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Air Travel Tips for the Holiday Season

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Photo ©  Teresa Plowright.
Photo © Teresa Plowright.
Like summer air travel, Holiday Season travel in the US -- starting with the tremendously high-volume Thanksgiving Weekend in late November -- can be a stressful time to take to the air.

Flights are packed, and passengers who miss a connection may have a hard time re-booking because -- well, flights are packed.

Add into the mix: with cutbacks at airlines, staff are stressed, and on some routes air capacity may have decreased, which again makes it harder to rebook a flight.

Below are some tips to help your air travel go smoothly.

  • Choose an early flight: theoretically, these flights should leave on time, as there's been no opportunity, yet, for delays to accumulate. (Most planes spend the night in an airport, so are ready to leave on time in the morning.)
  • Book a direct flight if possible: maybe even pay a little extra, to fly direct. Every connecting flight is a flight that can be missed; and as noted above, you may find it difficult to get re-booked on another flight. Also, standby chances are poor.
  • Allow longer for connecting flights. Perhaps, statistically, a 45-minute connection works fine most of the time, but the stress starts before you even board the first plane: any delay causes anxiety. Also, the younger your kids, the harder it is to race through an airport to make a connection: not fun for anyone, but much worse for a parent with tots and gear.

    Unfortunately, booking a flight online typically means less control over connecting flights. You may need to book a flight by phone to get a comfortable amount of connection time.

  • Use online check-in to get the seats you want, and to save time once you arrive at the airport. Read more about online checkin - including a few cautions.
  • Triple check your ticket departure times. If you make a mistake and miss your flight, you'll have a hard time rebooking. Also check your email and check online for any changes in flight times.
  • Hold that plane! Not happening. If you're on a plane that's going to be arriving late, and have any hopes that a connecting flight will be held for you -- toss 'em out the window. A flight might be held if a sizeable number of passengers is involved, but don't count on it.
  • Who ya gonna call if your flight has been canceled, or if you've missed your connection? The truly organized traveler has airline phone numbers already entered in her/his cell phone, to get re-booked quickly (and possibly faster than waiting in a line-up with other stranded travelers.) About.com's Air Travel site for Airline Phone Numbers and more.
  • The wired advantage: in case of a problem, passengers with smart-phones, netbooks, laptops, or iPads, are best positioned to get online and find solutions.
  • Get in the right lane: many US airports now have Family Lanes at security checkpoints. Expect these lanes to move more slowly; these lanes are also for passengers carrying medically-necessary items beyond the usual liquids allowed in carry-on luggage (for example, baby formula, cough syrup, prescription meds, contact lens solution, etc.)
Happy Travels for the Holiday Season!

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