Summer Travel Survival Guide

With June being the beginning of summer travel madness, survival tactics kick in so fun traveling can kick off. Here are seven summer traveling tips to put to good use.



I have been accused by my family of being a survival nut. Six months before Y2K, I bought a year’s worth of packaged food rations, filled large containers with water, put together backpacks of camping supplies and planned to hunker down in case the worst happened. Immediately after 9/11, I found a source for gas masks, and when the SARS epidemic threatened to erupt, I bought nano-masks.

My survival food is now out of date, the water containers empty, and my masks are only good for Halloween. My husband, Steve, accuses me of seeing the glass as half empty. I say the glass is full and want to assure it stays that way. I’ve gone on survival alert once more in preparation of summer travel madness. In Rambo mode, I will not only survive, but also have a good time traveling. Here are a few traveling tips.

Preparing for the Vacation:

You know where you want to go, but need to do some defensive planning. Start at schmap.com, an interactive mapping site that will allow you to create a personal map of your trip and also research information about your destination with more than 200 maps for cities, provinces, parks and more around the world. While on your journey, you can add pictures and commentary to this site, allowing you to share the trip with the folks you left back home.

What’s in Your Suitcase?:

Packing for a trip is always my nemesis, so I search three sites for weather information and plan from there. Wunderground.com bills itself as the weather underground, a catchy way to say it will tell you more than you need to know. Keep in mind that blue jeans and Manolo Blahnik heels are good for any climate.

Lodging:

Where you bunk down depends on what you want to spend. I think hotels.com gives a fair analysis of the options. If you are traveling with children, be sure to check out ciaobambino.com. The owners of this site review hotels, inns and other vacation spots and rate them according to age. If you are a couple over 50, access discounts through AARP or check out seniordiscounts.com.

On the Road:

If you are braving a road trip with family, roadtripamerica.com may save you hours of planning with its links to what other families have done. I get carsick, so this is not for me.

Flying the Friendly Skies:

Odds are that unless you book a direct flight, you will be running for your connection. My plan to avoid or survive delays includes booking an early flight and choosing slow days such as Tuesday or Wednesday to fly. Avoid flying on Monday mornings and Friday evenings at all costs. If you can’t avoid a connection, book extra time between flights. If the airline says that half an hour is a legal connection, give yourself an hour. Avoid the airport lines by printing your boarding pass at home and checking in curbside. On your airline’s Web site, sign up for airline notification of pending delays in your itinerary. That means that the minute you’ve landed (late) in your first airport, you’ll know if your second flight is still on the ground. As soon as you realize you’ll miss your connection, call the airline to re-book. Everyone else will be waiting in the customer-service line and you’ll have a seat. You will have to go to the counter to get a new boarding pass.

Going Online:

My favorite meta-search sites, which send search results to my personal e-mail based on requirements I’ve set up, are kayak.com and sidestep.com. They both compare fares being offered on the Web by various booking agents. Did you know that Midwest Airlines has the widest seats (19-21 inches) compared with most others at 17-18 inches? Of course if you have a great travel agent, she or he might be able to snag you a consolidator or tour fare that beats any online quote.

What about the Fun?

When you survive the trip and are checked into your non-bedbug-infested room (bedbugregistry.com), take a long cleansing breath, do a downward-facing dog yoga stretch and repeat: “I survived, I survived, I survived.” Now have fun. The glass is full.

Hot Reads

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.
6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

PittGirl's at it again — this time with a list of a half-dozen fun facts you'll want to mention at your next cocktail party.
'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

We pick the perfect neighborhood for six breeds of ’Burgher.
Pittsburgh’s Refugee Children Could Use a Good Neighbor

Pittsburgh’s Refugee Children Could Use a Good Neighbor

Those who eye 8-year-old children with suspicion have more than a self-awareness problem.

The 412

Travel + Leisure Says PNC Park Has One of the Best Views in America

Travel + Leisure Says PNC Park Has One of the Best Views in America

No, not just one of the best views at a ballpark — best views period.
Thrival Festival is Like Coachella for Cool People

Thrival Festival is Like Coachella for Cool People

Moby, Portugal the Man will headline the music and innovation festival Sept. 13-14 at Bakery Square.
Watch: UPMC Doc Sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Every Baby He Delivers

Watch: UPMC Doc Sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to Every Baby He Delivers

“The Singing Doctor” of Magee-Womens Hospital makes every birth feel special.
PSA: Uber is Delivering Ice Cream On-Demand

PSA: Uber is Delivering Ice Cream On-Demand

Act quickly — you have until 5 p.m.

Hot Reads

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

City Guide: 200+ Fun Things to Do (No Matter Where You Are)

We explore every inch of Allegheny County (and beyond) for a look at the communities where we live, work and play.
6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

6 More Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh

PittGirl's at it again — this time with a list of a half-dozen fun facts you'll want to mention at your next cocktail party.
'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

'Which Neighborhood Should I Live In?'

We pick the perfect neighborhood for six breeds of ’Burgher.
Pittsburgh’s Refugee Children Could Use a Good Neighbor

Pittsburgh’s Refugee Children Could Use a Good Neighbor

Those who eye 8-year-old children with suspicion have more than a self-awareness problem.
The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

The 8 Best (Not) Restaurants in Pittsburgh

Food trucks. Pizza boats. Bagel Clubs. The best on-the-run food in town.
Best of the 'Burgh 2014

Best of the 'Burgh 2014

60 of our favorite things — from mobile fashion trucks to off-menu items and big-top apprenticeships.