12 Pro Tips for Hassle-Free Airline Travel

Traveling by air during the holiday season can be quite a hassle. However, with these 12 tips, your experience will likely be much more bearable. 

1. Morning Flights Are Best

First of all, weather tends to be calm in the morning. This lessens the chance that you will have weather-related delays. Second, if your flight gets cancelled (or for whatever reason you cannot make the flight), you may have other options later in the day. Frequently, airlines will have multiple flights to the same location (or alternative routes) that can get you to your destination without having to return to the airport the next day.

2. Transfer in the South

If you have a layover, make sure it is in the South. Most major airlines use a “hub and spoke” model, where they direct traffic to a central “hub” and then send flights out to the “spokes.” For many travelers, this means you will have at least one layover. Even non-traditional airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest will have you make at least one stop. So why pick a layover in the South? Because it is winter time and you don't want to be delayed by the snow. For example, if you are traveling from the east to the west coast on American Airlines, you will probably have two choices of layovers; Chicago and Dallas-Ft. Worth are both American hubs. You may be tempted to go through Chicago if the flight is cheaper. However, Chicago may be dealing with a winter storm that delays, or even cancels, flights. Dallas-Ft. Worth most likely won't have a major blizzard event.

3. Be Familiar with Your Airport of Transfer

You should be familiar with the airport where you have a layover. If you have never traveled through the airport before, look up the map online. Get a rough idea of how the concourses are laid out and find out if there are any airport transit services, such as monorails or buses. Also, know if you have to leave secured areas to get to your connecting flight. If so, you will have to go through a TSA checkpoint again. New York LaGuardia Airport and Newark Airport are examples of locations that require this. Gate changes can happen at any time, and if that happens, you may not know where your next flight is departing from until you land. Be prepared by becoming familiar with your airport of transfer ahead of time.

4. Avoid Checked Baggage

A checked bag will only slow you down. First, you have to wait in line to turn in your bag. This tends to not be the fastest process. Second, you will have to wait to get your bags at your destination...if your bags make it to your destination at all. There are many horror stories about bags ending up not just on the wrong flight, but in the wrong country. Finally, if you have anything breakable in the bag you check, it will probably get broken. I have experienced this firsthand with Dominican Rum. Lots of broken glass had to be thrown out, along with a very sticky suitcase.