Best travel tips ever

  @FortuneMagazine February 27, 2014: 5:36 PM ET
PUR17 luggage
(Fortune)

I log around 400,000 real air miles a year (those earned in the air, not by credit card purchases) as travel editor for CBS News, and if there's anything I've learned, it's that most airport, airline, hotel, and other rules and policies are only misguided suggestions. Here are my special tips on saving time, money, and stress, without breaking any rules or ever cutting in line -- in fact, without ever standing in a line!

Avoid baggage blues

If you're like me, you believe that there are two kinds of airline bags: carried on, and lost. And while the airlines are doing a better job with baggage these days, I still don't check bags on domestic flights. I FedEx them or UPS them (or there are 15 other courier services that will do this job). And for $40 to $50 -- not much more than what the airlines want to charge you for losing your bags or making you wait endlessly at baggage claim -- yours get picked up from your home or office and will be waiting for you in your hotel room by 10:30 the next morning. (Smart travelers send luggage two to three days ahead and get a big discount on shipping. Same thing for the way back home -- because who cares if your dirty laundry arrives three days after you do?)

Pick the farm-team airports

Unless I'm flying long-haul international nonstop, I try to forget O'Hare, J.F.K., San Francisco, and Boston. Instead, in good weather or bad, I head from, to, or through Milwaukee, Islip, Oakland, and Providence. Those are the alternative airports that function so much better than their huge counterparts. San Francisco is often weather challenged, with low fog -- not so Oakland. Milwaukee is actually Chicago's third (and secret) airport. Just look in the parking lot: A third of the cars have Illinois plates, which tells you everything you need to know. Providence allows you to avoid the congestion and delays of Logan, and last but never least is the often forgotten gem of MacArthur airport in Islip, N.Y. These airports have better parking and fewer delays, and maybe it's just me, but people yell a lot less there. I save time, I often save money, and I almost always save stress.

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