Summer Travel Tips for Flyers

Attention summer vacation travelers: If you’re expecting an exciting flight filled with perks, large or small, forget it – those days are long gone. Today’s airlines offer economy passengers simple transportation from City A to City B, but what more do you need?

This summer, focus on your vacation, keep airline expectations low and follow these tips for a hassle-free flight.

The 8 Lies of Air Travel

1. Get to the airport early.

Expect packed planes this summer, which generally means crowded airports and long security lines which can cause delays. Many airport employees tell FareCompare that the single busiest time of day is between 5am and 8am and travelers with flights during this time-frame should be extra diligent about an early airport arrival. Also know that many of today’s flights leave a little earlier than scheduled to make their on-time performance quotas. If you’re not in the gate area during boarding, the plane could leave without you.

Note: Always check your airline’s website to see when you’re required to be at the gate, then be there.

[Keep reading, below – 6 more great tips coming right up!]

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2. Double check baggage fees.

Airlines can and do change fees without notice. Recently, United hiked its second checked-bag fee on flights to Europe and not everyone was aware of the change. Check ahead of time, and pay online instead of the airport which can sometimes save you an additional charges.

Note: Consider traveling with a carry-on bag to avoid bag fees altogether (except on Allegiant or Spirit, which charge for in-cabin luggage).

What to Do about Screaming Kids on Planes

3. Check-in online early for family-friendly seating.

You may have heard it can be harder to find multiple seats together – that appears to be true on some airlines because more are setting aside window and aisle seats for those willing to pay a fee for them. If you are permitted to select seats when booking your flight, do so – even if they are not together. Then return later to look for better seating since airlines often release more seats closer to departure.

Note: If you cannot select seats when booking, be prepared to check-in for your flight online at the earliest time permitted, which is usually exactly 24 hours before scheduled departure. If you can’t get what you want them, select the best possible options and try again at an airport kiosk, and/or throw yourself on the mercy of a gate agent.

Best Airport Security Tips for Summer Travelers

4. Know security requirements.

Even frequent flyers make mistakes here, but remember, no liquids, gels or aerosols larger than 3.4 ounces (although stick deodorant can be any size).

Note: Summer travelers often forget such things as self-tanners and sun screen which also must come in under the 3.4 ounce limit, and souvenirs like snow globes are completely taboo due to the liquid content.

5. Wear the right clothes.

It may be broiling outside but planes are cold. Dress in layers or carry a sweater. Avoid too-revealing clothing or T-shirts adorned with racy comments – such apparel can get you kicked off a plane.

Note: Most airlines also do not allow barefoot passengers, so be sure your shoes are comfortable and stay on your feet.

6. Don’t forget your credit card.

No U.S. airline accepts cash anymore, so keep that in mind if you’re going to have anything beyond a soft drink or a cup of coffee (but you’ll need a credit card for even that on Spirit). An airline-branded card should be considered, if only because of perks some offer like free bags.

Note: Save your card and your money. Bring a lunch from home for your next flight.

7. If something goes wrong, don’t panic.

Forgot your ID? The TSA will let you through security, but you’ll need more time to answer a few questions. Flight delayed or canceled? Try to be first in line at the gate (and get on the phone, too, if the line is long). The quicker you react, the better chance of making the next available flight.

Note: Things happen to the best laid plans, but if you don’t panic, you’ll find your common sense will help you solve most air travel problems.


Published: June 12, 2012