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Abbott Clinical Research

Travel Information - Air


Travel Information Categories:
General Travel Information
Tips for Air Travel
Tips For Bus Travel
Tips for Train Travel
Tips for Automobile Travel

Tips for spending the night afar

Tips for saving Money

Reference: Airlines, Hotels, Hostels, Booking Sites, Misc Sites


Tips for Air Travel:


While flying is perceived to be the most expensive mode of cross-country travel, it often times can be cheaper or comparable to other modes of travel but is by far the fastest. 


- Don't buy roundtrip tickets.  Sometimes, studies dates change and or studies may check out earlier or later than originally scheduled or you may not get into the study at all.  Airlines charge a minimum of $100 to $200 plus the difference in airfares to change your ticket.  It is often cheaper to just buy a one-way ticket at the last minute than to change an existing ticket.  Southwest airlines seems to be pretty lenient on allowing changes to your tickets but this of course is not guaranteed.  Check your fare class for limitations.  

The cheapest tickets always carries the most restrictions.  You can buy tickets with the add on of flight changes and standby but that can be 50 to 100% or more.  Always read the restrictions and fine print.  Some airlines do offer refunds within 24 hours as long as the travel is at least 7 days out, even on nonrefundable fares but read the fine print. 


- Friday, Sunday and Mondays are the busiest travel days during the week and will usually have higher fares.  Saturdays can be cheaper but tend to have more of the merry whether travelers so that can slow down security and what not.  I like to fly during the week when it's mostly business travelers.  


- Late night flights (red-eye) are often cheaper than daytime flights.  Also the first and the last for routes that have multiple daily runs. 


- Check for dates near your desired stay like a day before or a day after.  Sometimes fares will be cheaper.  



- Buy your ticket at soon as possible during the summer, spring break, the week of Thanksgiving and the week of Christmas.  During the rest of the year, good deals can be had 3 weeks in advance all the way up to the day of travel.  I usually buy my tickets 3 to 7 days before I travel but I buy 3 weeks in advanced whenever possible.  Check airfares often as fares can change from day to day. Unfortunately, sometimes you find a good study and you have no choice but to catch the next flight out to hit the screening. 


- If your flying into a major city with more than one airport, check fares to all airports.  Also consider flying into a nearby city.  But of course consider the cost to transport between airports and the city that the clinic is in. 


- Smaller cities and airports will usually cost more, especially at the last minute.  Airports with one or two airlines or flights a day will be really expensive no matter what. 


- Use a website like kayak to find the lowest fare.  You can search for nearby airports as well as nearby dates. Also, the ITA Matrix site allows you to see the lowest fare in a calendar format which can be helpful.

Once you find a fare you like, provided that it's not involving multiple airlines, you should go directly to the airline's website to book the flight as most travel websites charge a $5 booking fee. 


- Join a frequent flier program.  If you anticipate flying a lot, this can help you in the long run.  However to maximize the benefits, you'll always need to fly on that airline or one of its code share partners.  You can earn miles towards free flights. 


- Priceline.com - This can be tricky.  Before you bid on a flight, know that if your bid is accepted, your credit card is charged immediately and there are no refunds or changes.  You must enter a credit card to place a bid so you won't know if you can get a price until you already paid for it.  The flight can be anytime during the day but is won't arrive after a certain time.  The good news is that it won't be some obscure airline you've never heard of cause there are only a few left.  Do a search for where you are going, it will be one of those flights, may be not the cheapest one but depending on which airline accepts your bid and how they want to route you.  Other than no changes, no refunds, you also do not earn airline miles should you be a frequent flier member. 


- Hotwire - This site operates similar to priceline except that they will offer you the Hotwire Hot Rate which may be cheaper than any other rate.  On a random query, I searched for a roundtrip from Austin to Chicago for this weekend and the cheapest rate through any of the major booking sites was $600 but the Hotwire Hot Rate was $444.  So pretty good savings if you are flexible.  I would imagine that the Priceline bid rate would be very similar.  Again, same with Priceline, you won't know your flight until after you pay, no changes, no refunds and no airline miles. 



- Try to carry on everything, 1 carry on bag and a brief case or purse.  Most airlines are now charging $25 to $50 for the 1st checked bag and $35 or more for the 2nd.   Southwest is the only US airlines with at least 1 free checked bag.  Beware that Spirit Airlines and Frontier charge for both checked and carryon bags.  You get one free bag which has to fit under the seat in front of you.  If you book your baggage fees when you book your reservation, you'll save a little.  You'll pay dearly if you show up at the gate with an unpaid carryon. 


- If you have to check a bag, pack most of your crap in your checked baggage.  Carry on rules change every other day and you don't want to have to send anything home or worse, have it confiscated.  Visit the TSA website for current list of what you can and can't bring with you. 


- Volunteer to get bumped for airline credit.  Sometime airlines oversell a flight and if everyone who has a ticket shows up, they will have to deny boarding to the overage.  Airlines will often offer travel credit for varying amounts in exchange for taking a later flight.  Sometimes they may just put you in First Class.  I've had that happen before.  Sometimes when you check in online or at the airport, you will get a notification that the flight may be oversold and will ask if you wish to volunteer.  Delta will ask you to bid on the lowest travel credit you'll accept.  Like doing studies, volunteering does not guarantee that you will get bumped.  Also, listen for announcements in the gate area.  If you don't mind getting in later, you might end up with some credit for your next flight. 


- Make sure you arrive the day before a screening or check in.  You never know when a flight will get delayed or cancelled so you don't want to risk it if possible.  Nothing screws up your labs more than stress!


- If booking travel to return home, be sure to leave the day after check out.  Occasionally, additional lab tests may be needed after you check out and failure to come back can delay and or reduce your compensation. Don't plan to leave the country 20 minutes after check out!  Some clinics will allow you to go to a local lab like Quest but don't count on it.  You would need prior approval from the study coordinator for extenuating circumstances.


- American Airlines offers a 24 hour hold on most fares at least 7 days in advance.  This can be a handy tool if you're not quite sure of your travel plans. 


- Upgrade to Premium Economy if you want more leg room and want to sit near the front. 

Airlines Find Travelers Accept Fees Wrapped Up in Bundles - I was quoted in this NY Times article!

Also check for last minute First Class upgrades when you check in.




Abbott Clinical Research


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