Holiday Travel Tips
Are you traveling by plane soon? For many people, it’s the only way to be home for the holidays and a necessity. The advocacy work I do has me on flights quite often and I’ve learned a few tips to get through the stress of flying that might be of us to you. If you’re a seasoned traveler, you most likely know all of this and can add other tips to the comment area.
If you have any type of mobility problem, request wheelchair assistance at the airport when you make your reservation. Confirm this assistance for each leg of your airport travel when you check in the day of your flight in person. Yes, it may be embarrassing at first but it makes a big difference to conserve energy.
Be aware the if you have airport assistance, the person pushing the wheelchair will bypass the long security checkpoint lines, but often the rest of the people traveling with you have to go through the regular line.
What's in your luggage?
Are you taking gifts with you in your luggage? In your carry-on or even in your checked luggage, DO NOT wrap your gifts. If the TSA agents need to inspect your luggage, they will often unwrap those gifts. Wrap your presents at your destination. Or even better, if you can, send your gifts via the mail or UPS/FedEx to your final destination and then you don’t have to worry about this at all.
Most airlines have gone to charging extra fees for the seats toward the front of the plane that have more leg room. If you require space, you can always call the airline you are on and ask to speak with a person in the assistance office, and request better seats. Most airlines will move you and your companion to a seat further up in the plane. If you’re with more people though, don’t expect your entire group to be given this courtesy upgrade. Often it is simpler to pay the extra fee for the better seat and enjoy the flight. I’ve seen that cost run from $16- $38, it seems to depend on the length of the flight or if it is a popular route.
Reconfirm your ticket and your seat online before you leave home – last minute changes of flight time and seating can be less stressful if you know it in advance.
So now you’re at the airport, you’ve made it through security and you’re waiting for your plane. If you look around you will see everyone else is also waiting for their flight and experiencing their own varying levels of stress and frustration. Take a deep breath and know that you are not alone and everyone is pretty much at the mercy of the gate agent and the airlines.
The people who work at the airport are doing their job the best they can, and you make it easier by not making demands they can’t meet. No, the agents can’t move you to first class, but they can confirm your seats on the plane and check if there might be a better one for you. Timing is everything – don’t be trying to get their attention when they are working on boarding a flight to a different destination than yours.
If you have used wheelchair assistance to get to the gate, the agent will usually notice and allow you to ‘pre-board,’ which means you can get on the plane and settle into your seat before others. I always try to pre-board because I walk slower, and it takes me extra time to get onto the plane. Having a group of people lined up behind me while I get situated, makes me stressed and it’s nice to be in my seat before they start general boarding. If the agent doesn’t notice, be sure to tell them you would like to pre-board. Watch the electronic sign at the gate that tells how many minutes before boarding begins and be at the agent’s counter 2-3 minutes in advance. This is a visual reminder to them that you want to pre-board.
Check and double check
When you get on the plane, confirm with the flight attendant that you need wheelchair assistance at your next stop. They will phone ahead and do their best to make sure someone is waiting for you when you land.
Remember that despite all of your planning and communicating with the airport and airline personnel, things can go wrong, but with advance planning it can be less stressful. And it is important to check and double check your travel details.
A few more tips
If you have a smartphone – download the airline’s app. You can track your flight times, see your seat assignment and even see where your luggage is. The apps also list what gates your flight will be arriving at and if you have a connecting flight, you can see the airport map. There is an amazing amount of information on those apps that help you stay relaxed because you can be informed. Many planes have wi-fi and even though there is a charge to do things that require online connection such as checking email or surfing the web, they do not charge to look at the airline app information.
Checking your luggage rather than using a carry-on does cost more, but is worth not having a small suitcase to haul through the airport security and onto the plane. Keep in mind that many airlines have restrictions about carry-ons and may charge you for a suitcase at the gate, even if it is a small one. This often applies to the discount carriers, but even American Airlines charges for a carry-on bag if you booked the cheapest tickets on their planes.
And speaking of tips – please remember to tip the person who helped push you through the airport in that wheelchair. They provide a valuable service and the tip isn’t required but is always appreciated.
Those of you who travel often by plane most likely know all of this, but for people who haven’t flown before or it have been a while, I hope you find these reminders helpful. Keep in mind you are off on an adventure and don’t let any complications in your travel alter your holiday fun.
Wishing you well,
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