The most festive time of the year can very quickly become the most stressful time of the year at the airport, and many travelers will find it hard to navigate the airwaves with the headaches that come with flying. Christmas holiday season is looming and with that comes a new set of challenges, coupled with higher ticket prices and irate customer service, flying can be a bag full of stress.
The great news is that everyone is hitting the airwaves again, we have been cleared by most international flying destinations. With that in mind, for those of us that are flying out this holiday season, BLAC has compiled a short list of ten very important things to consider before flying anywhere. Just think, Instead of standing in TSA lines, or paying for a $10 water; you and your loved ones can be the travelers that are relaxing in an airport lounge and expertly avoiding bag fees — with a solid backup plan in the event of an issue with flight operations. Plan ahead and we promise that flying will be easier. Start with the list of ten important things to consider before flying this holiday season below.
1It’s Important To Book Airport Parking in Advance
Airport parking lots — especially the ones that are either the cheapest or the closest to the terminal — fill up on holiday weekends, and your best bet is to book a spot in advance. Not only does that guarantee you a spot, but sometimes it is cheaper, too.
At my home airport of Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), you can save 33% – 50% by booking your spot online in advance.
2It’s Important To Consider Shipping Gifts
While strategically checking or carrying on a bag will work in most cases, there are circumstances where shipping packages to your final destination can be even easier — and sometimes, cheaper. If checking your bags would subject you to oversized-baggage fees, then shipping can be a smart decision.
3It’s Important To Be Strategic about Checking Bags
While I vastly prefer to carry on my bags 98% of the time, there is some logic to checking everything you can, especially if you have kids to chase. If you check your bags, your hands are free, you don’t need to worry about early boarding — as overhead bin space isn’t a problem — and you don’t have to stress as much over the security screening process and whether you need to pull out half your items to place them in bins. While checking bags can slow you down a little, it can also result in some bonus free miles if the bags are slow to come down the baggage claim. If you really want to push the easy button, you can even skip the baggage claim completely and have your checked bags delivered to your final destination.
4It’s Always Important To Get To the Airport Two Hours Early
I know, this sounds like my mother talking, but nothing induces intense and immediate stress faster than running late for your flight — especially in today’s technology-saavy world. So even if you normally cut things close, don’t do it during the holidays when that “next flight” may be too full for you to switch because it was overbooked.
Taking the first flight of the morning is always good idea. Early morning flights are the most likely to have been cleaned overnight and to depart on time, so get a jump on the day and book the early bird. If you notice bad weather forecasts for your travel date, getting out in the morning can be even more important.
5Know the TSA Holiday Rules
Can you bring wrapped presents through security? Technically you can, but it’s a bad idea in the event Transportation Security Administration agents need to inspect what’s inside. Traveling with a snow globe? Make sure that the liquid is 3.4 ounces or less and it can fit in a quart-size, resealable plastic bag. You can bring a fruitcake, or cookies through security, too, but you may want to put food in its own tray for inspection.
The airport lounges of today aren’t just for the elite: They’re for the savvy. Get yourself into a lounge on your holiday trip instead and enjoy some complimentary food and beverages. If the whole family is flying for the holidays, you might want to specifically seek lounges that have family rooms, such as select Amex Centurion Lounges.
If you’re just looking for the best places to lounge, here are the top Priority Pass lounges in the U.S. — and how a card you might already have in your wallet could get you access. Cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express will do the trick. There’s a new grab-and-go United Club Fly outpost in Denver that may work even if you have a tight connection. If you are connecting through Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), the Capital One Lounge there is not to be missed if you have access with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
7Bring your Own Onboard Essentials
But whether you’re flying solo or with a girl trip with 30 friends, you need to consider bringing your own food, comfort items and entertainment on board. Some airlines are better than others at providing some (or all) of those amenities, but it’s best to be self-reliant — especially if you’re traveling economy. Essentials can include headphones, a neck pillow, snacks and something to keep you occupied and you’ll be all set, even if the airline doesn’t have anything to offer you beyond a small seat.
8Know Where you Can Have Fun at the Airport
If you have a delay or long layover at an airport, you may be in luck if it is one of the airports that go all-in on winter holiday fun. For example, at the airport in Denver, the free ice skating rink is open and ready for travelers who may have some time — and energy — to use up.
9Clear Security in a Flash
On peak travel days, TSA PreCheck isn’t always enough to get you through security as fast as you’d like, even if you left the snow globes at home. If you want the one-two punch of having all available expedited security options, consider getting Clear. You can sometimes even apply for Clear when you’re at the airport if you see the regular security line crawling along slower than you like, so you don’t have to commit in advance. Clear is free with some American Express® memberships. You may also be able to get Clear for a more affordable price if you’re a Delta or United frequent flyer member.
10The Right Credit Card Comes With Perks
It might be too late to add a new credit card to your wallet to help make your holiday travel easier, but the season isn’t over yet. Here are some of our favorite cards with holiday travel perks and related benefits. You can also check to see if you already have the right credit card in your wallet. Some credit cards protect you from incurring bag fees while others help you earn elite status (think: a priority line for airline customer service and the hope of a holiday upgrade). You could have a credit card that lets you board early or one that gives you a statement credit for your inflight purchases. For example, having the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card gets you and your traveling companions a free checked bag on Delta flights. The Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card reimburses you for Wi-Fi purchases on Southwest Airlines.