Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Unfolding a Disney Vacation, Part IV - Flying

Just sprinkle the pixie dust and you're off!  Oh, wait.  Call Dumbo.  Maybe he can get you there.  Hmmm.  You'd think a trip to Disney would give you access to some of those flying characters.  That would make getting there a little easier.  Until imaginary characters become an option for travel arrangements, we must choose another means of transportation.  I will try to detail some of your choices for airline travel.  I am not an expert on this, as I have only flown Southwest into Orlando for reasons I will detail below, but I will do some research so that you know what is available.

There are quite a few options for flying into Orlando (MCO airport code).  Airlines that fly into Orlando that are most likely to be accessed by people living in the continental US include AirTranAmerican AirlinesContinental,  DeltaFrontierJetBlueSouthwestUnited, US AirwaysVirgin America,and Virgin-Atlantic, to name a few.  There are international flights and other smaller airlines that fly into Orlando as well.  I have provided the link to each airline.  Just click on the name of the airline to go to their website.

Now, each airline has its own rules as far as paying for your luggage to fly, how far in advance you can make reservations, check-in arrangements, etc.  We have flown Southwest in the past because they do not charge you for your first 2 checked bags, and their prices are some of the least expensive around.  They have a "Ding" widget you can place on your computer and an app for the iPhone that informs you of current deals based on where you live and the destinations you choose.  You can find them by going to the Southwest savings page.  They post their airfare 6 months in advance, and you can sometimes find one-way flights for as low as $49.  These are usually the "Wanna Get Away" deals and are not refundable.  So, be sure you want to travel on the specific dates you choose.

American Airlines charges $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag as do United, US Airways, and Delta.  AirTran charges $20 and $25.  Frontier charges $20 and $20.  JetBlue does not charge for the first bag but charges $35 dollars for the second bag.  This airline could be a good choice, especially if you have small children who wouldn't need a lot of room in a suitcase for their clothing.  You could use the excess room for souvenirs and not have to pay for a second piece of luggage on the way home.  If you do choose to take an extra suitcase for souvenirs, try to make sure it is a suitcase that can fit inside another one so that you aren't paying for that bag both ways, especially since it'll be empty on the way down.  In my previous post where I talked about accommodations, I mentioned that some rooms have a washer and dryer.  Some resorts also have laundry facilities available even if your room does not have them.  With the ability to do laundry just once during your stay, the need for more than one bag per person can be reduced.

Seeing as there are so many options when it comes to airfare, I suggest you begin looking at the different airlines' websites to get an idea of up-front fees and decide what you are unwilling to pay for, such as baggage.  Your location will also determine what airline you cannot fly on.  I live in Pittsburgh, so Virgin airlines are not a possibility since they don't fly into Pittsburgh.  Once you've narrowed your search, try the widgets and savings apps for each airline left on your list.  You'll most likely get the best prices through these programs.  Otherwise, starting about 6 months out from your planned travel, begin checking the websites of your top choices almost daily by inputting your itinerary.  I have gotten great deals in the morning which are gone by the afternoon.  It pays to check back often.

You can also go to websites like Expedia or Orbitz and input your information.  You will then get a list of all airlines and flights, including the number of stops the flights make, how long the layovers are, and prices.  I usually just check Southwest, though.  I trust their quality.  I know I'll get a great deal at some point if I am persistent, and I am familiar with their check-in policy.  That reminds me...whichever airline you choose, become familiar with their boarding procedure.  You may be required to check-in online (this could give you a better seat if it is open seating than if you waited to check in at the airport).  You may be required to print out your boarding pass.  Just check the airlines' websites for additional information.