Airline travel is always such a joy, with long lines, rushing here and there only to have your flight delayed… of course, let’s not forget the wonderful post-911 security checks. Still, if you want to travel, you have to deal with it.
So, here are the top airport travel hacks that can help make your trip go a lot smoother:
Select an airline that offers a good frequent-flier program, provides regular service to your “home” airport, and flies to the cities you tend to visit the most. Fly your chosen airline exclusively, as loyalty will generally save you money in the long term due to frequent-flier perks. Also consider credit cards that offer airline points.
Sign up for “TSA PreCheck,” the Transportation Security Administration’s risk-based passenger screening program. The service does require a fee for the TSA to confirm your low-risk traveler status, but the program allows you to practically breeze through security. “Global Entry” offers similar benefits for international travel.
Picking a Flight
Search Google and other travel websites and you will sometimes find certain flights often suffer delays of 30 minutes or more – avoid these flights like the plague. Never, not ever, fly the day before Thanksgiving in the U.S. It is the busiest travel day of the year and nothing but headaches.
Pick your seat as late as possible when traveling alone on an unpopular flight. This will allow you to choose a seat where an entire row is free. If you end up with empty seats next to you, you can lie down for the entire flight. If you have the choice, always fly on a Boeing 767, as the plane has a lot fewer of the dreaded middle seats. Check in and print your boarding pass online before you leave home, or use your airline’s mobile app.
Try to get everything you’ll need for the first day or two into your carry-on luggage and ship the rest via UPS, Fed Ex or USPS Priority Mail. This will save you the hassles of checking bags, paying criminally-high baggage fees, the chance of lost luggage and having to wait for your bags after arrival. Just be sure to measure and weigh your carry-on bags to be sure the bags meet the airline’s size restrictions. Here are some other tips:
• Pack the essentials, like an empty water bottle, some snack bars, a change of socks and phone and computer chargers.
• Even if just taking carry-on luggage, always use luggage tags.
• Download eBooks or movies before heading to the airport.
• Check in online as soon as possible.
At the Airport
• Stay current on the status of your flight. United Airlines, and others, have a great feature on their app showing the status of their planes.
• Fill up your water bottle, get some food and use the restroom before boarding.
• Never leave your phone unattended. Better to buy a spare battery or charging pack than leave it alone at an airport charging station.
• Board earlier if you have carry-on luggage, as finding overhead space can be a little tough if you are one of the last to board.
On the Plane
Once you have made it onto the plane all you have to do is relax, watch a movie, read a book, get something to eat and take a nap. But here are a couple of tips:
• If you need to make a call, use Skype, Google Voice or the Hangout app.
• Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water (never coffee or tea) and applying a face moisture mask beforehand.
• If you are traveling internationally, you can probably get free food. Pretend you forgot the right currency for in-flight purchases and the flight attendants may take pity on you.
A final tip: If there is a line at the taxi stand upon arrival that would rival a Yankee-Red Sox playoff game, head over to the airport “departure zone” and snag a cab without any competition.