Remember when you could show up at the airport an hour before your flight? Bag drop lines were short, waltzing through security was a breeze, and you could be at your gate with time to spare. Those days are long gone, and they won’t be back for a while (if ever). Reports say the current airline staff shortages could last well into 2023.
This year’s summer travel season has been rocky, at best. You've probably seen headlines about delays, huge numbers of canceled flights, and even stinky mountains of unclaimed luggage. Unfortunately, problems like these are becoming the norm rather than a rare exception.
This year, summer travel is back with a vengeance, but airlines aren’t prepared. Whether you're retired and working on your bucket list, reconnecting with friends, or just eager to go see the world, here are some travel tips to avoid headaches along the way.
Airline Staff Shortages and Canceled Flights are Causing Chaos for Travelers
Flight delays are nothing new. Storms can cause regional problems that ripple across the nation and beyond. And every year or two, an airline’s software system goes down, leading to a weekend of utter chaos.
The airline industry’s current problems run far deeper, however. Having shed 21% of their workforce during COVID-19, airlines have been trying to increase services to meet demand without the labor they need to maintain smooth service.
One of the biggest problems of having less staff is less resilience when something goes wrong. There are fewer or no backup pilots to make up for canceled flights, flight attendants are already run ragged with higher workloads, and ground crews are scrambling to keep things running smoothly.
There’s also no quick fix. Most industry positions require lengthy background checks as well as weeks—if not months—of specialized training. By the time airlines hired enough employees to meet current demand, the summer travel season would be over. They’d have too much staff and not enough passengers.
Given airlines’ reluctance to significantly increase staffing, travelers need to be ready for changes and delays.
12 Tips for Stress-free Travel in 2022 and Beyond
If you have a trip coming up, you might be reading headlines about travel nightmares and wondering whether it’s better to stay home. While things are rougher than usual, millions of people are still flying every day and getting where they need to go.
Here are 12 tips to help you have a smooth and relaxing trip.
1. Buy the Flexible Fare
Budget fares can be a great way to save on travel costs. However, they’re usually non-refundable, and even changing flights can be difficult. If you have to change plans due to airline problems or an unforeseen illness, paying a bit more for a flexible fare beats having to eat the entire cost of a cheaper ticket.
2. Book Directly with Airlines
Third-party sites make it easy to compare flights and find the option. But when it’s time to buy, go directly to the airline. If something happens to your flight, you’ll get better customer service than going through a middle-man.
3. Avoid Layovers
With so many delays, it’s becoming more and more common for flyers to miss connecting flights. Getting a direct flight to your destination maximizes the chances that you and your baggage will make it on time. If you do need to make a connection, plan for a longer layover than you’d usually need.
4. Use Your Airline’s App
Every major airline has an app and robust online services. You can check in, monitor your flight status, and get updates without having to interact with pressured staff. And if your flight gets canceled, rebooking in the app is far quicker than waiting in line at a crowded airport gate.
5. Take Advantage of TSA Pre or Global Entry
TSA checkpoints are just as understaffed as airlines, and it shows in the security lines snaking through airports. Trusted traveler programs allow you to save time by skipping the line, and Global Entry makes clearing customs a breeze. Enrollment for these programs often requires an in-person appointment, but then the membership lasts for 5 years.
6. Get to the Airport Early
Airlines have been recommending this for years, but now they mean business. You could face long lines to check your bags and get through security, or grab a snack before your flight. And don’t forget passport control if you’re going overseas! Getting to the airport an extra hour early could save you the headache of missing a flight.
7. Pack with Health in Mind
With baggage getting lost more often, you can’t count on having your checked bags at your destination. Put important medications, documents, and maybe even a change of clothes in your carry-on bags. And make sure you have a plan B for if your luggage gets lost.
8. Fly a Day Early for Special Events
If you’re traveling to a time-sensitive event and have some flexibility in when you travel, fly out a day early. Nothing would be worse than missing a wedding or family reunion because of a canceled flight that you can’t rebook in time.
9. Consider International Plans Carefully
Airline problems are worldwide, but certain regions like Europe have suffered more than others. With major European airports planning daily flight limits and varying international regulations, do your research before planning a trip abroad.
10. Maintain a Positive Mindset
It’s easy to get frustrated when things go wrong, but it doesn’t help anything. Take a deep breath, maintain a mindset of gratitude for the opportunity to travel, and put your energy into finding a solution to getting to your destination.
11. Remember the Human
Airline employees are overworked, overstressed, and trying to help thousands of frustrated travelers every day. A simple smile and “thank you” will go a long way towards brightening their day, not to mention getting the help you need.
12. Consider Driving
Gas prices are high, but if your destination isn’t too far, driving might be a better option. There’s much less chance for delays outside of your control, and a lot more flexibility to make stops along the way.
Budgeting for Travel in Retirement
After two years of minimal travel, a lot of people are ready to get back out and see the world. Delays, cancellations, and hiccups are frustrating, but look at the big picture—we’re getting back to casual travel, even if it’s imperfect.
Likewise, keeping your financial big picture is important for enjoying travel in retirement. It might be tempting to book an extravagant trip or go first class because you’ve missed flying so much. But can you fit it into your retirement plans?
The airline industry will eventually recover from its staffing shortages, and flying will normalize again. By staying the course on your financial plans, you’ll be ready to jump on discount fares and enjoy your travels—hopefully, free of the stresses plaguing the industry right now.
A financial advisor can help you figure out how to budget for travel in retirement, as well as how it fits into your overall financial plan.
Do your travel goals fit into your retirement plans? Download our FREE 2022 Essential Retirement Guide today to make sure you’re on track for a secure and comfortable future.
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