From my dad 🙂
For the last 20 years or so he’s averaged about 100 flights a year. Last time he was up to Seattle visiting (adding another flight to his annual total!), he gave me the scoop on his best tips to make air travel easier.
Top Airline Tips From a Seasoned Traveler
1 Get TSA pre-check if you can afford it. It allows you to go through a special (read: quicker) line at the airport. Yes, it costs about $80 for 5 years of access, but it also could save you from missing your flight if the airport has ridiculously long lines. Other benefits? You don’t have to take your shoes and jacket off. And your computer can stay in your carry on!
2 If you end up having to check your bag at the gate, make sure you get a bag tag from the gate agent. NEVER give up your bag without this tag. In the event that your luggage gets lost, this is your only proof that the luggage actually existed. And yes, I’ve learned this the hard way.
3 Before selecting your seat when purchasing your ticket find out how the airline boards the plane. Some board from the back of the plane first, some board based on group number and then there’s Southwest style boarding. When I fly Alaska airlines, I always select a seat in the back of the plane since they board rows 25-35 first. This means I can be assured that overhead compartment space will be available for my carry on.
4 If you run into a situation where your flight is delayed or canceled, get in line quick. While you’re standing inline CALL the airline as well. Often times I’ve been able to get the situation resolved on the phone before I make it to the front of the line. Also, pull up flight option on your phone so you’re equipped to tell the receptionist what you want (no guarantee that you’ll get it though).
Sometime airlines use your plane for another flight and claim that your plane was delayed due to weather – and causes delay’s or even you to miss a connection. Remember that if you are delayed more than 2 hours due to the airlines’ fault (depending on the airlines) you should be compensated. Always verify was air traffic control and or weather that caused your delays – remember the employee at the front desk has more flexibility that you might think – be persistent – however NOT mean.
5 If you have a connection and there is a flight delay that’s the airline’s fault (think: mechanical issue) causing you to miss your connection, as the airline if they will re-book you on another airline that has a direct flight. Not all Airlines will do this for you, but most people wouldn’t think to ask this question.
6 Even if you don’t fly a particular airline often, it’s still worth signing up for their frequent flier program. You might not have enough points for a free flight, but you’ll likely have enough for some of their other smaller items such as a magazine subscription. Hey, it’s free 🙂
7 If you’re planning on checking a lot of luggage, compare the price of first class to coach + checked luggage fee. Luggage is free for first class travelers and periodically my dad would travel in first class AND save money. Crazy, right? Another option is to look at seat upgrades as at times they may allow you a free bag / and you get a better seat for the same cost of just checking a bag and coach seat.
8 If you have to check your luggage, put a couple essentials in your carry-on in the event that your luggage got lost. It can take airlines a couple days to deliver lost luggage, which could be the entire duration of your trip. (For example, bring a swimsuit for your beach vacation.)
9 If you drive and park at the airport, take a photo of your parking row/spot so that you’ll remember when you return. Or you could try this approach.
10 Find another color luggage than black, for the obvious reasons!
11 Book the first flight of the day. Yes, that means you’ll be getting up before the sun rises, but it’s also the least likely flight to have delays since the plane is already sitting at the airport.
12 Bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up with water after you get through security. Flying can be VERY dehydrating, so don’t wait for flight attendants to bring you a beverage. Make sure you carry your own!
13 Bring layers (and a scarf) regardless of what the weather is like at your origin or destination. You never know what the temperature of the plane will be. OK this tip was from me and not my dad 🙂
14 If you’re traveling all day, take time either in between flights, before you take off, or after you land to stretch. Yes, you might look a little silly, but sitting still all day is NOT good for you! Rotate your ankles & wrists. Roll your head/neck a couple times and stretch your legs/arms.
15 Planes absolutely breed germs. I won’t judge if you wipe down your seat, armrest and tray before sitting down. In fact, I might ask you to wipe down mine!