Cruises can often be an easy to plan vacation option. Getting to the ship can be a bit stressful, however, if youíre planning to fly to your embarkation port. While some travelers are only concerned about flights during the winter months, careful planning is needed no matter when your cruise vacation takes place.
Flight connections can be particularly critical for cruise vacations. Many itineraries include one or two days at sea at the outset of the cruise. Delayed passengers miss these at sea days and have to fly to the shipís first port of call to pick up their cruise, incurring substantial expenses. Here are five flight planning tips that will help get you to your cruise on time.
1. Arrive a day early. This is good advice for any time of the year, not just during the winter months. Arriving a day early provides cushion time to guard against any weather or mechanical problems that could interfere with your flight. It involves the additional expense of a hotel room, but the peace of mind early arrival brings is often well worth the cost. In addition, early arrival allows time for exploring your embarkation port or nearby locales. To save on hotel rooms, consider booking your stay using Priceline or Hotwire. This works well for singles or couples, but families should be careful. Double beds and occupancy levels above two persons per room are not guaranteed. Determining what price to bid might seem tricky - use BiddingforTravel.com, BetterBidding.com and BiddingTraveler.com to discover what Priceline or Hotwire bids have been accepted recently. Additional sites that can be helpful in finding hotel bargains include Trivago.com and GetaRoom.com. Call GetaRoom.comís 800-number to uncover low unadvertised specials.
2. Take a direct flight or leave plenty of time for connections. Direct flights can be more expensive, but thatís not always the case. Use a good travel agent or book your flights immediately after you purchase your cruise for the best results. If connecting flights are mandatory for your cruise, make sure to allow plenty of time for connections. While a 40-50 minute connecting time between flights is often considered to be ďlegalĒ by the airlines, it will give you little cushion if thereís a weather or mechanical delay. If youíre flying to your embarkation port on the same day your cruise departs, itís important to play it safe and allow 90 minutes or more for connections.
3. Check flight on-time arrival statistics before purchasing. Some flights are almost always on time, while others have a history of significant delays. Before booking your flights, check out each of your optionís arrival statistics using FlightStats.com and book accordingly. Some airlines and online booking engines also provide flight statistics on their websites, so take a look there as well.
4. Purchase trip insurance. Consider purchasing trip insurance to protect your vacation investment in case of an unforeseen transportation problem, family illness, or other issue. When buying your insurance, however, itís important to make sure that your flights are wrapped into the coverage. Some vacationers buy insurance directly from their cruise line when purchasing their cruise and then obtain their own flights separately. When a problem arises with their flights, they can find that their trip insurance only covers the cruise. Make sure you understand what is covered by the trip insurance policy youíre purchasing and read the fine print carefully. For best results, call the travel insurance company directly and ask questions over the phone to understand intricate coverage issues.
5. Monitor the weather continually. Sometimes weather can cause even the most carefully arranged plans to go awry. As your departure date draws closer, monitor weather conditions carefully. If it appears that a storm may affect your travel plans, check with your airline to find out what options are available. These may include departing a day early if not doing so already or leaving on an earlier flight. Be proactive. Do not wait for the airlines to contact you. By that time, many of the best flight options may already be gone. If your flight is not cancelled, the airlines may not contact you at all. It is your responsibility to decide whatís best for your specific circumstances and take the appropriate steps to arrive at your cruise vacation on time.