest and easiest way to find it.

The bottom line – you need more websites bookmarked for trip planning than you do apps on your phone.  Keep apps to a minimum on your phone and whether it’s your apps or your paperwork – keep it all together and easy to access for hassle free travel days!

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Airline Apps and Boarding Passes

April 20, 2012

When I got my smartphone in December, I was very excited to find the free apps from all my favorite airlines such as Alaska, American and Delta.  Even Southwest, United and others have apps for both the iPhone and Android models.

There is a lot of convenience to these apps.  If you fly often as I do, download the ones for the airlines you regularly use.  If you only fly now and then or are using a different airline for this trip only, download the app and then delete it once you are home.  This way you still have the convenience but are not using memory space or cluttering your menu screens with something you only need now and then.

What is convenient about the apps?  You can book flights, make changes, get seat assignments and more.  You can get up to date information about your flight, delays, sometimes even the gate though you are always safer to confirm this detail on a monitor at the terminal.  Many have a “notes” section where you can input where you left your car in the garage, which off-site lot you used, a name and phone number of who is picking you up or other important information.

Because you can make changes to your flights and even your seating using the apps, this can come in handy if you have a flight change while traveling and need to rebook.

You can also use the apps to check in for your flight, indicate and pay for checked bags (but since you read this blog you won’t need to do that) and even get electronic boarding passes.  As close to the 24 hour mark before your flight as possible, you should use the app and check in.  Just like checking in on a computer, this locks you into your seat on the flight and reduces the likelihood you will get bumped if the flight is oversold.

The screen of your phone will display your electronic boarding pass and it looks much like the QR codes you have seen popping up everywhere.  I love technology but be aware, these electronic boarding passes are not all they are cracked up to be.

1. Not all systems are compatible.  I used the Alaska Airlines app and the size of the code on the boarding pass was too large for the TSA scanner at SeaTac to read – yes, SeaTac, Alaska’s home airport!  I had to find another on-line way to check in rather than the app itself in order to get a compatible size “code”.

2.Some smaller airports don’t have scanning equipment and even those that do don’t have it at every security checkpoint.  Plus, like all equipment, it’s subject to failure so what works one day may be out of commission the next.

3. Your phone probably goes into sleep mode.  Depending on the app, it can take several steps or a couple of minutes to bring it back up which can cause stress when in line and I’m all about “hassle/stress free travel”.

Bottom line:  use the apps.  They are great and can save you the hassles of either firing up your laptop or going to the hotel’s business center.  Get the electronic boarding pass on your phone but don’t plan on using it.  When you get to the airport, stop by a kiosk and print a paper boarding pass for the speediest path through security and onto your flight.

Group “A” – Home For The Holidays Part 1

October 7, 2011

Home for the Holidays.  Nice concept and popular in movies and music.  In reality, getting there can be a hassle.  But since Travel Queen Tips is all about more fun and less hassles when you travel, the next few weeks will be devoted to getting YOU home for the holidays with minimum fuss.

Do you need to take a plane to your destination?   Flights are always oversold around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The closer you get to the day of departure, the more expensive and scarcer airline tickets typically become.

So if you plan to fly over one of the major travel holidays, buy your airline tickets now!  You will likely get the lowest fare and by absorbing the cost in October, you reduce the impact on your budget in December.

Southwest Airlines is a popular airline of choice for many holiday travelers.  They are known for lower fares and they don’t charge to check a bag – an unexpected cost inexperienced travelers often do not factor into their ticket purchase decision.  They are also the most flexible should your plans unexpectedly change.

The downside to Southwest, particularly over the holidays when every flight is jam packed is that they do not allow you to pre-assign seats.  Instead, they board by “Groups” and then in numerical order within the group.  Example:  A1, A2, etc.

Getting a low boarding number is always preferred – over the holidays it’s essential!

  • A low boarding number increases the odds your group will be able to sit together.
  • It also will give you more choices in seat selection – aisle, window or middle.
  • Those on the plane first also find it easier to stow their carry-ons because the bins are not yet full.  If you don’t plan to check a bag – or even if you do but will have a tote bag or shopping bag of gifts you will carry on with you – overhead space is not guaranteed by ANY airline.  A low boarding number on Southwest makes it far more likely you will find a space for your items.
How do you get one of these prized “A” Group boarding numbers?  You pay for it!
When on the Southwest Airlines website booking your flight, select the lowest fare available for your destination and preferred travel time.  This is the price in the FAR RIGHT column of their page.  If you book now, you may get one of their low “Wanna Get Away” fares and will often say “Web Only”.
As you move to the next screen where you put in the travelers’ names, you will see an option for “Earlybird Check-In”.  SELECT IT!!!!!  Yes, it will increase the price of your ticket $10 each way – $20 total on a round-trip but trust me, over the holidays it’s a small price to pay to preserve your sanity!
The sooner you do this, the lower the number you will get because they check you in automatically and assign a boarding number.
This weekend, call the people  you want to visit over the holidays and make a plan.  Request time off at work (if necessary) and then book your flight.  Regardless of the airline – the sooner the better when it comes to holiday travel!

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