Flying is back. More people boarded commercial planes in the U.S. this past Thursday than the comparable same pre-pandemic day in 2019. The Transportation Security Administration reported that 2,147,090 travelers passed through its security checkpoints, a good indicator for what’s to come over the next few months. If you plan to travel by air this summer, one thing is for certain: You won’t be alone. The TSA estimated that summer air travel is going to break records.
It goes without saying that you need to get to the airport early. But this summer, as things return to normal, plan to double the time you might otherwise allow to arrive, get through security and to your gate. The TSA is experiencing delays due to being understaffed. Their rules are frequently being amended and changed, so make sure you stay current.
Beyond that, check out these tips and tricks to make your experience less stressful. After all, you do want to arrive with joy in your heart and kind words on your lips.
When it comes to travel, few things are worse than getting stuck in a seat that doesn’t recline or ending up in a row next to the lavatory with people hovering over you for the entire flight. I avoid these kinds of mishaps by checking SeatGuru.com before I choose my seat on flights.
SeatGuru is fantastic, and it’s free. You can find the seating chart for every airline, every aircraft in that airline’s fleet, and the specific chart for the aircraft scheduled for your exact flight. Once you have that chart, you can see the pros and cons of every seat.
Travel tip: Even though Southwest Airlines does not offer reserved seating, know the seating chart for your particular flight. Have a few options in mind before you board and you’ll take the guesswork out of making your seat selection once you’re onboard.
When deciding which security line to get in, keep this in mind: The majority of people, without thinking, tend to turn to the right when there is an option. That makes those lines to the right longer in length.
Travel tip: Don’t follow the crowd, don’t go with your natural instinct. Consciously turn to the left instead.
BAG THE CHANGE
In 2020, the TSA collected $926,030.44 in unclaimed money that passengers left behind at U.S. airports in the containers provided while going through the security checkpoints!
Travel tip: Don’t show up at the airport security with loose change in your pockets. Plan ahead and put it in a zip-top plastic bag, pouch or fanny-pack, and store it in your carry-on bag until you are through security.
WEAR A WATCH
The secret for minimizing jet lag is to trick your body into making the time adjustment gradually when you know you’ll be crossing time zones. For a day or so before departure, wear an old-fashioned watch and stop depending on your phone for the time. Set the watch to the time zone of your destination, then start wearing your time-adjusted watch for around 48 hours before departure to make your brain adopt the local time and reset your circadian rhythm ahead of your arrival.
Travel tip: Avoid the temptation to look to your phone, or even clocks, to see what time it is once you get to the airport. By now, checking your watch instead will be quite easy since you will have already begun to create a new habit. Repeat for the return trip home.
BRING YOUR OWN DISINFECTING WIPES
Airplanes are a lot cleaner than they used to be pre-pandemic. Back then, about all they did between flights to clean the restrooms was restock toilet tissue and spritz Lysol into the air. That tray table? The armrests? Rarely, if ever, were they cleaned.
While the whole sanitizing and air filtration protocols have changed, it’s not perfect. You don’t know what passengers before you have done on that tray table and stuffed into the pocket. It may have been emptied, but that’s about it. This is especially true on connecting flights where some of the passengers disembark and new folks board. I’ve sat there observing and I assure you: Do not assume.
Travel tip: Bring your own fresh disinfecting wipes. Clean your space first thing once you sit down.
DON’T GET IN LINE
Stuff happens, flights get canceled. And when they do, everyone gets in line to get rebooked. But not you. Don’t follow the herd. Turn the other way. Find a seat, pull out your phone and call the airline. The operator can do everything the gate agent can, and probably much sooner than for all those people standing in line.
Travel tip: Double dip and call while in line.
Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/ ”Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.”