The Air Travel Dilemma: Is There an Alternative?

Traveling has never been trickier.

A teacher finds herself stranded in California, unable to return to New York City. Why? There aren't enough staff members at LaGuardia to receive the airplane.

On his way to Fort Lauderdale, a wedding guest finds his plane rerouted to Miami to refuel. They are on the ground waiting for clearance to fly to Fort Lauderdale for six hours before the flight is just canceled, and the pilot says, politely enough, “Well… we tried.”

Summer travel has been overbooked, delayed, and canceled. One weekend in June saw 10,000 flights delayed. In the week preceding the 4th of July, Delta offered some customers $10,000 to volunteer to get off an overbooked flight.

We are living in an unprecedented time for travel. People want to vacation or see loved ones they haven't seen since before the pandemic, but staffing shortages are among the reasons for impossible air travel. For families, air travel has never been more challenging.

How Can You Make Air Travel Work for You?

Wealth of Geeks spoke with some industry insiders and real families to learn how they navigate cumbersome travel practices.

Money expert Ricardo Pina recommends families avoid individual carry-ons for each traveler. “It might raise your trips' entire cost,” he told us. So what does he do? “Try packing according to categories. You should pack your clothes in one suitcase, your electronics in another, and snacks in a third,” he explains.

For some travelers, flexibility with locations can save you money long term. “I've been saving my own money on flight costs by being flexible about locations and doubling down on Southwest Airlines,” says Lee Friedman, the founder of Mango Tree Travel.

He recommends taking advantage of the low fare calculator on Southwest to search for deals. Planning and looking for deals could save your family a lot of money and add an element of surprise to your vacation plans.

Travel blogger Jenny Ly offers some great hacks, from packing antibacterial wipes to bringing a wide variety of snack options. “A craft organizer stocked with a selection of nutritious, savory, and sweet goodies will make everyone pleased,” she says.

And don't forget to ask about family security checkpoints. “For people traveling with broader strollers, some large airports provide a special security line that frequently has a lower wait,” she told us. Asking a TSA agent about these special checkpoints could prevent an inevitable tantrum or breakdown.

What if the Planes Won't Fly?

While these hacks are great, they only work if the plane is actually going to leave the airport. With so many delays and cancellations, can a family trust the airport to deliver them to their long-awaited vacation?

Twitter is alive with frustrated passengers, often still waiting on the tarmac as they draft complaints to the major airlines. User @HSDesai16 tweeted at Delta: “Your customer services use words like valued customers. At least be consistent in your message. Customer service quotes are delayed, and the terminal says a pilot is not available. Not sure what to believe #Delta #Delayedflight #NBC #CBS #CNN #ABC”

Staffing shortages haven't just impacted the gate agents and terminal staff. It's never been more challenging for airlines to find pilots. Some airlines are offering 14% raises to entice pilots to jump to their airlines, but those pilots are weary of encountering the same problems.

What are people supposed to do if rising inflation, fuel prices, and staff shortages are working together to make flying nearly impossible for travelers, particularly families? It might be time to hit the rails and take a nostalgic trip on a train.

Landscapes, Leg Room, and No Lines: Train Travel Has Its Perks

Planning a family vacation can be a daunting financial endeavor, and not being able to trust the airline to get you to your chosen destination means some families have to seek out alternative methods of travel.

“If a train is available, then that's always going to be an easier and less stressful way to get from A to B,” Tim Leffel told Wealth of Geeks. Tim is the author of The World's Cheapest Destinations, and he has been studying travel hacks his entire career. “It's often cheaper than a flight,” he says, “especially on the east and west coasts, even more so when you factor in baggage fees and extra costs for seat selection.”

The benefits of train travel are numerous, including no long lines, more baggage freedom, and more legroom. In addition, the train itself has the opportunity to become its own adventure, with trips to the dining cart and exciting landscapes to observe. Amtrak also has a rewards program that offers points for every dollar spent, a 25% point bonus for business travel, and a 50% point bonus for Acela first-class travel, among other benefits.

With air travel in an undeniable state of flux, families looking to vacation might want to consider train travel for their next great adventure.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.