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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Get Free Future Travel by Postponing Current Travel 4.13.11

Free and Travel are not often two words one can put together. It’s like the Holy Grail for vacationers, though almost none of us seem to know how to achieve such a thing – besides have a job that involves traveling that your company pays for, though that doesn’t usually involve actual “vacationing”. I came across an article the other day that was written by a frequent flyer that is lucky enough to have the funds to fly a couple of times a month just to rack up frequent flyer miles. While I surely can’t follow in his footsteps, and you probably can’t either, I learned a few things about how I do travel and what I can do in order to score some free airfare, hotel and dining vouchers. These can be used on your current trip to save you money now or on a future trip to save you money in the later. It involves a fairly simple technique, too.

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Everyone has heard the term “bumped”. If you haven’t – or if you have and are not sure what it means – it is the term given to a person who has the misfortune to get to the airport too late (read: after almost all the other passengers) to check in for their overbooked flight and loses their seat. They are “bumped” from the flight. With the amount of overall flights being reduced, there are now more people who want to fly on those that are available most days. There are a certain number of no-shows or ticketed passengers that miss their flights each day. The airlines have always planned for this, but in these tough economic times they also want to fill their seats on the limited flights they have, so they overbook. (This was always a common thing on their most popular flights before the recession.) Sometimes everyone shows up and that leaves around 3-5 people without an actual seat. The airlines will rebook them on the next available flight, but will also always ask if others are willing to be bumped instead. This is how you get comped free travel/hotel/food.

Tip: Ask for a credit voucher instead of a free flight voucher. This works like a gift certificate for the airline and allows you more freedom when booking your flight with it (i.e. you can use it for international airfare if you wish or to buy more than one cheap ticket).

When you get to the gate, you will normally see on the monitor at the check-in desk if there is a list of passengers. These people are already on the “waiting” list. They may have checked in after everyone else or were able to be put on stand-by. If someone else doesn’t show up, or someone gives up their seat willingly, they get to board that flight. If you aren’t in a hurry to get to your destination, then maybe you wouldn’t mind volunteering to hang out until the next flight. The more people on the list, the more willing the airline will be to work with you in giving up your seat. Go up to the airline employee and ask if they need volunteers to be bumped. If so, ask what you will be compensated. Usually, because you have been helpful and friendly (this is certainly key in any customer/customer service conversation), they will give you a voucher for a free flight or credit to use at a later date. You’ll, of course, not have to pay extra for being rebooked on a new flight.

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Depending on how long of a wait it will be until your next flight, you might also be able to negotiate a free hotel room and/or dining vouchers for the airport while you hang around and wait for the next flight to come in. While you end up with a free flight (and probably more), the airline doesn’t really lose any money by giving you these things in exchange for your seat. They will be flying that future flight anyway and your seat was already paid for by the passenger who will be filling your seat when they purposely oversold the flight. You get all the perks for just being nice (even if it was selfish) and you might have made someone’s day by letting them take your place. This is a great way to be able to stretch your dollars and be able to vacation more throughout the year. You’ll also get more frequent flyer miles added to your account (if you are compensated with a voucher for a dollar figure and not a free flight)!

Tip: If the airline pays for you to stay in a hotel overnight, they must also pay for your transportation to that accommodation.

Want to avoid getting bumped? Make sure you get to the airport early instead of the last minute. It just takes that one person to get there before you for the flight to be full. I always suggest getting to the airport at least one hour early for domestic and at least two hours early for international. Of course, I get excited for any travel I do and want to allow time for anything that might delay me (traffic, long security lines, etc.), so we tend to get to the airport two hours ahead of any flight. We use the extra time to browse shops, watch people and eat. It’s always nice to be able to sit down and have a decent meal, instead of grabbing fast food right before you get on the flight. It gives you time to relax if you stress right before you travel. It also boosts your energy and helps reduce jet lag. Make sure you drink lots of water, too. I always buy a big bottle of water after security to take with me on the flight, since I am often thirsty, flying dehydrates you and I don’t always want to wait 45 minutes to an hour before they bring around the drink cart.

Tip: Want to finally get into the fancy schmancy airline lounge? Ask for a pass to use it if you’re bumped and have to wait a few extra hours.

More tips on getting “bumped”:
  • If you want to get bumped, it helps to get to the airport early as well. Get your name on the list of volunteers before anyone else.
  • Book on a flight that is likely to be overbooked (holidays, afternoon flights, early evening flights, last flight of the day, red eye, etc.)
  • Be polite. Don’t demand higher compensation than what they are offering you. If you know they are desperate, you can use it to your advantage, but negotiate in a polite manner.
  • Know the flight schedule. This can be just as useful to you and your travel plans as it is to the airline employee rebooking you.
  • Make sure you’re booking on an airline that does overbook flights. Some airlines do not. (Of course, this information is also helpful in not getting bumped.)
  • Be willing to fly on a different airline or a different route. This makes it easier to rebook you as well.
  • Pack light. While this doesn’t really help you to get booked, it does ensure that you keep all your belongings with you and the airline doesn’t have to figure out how to reroute your bags in addition to you (and your travel companions).
  • Fly through busy airports when possible. Obviously, these airports have more passengers flying everyday and have more overbooked flights than smaller airports.

I never really thought about postponing my flight a few hours to “invest” in my future vacationing, but with all this talk about how I can do it and it seeming to be so easy, I might just start thinking about how a few hours won’t really effect my travel plans and offer to give up my seat from now on. If it can help me budget a trip for cheaper the next time I travel, then it’s totally worth it. What about you? Have you ever purposely volunteered to be “bumped” in order to receive free travel?

Did you know you can subscribe to the Shereen Travels Cheap blog on your Kindle? No? Well, you can! Take Shereen Travels Cheap everywhere you go, get real-time updates when new posts are published, so you can read and enjoy STC at home, at work, on the train, in FranceDon’t have a Kindle? You can still use that fancy Kindle reading app, which is FREE, by the way, to read on your other web-enabled devices (iPad, Blackberry, Android, etc.).

So little to do and so much time to do it in. Bring things to occupy yourself if you find you might have a lot more wait time on your hands. I feel this kind of traveling deserves more than a typical "gadget". Here are some of my favorite games to bring along on a trip (not iPod apps, but good old-fashioned games):

Fluxx 4.0 - I love this game! It's the card game with ever-changing rules depending how you play. You start with a basic set of rules and a goal, but by the cards you choose to play, you can change how many cards to pick up, put down, steal from another player and the overall goal to win. Use your cards to your advantage and change the goal to match what you have in your hand. Don't get too excited about it though, because other players are going to do the same and change the game entirely. Fluxx comes in original 4.0, Family, Zombie, Eco, Monty Python, Pirate, Martian and Stoner editions. You can play them separately or up the challenge by playing two or more editions together.

Travel Scrabble - Are you a Scrabble fan? This great travel edition keeps all your pieces in a nifty little zipper folio. You won't lose any of the pieces when you pack it back up and the smaller footprint and parts make it easy to play almost anywhere!

Travel Yahtzee - If you love Yahtzee as I do, you know there's no substitution to playing with actual dice. Sure, you can get an electronic version, but it's really not the same. This Yahtzee To Go set comes in a durable plastic container that you can use as a shaker and never lose your dice. When you're done playing, store your scorecards in it as well and everything is in one place when you're ready to play again!

Cranium Zigity - Here's another card game I love. It's great for adults and children alike and my husband and I enjoy playing it on the plane anytime we travel. A game lasts between five and ten minutes, so you can play for as long as you want and it can keep the attention of even the most ADD challenged minds, because it has four different goals in one game. You may have to spell, add, make a picture or match suits. The cards are plastic, so if you spill a drink or find someone gnawing on one, they're still usable. Great for the pool or beach, too!

Shereen Travels Cheap has been approached with a fun new project. Microsoft is teaming with OneTravel and asking for 40 travel bloggers to test out their new Office 2010 add-on called OneNote. It claims to be a digital notebook where you can gather all of your notes and information in one place, with a built-in search function and the ability to share notebooks with others. I'm really excited to try it out, because I'll get to make up an itinerary for 24 hours in Melbourne, Australia to see how easy it is to use, then have my OneNote shared on both the Microsoft Office site for OneNote and the OneTravel website.

Soon after, you will be seeing a blog post on how cool OneNote is and why you should use it for all your travel planning. I think it'll be a very invaluable resource for you, especially if you like to clip and gather information thoughout the year and then forget where you put it or you travel with several people. You can all add your travel info and suggestions to the notebook and then work at turning those notes into an itinerary. Convenient, if you ask me!


You all know how much I love my iGo. It even has accessories! I’ve done away with all my wall adapters when I travel. I take my iGo and all my corresponding tips in a small bag and leave all the others at home, except for my netbook charger. I have a splitter to charge two devices at once and a USB plug to charge something while playing on my computer.
You want to get your very own, don’t you? Free would be even better, too, so listen up. Go to my Facebook page to enter to win one of three sets. These sets will get you on your way to being a more space-saving and efficient traveler and packer. Each set includes a wall adapter, a car adapter (for road trips and rental cars) and 3 tips – mini USB, micro USB and Apple for your iPod, iPhone, etc. – to get you started. If you have other electronic devices that you take with you, like your Nintendo DS, Kindle and other mobile phone, you can purchase additional tips for those. You can purchase at your local Radio Shack or you can search Amazon for tips. I find they have many more available at sale prices on Amazon, and it’s the only place you can buy the tip for Kindle. This giveaway ends on April 14 and the winners will be chosen on April 15 and given 48 hours to respond.

Come over to the Frugal Living Community and join in money-saving discussions with me and my other frugal friends. You can join other discussions, too, and learn how to save money on fashion, groceries, travel and more! Blog Frog is a fantastic site that is comprised of bloggers and blog readers who share the same interests. In addition to joining different communities (Frugal Living is NOT the only one, just the one where I am a community leader and share most of my money-saving ideas), you can find other blogs that interest you, interact with other bloggers/readers and make new friends.

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