With the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) just under a month away, I’m hoping all of you have already bought your train/plane/boat/starship passes to Seattle already! Waiting until this late in the game can be a gamble, and depending on where you’re coming from - it could pay off handsomely (last-minute travel deals for exactly what you need are rare but can happen) or you’ll really end up paying for it.
There are some great resources on the PAX forums regarding international travel, Travel from Oz, travel in general (2008), travel music, and roaming nomadic gamer groups on planes, trains and automobiles. Check out some of these great information caches!
For those of you who have yet to purchase a ticket to PAX, or are thinking about your next adventure, here are some really basic travel suggestions for airline travel (We’ll work on other types later; comment if you have specific questions!):
1. When purchasing airline tickets never, EVER, buy directly from the airline. Unless you’re booking an entire flight and getting an extreme flight deal, it is almost always drastically more expensive to buy from the source. You’d think that going straight to United Airlines or Alaska would net you a deal since you’re cutting out the middleman, right? HERE is how Travelocity explains it. Basically, these third party vendors* get great deals on the seats on a flight that haven’t already been filled by the airline, which means that you save loads of cash and the airline can still have a fairly booked flight, which leads me to number 2:
2. Full flights are great for airlines, but what happens when they are *too* booked? This happens on Alaska air *all* the time, especially during the summer and peak travel times. If a flight is cancelled, or if it’s over-booked to begin with, the passengers are put on the next-available flight (usually). This can cause a domino-effect with fully or mostly booked flights, which ultimately results in a handful of passengers left without a seat on the plane. This could be great for you, though, if you don’t mind sitting around in airports or if you have a few extra hours to get to where you need to go. When airlines over-book, they ask for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a seat on the next flight and a free ticket to anywhere the airline flies. I’ve ended up in this situation many times, and saved myself hundreds of dollars at the cost of sitting around in the airport a few hours longer. I love airports anyway, though, so to me it’s not much of a sacrifice!
3. If you’re looking to save some money, and your flight dates are flexible, try searching for flights a day before, a day after, try different times, different days of the week and other variations. Most travel sites can do +/- 1-3 days for domestic flights, but for international you’re on your own. For my upcoming vacation, I saved over $2,000 for 2 tickets just by moving the date forward by one day. There’s a rumor going around that flying on Wednesdays (or Thursdays, or Tuesdays) is cheaper, and sometimes the rumor is true, but it can vary and it’s not an absolute.
4. If you’re one of those people (like me) who get extremely cranky when you’re hungry, waiting around for hours only to finally board the plane, wait until the seatbelt sign has been turned off, wait for the first class cabin to get their food, then wait while the food cart inches its way towards your seat, taking what seems like an eternity… Just order a special item when you’re booking your flight. Special meals are usually brought out first. The downside: you don’t get to choose between “chicken or fish”. Most airlines seem to be dropping their food options, so if you’re on a flight without a meal, be sure to stock up on snacks and food from the terminal! Try not to get food that smells “amaaaazing” though, or you might find yourself with a pissed off neighbor (I have been both the “bitch with the delicious food” and the “I will go to federal prison for disrupting this airline just to get a bite of that” person).
What to Bring to PAX: There are some great lists on the main “PAX Prime 2010 Info and FAQ Thread (ASK QUESTIONS HERE)” thread. Look under “Travel”.
*A note on Third Party travel search/booking sites: there is Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, Hotwire, Sidestep, AND MORE! Kayak is becoming more and more popular, but I've found that Travelocity more often than not returns the best prices. Travelocity's "Last Minute Deals" and "Low Fare Alerts" should almost be considered a scam though, since the deal rarely works out or the ticket "cannot be found" or "has expired". The bottom line is, shop around! Use Google to find special deals or insider knowledge, such as this MetaFilter thread and try different combinations. Find something you like and you trust.
Happy Trails and have a nice flight!