The mere idea of entering an airport over the Thanksgiving holidays can strike fear and anxiousness into the hearts of even the most steady of travelers among us. But this year, we have a list of simple things you can do to guarantee smooth sailing on your travel day.
Before You Go
Double-check your plans and then check them again. If the airline has given you the option of text messages with flight updates, take them up on it. When last minute gate changes or flight time updates happen, you want to have that information as early as possible so you don’t miss your flight and have to deal with rescheduling at the airport on your travel day.
Use that phone, people! If you have a smartphone, you can check-in and get your boarding passes delivered electronically so you can bypass the lines at the counters or check-in kiosks at the airport and head straight to security screening. That can be a real time saver, especially during the busy travel days around the holidays, where lines are long and tempers can be short. Breeze on by!
Packing Your Bags
When you’re a budget traveler, the rule of thumb should be “less is more.” Less luggage will cost you less and if you can travel with a carry-on only, you can sail through to your final destination without having to stop at the baggage claim area or stress about your bags ending up somewhere else!
Review your baggage allowance with the ticket you purchased, so you don’t get hit with additional fees at the airport. Some tickets will allow a carry-on, but others (like most basic economy tickets these days) will charge a fee for that privilege. Best to not get any unpleasant surprises at boarding.
Remember to familiarize yourself with the TSA regulations for medicines, liquids and prohibited items. You can tweet to the TSA @AskTSA. Just snap a photo and upload to twitter if you have any reservations at all. A complete list of items guaranteed to get you pulled aside for additional screening can be found here.
Take the time to review the procedures with TSA at your particular airport as well. That information can be found on the airport’s website and it might help shape your travel day wardrobe. For instance, some airports have relaxed the airport screening rule that requires passengers to remove shoes and laptops from travel bags. You can also tweet at the airport with questions in this regard. To be safe, shoes that slip on and off easily and easy access to electronics are always a safe bet.
Simplify your access. We love the rise of uber and lyft for this reason, though keep in mind that the holidays will bring higher fares and longer wait times. Still, when you contrast the additional time needed for offsite airport parking and shuttling to the terminals, it’s a pretty good value to get you to your gate quickly.
If you do choose to park at the airport, allow plenty of time to park, wait for the airport shuttle and get from the parking lot to the terminal. PLENTY of time. If you live in a major metropolitan area, add an extra hour from the time you get to the airport to be safe.
Around the Airport
Once through security screening, check out airport amenities. Loads of airports have been upping their customer service game, and you can now often find fine dining, movie theaters, massage, spa services and even yoga studios in some cases. The point is that getting to the airport early does not have to be a slog at all. There’s lots to do to keep you entertained before your flight. Get there early, and enjoy some of the services!
Stay close to your gate and be aware of boarding cutoff times. Around the holidays, a lot of gate changes happen, sometimes quickly. If you stray too far from your gate too close to takeoff, you might miss an important gate change. Also, airlines have different cutoff times for boarding – if you’re not there at that time, you could find your seat given away to a standby customer! Don’t let this happen to you.
Easy! One more thing. In that rush to get the “best price,” don’t overlook your own travel preferences. You might think that paying for an assigned seat is a ripoff when you’re in the booking process, but if you can afford the extra cost would you prefer the peace of mind of knowing where you’ll be sitting and whether its window or aisle? Some people are footloose and fancy free – others, not so much. Know your travel personality and save yourself the aggravation. And check out our Holiday Flights travel page for tips and other advice.