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
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 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
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
TSA recommends two hours early for a domestic flight, three hours for an international flight. This is especially important during the holidays.
Or apply for Global Entry
Los Angeles Times
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
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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!
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
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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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.