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Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Do You Do When Your Flight Is Overbooked

These days, it’s almost mandatory that airlines overbook flights in order to make money and also fill each and every seat on the plane. There is a small percentage of people who arrive too late to make their flight or just don’t show up and the airlines take this into account when booking seats on each flight. Unfortunately, this means that planes are often crowded and many people each day get bumped and have to sit around the airport for hours waiting for the next flight going to their destination. This is especially true during the holidays. Of course, getting to the gate early could have prevented that from happening. While you could dwell on all the things you dislike about overbooked flights, it’s just as easy to look at the bright side and see how fewer flights per route and stuffed airplane cabins can work for you.

overbooked flight rules

You want to get to your destination just like everyone else, but unless you have reservations to do something right after you arrive or are traveling for business, you can easily be a Good Samaritan and give up your seat to someone who really needs to arrive on time. You may be doing a good deed for someone else, but you’re also getting something in return, besides karma points. Airlines hope that people will volunteer to get bumped and are willing to reward you for doing so (even though they will reward Passenger X, too, when he arrives late and can’t get a seat). Maybe his ride was late or there was traffic or his alarm didn’t go off and he’s in a bind. Let him have your seat and wait for the next flight out. You will end up getting to your destination a bit late, but with some extras in your pocket.

While Passenger X happily gets to his work meeting on time, you can browse the Internet, grab lunch or peruse the shops. You might even want to start planning your next vacation, because your empty seat can net you a free ticket on a future flight. That’s right! You now have two tickets for the price of one! The fuller the flight is, the more desperate an airline will be to have people volunteer to be bumped. This gives you leverage. You can haggle for anything from a credit for future travels (a credit is always better than a free ticket, because you can use it like a gift certificate) to a hotel room to free drinks at the bar. Since the seat you gave up was, essentially, paid for twice by you and Passenger X, the airlines aren’t losing money by rebooking and also giving you a free fare certificate for the future. Of course, what you can bargain for also depends on how long after your initial flight your new one is scheduled. The longer the wait, the more you may get.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has imposed a mandatory compensation for all those bumped from a flight and it always helps to know what you are owed, just in case. For flights arriving less than two hours after your original flight, you should be rewarded at least the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $650. For flights arriving more than two hours after your original flight, airlines are required to compensate you twice the cost of your one-way ticket, up to $1,300. 

If you are looking to get bumped in order to score some free travel, arrive at the airport early, check in at the gate to see if the flight is oversold and travel with only a carry-on to make it easier to get your stuff to your destination with you. Do something nice for someone else and reap the benefits in big ways. Now you can travel practically for free again in the future, helping you to stretch your trip budget enormously. Woot!

Have you ever been bumped from an overbooked flight?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why Malta Is On My Travel List

Okay, so sometimes I get travel inspiration from weird places and Malta may just be the strangest. A few years ago, I was watching the World’s Strongest Man Competition, which I do when I catch it, because I love to see the crazy things they make them do. Previous ones have been held in places like Victoria Falls, where they complained of extreme heat. Like many sporting events, you get some wonderful shots of the destination between competitions, as well as before and after commercial breaks. This last one I watched took place in Malta, and it was stunning. Of course, I’d heard of it, but I didn’t know much about it or even where it was located. Until recently, I actually thought it was a Greek island, but apparently, it’s part of European Union.

Malta travel
photo credit
Since that series of competitions, I’ve been planning a trip to Malta as an addition to a European vacation. I mean, if I’m already there, why not make a quick plane trip to Malta from Turkey or Greece? I’ve done a bit of research to see what I want to see and do there on my visit…on a budget, obviously.

photo credit

The island of Malta is packed with museums of all kinds. I’m partial to ones that are unique, though I’m not adverse to art. These museums have caught my attention:
  • St. Paul’s Catacombs – I’m always fascinated my underground attractions, especially ones that are especially historical. The St. Paul’s Catacombs are interconnected Roman cemeteries that were used up to the 4th century to get around the law that prohibited burying human remains within the city.
  • The Old Prison – Not only can you see what a prison cell looked like, but there is also a permanent exhibit of fortifications and it’s the home of the largest collection of historical graffiti on the island.
  • The Palace Armoury – Amazingly, considering the size of Malta, it is home to the largest collection of arms and armor still housed in its original building. The Palace Armoury is where the Knights of St. John (a group of warrior monks) stored everything they needed to defend Catholicism from the Ottoman Turks.
  • The Palace State Rooms – The pride of the Presidential Palace where you can see the only complete set of the 18th century tapestries called “Les Teintures des Indes”, a portrait gallery of Maltese islands rulers, Baroque ceiling paintings, as well as period furnishings and décor that is over 400 years old.
The Water
Of course there is the beach to enjoy on a Malta vacation, but that’s not the only way to view the water. The Valletta Waterfront is lined with historical architecture, the Quay Wall – where merchants unloaded their wares on Grand Harbour – and fantastic shopping, dining and leisure experiences. This is also where you will find the Port of Valletta, where cruises dock, and an awesome open air museum. It’s a great place to take envy-worthy photos.

If you like diving and swimming in stunning waters, the Blue Grotto is the place to go. On the southern coast, it is a popular tourist attraction, mostly due to the way the phosphorescent colors of the underwater plants reflect on the surface. The colors can be seen from sunrise until lunchtime, and create a riot of oranges, purples, greens and blues. If getting in the water isn’t for you, as I tend to shy away from, then you can hop on a boat to see the caves up close.
When I travel, I may not buy much, but I love to browse. I will take a few things home to commemorate my trip, generally ornaments, unless I find something I just can’t live without. It pays to know what local products to look for, though, in case it’s something you can’t get anywhere else. Malta isn’t as hard-core about shopping as many other vacation destinations, but that doesn’t mean those who love to get a little retail therapy will be disappointed. There are plenty of upscale boutiques to choose from and you can find the finest hand-made silverware on Republic Street. Look for lace, knitwear, baskets and hand-blown glass.

Malta also has a lot of gourmet foods, like sundried tomatoes, wine and olives. They may be a little more expensive to bring back with you, but make excellent gifts. Because of the international influence on the island, you can purchase some of the latest fashions and other European goods and décor. As a lover of outdoor markets, I’d definitely go for some local produce at the Valletta Sunday Market or Marsaxlokk Market.
Besides the foods I plan on buying at the markets, I really get excited about local foods and going out to eat on vacation. I’d expect nothing less than fantastic seafood from an island nation, and with all the Mediterranean influence going on, Malta is going to have some interesting eats. Here are just a few that sound delicious to me:
  • Bigilla – Broad beans with garlic.
  • Helwa tat-Tork – A sugary dessert made of whole and crushed almonds and tahini.
  • Kapunata – A Maltese version of ratatouille made with tomatoes, eggplant, green peppers and capers.
  • Lampuki Pie – A fish pie made with dorado or mahi-mahi.
  • Rabbit Stew
  • Sargu – A white bream fish.
Malta also has its own wines, even though it imports wines from larger regions, which I’d think anyone who can appreciate a glass would want to try. They have the traditional grape varieties, but make sure to try a glass or two of wines made with Gellewza and Ghirghentina grapes.

Where to Stay
Malta may have tons of wonderful hotels, but when I travel, I like to feel like a local and get my own place. Vacation rentals give you more space, so when traveling with more than two people, you don’t feel like you aren’t on top of each other. Most have included parking, a kitchen in which to cook your own meals (that you can make from foods you bought at the market) as well as more creature comforts you enjoy at home, like TV, laundry and WiFi.

Chestertons rents both apartments and homes for short and long-term visitors, many that are perfect for the budget traveler who would rather spend their money experiencing their destination than where to sleep, but still have a comfortable and lovely place to call home at the end of the day. Just doing a quick search, I found a lovely two bedroom, two bath apartment in Marsaskala for less than $80/night. It has a washing machine (pack light!) and a sweet little balcony. Chestertons makes it easy to plan the perfect vacation to Malta, giving you the opportunity to feel like a local.

Is Malta on your travel wish list, or have you already been on a previous vacation?

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