BOOK AN EARLY FLIGHT
The earlier your flight is scheduled to leave the less likely you'll run into problems. A flight in the evening could be pushed back because of a delayed flight earlier on in the day. Avoid the snowball effect of flight delays by simply flying early and you'll be more likely to have a smooth experience (and have more alternative options if your original flight does get delayed or cancelled) - provided the long security line hasn't already shattered your spirit.
CONSIDER TSA PRE-CHECK
If you're a frequent traveler, or would just rather not have to deal with the insane security lines, you should look into the TSA Pre-Check program. According to the TSA, “In November 2017, 93% of TSA Pre-Check passengers waited less than 5 min.” If you're traveling domestically, the cost of skipping security lines is $85 for five years. If you travel frequently, it's definitely worth the investment for five years of airport ease. With the TSA Pre-Check you won't have to take off your shoes or unpack your laptops, nor will you have to take off your jacket or belt. If you travel internationally, the $100 Global Entry Program will cut down your time waiting in customs lines.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF EARLY CHECK-IN
Check in before you get to the airport. Airlines will usually send you an email or text allowing you to check in online starting 24 hours before your flight. Do it! It'll save you tons of time waiting in line for a boarding pass with the other procrastinators and it can also save you money. Many airlines now charge you for waiting to check in at the airport, and they sometimes even charge more for checking luggage at the airport instead of paying online the day before; then, when you get to the airport, all you have to do is drop off your luggage with the airline. If flying internationally, double check the website of the airline you are flying with, to stay aware of special rules and regulations.
Speaking of luggage costs, try to travel light. Checking in a bag can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you're flying with an airline that makes you wait in the same line to check your bag as the people waiting to check in for their flight - which is incredibly frustrating if you've checked in early and are only trying to drop off your bags. If you can, save yourself the headache and get crafty with packing your necessities in your carry-on. Here are three hacks to help you fit more into your suitcase.
FIND A RIDE
Take a cab or an Uber or find a friend to drive you to the airport the day of your flight. Not having to find parking and take a shuttle from the lot to the airport will save you considerable time. If you can't arrange a ride, look up close parking lots in advance and call ahead to make sure there is available space.
Regardless of early preparation efforts or TSA Pre-Check, make sure you arrive at the airport a few hours earlier than normal during the holiday season. With the amount of travelers and potential delays, you never know what surprises you may have to deal with once you get there. With that said, don't forget to pack your phone charger on your person in case you're delayed and need to make alternate flight plans. In addition to a charger, here are 12 things every savvy traveler should always pack.
Nothing is worse than being all dressed up sitting on the terminal floor, or having to stand in a two-hour line in heels. That doesn't mean you have to show up in pajamas, but if you're comfortable in what you're wearing it'll be easier to take on the other challenges you'll likely face at the airport. Here are more helpful tips when deciding how to dress while traveling .
CARRY ON ESSENTIALS
Since you never know how long you'll be waiting at your terminal, make sure to have all your essential items packed in your carry-on. Holiday time or not, this is always a good rule to follow in case your checked luggage disappears or accidentally takes longer route to get to your destination. Having a change of clothes and small, TSA-safe toiletry bag in tow is a good idea. If you do encounter a surprise delay, we hope you find yourself at one of these airports, where an unexpected layover can actually end up being fun.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY PLAN
Considering the time of year, delays and winter storms are a very real possibility, so plan ahead. Consider booking airport lounge access in advance. Airport lounges include necessary amenities such as food, Wi-Fi, and a quiet place to catch some sleep during potentially long delays or layovers. Some even have showers, mini-gyms, hair salons, billiards, bars, and arcades!
Everyone else wants to make it to his or her destination just as much as you do, so try to keep your patience. During the holiday season there are plenty of novice or infrequent flyers who don't always know the TSA guidelines. Although this can be frustrating for frequent flyers that want to zoom through, remember it's for this exact reason that you arrived early to the airport in the first place. Take a deep breath and stay calm. You'll get there eventually. Planning an international trip in the New Year? Here are the world's best airlines.
AIRPORT SECURITY – GIFTS
Nothing gets you held up in the security line, or worse, pulled aside for additional screening, like having a suspicious-looking or hard-to-identify item in your carry-on. This is only worsened if the item is wrapped for gifting. Ideally, you would pack all gifts in your checked luggage, but if it’s totally unavoidable to put it in your carry-on, make sure to leave it unwrapped. Here are other tips on how to handle gifts and flying this holiday season.
AIRPORT SECURITY – SPORTS EQUIPMENT
Whether you’re off to the ski slopes or to the beach, it is likely you’ll be taking some sports equipment with you. If at all possible, plan to buy or rent these at your destination. Otherwise be sure to check exactly which sports equipment is allowed in carry-on luggage. As a general rule, if the equipment can’t double as a weapon and does fit in your carry-on, it’s okay to pack it. Some general guidelines are available here.
AIRPORT SECURITY – FAMILY LANE
The more people are in your traveling group, the longer the time it will take to get through security. You can speed up this process by taking advantage of the family or special needs lane, if you are traveling as a family. Sometimes it is not so obvious that this option is available, so be sure to ask around. You might even get lucky and get ushered through the VIP lane!
AIRPORT SECURITY – CHECK THE JACKET
With airlines providing blankets, there’s really no need to board the plane with your winter jackets or heavy shoes on. As soon as you enter the airport, pack these in your luggage so that you will spend less time removing and putting on your jackets and heavy boots at security. Opt instead for a light overcoat and, if possible, slip-on shoes. If you’re worried about staying warm on the plane, check out these flight-friendly cardigans!
AIRPORT SECURITY – BABY FOOD
No one likes airplane food but few of us have a choice, at least on long-haul flights, except for babies. But make sure not to go overboard with the allowance that is made for baby food. Yes, you can take more than the allowed three ounces, but if you pack more than what seems necessary for the duration of the flight, or insist on taking your own water for mixing formula, you might cause yourself a delay at security. Take only what you’ll need for the flight and buy water after going through security.
AIRPORT SECURITY – GO SOLID
These days you can find the solid version of just about every toiletry out there. At security, this will save you the hassle of putting everything in the clear plastic bag and removing and replacing that bag from and into your carry-on, not to mention having to make a difficult choice over what to take and what to leave, especially if you don’t have any checked luggage. So, beat security at their own game by packing some or all of the solid toiletries seen here.
AIRPORT SECURITY – CARRY-ON
A general rule when packing your carry-on is to keep it as simple as possible, to minimize, if not totally eliminate, the chance of being taken aside by security for further inspection. We all know the obvious don’ts by now, about liquids and aerosols in particular, but some other items that you shouldn’t carry might surprise you. The TSA even has a handy social media asking tool if you feel unsure about an item.
AIRPORT SECURITY – SKIP THE LINE!
You don’t have to have accessibility requirements, be a high-profile person, or be traveling with a family to pass through security faster. For a fee and a bit of admin, you can get yourself on the TSA PreCheck list. (For those traveling specifically between Canada and the U.S., the equivalent program is NEXUS.) This is a preferred list valid for five years that allows you to breeze through security with minimal delay. If the idea of voluntarily registering for a government-vetted list of travelers makes you uneasy, here are some commonly asked questions and answers.
AIRPORT SECURITY – HAVE ELECTRONICS READY AND CHARGED
You might think that simply putting your cellphone and other electronics in the bin is all that is required of you when it comes to electronic devices. And for the most part, it is. But save yourself from an unexpected delay by making sure that all your electronics, but especially your cellphone, are fully charged should additional screening be required for travel between Canada and the U.S. For the most part, all you have to show is that the device has not been tampered with and can be turned on.
AIRPORT SECURITY – TIMING
It’s easier said than done, of course, but if there is any way you can avoid traveling during peak holiday times, do so. This would mean intentionally putting off your travel until a few days later or earlier than the holiday itself. But even within those peak times, it’s worth doing the research to try and travel during the slowest times of day, which are generally middays in midweek.
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Lene H. Minyard