With more than 30 million Americans scheduled to fly this Thanksgiving, you can pretty much expect big crowds and long lines at the airport. Add in weather delays and oversold flights that cause passengers to get bumped, and you’ve got a recipe for overwhelming stress! Here’s our guide to keeping your sanity, getting to your gate and even thriving – no matter the air travel obstacle.
Make Time Work for You Not Against You
Your best defense against air travel stress by far (and the one thing you have a modicum of control over) is time management. Get yourself to the airport with plenty of time to spare. We’ll go ahead and say that one again. Get yourself to the airport with plenty of time to spare. You will need it. In particular, the lines at security will be no joke. Read your ticket and make sure you allow at least as much time as is recommended. We recommend adding an extra 45 minutes to an hour to whatever the airline suggests.
Travel Light as a Feather
Forgoing checked bags means no waiting at baggage claim when you get to where you’re going. And these days, passing on checking a bag can actually save you money! More and more airlines are going to a la carte pricing for their Economy fares, so you save on baggage fees by keeping to one carry-on bag. If you have concerns about packing economically, say no more!
Pack Like a Pro
Talented and efficient packers plan their outfits and work with a limited number of mix and match pieces that will all go together no matter the combination. Don’t bring everything in your closet for a 4 or 5-day trip. Be mindful about where you’re going and bring a few pieces that work well together. This sets you up for packing success. If you need to, there’s no shame in doing a packing “dry run” a few days before you’re leaving to make sure you’ve thought of everything you might need. And keep your eyes on the prize – the aim is to be streamlined so you don’t waste time and money at the airport. For inspiration, read this list of hacks.
24-hour Check-In, Please!
If you can shave off any wait time at the airport, why wouldn’t you? We highly recommend checking in as soon as possible online before your flight and get your boarding pass sent to your phone. That cuts off wait times at both the counter and security, and if you check-in early, gets you a better boarding group number. What are you waiting for?
Should you volunteer to be bumped?
When airlines are overbooked, they call for volunteers to get bumped to a later flight. This frees up the flight. Should you take the carrot? Well, it all depends. If you have the time to spare, and you’re okay with leaving your “fate” so to speak, with the airlines, it can be lucrative. When the airlines are scrambling, they may offer free flights, large credits towards future travel – even hotel and food gift cards.
What happens when you get involuntarily bumped?
Sometimes the airline is in in a situation where it has oversold your flight (the airlines like flights to run full) and there aren’t enough folks to volunteer. In that case, you may find yourself unceremoniously “bumped” to a later flight. What are your rights if this happens to you? On a domestic flight, you’re entitled to 200% of their one-way fare in compensation (up to $675) in cash if the delay is more than one hour but less than two. When the delay is more than two hours, you are entitled to 400% of a one-way fare (up to $1,350) in cash. The rules for international flights are a little different. Make sure you understand your rights.
Keep Your Humanity
Try to keep your civility with airline employees. Remember they’ve likely got a whole bunch of unhappy people on their hands. Pulling a diva move is not likely to help your cause or endear you to anyone. Be polite. Hold your temper, and remember that the gate agents are just doing their jobs. If you can be reasonable, you may find yourself with a fast pass to a coveted seat.
At the same time, don’t be a doormat. Check in with gate agents periodically to let them know you’re still waiting. It doesn’t have to be anything overwrought or dramatic – just touch base to keep yourself on their radar.
What to Do in Case of a Weather Delay
The best advice is to get out in front of this kind of issue. A large weather system headed your way that’s already in the news is cause for concern when you’re traveling by air. We recommend you get text alerts so that the airline can communicate with you in advance anyway. It’s particularly important when storms are causing system-wide delays.
If there is a storm that is threatening to shut down airports, call the airport in advance and see if they can re-route you. Sometimes the airlines will offer schedule changes to keep you out of the problem areas.
But you have to remember a large storm has a domino effect. Once one area of the country starts to see significant problems, other areas will start to feel effects (even if they aren’t in the storm’s direct path).
Here’s another post, for even more handy tips on weather challenges. Happy travels everyone! Stay safe this Thanksgiving holiday!