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Travel and leisure 2021 and beyond ... shortstaffed and delayed

Aug 17, 2021 | Thomas Smith


The pent-up demand for travel and leisure has outstripped capacity leaving the travel industry understaffed and unprepared. Learn some "Pro tips” how to navigate the long lines and short staffing.

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Travel 2021 and beyond blog

Most of my blogs are comprised of ways to invest, save, or prudently spend your financial resources.  In this article, I unpack some smart ways to spend your money in order to make your travel experiences more palatable. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the travel industry was one of the sectors hit the hardest.  As our economy has re-opened, this sector is going through some re-positioning that may not be temporary.  On a recent summer trip to escape the July heat of East Texas, Pam and I were stunned by the number of travelers at both ends of our trip.

I now believe the pent-up demand for travel and leisure has outstripped capacity.  Like other areas of our society, the travel industry is understaffed and unprepared for our appetite. For example:

  1. Airline Desk agents are understaffed, creating longer than usual lines to check baggage. 
  2. Rental car companies have a shortage of cars and staff, creating longer than usual lines to obtain your car, even with a reservation, or status. 
  3. Flight attendants are stressed and edgy. Inflight service is reduced, or even eliminated in many instances. 
  4. Restaurants are understaffed, with empty tables, and long waits.
  5. Hotels are still not 100% open, and are short staffed, with limited options for breakfast, daily housekeeping, and other ancillary services.
  6. TSA is understaffed, creating longer than usual lines to get through security.
  7. Airport parking shuttles are understaffed, meaning that when you deplane, there is a long wait for the shuttle to take you to your car. 
  8. Some airport lounges are still closed.
  9. In many locales, Lyft and Uber has a decreased presence, while at the same time,  taxi cab service is reduced. 
  10. Airline carriers are increasingly exercising their ability to change schedules, at the expense of the traveling public.  As more travelers purchased “pandemic sale” fares, those flights are being canceled and travelers are being re-booked onto inconvenient early morning or late night flights.
  11. Luggage is delayed …. up to 30 minutes longer than normal, due to labor shortages. 

While some of these challenges are temporary, there is growing body of evidence that perhaps they will extend into the foreseeable future. Like many challenges we face, sometimes the best solution is money.   Cash solves many problems in life, and as it relates to travel, this is certainly true. 

That said, here are 8 ways to spend a little bit of money to minimize your wait times while traveling:

  1. Get the right credit card with the features and benefits that are important to you.   If free flights are what you are looking for, choose a card that builds up flight credits on the airline of your choice, or even any airline.  All of the major carriers offer at least one, and sometimes multiple cards that accrue points to use for travel.  If free hotel stays entice you, choose a card that accrues Hotel credits. Finally, a number of credit cards, provide a host of time saving travel benefits, airport lounge access, car rental status, travel insurance, concierge service, and other benefits such as price protection and insurance on purchases, that when utilized properly, more than pay for the annual fee. 

    Bottom line….you should have a credit card that accrues benefits for SOMETHING. Consider accruing travel benefits. 

  2. The rental car shortage is temporary. However, the staffing shortage will likely linger. Sign up for membership at the rental car company of your choosing. If you have “status” or are a member of the Presidents or Gold club, you can bypass the lines at most airports and proceed directly to your car.  It is critical to reserve early and plan ahead. Gone are the days of simply showing up to get a car.  
  3. Sign up for TSA precheck. If you are not a member of TSA precheck….sign up now. The cost is $85, and is good for 5 years. Sign up online, invest in a 10 minute ‘In person’ interview, and you can bypass the long security lines at most airports, (you also don’t have to take off your shoes).  Better yet, or in addition, sign up for CLEAR. It is even faster. The cost is $179 annually. CLEAR allows you to be deposited directly into the bag screening line.  This is a big time saver indeed. 
  4. Join a Hotel “frequent stay” program. Hilton Honors, or Marriott Bonvoy for example. This will allow you to accrue free stays. 
  5. Consider a travel club such as Inspirato, or Exclusive Resorts. Travel clubs offer a large inventory of curated homes, villas, condos, and hotels without having to sift through voluminous internet pages such as VRBO, or HomeAway.   Travel clubs also offer customized preplanning and onsite concierge services. Some of these clubs are expensive and quite luxurious, and others are more modest. 
  6. Valet park at the airport.  For about the same cost of onsite terminal parking, Valet service is now available at many airports.  This is a huge time saver, especially since Airport shuttles are understaffed and crowded.   This tip alone saved us 30 minutes upon arrival, and an hour upon return. 
  7. Pay up for first class. With limited and crowded flights, space is the new luxury.  Also, if you are caught in a schedule change or an overbook situation, a First Class ticket gets priority. 
  8. To travel abroad, be prepared to show vaccination credentials. Regardless of your opinions regarding vaccinations, the day is coming where you will need vaccination documentation to enter many foreign countries. If you want to travel abroad, you will need this documentation to freely, and efficiently move about internationally. Obviously this has not come to full fruition as of the time of this writing, but that is the direction travel is moving. 

As you can see, travel is more complicated now than it was two years ago, many of these complications  can be solved with money, sometimes a little bit of money, and sometimes a lot of money.  Unlike many of my blogs, these tips will not save you money, but they will certainly save you time.  So. . . how valuable then is your time?

Hopefully your financial position allows you to allocate your resources in a manner that some of these tips can be utilized.  Either way, give me a holler, to see if I can be of assistance.


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