I have said time and time again how important it is to be on top of your flight reservations, both in the weeks and months before your flight date as well as on the date of the flight.
“Gardening” your reservations
I’m not exactly sure why, but the process of periodically checking your reservations is commonly known as “gardening” your reservations. What I do is check on my upcoming reservations every couple of weeks. I’ll log in to the airline websites
(SEE ALSO: Southwest just PAID me to take the same flight!)
Award Wallet can also be a big help here, since they periodically monitor your reservations for you and will alert you via push notification and/or email if something has changed. Schedule changes far out can be super helpful, since many times you can use that to completely change your itinerary for free, EVEN IF there is not any award space available.
(SEE ALSO: How I got us 16 extra hours in Rome… for FREE!)
Hotels are less important since typically (but not always!) things don’t go wrong with hotel reservations. Still, if you have refundable cash hotel reservations, it can make sense to periodically check to see if the price has gone down. And now that Hilton has moved to variable pricing, it can make sense to check your Hilton award nights as well!
How to check if your flight will be on-time
So let’s say you’ve made it all the way to the day of your flight – now it’s even MORE important to keep an eye on your flights. I’ve written before about the number one trick to tell if your flight will be on-time. By using FlightAware, you can track your flight – oftentimes FlightAware will update with delays and cancellations BEFORE you get notified by the airline or at the airport. Most importantly, you can check your INBOUND aircraft. If you see your inbound aircraft is delayed or running into weather problems, you can bet that your flight is going to be delayed too
How that worked for me this week!
My daughter and I have had a trip booked to Taipei and Beijing for a few months now
The initial leg of the trip has us going from our home in CVG to Chicago (ORD) on United and then flying the EVA Air Hello Kitty plane from Chicago to Taipei. Our initial itinerary had us leaving CVG at 7:55 p.m., arriving in Chicago a little after 8pm and then having a ~4 hour layover before a 12:30 a.m. flight to TPE.
So on the day of the flight, I was monitoring FlightAware, and all was going well until…. there began to be thunderstorms in United’s hub of Newark (remnants of Hurricane Florence?).
And when there’s weather problems in Newark, all bets are off. So even though it was a bright sunny day in Cincinnati (and Chicago), we were still impacted by weather.
Tracking the inbound plane, I could tell that it was supposed to go from Cincinnati to Newark, then back to Cincinnati before taking us from Cincinnati to Chicago. The CVG-EWR leg was supposed to take off at 2:30 p.m. but it kept getting pushed back…
At about 4 p.m., we decided to head to the airport. We might have gone even earlier but, in a true Murphy’s Law situation, my car also overheated and broke down and had to be towed (thank you free American Express Platinum Roadside Assistance!). I had been checking Google Flights and FlightAware for alternate flights, and noticed there was a 6:20 p.m. United departure.
FlightAware had periodically been showing that one with delays as well, but at the time, it was showing as on-time. So on the way to the airport, I called up United and asked to be switched on to the 6pm departure. Since there was a delay to my original flight, the agent moved me to the earlier flight at no additional charge, even though I have no status with United. We got to the airport, through security and after a brief stop at The Club CVG airport lounge, we were on our way to Chicago. Sure, that gave us an even longer at O’Hare, but that’s nothing the United Polaris Business Lounge and the Air France Chicago ORD Priority Pass lounge can’t fix, right! And it sure beats being stressed out about a delayed or possibly canceled flight.
Oh and what happened to our original flight that was supposed to leave at 7:55 p.m.?
It ended up not being the worst-case scenario (flight overly delayed or even canceled!), and we’d have still made our 12:30 a.m. ORD-TPE flight, but I’m glad we got on the earlier flight!