Because travel is a big part of moving overseas, I thought I'd ask my good friend from high school, Nick Pemberton, who Manages a Travel Associates in South Australia to send through his absolute essential tips for flying, travel, upgrades, and more! If you would like to book flights with Nick or have another question, just email [email protected]! Now, over to Nick:
Best Time To Book Flights?
The rule of thumb with almost all flights to anywhere in the world, is that the earlier you can book, the better prices you can get.
The best availability is found when the flights are first released around 10 to 11 months ahead of departure time. With good availability, comes great pricing. Some people prefer to hold off to wait for sales to hit the market, but I try to steer my clients away from this, mainly because if you wait, the availability gets worse and the sale may never come, meaning you have to pay more than what you would have in the long run.
Combining internal flights with North America
If you're planning to travel internally within North America, ask your travel agent to combine all of your internal flights with your international flights on one fare.
Most airlines from Australia have partnered airlines who fly domestically within North America (for example One World alliance partners Qantas and American Airlines). There are a few benefits to booking your internal flights with your international flights:
- Checked baggage on stand-alone domestic flights in the US is rarely included and you need to purchase at check-in at the airport. Combining these flights in the same fare as your international flights, you actually get the same checked baggage allowance as the international flights (generally 2x bags of 23kg).
- The total packaged cost of all flights is cheaper than booking them separately.
- When all of your flight sectors are booked on the one ticket, the airlines guarantee any connections due to delays or cancellations when valid connection times are initially booked. If flights are booked separately, you are left on your own to rebook a new flight if you miss it for whatever reason.
Premium Economy and why it's kinda worth it
Most airlines who fly to the US from Australia have a premium economy cabin.
Premium economy is the cabin in between economy and business class and provides comfort without breaking the bank. You may not get a flatbed like in business class, but the seats are generally wider, recline further and have more leg room compared to economy class. The service is also much more efficient than in economy class. Some airlines also offer increased luggage allowances and priority check-in and boarding, meaning less queuing.
Upgrading and get upgraded
I often get asked what is the best way of getting upgrades on flights. Upgrades at airport check-in are extremely rare in this day and age.
You can obviously pay to upgrade your flights, which is often the most expensive method of upgrading, but it does obviously guarantee you an upgrade.
Another way is using frequent flyer points, which has become very popular and a method that has been widely described as the best way to spend points. This is generally only approved from 48 hours prior to departure to when you actually check-in at the airport, regardless how far out you elect to upgrade.
The third way is bidding to upgrade. Many airlines are now sending emails to customers around a week or so out from departure, inviting clients to bid money to upgrade their flights. Again, this is not guaranteed until closer to departure, but can be a more cost-effective way of getting an upgrade.
It is recommended when traveling to the USA to purchase TSA approved luggage locks.
With security more strict in the USA compared to most other countries, TSA officers will generally cut bag locks open, completely destroying your lock. Special TSA locks, which can be purchased online or from good travel stores, have a special lock that can only be opened by a special master key that only TSA officers have.
Keep an eye out for the TSA approved lock symbol when purchasing your locks.
Travel Insurance is important and essential
As an agent, I recommend travel insurance to all my customers until they can get appropriate insurance once residing in the US.
North America has some of the most expensive health care in the world. It can cost thousands of dollars to spend a night in hospital, something which a good travel insurer should cover you for. Take time to research different travel insurance providers and check policies carefully, so you don't get caught out in an emergency due to a policy's fine print.
Travel insurance will also cover you for other things such as lost or delayed luggage and cancellation cover for serious unforeseen reasons.
Thanks, Nick! If you would like to book flights with Nick or have another question, just email [email protected]!