Flying this Thanksgiving? If so, you’ll be in good company. Nearly 25 million passengers are expected to fly on U.S. airlines domestically and internationally between Nov. 21 and Dec. 2, according to the Airlines for America trade group. And there’ll be another surge of fliers just a month later for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
With all those holiday travelers, there’s little doubt that you’ll face crowds at the airport. But there are some tried and true tips that can help make your holiday trip less stressful, especially for those who don’t fly often. And even frequent fliers may benefit from revisiting some of these basic suggestions during the holidays, when unpredictably can upend battle-tested flying strategies.
No one wants to spend more time than necessary waiting in an airport terminal. But this isn’t the time of year to test how close you can cut it. The holiday throngs can lead to unpredictable back-ups everywhere from airport entrance roads to the queues at check-in counters and security lines. Arriving to the airport 45 minutes earlier than normal might make a world of difference, especially if you find yourself stuck in a security line filled with slow-moving families making their once-a-year holiday trip. And, if you know you’re airport is especially prone to long holiday lines, consider arriving up to 90 minutes earlier. Remember: If you miss your flight, this is a tough time of the year to find empty seats on other flights.
Another reason to arrive early: Security will likely be heightened at most U.S. airports in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris takes, adding yet more unpredictability.
Pack your carry-ons with security lines in mind. Remember, that unless you’re eligible for the TSA’s Pre-Check lines, laptops and liquids must come out separately to go through the screening checkpoints. And know that certain food items may be difficult to bring through security lines.
For the infrequent fliers, remember that most liquids are prohibited from carry-ons unless they are in containers of 3.4 ounces or less and are held in a clear quart-sized plastic bag. (Seethe TSA’s full “3-1-1” rules on liquids here). Some exceptions are made for liquids related to medical or childcare needs, but it may be smart to brush up on those rules here.
Pack so that your laptops, liquids and other items can be quickly taken in and out of your luggage. That will not only speed up your trip through security, but will also shorten the wait for those behind you.
Pack smart (II)
Once you’ve packed to speed up your trip through security, give yourself a pat on the back. But also remember that you need to pack smartly for yourself. If you check a bag – either in advance or at the gate after your plane runs out of overhead bin space – remember to keep all of your important medicines and valuable items in your carry-ons.
Most checked bags are delivered on time, but you don’t want to be without anything crucial if your bag is delayed or lost. Similarly, if you’re forced to check a bag at the last moment, remember to take out valuables as well as fragile items that could be easily damaged.
Keep an eye on potential travel trouble spots
Keep an eye on the weather starting as early as 72 hours leading up to your flight. Even if it’s sunny and warm where you are, there may be problems between you and your destination. Snow, wind, rain and poor visibility are some of the most common weather problems for the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
If there’s poor weather at home – or at your destination – monitor your airline’s website for potential updates. In some cases, usually ahead of big storms, airlines will issue weather waivers that may allow you to move your flight at no cost to avoid weather-related disruptions.
Nearly every carrier’s website now lets you check the status of your flight. On the day of your flight (or the evening before), keep tabs on your flight status – especially if you know there’s poor weather in the forecast. The sooner you know there’s a cancellation or delay that could affect your travel, the sooner you’ll be able to troubleshoot it with your airline or travel agent.
And, remember, sometimes the poor weather that affects your flight is in between you and your destination. A long line of strong thunderstorms can delay flights across a large region. Similarly, a flight between two cities under sunny skies could become delayed or canceled or the crew or airplane schedule to fly it gets bogged down in a snowstorm elsewhere.
Keep your phones and electronic devices handy
If your flight is canceled or delayed and you need to book a new flight, most people wait at their gate or head to an airline customer service desk to get help with a new ticket. That works, but you can also call the airline’s reservation number to ask for help in getting a new flight, perhaps beating those in line to a seat. If your phone is low on power, keep your airline’s 1-800 number handy and go looking for an old-school payphone.
Also, many airlines have added rebooking features on their mobile apps that allow customers to select new flights during so-called “irregular” operations. That can be a little more difficult during the holidays when disruptions affect so many fliers, but — if your carrier’s mobile app has such a feature — it’s another option that might help you snag a new flight. And if you’re got a laptop and Wi-Fi, you can try your hand looking for a new flight on your airline’s website — though making weather-related flight changes online can be more difficult on some airlines than others.
Pack your patience
Perhaps the golden rule of travel, this is especially important during the busy holiday rush. Lines are longer and airports and airplanes are even more crowded than normal. Nerves fray easier. But even when things get stressful, take a deep breath and try to keep a smile on your face. A courteous nod to a fellow traveler will only increase the chances that’ll they’ll be courteous to you.
And never take out your frustrations out on airline employees, most of whom are conscientious workers doing their best to get everyone on their way during an intensely busy time.
Even if you’re convinced your airline has wronged you, remember that these workers often control your fate in getting to your final destination. Being polite and respectful will bring better service than being hostile or rude. Ask for a supervisor if you must, but know they may not have a different answer. Above all, always try to show workers the same respect you’d want.
Source: Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Tips