Whoever said ‘It’s the journey, not the destination’ clearly never experienced the trials and tribulations of navigating airport security or severe weather flight delays over the Thanksgiving holidays.
There are also going to be a lot of travelers trying to get from point A to point B this year, an expected 3.55 million people flying–the highest levels seen since 2007–according to AAA. So if you’re hopping a plane to visit with relatives and friends this Turkey Day, do yourself a favor and utilize some of our tried and true tips for a low-stress air travel experience.
1. Pack Light.
This is such a travel tip cliché, but it’s one of those old truisms that bear repeating, mostly because it’s so hard for infrequent travelers to execute. When your main concern is speed in which you can get in and out of the airport, there’s just no better plan than to go carry-on only (not to mention, you eliminate lost luggage worries if you can carry-on). Seasoned travelers know it’s the only way to fly. Here’s a simple way to do it. First, pack everything in advance – 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. Bring no more than two pairs of shoes. This video from Heathrow Airport will have you packing like a pro in no time.
2. Be the early bird.
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 early Thanksgiving week. 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 through the fray.
3. Make sure you’ve got a full charge before you leave the house and then stay off your phone.
The most potent weapon in your travel troubleshooting arsenal in 2014 is your mobile phone, hands down. If you find yourself in an “’I need to execute a Plan B’ kind of situation, you’ll want to make sure you have enough juice in which to call the airline, your travel agent, rental car companies, etc. Bring a book or an iPad to entertain yourself in the airport. You might really need your phone later, and when better to catch up on that book you’ve been dying to read? On the other hand, if you’re fundamentally unable to refrain from mobile phone usage you’re not alone. In this case…
4. Purchase a power splitter and then befriend a stranger.
When there are no free outlets, you’ll be in a position to ask if you can share a power source. Then feel free to text, FaceBook and surf to your heart’s content. Just make sure you don’t miss your flight because you’re live tweeting your trip.
5. Wear the right shoes.
Try to wear shoes that slip on and off easily for a quick trip through security. The TSA website also reminds us that kids under 12 do not have to remove their shoes at all. This is all kinds of awesome for harried parents and their offspring. Other tips for acing the security screening process can be found on the TSA blog.
6. Bring your own snacks and avoid standing in one more ridiculous line while waiting for your flight.
Better yet, eat a meal before you leave home so you’re not even hungry. This little tip will have the added bonus of saving you the indignity of paying an outrageous price for a mediocre sandwich.
7. Don’t stray too far from your assigned 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 this crucial information, or even the flight.
8. Give your kids the iPad.
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 the weather in such an unpredictable state at the moment, 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. Keep your eye on the prize.
Remember that the end game to all of this schlepping through airports and waiting in line will be a memory-filled visit with friends and/or family. Try to keep your sense of humor and relax. Finally, don’t forget to ALWAYS reconfirm your flights 24 hours prior to departure directly with the airline. Happy travels!