If you’re hopping a plane to visit with relatives and friends this Turkey Day, Hanukkah, Christmas or New Years do yourself a favor and utilize some of our tried and true tips for a low-stress air travel experience.
1. Pack Light
There’s always a benefit to streamlining your packing game, but in 2017, there’s a financial incentive as well. With airlines like United and American offering rock bottom Economy fares, your baggage fees can get quickly out of control. Make sure you understand all of the fees before you buy; it can be stressful to arrive at the airport and get hit with expensive and/or unexpected charges. Packing strategy: Pack everything a day or two in advance. When you’re throwing random things in a bag 20 minutes before the cab or uber is due to arrive, you’re going to over-pack. Do your laundry, and then plan your outfits. Easy!
2. Don’t be late to the airport party
I do not like showing up to the airport too early. The ‘one hour prior to departure’ rule for domestic flights is generally a good one. But do yourself a favor and get to the airport very early (2 hours is a good rule of thumb) during the holidays. Security lines WILL be longer. Long-term parking shuttles (if you’re leaving a car at the airport) WILL be more congested. People WILL be more short-tempered. Get to the airport a bit ahead of time and you’ll serenely float above the fray.
3. Be on your smartphone game
If you have a smartphone (and nearly 60% of Americans do), make sure you have the airport and airline apps on deck. These days, important notifications come through your phone and can be the most convenient way to stay abreast of airport conditions, flight delays and gate changes. Make sure you have a full charge as well. The last thing you want is to be in a low power situation when a flight delay happens. Don’t rely on airport charging stations – they are more prevalent than ever, but during the holidays there is no guarantee you’ll find an open port. If you’re the kind of person that likes to have all bases covered, invest in a low-cost power splitter (so you can share with a stranger) or one of the tech smart carry-on bags that comes with a charger built right in: Viola! Stress-free technology!
4. Wardrobe matters
Try to wear shoes that slip on and off easily for a quick trip through security. Kids under 12 do not have to remove their shoes at all. It’s still a good idea to double-check yourself for metal (belts, some shoes) that can get you flagged for a closer look. Comfy pants, a large scarf and sweater are always a good idea. Airplane cabins can get quite chilly, and sometimes during the holidays blankets and pillows can be in short supply. When you’re comfortable, you’re more likely to arrive rested and not on edge.
5. Bring provisions where you can and don’t arrive to the airport hungry
You know what’s stressful? Getting to the airport and realizing that you barely have time to make your flight, let alone grab that leisurely drink and meal you thought you’d have time for. If you remember to eat something at home and toss some healthy snacks in your carry-on (almonds are a simple, filling option), you might be able to bypass the concessions altogether. Otherwise, plan to grab a bottled water once you clear security and you’ll be good to go! You’re not going to be showing up hangry on this trip!
6. The gate agents and flight attendants are your friends
It’s always worth repeating. Be kind. It may not matter much in a typical travel scenario if you snap at the gate agent (after all, they don’t know how hard a day you’ve had and you’ll never see them again). But if you have a flight delay, you really don’t want to be on the gate agent’s bad side who can have even a small impact on your individual situation. Also, if you plan to pass along only positive vibes, it creates a bit of a domino effect. We all know how bad attitudes can spread on a flight – the converse is true as well. Just plan to be part of the good vibes and watch how it spreads!
7. Stay close to your gate
Tempting as it may be to stroll around the concourse or park yourself a few yards away so you don’t have to stand (or sit on the floor), you’d best stay near the gate. If you’ve wandered away and they make a gate change announcement, you might miss crucial information, or even the flight.
8. iPads are a parent’s best friend
A lot of what makes small children spin out on flights is boredom coupled with the unfamiliar. Even though at home you may be a strictly screen-free kind of house, a transcontinental flight is not the place to play enforcer. Remember – we all want to relax as much as possible. If your kids have a favorite movie or television show, you should rip a few episodes or films to the iPad. Don’t tell them you brought it, but whip it out at the first signs of toddler meltdown. A few favorite books and a favorite toy can also be good distractions. For parents flying with babies, check out our series Air Travel with Your Infant, Part 2, Packing & Navigating the Airport and Part 3: In-Flight Coping Techniques.
9. Always have a Plan B. And C.
With unpredictable weather the new normal, it may be prudent to come up with a backup plan as a bit of insurance. There may be situations in which getting to your final destination require a bit of creativity. Don’t wait until you’re stuck in a connecting airport to start researching alternatives. In some cases, it might be an option to rent a car and drive for the second leg of your trip, rather than wait around the airport to see when you will be able to get out. You might also be able to take a bus or train. Don’t be afraid to change up the plan. One crucial note: If you are able to coordinate an alternative on your own, remember to let the airline know so they don’t count you as an automatic no-show on your return flight (this is standard operating procedure for the industry).
10. Go with the flow
Did you run into a delay that is irritating or you believe to be reimbursable? You might be tempted to take it up at the airport. We suggest an alternative approach. Either reach out to us post-flight to see what we can do to help make you whole, OR you can even download Service and see if they can help you. In the meantime, you get to go on with your life, enjoy your holiday and not get bogged down in the minutia.
Don’t forget to check out our Holiday Flights page for data on the best time to buy and an easy-to-read calendar with the least and most expensive dates to fly!