10 Airline Tips Every Traveler Should Know

By on May 12, 2013

10 Airline Tips Every Traveller Should Know

Booking a flight may be easy as one, two, click these days, but even the most experienced airline traveler makes the same mistakes over and over again when booking travel. I've taken well over a hundred flights in just the last few years, and learned a thing or two along the way that's made my trips that much smoother. So if you have an upcoming flight, or you're shopping for your next trip, here are ten tips from me to you to help your air travel experience become as stress free as possible.

1)  Make Sure Your Documents Are in Order

Don't even think about picking up the phone or hitting the "book" button until you know for sure you have a valid passport, and by valid, it must have a minimum of six months validity after you touch down in your destination. I was a travel agent for over five years, and I can assure you that just because you have a paid airline ticket, does not mean that customs and immigration on the other end are going to allow you in. Don't risk it.

2)  Snag Seats ASAP

This should be a no-brainer, but time and time again, I hear the moans and groans of disappointed travelers who've left themselves at the mercy of the check-in agent, and were relegated to the middle seat. There's nothing like sitting squashed like a sardine on an eighteen hour flight to Australia! If you have a legitimate disability, and you need one of those coveted bulkhead seats, ask your travel agent, or the airline directly as soon as you book. For the rest of us, check-in and seat selection is available 24 hours in advance and can be booked online.

3)  BYOG! (Bring Your Own Gear)

Do I really need to rattle off statistics about all the nasty bacteria (http://www.baggagequest.com/avoiding-germs-while-traveling/) lurking on every surface of an airplane? Tray tables, the armrests, windows, you name it, it's filthy. But the worst are the blankets and pillows, and according to a former US Airways flight attendant, they're only washed if they ‘look' dirty. Ick! I always bring my own stash of hand sanitizer, disinfectant, pillow and blanket.

4)  Splurge on some Lounge Time

Air travel takes a toll on our bodies, especially long haul flights. You're chronically tired, you're permanently dehydrated, your eating patterns are all off, and no matter how many times you get up to stretch your legs, you're still spending the majority of your time cramped in a chair. And after all that, who wants to be stuck in another uncomfortable chair for hours, waiting for a connecting flight, dealing with crowded bathrooms, screaming children etc? Airport lounges (http://www.staralliance.com/en/benefits/status-benefits/lounge-finder/)  range in price from $25-$50 and provide an array of luxurious amenities like lounge chairs, snacks, drinks, and even showers. Trust me, it can mean the difference between arriving at your destination feeling like a million bucks, or looking like something the cat dragged in.

5)  Make Sure Your Luggage is Unique

Black is hands down, the most popular color for luggage, and that makes perfect sense. It's nondescript, and no matter how roughed up it gets after thousands of miles of air travel, it always seems to look the same. However, when you're standing at the baggage carousel waiting for your bags to arrive, there's nothing more annoying than trying to sort through several hundred pieces of the same color luggage just to find your own. I throw a couple of multicolored straps around my suitcases, and it makes it a million times easier to find them!

6)  Prep Yourself for Security Screening

I have a number of pet peeves when I travel. One of the biggest for me is standing in line behind people who wait to the very last minute to prepare for screening. In just about every major airport in the world, there are signs posted every day that tell you what to do, with big bold pictures, yet people still don't do what they're told. Remove your belt, the contents of your pockets, your jacket, and put in a shopping bag while you wait in line! Then, when you get a bin, tip the contents of your bag into the bin, take off your shoes and voila, you're ready!

7)  Know Your Airport Codes

I was a travel agent for years, so learning the different airport codes was part of basic training. I can't tell you how many times I've used this knowledge! These codes are posted everywhere, on your ticket, on the screens overhead, and on your luggage tags. Knowing airport codes will also help you to read the overhead prompters quickly when you're connecting. Visit airport-technology.com to learn the codes.

8)  Store Your Luggage as Close to You As Possible

Storing your luggage close by is not only convenient when you want to raid your snack supply mid-flight, but it eliminates the risk of theft. Someone is less likely to steal something out of a bag that's close to the owner. Also, if you've chucked your bag in the first available overhead department that's three rows down, it slows down the whole deplaning process.

9)  Always Arrive Early

I'm a huge fan of airports, so this was never really an issue for me, but for some people, airports are stressful place. They're noisy and crowded, and generally unpleasant for some, so arriving early probably wouldn't appeal. Here's the thing, if you arrive after the suggested time, you run the risk of being bumped (Oh yes, it happens!), missing your flight altogether, or not getting the seat that you wanted. During busy times of year like Christmas, Easter and Spring Break, airport security lines are much busier than the normal, and it's not their responsibility to ensure you make your flight on time, it's yours. Make sure you leave yourself plenty of time!

10)  Never Book a Flight Without Buying Insurance

As a former travel agent, I can tell you that airlines are not particularly warm and fuzzy when it comes time to cancel a flight.  Even if the cancellation is due to a death in the family or some other tragedy, I'm sorry to say, they're far more interested in holding onto their dollars than helping you out. Insurance, provided its purchased at the same time the flight is booked, can get you out of a world of problems if you have to cancel for an insurable reason, and trust me, there are more covered reasons than you think. For example, if you're stuck in gridlock because there's been an accident, and you miss your flight, most insurance companies will cover the cost of your flight!

Jordana Manchester
Jordana Manchester
Contributing Writer at ExcelLiving.com
Jordana is an award nominated freelance travel and fashion writer, a former model, an anthropology student and photographer. After spending a year abroad working with lions in Zambia, trekking through the jungles of Sumatra and wandering medieval castles in Portugal, she settled down in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She makes use of her eclectic background by incorporating her infatuation with fashion and style, her obsession with xenophilia, and her obvious love of wayfaring, into every piece she writes.

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