The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us, and soon after that Christmas bells will ring. This Thanksgiving promises to be one of the busiest for air travel in years, and of course, I’m flying on the busiest day of the year – the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I thought a few tried and true holiday travel tips from this ex-airline guy might be in order. Most of these apply all year too and some you’ve seen here before.
Fly early – This was the advice I offered in one of my very first blog posts, and it still holds true. I recommend this in the summer, and frankly, it holds true throughout the year and especially the holidays. Airlines are very focused on getting their morning launch out of the gate on time. Flying early helps you better avoid possible delays that build throughout the day.
Pack lightly, but do pack patience – If possible, try and travel with carry ons only. I have a 20″ TravelPro carryon that has become my go-to bag. I supplement this with an Eagle Creek “Quirk” Travelpack, which I have found to carry an amazing amount of stuff and still fit underneath the seat in front of you. Sticking with carry ons will offer you an enormous amount of flexibility during your trip. If you wind up with a cancelled flight, and getting rerouted, the assurance of having your bag with you is wonderful. Now, about patience. Air travel during the holidays can be a test of anyone’s patience. The balance of experienced vs inexperienced travelers is way out of whack. Be nice to the airline staff, and they are more apt to help get you out of a bind. If you are stuck waiting for a flight, don’t visit the counter every 3 minutes to ask about the flight.
Patience is good, but don’t let that stop you from being proactive – It’s always good to be informed. Be proactive by checking the weather along your route of flight, and across the country really. It is entirely possible for an early winter storm in Chicago to impact your flight from Dallas to Dayton. Take a minute to research possible back up plans if your flight is delayed or cancelled. Sometimes it can be helpful to have that back up plan in your pocket if you’re working with an airline agent to get rebooked. You may think of things they don’t.
If you’re flight is cancelled or delayed and you are standing in a long line of customers waiting to be rebooked, be proactive by calling the airline’s 1-800 number and working on alternative arrangements. By the time you get to the front of the line, you may already have everything worked out, and just need to pick up a new boarding pass. As a Delta flyer, I love @DeltaAssist for help with making alternative arrangements during a delay. They are awesome! If you’re on a flight with wi-fi, you can probably access your airline’s website for free. Start looking at your options before you land, and you may even find that you’ve already been taken care of for the next leg of your trip.
Consider a travel concierge – I consider myself an experienced traveler who has no problem navigating the landmines that holiday travel can lay in your way. However, if you are not a routine traveler, and are taking a trip of a lifetime, or at least your very valuable annual vacation time, you might consider investing in a travel concierge to watch things for you. I have used the services of Cranky Concierge on important vacation trips before, and they are worth every penny.
Invest in a day pass to the airline lounge – If you aren’t a lounge member, or don’t carry a credit card product that grants access, the price of a day pass to the airline lounge may be worth the price of gold. Airline lounges are typically staffed with the most experienced agents who can help you get on your way sooner rather than later. If nothing else, you can at least wait for your flight in comfort with access to beverages and snacks.
Be nice – Right up there with patience, is politeness. As frustrating as air travel delays can be, taking those frustrations out on airline personnel are not going to help you get home faster. And you don’t need the extra stress either.
-MJ, November 21, 2014