Making travel arrangements can be confusing, expensive and difficult. While some Willamette students may have already made travel arrangements for this summer, others have yet to do so. For those who are still figuring out how they will travel, here are some tips to ensure the process goes smoothly.
You may be wondering if it’s more advantageous to book a flight in advance or at the last minute. Some may claim that booking a flight at the last minute will save money because airlines will be desperate to fill unsold seats, while others claim the opposite. In general, it’s a safer bet to book a flight in advance.
CheapAir.com recently released the results of a study that analyzed 917 million fares from around three million flights to find out when the best time to book is. The study found that the ideal time to book a flight is 70 days in advance. Of course, for students who haven’t booked a flight yet, summer break will be beginning in fewer than 70 days, so it’s probably a good idea to book a flight now. The website claims that the later you wait, the bigger risk you run of facing fare increases. Also, the website states that there is no best day of the week to book, as fares are nearly identical regardless of the weekday.
For those who are flying this summer but aren’t a fan of the TSA checkpoints, it is recommended that you register for TSA Pre-Check. Pre-Check allows you to move through the TSA line without removing shoes, laptops, liquids, belts and light jackets, according to TSA’s website. Pre-Check also allows you to move through the line much quicker, as most people with Pre-Check wait less than five minutes. A five-year membership is $85 and requires a background check and in-person interview.
Of course, you don’t need to fly at all to get to your destination. For those who would rather take their time and not worry about the stress of air travel, Amtrak is a good option. Amtrak provides service from the Salem railroad station (located adjacent to WU) to Seattle and Los Angeles, with connections to many other destinations. A long-distance train ticket to California will typically cost what a flight would, unless you opt for a sleeping car, which costs significantly more. If your train trip is overnight, bring earplugs and something comfortable to sleep in.
Lastly, there is driving. Driving is convenient and less expensive because it does not require you to buy a ticket beforehand. Unlike with flying or taking the train, what you can bring is not limited to what you can fit in your suitcase.
However, there is still some planning you should do before you hit the road. The website for the podcast Car Talk recommends that you should have your car tuned and inspected at least a week before a road trip. The website recommends checking the cooling system, tires, steering and suspension, air conditioner and transmission as well as changing the oil. Also, be sure your registration and insurance are up to date.
When it’s time to drive, SoloTraveler recommends starting early in the morning, when you are the most alert. Long drives can be boring and tedious, but you can listen to audiobooks or music. SoloTraveler also advises you to know your limits and not to drive longer than what you are capable of. Some people may be capable of driving for 12 hours, while others may be able to handle no more than three. Do not drive if you feel too tired to do so safely. Even though drives can be boring, it is also extremely important that you do not use your phone behind the wheel.
When driving overnight, you can stay at a motel or sleep in the car. Motels near the freeway are generally easy to find and inexpensive. Although motels aren’t fancy, they will do the job. If you prefer to save some money and sleep in your car, many Walmarts allow overnight camping. Always call the store ahead of time to make sure doing so is allowed.
No matter how you choose to travel, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration. Traveling can be stressful and fun at the same time, but it is important for you to be prepared. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make your travel plans.