Whether you’re a frequent flier or only travel once or twice a year flying can be an expensive endeavor. We’ve spoken with some professional travelers who fly frequently for business and pleasure about their top tips to make going to the airport a little less stressful and a lot less expensive. Hopefully with these tips your next trip will go a bit smoother and you’ll be able to enjoy your time both at the airport and in the air.
1. Wear Your Luggage
Now that nearly every airline is charging for checked baggage and some are now charging for carry on bag you probably are wondering what the best ways to avoid these fees might be. Have you considered wearing your luggage onboard? If you’re flying in the winter it’s easy to layer clothes, wear a t-shirt, buttoned shirt, sweater and a coat and then putting items in the pockets. It may feel chunky and you definitely won’t be making a fashion statement but you will make extra room in your carryon or for short trips even avoid a carryon altogether.
2. Fly On “Off Days” and On Red Eyes
One of the easiest ways to avoid airport hassles is to book red eye flights. The airlines have fewer planes flying overnight and because of that you’ll have shorter lines at security and make your time at the airport easier. You can also benefit because you get to spend the whole day at your origin and then when you land in the morning you have a full day ahead of you to enjoy your time wherever you may be headed. These flights are typically less expensive than daytime flights and may allow you to save a few dollars in exchange for sleeping on your flight.
Another way to save money is to fly on less busy days and at less busy times. Typically Tuesday-Thursday are slower days for airlines and flights on these days will be between 5% and 25% less than flying on busy travel days like Fridays or Mondays.
3. Get Airline Status
This tip is really best for those who fly frequently, but if you can manage to get frequent flyer status your travel can be much less stressful and significantly more rewarding. As a frequent flyer you could be eligible to use the business class security line with an economy ticket, get bonus miles for the miles you are flying, get upgraded to business class for miles or even upgraded for free if there is room!
Many people think you have to be a serious business traveler to get status but that’s not always true. Just last year I realized I had a few family events to go to across the country. Between those trips, signing up for the airline credit card and taking one business trip I achieved the lowest level of status on an airline. Once you get status is carries over to the next year and over the course of this year I’ve been upgraded to first class on 2 of the 3 flights I’ve taken and racked up enough frequent flier miles through bonuses to get another free economy class ticket. If you insist on always flying for the cheapest price you will be scattering your miles across many airlines but by choosing one airline and paying a slight premium for some tickets you may be able to make flying that much better in the long run.
4. Get Global Entry
If you fly internationally Global Entry can be a huge help in getting through customs quickly so you can get out of the airport faster. It’s currently open to U.S. citizens and involves an application process with a background check and a modest fee. Once you pass the application process you can take advantage of special security lines when you arrive at the airport and zip through customs when you arrive by using a machine similar to an ATM to declare your items.
I really love this because as part of your Global Entry pass you also get TSA Pre-Check. You can now use the special security lines where you don’t have to remove your shoes or belt or have to take your computer out of the case. These lines are also much shorter than the standard security line and will have frequent travelers who are able to negotiate the security screening much faster. Nobody likes to wait in line so this is a great way to ease your stress at the airport.
5. Business Class Lounges
You don’t have to pay thousands for a business class ticket to enjoy the business class lounges. Nearly all lounges allow access to any traveler regardless of their ticket class for a fee. Most lounges cost between $25-$50 for a day pass. This might sound like a lot to spend on a place to wait for your plane, but if you consider what these lounges have to offer it might not be a bad deal.
Most lounges offer a comfortable place to sit, free wifi, free food and alcoholic beverages and sometimes showers and sleeping lounges. If you have a few hours to kill on a layover or before a flight, spending a little bit to get into a lounge can be a good investment to make your travel a little more comfortable. For just a bit more than what it might cost to get a meal and 1 alcoholic beverage at an airport restaurant you can be in a less crowded space with unlimited snacks and drinks.
6. Rewards Credit Cards
If you aren’t a frequent flier you can still get some great perks by having an airline branded credit card. The perks range but almost always include bonus miles when you buy your ticket on the card and more miles for booking hotels or other travel related items on the card. Many cards offer a free checked bag, priority boarding and even priority security line access for you and those traveling on the same itinerary.
Another perk is that by signing up you can get some great bonuses right away. Most cards offer a signing bonus of 20,000-50,000 miles which is enough for a free economy class award ticket. You can also get discounts on lounge access and no some cards you can receive a companion fare for $99.
7. Bring Your Own Snacks and Liquor
Long gone are the days when airlines gave passengers complimentary meals or even snacks on most domestic flights. Spending a few minutes planning ahead can save you from buying overpriced food and drink items at the airport or on board you flight. Stop at your local grocery store and purchase some of your favorite snacks, preferably items that are high in protein. Eating something like granola bars with healthy protein and fats will keep you feeling full longer. You can also bring an empty water bottle with you and fill it up at a water or soda fountain at the airport before your flight.
If you want a drink on the plane but don’t want to pay for the in flight booze, consider bringing along your own libation. While you technically aren’t supposed to bring your own alcohol on a plane, if you want to be a little sneaky it isn’t hard. There are no restrictions on bringing the small single serving bottles of liquor with you through security but just make sure they are less than 3 oz.
8. Entertain Your Kids Without Electronics
Trying to keep your kids from going crazy at the airport is already tough, but by planning ahead you can make sure they are entertained from the time you head out to the airport until the time you arrive at your destination. Avoid using technology like tablets or smartphones because these typically just distract your kids until they get bored. Think of scavenger hunts, games like eye spy, interactive activities to get your kids moving and thinking instead of staring at a screen.