>Q: I have a credit from an unused Delta flight that expires at the end of May and I don't think I will be able to use it before then. Are there any other options for applying that credit to something else, such as a membership to the airline's club lounge or buying duty free on board?
A: There are two types of Delta credits: Delta Dollars and Delta e-credits. The former are given as customer courtesies or for oversold flights; the latter are for refunds or price differentials being credited to an account. Delta Dollars cannot be used to pay things like SkyClub passes or duty-free purchases, but they are eligible to be used to buy a ticket for someone else.
E-Credits rules vary and are typically nontransferable. They cannot be used for SkyClub or duty-free purchases either. So basically, no, you cannot pay for things other than air travel with them.
But there is a somewhat sneaky way to prevent your credit from expiring, and it's perfectly legal. Buy a fully refundable ticket with Delta for a future date of travel (perhaps December) on a trip you think you may be taking. Pay for part of it with your credit and pay the rest with a credit card or cash. If you can take the trip at that time, great. If not, simply change that ticket (since it's refundable and changeable without penalty, but better make sure it is when booking!) to a new trip you would like to take on Delta. This should preserve the value of your e-credit if done properly. Remember, this will no longer be an e-credit, but an actual flight reservation that you can either use as is or modify at some future point. Since the fare is fully refundable, if you decide you don't want to travel at all you can simply ask for a refund in the form of your original payment. This strategy works with all airlines, not just Delta.
>Q: If I buy an airline ticket now for travel in December, do I put myself at greater risk of having the airline change the schedule to a less convenient time?
A: Anything can happen between now and then, and the more in advance you buy, the greater the opportunity for the airline to change schedules, cancel the route entirely, or change a nonstop flight to a connecting one. Unfortunately, there's absolutely nothing you can do about this other than requesting a full refund. Airlines make it very clear that their schedules are not "guaranteed."
>Q: Is there a website, or websites, that lists the best flight deals departing specifically from a certain city? Seems like the discount sites all require you to list dates and destinations. Isn't there someplace to simply see a list of discounted flights departing from where I live?
A: When you want to get away, and a good price is more important than the destination, there are several places to check.
Check out airfarewatchdog.com, a site devoted to cheap airfares. The home page is dominated by a search box. Input your home city, and leave the destination at its original setting: "anywhere." A tempting list will pop up, including international locales. When you click on a link to view the details of a particular airfare, the site will tell you the airline, how far in advance you need to book, the days you need to travel to nab the deal (often excluding weekends), the date you must travel by and blackout dates. It will also provide links to sites selling the fare. You can also sign up to receive a weekly e-mail list of cheap fares from your departure city.
At smartertravel.com, you can also search for deals by departure city. Click on "travel deals" from the home page and then click on "departure city fares" on the menu bar. Designate your city, and a list of discounted airfares appear. Once you've clicked on an airfare among the list, look to the right side of the screen for "sponsored deals." Those are offers that bundle hotels and airfare for the destination.
At both sites, the deals listed will be the best available at the time they were uncovered. Some of the fares will have limited availability and won't fit all dates. As they say, act fast, and be prepared to input several different dates to find the best fare.
Also, you can sign up for weekly airfare specials from airlines.
You might also consider calling a local travel agent. A good one will know where to find the best deals at the moment and potentially save you key strokes and money. But do a little Web search first so you can compare offers.
>Q: I was wondering if you'd done any comparisons on carry-on luggage. I'm looking for some sort of data so that I can find one of those popular roller bags that would fit into every overhead compartment. It's not so much that I'm looking for a brand (although that would be appreciated) but what dimensions do I need to be on the lookout for.
A: In order to be safe, the only rolling suitcase size that will pretty much fit in any overhead bin is an 18-inch model. Although 21- and 22-inch models are technically allowed, they sometimes have trouble fitting. Some regional jets have very small overhead bins and even an 18-inch model might have trouble fitting if the overhead bins are full. TravelPro makes an 18-incher that retails for about $150, but there are many manufacturers who sell models for less.