It’s almost the summer travel season. Hurricane and thunderstorm seasons are just about upon us. It’s also amateur travel season as the once per year Disney/national park/beach travelers take to the skies once school is out for the summer.
I have a few tips for those that are traveling over the next few months. These generally apply all year, but are especially important in the summer travel season.
- Monitor your reservations. While airlines are supposed to keep you updated if your reservation is canceled or there are changes, it doesn’t always happen. If your trip is a month away, check once a week to make sure you keep up with any changes or cancellations. If it’s in a week or less, start checking daily. Especially track your award flights booked via partner programs (Example: Delta flight booked with Virgin points) as they may not always track properly and update you if there’s a change of cancellation.
- Monitor the weather. 10-14 day forecasts aren’t super reliable but as you get within five days, look at the forecast for your travel days to see if storms are forecast for the departure and arrival airports. Be proactive about changing your flight if the airline publishes a weather waiver. This leads directly into my next tip.
- Book morning flights. Try to book flights that are as early as possible. Summer storms can happen anytime but are much more likely in the afternoon when the heat of the day causes them to flare up. This is especially true for Florida and big hubs in the South like Atlanta and Charlotte. Yes it stinks to get up at 4:30am for that 7am flight but it’s better than being stuck on the runway for 2 hours while a storm slowly rolls through. Earlier flights might also lead to shorter lines and less crowding at the airport which brings me to my next tip.
- Use TSA PreCheck and Clear. Many credit cards offer a credit for the signup and renewal fee for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry. If you haven’t done this yet, what are you waiting for? At many airports, it will reduce your waiting time and save hassle at the scanner (keep your shoes on!) Global Entry interviews are harder to schedule so sign up for PreCheck if you need access sooner. You can also have your Global Entry interview on arrival if you are traveling internationally. Clear is a great benefit at a more limited number of airports but helps you cut the line at security and can work well in conjunction with PreCheck. The Amex Platinum cards have a credit toward this fee as well. One thing to watch – sometimes the Clear/Precheck line can be longer than the regular PreCheck line especially on Monday mornings and other busy business travel times, so look to see which is better before you commit to one or the other.
- Track your inbound aircraft. Once you’re on your way to the airport, track your flight on Flight Aware or similar apps and websites to make sure there are no unforeseen delays. Track your incoming aircraft and make sure it’s still arriving on time. Your specific aircraft will probably be assigned about 24 hours before your flight (sometimes longer). If you are flying into a hub city (For example, Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta), it’s likely that your aircraft will come from the hub city and take you back there.
- Monitor your seat assignment. If your aircraft changes at the last minute, there might be a different seat map. Use the airline app to change your seat up until about an hour before the flight if a better one becomes available. Often, someone will get upgraded and that will open a preferred seat you can grab before it gets assigned to someone else.
- Have patience. The airport and airline staff don’t have any control over the crowds, the weather, the assigned aircraft or the schedule so be nice and patient with them even if you miss your flight or get delayed. You’ll never get better service by yelling or being obnoxious to people just trying to do their jobs.
I hope these tips are helpful as you navigate a difficult summer of travel. If you are traveling, I hope you have a great time and get to and from your destination with a minimum of hassle.
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