I travel about 100 days a year and much of that is done through airports and on airplanes. In doing so I have often looked for shortcuts, essentially using game theory to maximize my travel experience at a low cost.
Below are a few tips on maximizing your flying experience.
These taken from my book “How to Hack Your Life Through Game Thinking”.
Airfare is one of the most costly investments in long-distance travel and yet if people use the right information at the appropriate time, they can save lots of cash and possibly even get paid to fly. This Hack # offer a cornucopia of approaches to getting where you are going with tips on where to find the best deals on cheap airfare and the best time to purchase tickets, how to get frequent flyer miles and the best times to use them, what travel agents to seek out, what websites for buying tickets have the lowest or no hidden charges, and much more.
One thing I always do at the airport is getting a chair massage. www.eventschairmassage.com has massage therapists at JFK airport, Laguardia Airport and in all the major hubs.
Challenge #1. Getting cheap airfare: The are many effective hacks for getting cheap airfare. Here are a few basic tips that anyone can apply with ease including:
Avoid peak travel days – Those before and after an actual holiday. Look for flights two days before or after a peak or holiday period. Sometimes you can save by flying on a holiday when most people would rather be home. Flying on Xmas or New Year’s Day is always less expensive that just before or after the holidays. Compare airfares on the web and sign up for e-mail newsletters that will inform of sales and special packages. You can also become an air courier.
Book on a weekend. Usually, they are about 5% cheaper than other days of the week. The reason? Business travelers tend to book on weekdays and the tickets are paid for by their company. Airlines attract more thrifty and price-sensitive travelers on weekends with lower fares.
Buy tickets over the Internet.
Only use freq. flyer mile on trips out of the US to
Hawaii to get the best return on investment.
Fly between September and Thanksgiving
Don’t book flights earlier than 150 days in advance or more than 14 days in advance. Generally, airlines don’t offer discounts or sales during these time periods.
Split Ticketing – Travel agents in one country can issue tickets in another, taking advantage of differences in price at one end of a route. This facilitates “Split Ticketing” whereby you can save by combining two one-way fares for a round trip, especially in first class or business class.
Travel frequently to a particular place?,It’s often cheaper to book a one-way ticket (or a discounted round trip) to that destination, then book a round trips from there. This is especially true in Bangkok.”
Cheap flights in Asia: If you are flying to Asia consider starting in Bangkok, Thailand. If you buy plane tickets you can get steep discounts to other locations.
If you are flying to a certain country, explore travel agents in neighborhoods that have a large population of individuals from that country. An agent in Astoria, Queens may get special discounts for tickets to Greece, Columbia or Bangladesh.
If you already booked a flight and it is cheaper, later on, you may be able to call and explain the situation and get the cheaper price.
Look for deals on-line for labor day travel.
The best airline fares typically go to those who call just after midnight, East Coast time. That’s when airlines decide whether a flight is full and begin slashing prices if it’s not. Fares can drop by anywhere from $50 to $400.
Sources for low cost fares include:
Challenge #2. Getting the best seats on an airplane: Some seats better than others and there are ways to nab the best spots for yourself. Of course, what is considered “a best seat” will be different for different people. Let’s look at some variables. Starting with economy class.
- Choose a seat that allows for a slight recline feature of a few inches. Choose a bulkhead seat or emergency exit row.
- Flyer beware: The seats in front of an exit row and at the back of the plane do not recline. Often those behind the exit have weird window configurations.
- Sitting by the galley can be loud as the crew prepares food and beverages and will often meet there during quiet periods on the flight.
- The bathrooms are usually near the galley. Sit there and be ready for lot’s noise & people tripping over you.
Challenge #3. Overhead bin availability?: While you may feel more bumps in rough air and have a long wait when disembarking, the rear of the plane is often less crowded. For most airlines, you will need to board earlier too if you want to sit in the rear — a win if you want to make sure your carry-on luggage gets a spot. This is something to bear in mind if you are picking your seats on an online chart.
Note: Some airlines, deliver beverage service by tray, so there are no carts in the aisle while other airlines offer what crew members call a “starburst”: Here two flight attendants with trolleys meet in the middle of the plane then work their way to the galleys. While service will come quicker for passengers sitting mid-plane, there is one challenge here – There is no getting up to use the toilet since the service carts barricade the aisle.
If you are sitting in the middle use the toilets in the airport or before service starts.
Challenge #4. If your need for comfort is greater than your need for a cheap fair first and business class may be the way to go: In first and business classes there are usually two types of seats available.
- Lie-flat seats that allow passengers to recline the seat down to 180-degrees for comfortable sleeping.
- Reclining seats known as angle seats. For Business and First class, the key feature is lie-flat seats, not ones that are on an angle. Frequent flyers call those uncomfortable angled ones ‘wedgie seats’ — Guess why?
Challenge #5. Your tall or large and need more room: The good news is that you can get that extra room by sitting in the exit row. If you choose that there may be responsibilities besides eating and sleeping. If you have proximity to an emergency exit window you may be deemed an able-bodied person (ABP). That means if an
emergency occurs and the captain calls for an evacuation, you will be responsible for helping with the process.
Depending upon the aircraft, type of emergency, and the flight attendants’ needs, some passengers may be asked to open the emergency window and assist passengers out of the plane. If you are sitting near an emergency exit door you may be asked to help open a door during the evacuation — or, once the door is open, go to the bottom of the emergency exit slide and help people off and tell them to move away from the plane.
Challenge #6. Safety fears: Are you concerned with safety? Does turbulence freak you out? Book flights that use larger planes and that fly at higher altitudes. These have less turbulence. Also sitting over the wings is smoother than sitting closer to the nose or tail.
Safety in case of a crash? Who even wants to think of this but maybe you’re one of those “Worst-Case Scenario Life Hackers”. Are some seats safer than others? According to one survey of US Federal Aviation Administration accident records dating back almost four decades, the middle seats in the rear of the aircraft had the best statistical outcome during accidents when some people survived the crash. Generally speaking, there is no good or best place to sit on an aircraft in terms of injury prevention or survivability in an accident. Each incident is unique and accidents are extremely rare.”
If you are really paranoid take the train, a bus, drive or walk. If that is not an option remember that if there is an emergency sit near the emergency exit row. That’s why they gave it that name. The closer you are to any emergency row, the sooner you’ll get off the plane, that is unless you’re actually in the exit row, then it’s a different story and a complex one at that.
Challenge #7. Getting an empty seat next to you? Seats in the rear of the plane and the middle seats are usually the last to be selected. The middle seat in a back row is the very last choice. Fly during a slow time (such as when school resumes in the fall), and you may end up with an unoccupied seat next to you.
Challenge #8. Are You tall or Where to sit if you need to make a connection to another flight and are short of time?: The best place to sit in this situation is near the front. If you can’t get near the front you may need to ask or even bargain with those closest to the front of the aircraft to change seats. Always carry a few $10 or even $25 gift cards and offer to pay the person with them to get that coveted seat if necessary. While some fliers who are not in a hurry will happily relocate to a still-acceptable seat (example: aisle for aisle) others may need the bribes such as the free cocktails, or even cash. If you’re desperate (which means you are an amateur Life hacker for not planning for this) you can ask passengers closer to the front to trade seats just for landing, but this only works if carry-ons aren’t stashed in an overhead bin in the back. Whatever you do when requesting or negotiating for a seat change, always keep a pleasant attitude and smile.
Challenge #9. Painful pressure in your ears?: There is no part of the cabin that will offer relief if you struggle with ear pressure issues (barotrauma). The fact is that everywhere on the plane is the same regarding ear popping, as the barometric pressure is the same.
Challenge #10. Food and beverage service usually starts at the front of the cabin. This can actually change on some airlines depending on whether the flight is flying east versus west or north versus south. For the premium or higher priced cabins, some airlines will allow you to pre-order meals on their website. Specialty meals can include vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, kosher, and for children. The front-to-back service can be a downside for sitting in the rear. It is not unusual on a long flight with hot meal service for the crew to run out of a popular item by the time they reach you in the back. Don’t be upset if you get a vegetarian or kosher meal that wasn’t meant for you.
Challenge #11. Need to find the quietest part of the plane?: Some things you can control and other you can’t. You can’t avoid people who snore when they sleep, crying infants or boisterous and loud talkers. The quietest location is usually near the forward galley however you may encounter the problem of listening to the crew chatting. Still, seats as far up front in the cabin as possible will help you to avoid the loud aircraft engines. Even sitting towards the interior helps; aisle seats are several decibels quieter than window seats.
Challenge #12. Getting cheap seats: The variables that determine this are constantly changing. Most airlines add surcharges for the best seats or create new, more expensive subcategories with names like Premium Economy or Extra Legroom. An increasing number of airlines charge to select your seat at the time of booking. Plan ahead, unless you actually want to get stuck in the back near the restrooms. Airfare pricing is more about fare class than specific seats and different airlines have different and very fluid pricing strategies. You can pretty much be assured that if you haven’t paid extra for a premium seat, don’t have frequent flyer status or didn’t end up snagging one of the last, high priced seats on the flight, you will be vying for the basic economy seats in the middle and back of the plane.”
Challenge #13. You need to change seats before your flight?: There are a number of options here.
- If you do not want to be stuck in the middle seat, you may need to work with a living, breathing travel agent who can help guide the process.
- You can self-serve on the internet: tap into the online system when early check-in begins to see if any last minute seats opened up.
- Talk to an airline reservationist over the phone or a ticket counter agent at check-in.
- As a last resort, a gate agent has the ability to reassign seats right up until boarding time.
- Life Hack Tip: When requesting a seat change, always be pleasant with a smile on your face.
Whatever you on a plane and whatever hacks you seek to put in place to improve your lot do be generous in spirit, attitude and someone materially. While a smile, a good attitude, and chocolates may not guarantee you get what you want or need your odds of success go up. Also, always carry extra sweets as additional ammunition for goodwill from others. Bring enough to offer some to the seatmates on either side of you. You never can tell when you need to turn a stranger into a friend. Good sources for information on seating are; ExpertFlyer.com and SeatGuru.com.
Hack #69: Becoming an Air Courier
A courier is a person who delivers something for someone. People who deliver cars for others are a type of courier. An air courier is a specialized type of courier — an individual who acts as an agent simply by occupying a seat on a plane. This courier permits a courier company to transport time-sensitive packages by air overnight to a foreign country…
Not all courier companies own their own planes and trucks like FedEx and UPS. Courier companies move mass amounts of papers and packages. Couriers are required for goods shipped on regularly scheduled flights because all
overseas flights must have a passenger for checked baggage.
When you act as an air courier you are never in danger or at risk since you generally never touch or make contact with the material you are “technically traveling with.” Thus you are not responsible in case of damage during transport. The shipped goods are insured by the company that put the courier, the package, and the plane seat together. These are known as the courier company.
There are courier companies, who solicit the public to act as couriers for them. Representatives from the company check the goods in and pick them up at the airport or you may be expected to meet a representative from the courier company when you reach at your destination and process the paperwork together at customs. The details of each trip will be explained when you arrive at check-in for departure.
Courier companies need you and since they can get you a very cheap fare, you need them as well. In exchange for being a courier, you give up the right to check in much luggage. You must, either travel with only a carry-on, so ship your suitcase ahead by mail. Thousands of people travel the world as couriers. The demand for air couriers has increased since the events of 9/11. Why do companies use couriers? There are many reasons and the more creative you are the easier it will be to discover them.
Unaccompanied material can be detained by customs. If a shipment is stopped by customs the recipient can be charged storage fees which can increase the cost of shipping some goods.
An efficient, cheap way to ship sensitive material.
Certain items cannot be faxed or e-mailed such as bulky material, valuable gems, original contracts, cash payments and checks.
Tips for doing it right:
If you know your schedule weeks or months in advance you can reserve the dates you want to.
If you like to travel spontaneously or on short notice the prices to fly as a courier are even lower. Check frequently with courier companies for deals.
If you decide to travel as an air courier on a regular basis you may want to join one of the many organization that can provide information and services for you. It is best to fly once before you join such a group. Some are better than others and many charge a membership fee. One is the International Association of Air Travel Couriers (IAATC), www.courier.org.
Learn the best months to travel: When the prices are lowest, when the mosquito count is low, what local issues need to be concerned (is bottled water required, are beggars a problem).
Be aware of infectious disease issues. Are vaccinations required? Should you carry malaria tablets? Antibiotics for dysentery?
There are sites that list the air courier companies with phone numbers, and other essential contact information including contact information, destinations the courier companies deliver to and the typical rates for flights.
If you are interested in avoiding colds and flu read the following articles. Lots of great wellness tips for when you need to travel on a plan.
If you have an interest in having a basic understanding of Applied Game Theory (and you need to) here is an interview I did with James Selman, a pioneer, and innovator in Leadership research.
Just click below to watch the entire interview.
Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project
Lewis Harrison is the director of the professional Coaching Training Program at the International Association of Healing Professionals
He is the founder of the RealUGuru Project Think Tank is a is a life coach, peak performance expert, writer, mentor, content-rich, motivational speaker, and an entrepreneur specializing in problem-solving and strategizing based on game thinking, applied game theory and Game Thinking.
He is the author of over twenty-two books published in five languages.
Don’t forget to tune to the RealUGuru Radio show every Thursday 4-6 PM EST at WIOX 91.3 FM or on your smart device at WIOXRadio.org.
WIOX is a diverse station that broadcasts original programming including presentation from NPR, the BBC, Democracy Now etc.
If you are interested in business success in the 21st Century in the arts or in any other endeavor you need to study with Lewis Harrison. Begin by reading Lewis’ books.
If you are an entrepreneur you will want to begin with his books on game theory and business success. Here are two basic ones to start with:
The offerings on RealUGuru.com focus on the application of applied game thinking, gamification, decision science, positive psychology, happiness, and visionary thinking to solve basic, complex and extreme problems. He is the creator of a free course on business success and human potential.
Here is a short interview with Lewis;
This blog is sponsored by the New York City Chair Massage Company at www.eventschairmassage.com, supplying stress management services to event and meeting planners for trade shows throughout the United States