Flying with Fido and other travel tidbits

Q: I’ve been thinking about going to Mexico City and staying for several months at a time but the problem is I’d want to take my dog with me and he is too large to fly in an airline cabin. Short of making friends with people who own private jets, are there any other options for getting from the United States to central Mexico? I’ve known folks who have done the drive but northern Mexico isn’t exactly known for its safe highways anymore. I thought I heard that a lot of airlines no longer allow dogs to fly in cargo holds, is that true and if so, how to do people transport large dogs?

A: Before even figuring out if the airline will take your dog, consider the health and welfare of your animal, as well as the laws to bring an animal into Mexico and to return to the United States. You will get hit with restrictions on both ends. Humane Society has good information on this topic.

Animals can really suffer in cargo holds, emotionally and physically. Think about whether you want to put your animal through such a traumatizing experience.

Andrea Sachs

Q: I recently flew on a long international flight (almost 20 hours). My entertainment unit did not work at all. The airline is offering 1,500 miles or $50 as compensation. I am unsure which one is worth more. I fly internationally once or twice a year.

A: Are they going to give you $50 in real money, or is it a $50 voucher? If it’s cash, take it. If it’s in the form of a voucher, neither is worth very much, but I’d probably opt for the voucher.

Carol Sottili

Q: I’ll be visiting my daughter in the fall while she is studying abroad in Strasbourg, France. I would like to fly into Paris and spend the first day walking around the city to help get myself adjusted to the time change. Is there a preferred airport that I should fly into? We will also spend a couple days in Paris at the end of the trip before I fly back home. I’m looking at flights through Iceland Air, and the cost seems to be pretty much the same for either of the Paris airports. Also, any recommendations for low to moderate priced hotels in Paris?

A: Lucky you. Strasbourg is a lovely city. Icelandair has more flights into CDG (Charles de Gaulle). Orly is closer to Paris, but public transportation options are better out of CDG. As for hotels, I’m a big fan of the Astotel chain, which has different levels of lodging ranging from economy to moderate.


Q: I understand why frequent fliers would want to (better) ensure that they get through security lines by enrolling in PreCheck clearance. But I only fly once a year (roundtrip), and not on a single airline. Is signing up for that or other programs worth my money?

A: For once a year, probably not. Check in 24 hours before you depart and arrive two to three hours before take off (depending on the season/day/time).

But for frequent travelers, definitely.

Travelers with PreCheck clearance can use the fast lane at more than 160 airports and nearly 20 airlines. Just make sure to input your Known Traveler Number so that your boarding pass reads PreCheck.


Q: I’m sure I’m not the only one to ask this question –but how on earth do we guess how much time to allow at the airport for security these days? We have a flight out of Phoenix on Friday morning. Normally we’d get there two hours before our departure (not checking luggage – you can probably guess why!). But now I’m thinking we need to be there a full three hours before – and hoping that is fine! Any guidance?

A: Been lots of news lately about summer travel and long TSA security lines. The TSA offers a website that lists security wait times reported by other travelers. I can’t vouch for its accuracy. Phoenix’s airport is still recommending an arrival time of two hours before scheduled domestic flight.


Q: We’re traveling to Europe this summer and as is often the case, arriving quite early in the morning. Our one desire when we arrive is always for a shower and short nap but we’ve rarely been able to check in to our hotel so early. My thought was that asking the hotel in advance might work but my husband suggested that we should just reserve the room for an extra night (the night before we arrive.) How do you approach this?

A: I typically email the hotel and ask for an early check-in. Last few times we traveled to Europe, rooms were ready either upon or shortly after arrival. If you do pay for the room the night before, you need to let them know of your plans, or else the hotel may cancel out the reservation when you don’t arrive.


Q: I generally try to buy my airline ticket with at least a month advance notice to get a discounted rate. What happens if I somehow miss my flight by 10 minutes for whatever reason. Do they rebook me or do I have to buy a new ticket at the highest possible rate. What about my return flight? I have heard that the whole itinerary is canceled once you miss a flight.

A: Most airlines will just put you on the next available flight without charge. If you don’t show up, yes, the airline will cancel out your entire itinerary.


Q: I heard TSA was asking airlines to (temporarily) lift fees on checked bags to help alleviate the security lines, at least until they are back to being better staffed. Have you heard that, or heard any progress? Or was I optimistically daydreaming?

A: What a lovely dream! But no.

Two senators proposed that idea last week, and the TSA administrator said the agency is experimenting with a “travel light” lane for passengers carrying a single carry on, like a purse or briefcase.

Best to pack light and go early.