Not long ago, we posted about 12 things you should do when checking into/out of a hotel room. None of them were super secret stuff – just “common sense” things that you might not think about in the heat of the moment.
The same thing can be said when you get ready to go on a plane. They’re all simple, but any of them could help change unfortunate aspects of your flight from a nightmare to manageable. So take note:
Make sure you have your ID (and passport)
Granted, if you’re just flying domestic, chances are you may be able to fly if you’ve left your ID at home. But if you’re flying internationally, all U.S. citizens are required to present a valid U.S. passport or equivalent ID (if you’re flying to Canada or Mexico, you may be able to show a diffeent type of ID, but it’s still not “just a driver’s license”).
Even if you’re flying domestically, if your state/airport has the new technology that allows you to fly by just showing your boarding pass, you may still be asked to show your ID as a precaution. And honestly, even if your airport has signs that SAY you can use electronic copies of your ID, the TSA may say otherwise (like what happened to this guy).
Pack all essential medications in your carry-on
Here’s why (and how to prepare for same).
Schedule your ride, reserve your parking spot or double check public transportation
- plan to get a ride from friends or family members, double check they can take you
- are going to drive yourself, make sure you have a reservation at your parking place of choice, especially during the holidays. Don’t forget this way to potentially save on airport parking fees.
- take public transportation to the airport, make sure your train, bus, etc., will be running that day, isn’t down for maintenance, etc.
Make sure you have entertainment (especially for kids)
Some airlines still have inflight entertainment, but not all. And some airlines don’t offer it on all flights/planes. So many sure you’ve downloaded more than enough things to keep you (and especially your kids!) occupied while on your flight, stuck in delays, etc.
Download the airline’s app
Along with the 7 apps you should always have on your phone when you’re traveling, it’s always good to download the app of the airline you’re flying on – if nothing else, they’ll let you know about delays, departures and gate gates.
Sure, years ago people got dressed up to fly. And people tell you that if you dress nicely, you have a better chance of being upgraded – I call bullspit on that one.
Unless you need to impress someone the second you get off the plane, dress comfortably, travel friends. You’re going to be stuck sitting in an airport for a while, then sitting in a crowded tin can for a while after that. Who knows what will come into play in terms of delays, being stuck overnight at an airport, etc. Dress for “low stress,” not “to impress.”
Double/triple check your departure time and gate
You know as well as I do that flights are delayed ALLLLL the time. Weather issues. Mechanical stuff. Crew timing out. The flight before it was delayed and caused a backup seemingly EVERYWHERE. So keep track of delays (and gate changes) for your flight. But don’t think that means you can get to the airport any later – we know from unfortunate personal experience that flights can become un-delayed AND re-delayed.
Have a food plan
Airports usually have a few choices when it comes to food. But who knows if it will be open full hours, due to worker shortages? Or what if you’re stuck at the airport for hours longer than you thought you’d be and every place is closed?
Always, always ALWAYS have some snacks with you. Especially proteins (nuts, jerky, etc.) to keep you feeling filled up longer, and carbohydrates (virtually every candy bar out there, but also chips and, depending on where you’re flying from/to, fruit) to give you energy. The last thing you want is to become hangry.
Get there early
Airports are telling passengers to get there early, but not too early (hello, mixed message anyone?). So how early should you get there? Honestly, it depends on where you are, where you’re going, and you and your party. Here’s a way to figure it out, though.
Get a seating assignment
If the airline has to bump people, they’re going to first look at the people who don’t have seating assignments. If you don’t have one, get one. And if you’ve booked Basic Economy and get bumped because you don’t have a seating assignment yet, well, I hate to say it but you get what you pay for.
Check in online
Most airlines allow you to check in 24 hours before your flight (with Southwest, it’s practically a requirement, unless you want to be in Boarding Zone Q or something). If you only have carry on, checking in online, ahead of time, allows you to skip the mess at check in.
Have a Plan B, C etc.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” You can plan everything as much as you can, but something can happen that’s totally out of your control and really mess with your experience. These are some Plan Bs (and a few Plan Cs) we had when we traveled a while back. Granted, it was during Covid, so some of those plans might not be an issue anymore, but it still gives you an idea of what to do.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary