The savvy traveler: Tips of the trade

Story and photos by Bob Schulman

Whether you're planning a trip online, directly with the airlines or through a travel agent, knowing the jargon of the travel industry can help you save a lot of money (and sometimes avoid some unpleasant surprises).

For example, never ask for a “direct” flight when you want a flight that doesn't stop between “A” and “B.” In airline talk, that's a “nonstop” flight -- “direct” means the flight stops one or more times between “A” and “B,” but you don't have to
change planes along the way.

Where's the beach? You probably wouldn't expect there'd be much of a difference between an “ocean front” room and one with an “ocean view.” Ah, but there is. In hotel talk, “front” means your room looks right out on the ocean. “View” means you might have to crane your neck a bit (or a lot) to see the surf.

Rating the airlines: Don't pay too much attention to government reports showing how often each carrier flew on time, how many times they “bumped” passengers, how many bags they lost and so on. Why? Because the monthly stats don't factor in the weather. Take away hurricanes, snowstorms, heavy rains, fog and the like, and an airline that scored low on the list might otherwise have been a top performer. And vice versa.

Gone to bag heaven: On the subject of bags, you should know that some published figures show “mishandled” bags while others show “lost” bags. There's a big difference. In airline lingo, a bag that went to Botswana instead of Boston but eventually made it to back to Boston was simply “mishandled.” A bag is only “lost” if it never shows up again (airline employees say it went to “bag heaven”).“ this the airline...have you found my baggage yet?”

Good seat, bad seat: Some airlines let you pick your seat online before the flight. Before making a selection, you can find out which seats are good and which are bummers (limited legroom, non-reclining backs, located next to a restroom, etc.) by entering your airline and flight number on this easy-to-use site:

No room in the bin: If you're planning to put your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin, try to get on the boarding line as soon as you can. When the overhead bins fill up, and if you can't fit your bag under the seat in front of you, airline staffers will put it in the belly of the plane with the checked luggage. After landing you'll have to wait to pick it up it in the baggage claim area along with all the passengers who checked their bags at the ticket counter.

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