Four Tips To Make Holiday Air Travel Easier

Are you traveling by air this week in order to celebrate Thanksgiving where you belong…or at least where you feel obligated to be. USA Today published a list of holiday travel tips…they’re all good general travel tips, but especially helpful when airports are crowded and stress is high.

Here are the most useful ones:

  • Pack carefully–light enough that you don’t need to check any bags, but carefully enough so you don’t hog the entire overhead bin.
  • If possible, leave your liquids, weapons, and gel insoles at home.
  • Check in at home and print your boarding pass to save time.
  • Be polite to airline employees, especially when things go wrong. Niceness can go a long way when you experience problems.

Ten tips to ease the hassles of holiday flying [USAToday]

(Photo: We-Present: Travel-UggBoy-The-Photo grapher!)

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  1. PHRoG says:

    “Check in at home and print your boarding pass to save time.” …Now, I don’t fly a whole bunch, maybe 4 times over the past year. Each and every time I print that boarding pass out, they rip it up give me a new one! What’s the point?

    • CupcakeKarate says:

      Er- it depends on whether you’re checking bags or not. If you’re not checking bags, you can print your boarding pass and head directly for the security gate, bypassing the checkin counter. Saves time, hassle, etc. etc.

      • PHRoG says:

        I think this is my issue. I don’t check bags at all, but always went to the counter and handed them my boarding pass (thought I was supposed to?) hahaha. I’m assuming I don’t have to do this and I can just go straight to security in the future? That sure would save some time!

        • ARP says:

          Yes. If you’re doing carry on only, you’re checking into your flight by printing your boarding pass. Head directly to security.

    • Coelacanth says:

      I’ve rarely had to spend more than a minute printing out my boarding pass at the terminal kiosks.

      Printing a boarding pass at the airport is more convenient for me, anyway, since I have one less thing to forget at home! The kiosks also inform me immediately if the flight’s been delayed, too…

      • FatLynn says:

        I always print at home, just in case I happen to arrive less than 45 minutes before a flight. I usually reprint at the kiosk for the reasons you describe.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      I’ve never had this happen to me. And if I’m checking bags, I get the little stickers with the tag information.

      Weird. Maybe it’s an airline I don’t fly.

    • Kitamura says:

      Perhaps it depends on your airline? I know when I flew Air Canada earlier this year, they were perfectly happy to accept the boarding pass that was printed off their web site.

      Seeing as all this info is already on their computer database, I would think they’d be more interested in making sure your boarding pass and whatever you’re using as ID to get on the plane match what they have on file.

    • nbs2 says:

      You check-in online to ensure that you are checked in for your flight.

      They tear up the boarding pass to reduce the chance that someone could get through security with your boarding pass. If you printed them out at home and are concerned about the waste from tearing them, you can decline to print a BP at the kiosk. If you go to the counter, you will probably jsut get new BPs.

      • nbs2 says:

        That was weird. A second ago, there was only the OPs comment. I had to reload twice to see all the others (and I only did that to see if my comment had posted) – I’m really not digging the new system.

      • hotdogsunrise says:

        I have gone through security with a printed off boarding pass. Again…. weird. I think it must be an airline or even airport thing. (I have certainly not flown through every single airport.)

    • jenjenjen says:

      Depends on the airline. With some, if they’ve overbooked, seats are given out as people check in, so doing it ahead of time means you’re less likely to be bumped or lose your seat assignment. With Southwest, it means you’re less likely to be stuck in a middle seat.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    Tip #5: Make your own Tip #5 at home?

  3. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Sometimes the boarding pass you print at home needs to be exchanged for a ticket they print on their own, and sometimes airlines accept just the boarding pass. It depends on the airline. The last time I flew, my boarding pass was accepted at the gate just fine but when I flew internationally, they ripped up the boarding pass we had printed and gave us their version on the hard paper.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Sigh. That post about printing off boarding passes was supposed to be a reply to PHRoG. I’m going to have to start using the @ tag again until all of this gets sorted out.

  4. FatLynn says:

    I would add:

    1) Look for the out-of-the-way security checkpoint that will still take you to your gate. In many airports, there is a big crowded one in the center, but less-crowded ones toward the side.

    2) If your plane boards by group, board with your assigned group (or the lowest group in your party). If you have a 4 on your boarding pass, and you run up with group 2, they will probably send you back, and it slows down the entire boarding process.

    3) Bring a snack in case there is a delay. I like to carry granola bars and a reusable water bottle that I fill at the drinking fountain after passing through security.

    4) They aren’t kidding about carry-on limits these days. Make sure you have only 1 + personal item, and that they are small enough. Also, put your purse or laptop under the seat if you are putting something else in the overhead bin. Don’t hog the shared space, because again, it will slow down the boarding process.

    • hotdogsunrise says:

      In addition to what you said for 2), it also makes you look like a jackass. Flying back from Florida this year, an obviously drunk man went up with every group called. They eventually let him on because he must have been annoying. No one was happy with him being on the flight.

      But, he wasn’t a violent or aggressive drunk, so they must have figured it was more hassle not letting him on the plane. I don’t know. He looked like Jack Nicholson, though…

      • DangerMouth says:

        You mean he looked like Jack Nicholson- rich, famous, a celebrity?

        Or he looked like Jack NIckolson- Bat-shit crazy?

    • CupcakeKarate says:

      I would also add that if you are flying out of the country, be sure you know the carryon policies on both ends.

      I had a massive kerfuffle flying out of England one year- turns out on the trip out, I could take a carry-on and a laptop (personal item). On the way home, the laptop counted as a carry-on, NOT a personal item. My carry-on was not checkable (didn’t zip closed) so I had to stuff everything from it into my laptop case and dump the bag. Not super fun.

      • ARP says:

        To add to the complexity, they sometimes adopt the destination rule and will allow carryon+ personal. Also, on a number of ocassions I’ve just ignored the rule and walked on with both, but your milage may vary.

      • DangerMouth says:

        Oh, haha, YES, this happened to my partner and I flying Virgin from London. Apparently they weigh and tag your carry-ons, and we were informed ours were overweight. We’d already checked our bags, we look at each other like huh?

        So we take the bags back and empty half the stuff onto the floor under the podium , she weighs and tags them, and hands them back. I assume she knew what we were doing and was just going thru the CYA motions, because really, did she think we teleported the crap home?

        (we’re importers, we go out with empty suitcases filled with empty suitcases, and carry back a LOT of stuff. *Someday* I’m going to fly with only a carry-on, just to see what it’s like).

  5. Conspirator says:

    I have been collecting the complimentary zip-lock bags that the TSA provides for some time now. Kudos to them for getting the name-brand, not some dollar store knock-off.

    These bags look brand new, are they used once and discarded? I need to know because I expect to have lots of Thanksgiving leftovers to bring home.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Sometimes we’re tempted to go for the cheapest flight, but you should look at all of the factors, and be considerate of the poor people who might have to pick you up from the airport. Make sure it’s not a big deal to fly in during a certain period of time – we have relatives for Christmas – right during rush hour. Not a problem since we’re taking public transportation, and we won’t have to fight traffic – but if we had to drive I’d probably want them to fly in earlier or later. There’s nothing like having to say, “hey, welcome to DC, I know you’ve had a four hour flight – but since you arrived at 6 pm, we’re going to sit in traffic for another hour.”

  7. hoi-polloi says:

    As I’m approaching security, I make sure to put any metal objects into my carry-on. Before I’m to the metal detectors, I’ve checked my pockets to make sure loose change and keys are out, my belt and watch are off, etc.

    Then there’s my wife, who usually does at least two passes through the detector…

    • hoi-polloi says:

      If I’m arriving at a really inconvenient time, I’ll generally volunteer to get myself from the airport to my final destination. As you suggest, guests should strive to be as little of an imposition as possible. If someone insisted on picking me up close to rush hour, I’d likely tell them I’d grab dinner after the flight, and to come an hour later.

    • Keep talking...I'm listening says:

      Maybe you should put your wife in the carry-on as well :)

      I do the same thing — everything in the pockets goes into the carry on and i already have my shoes off before I get to the security line. Although one time an errant traveler rolled her carry-on over my bare foot. It didn’t feel good.

  8. nbs2 says:

    If you have the time and the cash to buy a membership/daily entry fee, joining the airline lounge for the airline you most frequent can pay for itself in a couple of trips per year.

    Having someplace to go that is away from the crowds while waiting out a delayed flight makes things easier. With kids, it is easier for them to have some time to run around, so we try to snag 2-2.5 hour layovers. That’s enough time to play in the family room and get tired for the next flight. Add in that you have the helpful service desk that will help you resolve issue if a flight is cancelled or something else happens, and it really can be worth the initial investment.

    • subtlefrog says:

      Thank you for thinking ahead like this and trying to get flights with layovers – it’s hard for anyone to take a series of long flights, and for little kids, especially. Giving them that extra time between to run and play and be kids is a fantastic idea!

    • ARP says:

      Yes, apparently the lounge staff are the more customer friendly and skilled, so they have a better chance of resolving any issues, rebooking you, etc. This should be the norm, but that’s not the current reality.

      I would add that a 2-3 layover is about right. This gives you enough time for all but the worst delays.

  9. TexasP says:

    PHRoG, did your flight change gates between the time you checked in online, and when you reached the airport? That happens very often. Print out your boarding passes as close to the departure time as practical…

  10. hrhkingfridayxiv says:

    You should still check in at home, up to 24 hrs in advance. Sometimes even when you pick your seats when purchasing your ticket they’ll get scrambled up. This saves you the trouble of shuffling seats if you’re traveling with someone.

  11. Winter White says:

    Check in as soon as you can for your flight. Often they will let you change your seats online for much better ones.

    Show up early. Really. I don’t mean an hour. I mean 2+ hours. Buy a book and read it, it’s better than missing your flight or slowing everyone else down because you’re running to catch your plane.

    Also, please remember that everyone else is just as stressed as you and put on some holiday cheer. No harm in being nice to everyone you meet. It is the holidays, after all.

    And for the love of everything good, if you are not an experienced traveler, please do not get in the experienced traveler line at security.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I can’t be the only one who actually likes airports. One of my favorite things when I have to travel is to explore airports. Of course, it’s not nearly as fun when you’re snowed in and you have to spend about six hours sitting on the cold floor next to the baggage claim.

      • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

        Some airports are so fun to explore. I think it’s the Detroit airport that had some dinosaur installation when I was there last; if we have time, I love running around and checking out the light tunnels, cheesy stores, gimmicks, etc. that are set up in airports. Layovers are a chance to catch our breath and de-stress a little before the next leg of the voyage. And hey, there’s always the airport bar if we get snowed in.

      • aficionado says:

        Atlanta has an African history/art exhibit between security/Ground Transportation/Tango concourse and Alpha concourse. Just don’t take the people mover or you will miss it.

  12. Omir The Storyteller says:

    Fie on air travel. I’m taking the train this year. On Thanksgiving. The trip outbound should be pretty smooth, I would think. The trip back on Sunday could be a lot of fun, if your idea of fun is a full train.

  13. barb95 says:

    I’m flying to Hawaii on Saturday. I’m still debating if I will check-in my bag or if I will try to stuff a week’s worth of clothes in a carry on. I’m just worried that there won’t be enough space on the plane and be forced to check-in my bag at the last minute.

  14. pop top says:

    Whoa, wait. What’s this about gel insoles? I need them. :(

    (Also, just had to reset my password for the sixth time…)

  15. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    Please, please, please be prepared for the security line. Be prepared to take your shoes and outerwear off quickly, possibly with one hand. If you don’t need to wear something that will set off the metal detector (will your pants function without the rodeo belt buckle?), you’ll probably want to skip it. One person fussing with their belted and buttoned coat at the security checkpoint isn’t a big deal. 50 people is a little different. It’ll get you through the line faster and speed things up for the people behind you, too.

    • pop top says:

      Look, if you don’t like my six-inch “Don’t Mess With Texas” belt buckle, then maybe you should be on the no-fly terrorist list missy.

      • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

        I see your “Don’t Mess With Texas” and raise you a “Stewed, Screwed, & Tattooed” buckle with built-in bottle opener. The thing has to weigh at least 3/4 of a pound, and sometimes I daydream about using it as a weapon in an emergency.

  16. Crabby Cakes says:

    I’m flying bright and early tomorrow morning from LAX to ORD. Already, United’s online check-in is crashing due to “heavy traffic.” I’m showing up at LEAST 2 hours early because security is going to be a NIGHTMARE. Here’s hoping the weather in Chicago doesn’t delay our flight!

  17. shepd says:

    So, when are the luggage fees going to kill people?

    Think about it: They weigh luggage. They know how heavy the plane is. They only estimate your hand luggage, and with more stuffed in it, it’s heavier than they account for. Some day a packed plane is going to have some problems, I think.

    • aficionado says:

      Not really. You have to account for the fact that most of the mid-sized planes (100-150 people) are somewhere on the order of 120-150 tons at takeoff. An extra few pounds in the carry-on bag doesn’t really make a difference.

  18. Snakeophelia says:

    Winter White “Check in as soon as you can for your flight. Often they will let you change your seats online for much better ones.

    Show up early. Really. I don’t mean an hour. I mean 2+ hours. Buy a book and read it, it’s better than missing your flight or slowing everyone else down because you’re running to catch your plane.”

    Gotta agree with this. I’m always amazed at how close most people cut it when they’re flying by air. Especially considering most people travel with laptops these days that allow them to work from the airport…really, if you get there 2+ hours early, finding good seats and getting through security will never be an issue.

  19. INsano says:

    Horse tranquilizers, horse tranquilizers, horse tranquilizers.

    • StanTheManDean says:

      Horse?

      A little over kill don’t ya think?

      Personally the little doggie tranquilizers do a fine job of taking the edge off and slamming me on my butt for 8-12 hours.

  20. The Lone Gunman says:

    I just party all night the night before my flight leaves.

    Works great if you need to sleep on the plane.

  21. H3ion says:

    Stay home and let your relatives come to you. It’s easier to make the Thanksgiving dinner than it is to eat it elsewhere.

  22. jenjenjen says:

    I would also add: Bring the toll-free phone number for the airline with you. If you get stuck missing a connection, it can be faster to rebook yourself over the phone than standing in the customer service line. Your home-printed itinerary/boarding pass may not have the phone number on it.

  23. BristolMan says:

    Thanks for the tips.
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  24. Winteridge2 says:

    Wait…gel insoles can be used as a weapon? Tell us more about this.