20 hacks for navigating the busiest airline hubs this holiday season from 20 Hacks for Navigating the Busiest Airline Hubs This Holiday Season

20 Hacks for Navigating the Busiest Airline Hubs This Holiday Season

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20 hacks for navigating the busiest airline hubs this holiday season

Chicago Tribune

20 hacks for navigating the busiest airline hubs this holiday season

Air travel is exhausting for all of us, even in the best of times. Now add in thousands and thousands of people trying to get somewhere all at the same time. Nasty winter weather in your city – or even 1,000 miles away – can disrupt your plans. There are frayed nerves everywhere you turn. But fear not! Even in this age of airport stress, there’s a right way and wrong way to get where you’re going.

Book early

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Book early

The first thing to do is commit to those flights. Book ASAP to get the best fares and connections. Prices will only go up as the holidays get closer. Hipmunk says the week of Oct. 15 is the best time to book Christmas flights.

Book direct flights

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Book direct flights

The best advice for getting through the airport? Don’t add in an extra airport. Whenever possible, book direct flights. Adding connections just adds more potential misery.

And book your ride to the airport ASAP, too

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And book your ride to the airport ASAP, too

Taking Uber, Lyft or a cab to the airport? Book that ASAP too. Everyone will be wanting to head out at the same time.

And just plan to get to the airport early

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And just plan to get to the airport early

TSA recommends two hours early for a domestic flight, three hours for an international flight. This is especially important during the holidays.

Apply for TSA Precheck

Los Angeles Times

Apply for TSA Precheck

Approved travelers can breeze through security, all while keepin on their shoes and belts. The cost is $85 for 5 years. Get details here.  

Or apply for Global Entry

Los Angeles Times

Or apply for Global Entry

Global Entry is precheck for international travelers. The cost for this perk is $100 for 5 years. Get details here.

Don’t be surprised by security

Los Angeles Times

Don’t be surprised by security

By this point, you probably know the drill: Each traveler is allowed 3-ounce containers, in 1 quart-sized clear plastic bag, with 1 bag per traveler. As you’re standing in the security line, have your boarding pass and ID handy. If you’re traveling with kids, keep their documents handy, too.

Pack an empty water bottle

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Pack an empty water bottle

You can’t get water through security, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay $4 per bottle to hydrate while waiting for your plane to take off. Pack an empty bottle in your carry-on, then fill it up once you get through security. Taste the savings!

Embrace technology

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Embrace technology

If you’re only an occasional flier, you’ll see that things have changed in this digital era. Nearly three-quarters of fliers in 2017 used their smartphones for electronic boarding passes, according to the International Air Transport Association. So download your airline’s app and get familiar with it before you get to the airport. Sign up for their text alerts and notifications about your flight.

Don’t be afraid to ask

Los Angeles Times

Don’t be afraid to ask

Facing an impossibly long security line? A lot of airports have more than one checkpoint. Ask an employee if there’s a checkpoint with a shorter line.

Save on checked bags

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Save on checked bags

Baggage fees can be an unwelcome surprise and expense for inexperienced travelers. Some airline credit cards include free checked bags as a perk. (But beware of annual fees that could wipe out those savings.)

Book an early-in-the-day flight

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Book an early-in-the-day flight

Experienced travelers know to book flights early in the day. You’re less likely to have a delay on a flight leaving early in the morning. And if there is a delay, you have more chances to catch a flight later on.

Search for programs that can help you

Baltimore Sun

Search for programs that can help you

Traveling with kids is not easy. Traveling with kids who have developmental disabilities can be even more challenging. Wings for Autism is a program offered at several U.S. airports that lets autistic travelers practice before their flights. They get a run-through of the security and boarding process so they know what to expect.

Power up

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Power up

Make sure your devices are charged up. You’ll need them to board the plane and to entertain your bored children (and yourself). Keep cords handy. And be prepared to not be able to find an outlet; take auxiliary batteries. You’ll be glad you did.

Consider springing for airport lounge

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Consider springing for airport lounge

Airlines offer day passes to their lounges. The American Airlines Admirals Clubs charge $59 for a one-day pass – and up to three kids under age 18 get in free with a paying adult. It could be worth it if you are expecting a grueling trip.

Consider a second-tier airport

Chicago Tribune

Consider a second-tier airport

Think about Midway if you’re going to Chicago. Love Field in Dallas. Reagan National in D.C. These smaller airports may be a little more manageable. You could even consider flying into a city that’s a few hours from your destination. (Example: Fly to Milwaukee, then take Amtrak or rent a car to get to grandma’s house outside Chicago.) Be flexible and keep your options open.

Know the pet rules

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Know the pet rules

Remember that person who was kicked off the plane for bringing her support squirrel on the flight? Don’t be that person. In recent months, airlines have tightened their rules for support pets allowed in the cabin. Know the rules before you pack up Sam the Squirrel.

Get some exercise

Baltimore Sun

Get some exercise

Looking to burn off some of that nervous energy? Travelers passing through Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport can exercise at the full-service gym. A 24-hour pass costs $25 dollars. The airport also has a “Cardio Trail” walking path in the airport terminal.

Use gift bags, not wrapping paper

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Use gift bags, not wrapping paper

The TSA warns that wrapped gifts might have to be unwrapped to get through security. So consider using a gift bag or decorated gift box that can be easily opened. TSA also points out that snow globes are subject to the 3-ounce liquid rule.

Pay attention

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Pay attention

It’s great that you and the kids are staying happy and entertained, watching Netflix on your tablets while you wait for your flight. Just make sure you aren’t so wrapped up in “Stranger Things” that you miss the announcements and miss your plane.

20 Hacks for Navigating the Busiest Airline Hubs This Holiday Season