Funny, but this joyous time of year often leaves us feeling frazzled and stressed. We’ve all done it, run crazy from one event to the next without really hearing, tasting, or seeing anything. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stretch this season and spread it out over the year? Instead of Christmas cards, we’d send out Valentine’s Day greetings and replace the holiday open house with a May Day potluck. Then we could enjoy our time with family and friends and be present without a lot of presents.
Unfortunately, my wizard wand doesn’t have the kind of magic, so instead, I’ll help you the best way I know how. Many of us take off during the holiday season, so in the spirit of giving, here are six tips for breezing through the airport and getting on your way.
Check Your Flight Status
Many people wait until they arrive at the airport before checking the status of their flight. That mistake can cost you time, money, and a little bit of your soul. Download the airline app on your phone for up-to-the-minute flight changes due to weather, including delays, warnings, and cancellations. It may even tell you about opportunities to change your seat (no middle seats ever!). Airlines will also text you flight status updates (sign up on the website). Check the flight status before you leave home and again once you arrive at the airport because sitting in the airport for 10 hours (or driving back home) is no one’s idea of fun.
If the worst should happen and your flight is canceled (sorry, I’m just the messenger), be prepared. Add the contact number for the airline, travel insurance, and your travel advisor to your cell phone so that you can spring into action. While everyone else is jostling for position at the gate trying to find a flight, you’ll have an ally on the phone working on your behalf.
Always do this, no exceptions! If you’re bringing a carry-on (no checked bags), you’ll save tons of time, and if you’re traveling with children, you’ll (most likely) get seats together. Without a checked bag, head straight to security with the boarding pass on your phone or printed from home.
Another tip is to set a reminder on your phone to check-in 24-hours before your flight (when most airlines allow guests to check-in). If you’re flying an airline without assigned seats, the earlier you check-in, the better your chance at a good seat and keeping your family together (unless you’re traveling with teenagers, then it’s your call).
Prepare Your Documents
Before you get in line to check-in, have all of the required documents in-hand. That means a driver’s license or passport and credit card if you need to pay for a checked bag. Now, have every member of your family do the same.
Weigh Your Luggage
Now for a “This Happened to Me!” story. Traveling home from London (alone) with my kids, I made a stressed-out mom mistake. I thought, two young kids, two bags, and one me won’t work, so I put everything into one gigantic suitcase. Not only was it too heavy (and cost me £100), I could barely lift the thing (leading to more, rather than less stress).
If you suspect your bag might be overweight, find out before you reach the check-in counter (and have open/repack your bag and expose your unmentionables to the masses). Many airports have scales in the check-in area (or just weigh it on the bathroom scale before you leave. It’s good for something after all.)
Stay organized, and security will be a snap. If you’re traveling with children, practice for airport security at home and tell children how to answer questions from TSA agents (fellow travelers will thank you). On their own, your offspring’s answers might be cute and funny, but remember, TSA doesn’t have a sense of humor.
Store your phone, passport/ID, boarding pass in the front pocket of your carry-on. Make sure your pockets are empty, and your laptop is easily accessible for screening. When you reach the bins, it’s shoes off, laptop and toiletry baggie out, and in a container. Listen to instructions and don’t argue or complain. Is it better to be right or to make your plane?
Safely On the Other Side
Once through security, double-check the departure monitors to confirm the gate and departure status. Go to the gate and verify with your eyes that everything is correct, only then should you wander about picking up unusual magazines you never usually read and buying giant bags of M&Ms. If possible, stay close to the gate (especially in bad weather), so you can hear last-minute announcements like gate changes or delays. If delay or cancelations occur, do your best to keep cool, airline employees are just like everyone else, and kindness and patience will go farther than anger and hostility.
Before you know it, you’ll be flying the friendly (and somewhat cramped) skies to visit family and friends and celebrate the holiday season.