Hazards of Travel Planning

Trip planning is complex, involving everything from budgeting to itineraries to questions about comfort. How to fly to your destination without suffering is a major consideration. Here’s how to do it without getting squeezed both financially and physically.

There are two measures of airplane seat comfort. “Width” is the size of the seat in inches across. “Pitch” is the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you. As airlines pursue increased revenues, they squeeze more seats into economy sections on many aircraft, decreasing both width and pitch.

A May 2006 Air Force study by Kathleen Robinette indicated that male and female derrieres average more than 15 inches. Since the widest part of the body is shoulders and arms, several inches more than one’s fanny.

Here’s the problem: Coach seats on many aircraft are shrinking to as little as 17 inches across. That means that if you are sitting next to a larger than average person, especially in a middle seat, they may be encroaching on your real estate. Use the armrest? Forgetaboutit.

Seat pitch tells you how much legroom you have, and whether or not your knees are wedged up against the seat in front of you. For many airlines, 31 inches is fairly standard. That's tight, especially if one is tall. Seat pitch on a Delta Boeing 757 in economy varies from 30 inches to 32 inches, with a width of 17.2 inches. A Southwest Boeing 737-700 has a pitch of 31 inches and a width of 17 inches. Budget champ Spirit Airlines may have the tightest pitch in the American sky – 28 inches. Not for basketball players.

Many airlines, including Delta, offer an upgraded economy alternative with a bit more legroom at the front of the economy section, for an added price. It’s worth it on long hauls.

Check www.seatguru.com. Click on the airline and aircraft type, and you see information on seat width and pitch. Click on a specific seat on the aircraft diagram and Seat Guru identifies good and bad seats – such as legroom obstructions, no window, no recline, etc.

Do you have travel dreams for 2014 or beyond? Family travel, adventure journeys, grandparents taking grandchildren on trips, river cruises, ocean cruises. They all are increasing in popularity as the economy recovers from the 2008 slump.

At the top of most lists we hear about Great Britain, Ireland, France, Italy and Spain. Paris, London, Rome, Venice and Barcelona are perennial favorites. Israel, Turkey and Mediterranean Sea destinations are tops, although travelers are avoiding strife-torn Egypt for now.

Africa and the game parks, including South Africa are high on many lists. China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific Islands have Americans winging west. South America, including Machu Picchu, Galapagos, and the Amazon River are hot. Hawaii and California are tops for domestic travel.

We often hear clients say, "Someday I would like to travel to..." As long as the word "someday" is in the statement, you do not have a firm goal. Consult Google, contact a tour operator or call a travel agent. Find out what your dream trip would cost today.

If you don't have the money, set up a separate savings account and put money aside with a specific time target. Add an amount for inflation if the trip is a few years out. Use a savings calculator from the Internet to figure out what you have to save monthly to actualize your dream.

Now you have a firm goal with funding. And planning a trip is half the fun.

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Lewis Walker, CFP, is president of Walker Capital Management, LLC. and Walker Capital Advisory Services, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) in Peachtree Corners, , Ga. Securities and certain advisory services offered through the Strategic Financial Alliance Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative of SFA, which is otherwise unaffiliated with the Walker Capital Companies. 770-441-2603. lewisw@theinvestmentcoach.com.

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