For obvious reasons, air travel is far more common around the holidays. Whether one’s traveling in or via the U.S. at Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, Memorial Day, or even Spring Break, flying can be extremely frustrating. It will always be stressful, but by following these simple tips, people can make their flight experiences infinitely more enjoyable.
Air Travel Tip #1 — Allow Enough Time/Pre-Print Boarding Passes
The biggest causes of frustration for airline travelers are missed flights and delayed flights. There is little one can do about the latter (although, one can have a contingency plan – see below), but the former should never be an issue.
What causes people to miss their flights? Traffic. Whether on the way to the airport or within the airport itself, traffic slows everyone down. And around holidays, that traffic can multiply.
So what can one do? It may seem obvious, but many miss their flights because they don’t allow themselves enough time. Airlines often advise their customers to show up a minimum of one hour to ninety minutes before departure time. Around the holidays, one should make that two hours minimum, particularly if he or she is checking bags.
By arriving at the airport early, one can bear long lines without the stress of missing a flight. Traveling light and pre-printing boarding passes can save a lot of time, too, eliminating the need to check in with the airline and sending the customer right to his or her gate. Making use of curb-side check-in can easily shave twenty minutes or more off one’s check-in time for the mere cost of tipping the baggage handler.
Air Travel Tip #2 — Expect Delays, and Prepare for Them Accordingly
Although there is little one can do about a flight delay, a traveler can lessen his or her chances of missing layovers or arrival times. For holiday travel, it is best to avoid layovers where possible. The more flights one has scheduled, the greater his or her chances of being delayed or canceled. Flights are canceled for any number of reasons, from poor weather conditions to faulty equipment. And often times, layovers are so short that any delay on the first leg of travel will cause the traveler to miss his or her connecting flight.
However, many people shop for the best deals on air travel reservations and cheap flights. Cost is a factor for most, and direct flights usually cost more. Discount air travel may include two, three, or even four layovers, depending on the distance to be traveled.
If connecting flights are necessary, book with an airline that has multiple flights going to the same destinations. This includes several flights going to each layover airport. Also, book flights for which other airlines have subsequent flights to the same destinations. If one’s scheduled flight is missed, canceled, or extensively delayed, he or she may be able to switch to another flight.
Air Travel Tip #3 — Pack Appropriately and Know TSA Banned Substances
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) posts its regulated substances on its website. Banned items may change, so travelers should check the website before each flight. Something seemingly innocuous like a bottle of water can slow one’s progress. Inappropriate carry-ons (this writer once flew with a passenger who couldn’t understand why his power drill wasn’t allowed on the plane) will send travelers back to the baggage check-in or worse, the parking lot. And travelers dropped off at the airport are, well, up the proverbial creek.
Air Travel Tip #4 — Confirm Reservations, Flights, and Travel Arrangements
One simple rule that can help travelers avoid wasting their time wallowing away at airports is this — confirm, confirm, confirm! Every travel step should be verified before embarking thereon. Make sure travel arrangements to the airport are timely and reliable. Verify with the airline online or via telephone that the flight and any connecting flights are going forward as planned. And perhaps most importantly, even if the flights do proceed, travelers should make sure the airlines have reserved their seats.
Following these tips won’t guarantee smooth holiday flying, but it can make air travel a little less turbulent. Be smart, be safe, and happy flying!