Advice for people booking vacations

With winter’s chill set in, it seems many Maritimers are thinking of jetting away to warmer climes.

“Right now, we are seeing some flights come on to the schedule there are some actually this week starting to go to the Caribbean,” says Leah Batstone of the Halifax International Airport Authority.

Daniel Hayter of online travel site says he’s seeing many clients book vacations in the United States as well.

“Miami, very popular, Orlando, very popular, so Florida is very popular,” says Hayter.

But travel woes have been making plenty of headlines, with flights south of the border grounded by computer glitches at the FAA on Wednesday, and a holiday travel season rife with air travel troubles.

Travel experts say there are ways to prepare and plan to prevent the worst.

“For everybody heading to sunny destinations, now is a key time to ask some questions about preparation,” says Stephen Olmstead of CAA Atlantic.

Olmstead says that means talking with a travel advisor about getting insurance coverage, not just for trip interruption and cancellation, but for any health emergencies as well. He says it’s important to understand your coverage, so you know what’s included and what’s not.

“Have somebody walk you through those details,” says Olmstead. “So that they can fill in some of the blanks, some of the questions you might have.”

“Lots of airlines are still offering fares which allow the traveler to make changes,” adds Hayter. “You need to be careful and you need to really read the exact details of the type of flight that’s included.”

Hayter also recommends booking flights early in the day before any delays start to pile up.

“So if you can travel early in the morning, there’s a far lesser chance of those delays having built up and affecting your flight,” he says.

Recent nightmarish images of lost luggage also illicit reminders on what to pack, and where.

Olmstead says that means travelling light and keeping essentials out of checked baggage.

“Make sure that you’re going to be ok if that doesn’t arrive with you,” he advises. “Plan for the worst case.”

Batstone also recommends passengers check their flight status, and road conditions, before leaving for the airport.

“We also strongly suggest that travelers arrive here extra early for their flight, just to ensure that if there are any queues when they arrive they can get to their gate in plenty of time before their flight departs,” she says.

But if things do go wrong, air passengers do have rights in Canada. The president of Air Passenger Rights, a non-profit which lobbied for legislation to protect travelers on Canadian airlines, says it’s important to make sure carriers are accountable and follow the law.

“If your baggage is delayed, damaged, lost, the airline owes you compensation for your loss that you have to prove, up to approximately $2,300 CA,” says Gábor Lukács.

He says if your flight is delayed or cancelled, “for reasons within the carrier’s control, and that would include maintenance issues… the airline has to rebook you on its own network within nine hours of your original departure time.”

If that’s not possible, he adds, the airline must then book you on a competing airline for departure within 48 hours.

While the rush to head down south hasn’t quite begun yet, it’s all timely advice for Maritimers hoping for smooth travels during a bumpy travel time.