The holidays are all about peace, love and joy, right? That is until you get to the airport. Whether you’re flying to see grandma in Florida or to the beaches of Hawaii, you and some 51 million holiday travelers (a record!) are hoping no delays or cancellations throw a serious wrench in your plans.
But there are things you can control that will help make everyone’s trip a little more enjoyable. That’s where planning ahead will serve you well–and it’s especially important these days, given the rise in air rage.
Arrive Early First and foremost, the key is time. Navigating your way through the airport and onto the plane, the logistics coupled with the crowds, seem to give people the worst air travel angst. Holiday spirit goes out the window! Build extra time into your trip to dodge any unexpected uh-ohs. Better to arrive at least 2 hours prior to your departure for domestic trips and 3 hours for international. Keep in mind, with all the crowds, the airlines will be strict. If you arrive within one hour of departure, you will not be able to check your luggage and will have to forego your flight.
Cooperate With Security Given the record number of travelers projected to fly over Christmas and New Year’s, you can bet security lines will be long. While waiting in line, make that time useful by emptying your pockets of any change, taking off large jewelry, and removing your coat. You can easily do these steps while in line, a necessity even if you’re TSA Pre-Check, so that everything is organized when it’s your turn to go through screening. If we all did this, TSA security lines would be cut in half!
Avoid Fellow Passenger Conflict Once at the gate, stick to your boarding group. Line jumping will just get you nasty looks from fellow passengers. You could even get stopped by the flight attendant. If you like to board early to guarantee a spot for your roller bag, the airlines will let you pre-pay a nominal fee for a better boarding group. Another no-no is trying to sneak more luggage into the overhead bins. Put your large roller wheels first into the overhead bin and your smaller bag at your feet under the seat in front of you. Keep coats in your lap instead of taking up valuable overhead bin space. If you see a luggage issue developing, ask a flight attendant to step in to avoid passenger conflict. It all seems like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people don’t take these simple steps.
Don’t Bank on Wifi It’s always a good bet to plan ahead for when you’re on the plane, too. While many airplanes come with Wifi and mobile technology chargers at each seat, there are still many that don’t. To be safe, pack extra portable chargers and download a few new apps or a movie to keep you occupied if Wifi is not available.
Keep Breath Fresh As an added courtesy to your seatmates, grab a pack of mints at the newsstand since you will be in very close quarters with other people.
If you do encounter dreaded mishaps like a cancelled flight or lost bag, and you aren’t happy with how the airline is handling it, send complaints to the Department of Transportation, not the airline, for an expedited and official response. Complaints to the DOT are taken very seriously and make it into the air travel consumer report, which is studied to ensure airlines are compliant with federal regulations.
I’ll be shuffling my way through the airport this holiday season with the rest of you. Three things I always tell myself as I wind my way through the crowds: be patient, smile, and most importantly, be courteous to others. Remember, we share one common goal – we all have somewhere to get to.
Kendra Thornton is President and Owner of Royal Travel & Tours, a high-end leisure agency founded in 1972. A nationally recognized travel expert with weekly appearances on the Tribune Media broadcast network as well as local programing in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, Kendra is also a contributor to the Fox News network, CNN, and MSNBC. She appears regularly on Fox and Friends, Hannity, Tucker Carlson Tonight, CNN Headline News, and MSNBC Live.