Tips for Easing the Pain of Air Travel
08 January 2019
Airline travel can be taxing (no pun intended), from check-in to baggage claim. Even at the end of a flight after you’ve waited for the seatbelt light to go off and rushed to unbuckle, you still have to wait for the door to be opened. Then inevitably someone will slow down the queue with an oversized bag that they can’t get out of the overhead compartment. Even the shortest flight can cause frustrating headaches. And if you’re like me and this experience is less than enhanced by mental and physical health things. You have to wonder, is it possible to make this process any smoother? Each airport has its own rhythm and trying to dance to them all just requires a little open-mindedness and a little preparation.
1. Where to Buy the Ticket?
Maybe the most stressful part of planning a trip! Unless you are loyal to a specific airline, looking for a flight means countless searches on multiple sites. Going through sites like Orbitz and Hotwire can land you a good deal, but it can also cause headaches later if you don’t book with care. I once booked a roundtrip from Boston to Delhi on one of these sites and the return was a nightmare. When I missed the second leg of my journey due to a delayed flight out of Delhi, both airlines pointed fingers at each other and I had to spend the night in a freezing London airport. If you book through a third party site try to fly on one airline, or at least on partner airlines. Most airlines have a section of their website dedicated to their partners, a quick Google search will land you in the right place. Also, you can track flight prices on an app like Hopper (fun fact, I worked for Hopper on a project before they launched).
2. What Flight to Pick?
Check the layover. A short layover can be good for speeding up your travel time, but it can also extend it if you miss your flight. Do a little research on the terminals to see if your arrival and departure gates are likely to be close to each other. Airports have terminal maps that you can find online, third party sites like airportterminalmaps.com try to provide up-to-date maps, but don’t underestimate going to the source and checking out each airport’s official website. These maps and connection guides tell you what companies operate in which terminals, while you can’t predict the gate number, you can get an idea of the general layout and distance between terminals.
For example, if you are going from Delhi to Boston you might be flying on British Airways into Heathrow and then out on Delta Airlines to Boston. It’s likely that you will arrive into Terminal 5 but have to depart from Terminal 3. That means taking a connections bus, having your carry-on luggage searched and then having to go through customs. Other places, like Bogota International Airport, require you to pick up all your luggage and re-check it for connecting flights.
3. When to Check-In?
Know your departure airport and the traffic you’ll have to wrangle with to get there. Going to Burlington International Airport in Vermont? You’re unlikely to have a problem, but if you’re aiming for an airport in a major city be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there. Online check-in is a time saver and can save you a lot of time when you have no bags to check. Keep in mind that you are not at a great disadvantage if you don’t want to check-in online. Many airlines have self-check-in kiosks, but relying on these for a quick fix might not do you much good if you are in a rush. It’s more useful when you know the airport and the set up for check in.
4. How to Keep Track?
Most airlines let you sign up for free text or email alerts that keep you up to date on the status of flights. If you fly often, it can be a hassle to have to wade through your work messages to find flight updates. An easy fix is either downloading a great airline flight tracker app or finding a favorite flight tracking website. FlightAware Flight Tracker is a free app tracker that will even track private jets; they have a website too. If they have too much aviation information for you, check out iFly Airport Guide which provides detailed information on over 700 airports.
5. What to Bring On the Flight?
Whether or not you check any luggage, what you bring with you onto the plane can make a big difference in your comfort. Pack a separate bag for under the seat in front of you and one for the overhead compartment. Finding things in an overstuffed bag is difficult and if you pack just one bag, putting it above will make it difficult to access items you want during the flight and putting it below the seat in front of you will cramp your legs. You’ll be more comfortable if you can stretch your legs and have easy access to things like medication, headphones, and a good book.
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