If there's one thing I can't travel without its my Macbook Air.
More than an inflight entertainment system or essential communications tool -- when travel plans require flexibility, the sleek ultraportable becomes an airline rebooking engine.
With flight cancellations dominating the news in recent weeks, and a record-breaking summer travel season to follow -- there are a few websites you should keep handy to deal with inevitable disruption:
Airline websites: In the event of a flight cancellation, you may not be able to rebook online, but you will be able to find alternate flights, check availability, or -- if necessary -- buy another ticket altogether (on a different carrier if necessary). Don't forget many carriers also have sites designed for work on mobile phones like the iPhone or Blackberry. Check flight delays, routes and schedules, aircraft types and get the latest operational status.
Flyertalk.com: If there's a community of travel experts -- this is it. Many members of this online community fly every week, some more often, and they know the tricks of the trade.
SeatGuru.com: It won't necessarily help you find an alternate flight, but it will get you a comfortable seat. A must-visit resource when planning any travel.
TripAdvisor.com: The travel portal for community reviews and information to the tune of nearly 18 million! Whether you're looking for a good quiet hotel to get a decent night's sleep before trying to get home the next day, or want to know where to plan your next vacation -- this site, by the same people that run the online travel kings Expedia.com and their discount brother Hotwire.com, has it all!
Tech Tips for Travelers:
- Always carry your chargers with you. Gadget batteries don't last forever and if your luggage is lost, or stuck in the bowels of the airport -- you'll want a recharge.
- Go online! While many are lining up for the few rebooking agents at an airport, jump on the web and rebook yourself. (In some cases you may not be able to rebook a specific ticket, or reuse credits -- but buying a new ticket may get you home and not be an option hours later when you reach the front of the line!)
- Find a hotspot. Most airports have gone wireless - some, like PDX, are free. And if you don't have a laptop, airport lounges, internet kiosks and business centers are a great place to get online.
- Download airline flight schedules before you head to the airport. A copy (usually a PDF but a printout works too) of a carrier's schedule will help you find alternative flights and routings (think outside the box -- maybe Portland to Los Angeles to get to Denver?)
All the gadgets in the world can not replace the most essential carry-on: Patience.
As the motto goes, "Be Prepared". Flight cancellations, delays and other travel disruptions are a reality... those prepared and armed with the information and tips to get their travel plans back on track -- will find themselves home with the loved ones first.
Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday April 11: kxl_techexpert-travelwebsites_20080411.mp3 (MP3)