Well in case you haven’t noticed both the holidays and winter is upon us. That means two things. A lot more people will be traveling and the weather is probably not going to cooperate.
It would be nice if there was some way to avoid all the hassle. Unfortunately there isn’t. But if you’re going to be traveling over the holidays or over the winter, here are some things to consider that could make the ordeal a little easier.
1. Book Early Flights
When you’re planning your trip make your reservations for flights as early in the day as possible. If there are weather problems when you leave you’ll have a better chance of getting alternate flights if you have all day to get where you are going. Plus, as delays wear on during a day of bad weather things just seem to get worse.
Remember that flight delays aren’t just caused bad local bad weather. If there are travel problems at major hubs such as on the East coast, flights all over the country will be affected.
2. Book non-stop flights when possible
The worse travel problems always seem to involve connecting flights. If the first leg of your trip is delayed things will go downhill from there. Getting stuck half way through the trip is not pleasant. If you get stuck you can easily be faced with not being able to find a hotel and find yourself on a cot in the airport overnight.
Some folks will say they don’t have a choice. Given the airlines hub structure you probably will need to make a connection if you don’t live in one of those hubs. But if you can, consider driving to a hub airport if it’s a reasonable distance. I have friends who always drive to O’Hare in Chicago and stay overnight at the airport hotel both so they can get out early and will be able to book non-stop flights.
3. Avoid the worst airports
Now I know this is usually not possible but it’s worth looking into to what alternative you might have.There are a lot of people in Chicago who will choose to fly out of Midway rather than O’Hare. In Dallas people will try for Love Field rather than DFW.
There are more and more discount airlines that are flying out of smaller cities non-stop to major destination. Allegiant Airlines is one that comes to mind. They fly out of many smaller airports and only fly non-stop flights.
4. Be prepared to re-book if you have to
If you find yourself in a situation where your flight is cancelled or you miss a connection, try to have alternate flight schedules with you. I always carry alternate flight schedules with me. I don’t depend on a gate agent to find alternatives. They just won’t have time to do much and they sure won’t be much help with other airline options.
Call the airline direct while you’re standing in line to re-book. Many times they will be able to help you faster than agents at the airport. Here’s where your airline status can help. Maybe not as much as it used to but it still can sometimes get you special attention.
5. Don’t wrap packages
If you’re taking gifts on flights don’t wrap them. You may find TSA wanting to look inside and there goes all your work. Even though there has been a lot of talk lately about easier rules for TSA security don’t count on it. Wait to wrap those packages when you get grandmas.
6. Have all those toiletries in one place
Plan ahead when you’re packing so getting through security will be as easy as possible. Put all your toiletries where you can get to them easily. It will get you through security faster and all those people behind you will thank you.
7. Consider enrolling in TSA Pre-check
If you travel frequently and aren’t enrolled in the TSA Pre-check program you should be. Once you are enrolled in the program you are eligible for expedited screening. At airports which have TSA Pre-check screening you won’t have to take off your shoes, remove your toiletries and laptops or remove light jacket or sweaters. It just might be worth it.
Many airlines have inviting frequent flyers to join the TSA Pre-check program. But remember, if join through an airline program you will be eligible for the Pre-check screening only if you are flying on the airline you joined through.