Much ink has been spilled on this holiday season’s disasterous air travel mess. Bad weather played a big role. Throw in a dose of long security lines, short-staffing and outdated technology and you have a wicked cocktail…should you ever make it to the airport bar.
Still, some of us have to fly. Whether it’s for work, for medical care, or to answer an urgent call from a friend or family—off to the airport we go.
IMPORTANT: Meltdowns will happen. Even if it’s not at your airport, the ripple effects of bad weather, staff shortages or computer malfunctions extend systemwide. Here are some quick tips to give you better odds in a crisis.
1. Get Airtags for your checked bags. These are the handy devices from Apple that show you exactly where your item is, even if your airline can’t find it. The Airtags only work with iPhones, but there are similar devices available for Android phones. Normally, I’d recommend NOT checking luggage. However, for Alaskans traveling with firearms or liquor (or both)…that’s not an option. HA
2. Global Entry. This costs money, but it’s worth it if you’re a frequent traveler. It’s $100 for five years—and the big benefit is that you get TSA Pre-Check. That means shorter (sometimes much shorter) lines at the TSA security check. Global Entry also offers a short line for international arrivals. CLICK HERE to apply.
3. Get to the airport early. I’m a two-hours-prior kinda guy. You can play the odds if you wish that there will be no line at security, or problems with your boarding pass, or no place to park. I’ll meet you at the gate. IMPORTANT DETAIL: check your flight’s status BEFORE you leave home. Finally–catch a ride to the airport and avoid trying to find a place to park.
4. Get the airline’s mobile app on your phone. I have Alaska Air, Delta, United and American. The airlines are pretty good at alerting you of delays, gate changes, etc.
5. No tight connections. Think of the slowest member in your party. Then think of how far you might have to go in a big airport like SEA-TAC or LAX. If you have the option of a 90-minute connection over a 50-minute connection, take it. Flights are late—and there’s no guarantee that an airline will hold a connecting flight for a late arrival.
6. Travel insurance. I’ve talked to dozens of people who have had their trips upended by flight delays and cancellations. These things happen. I recommend travel insurance to help you recoup non-refundable components of your trip. I have an annual plan from Allianz, but it doesn’t include trip cancellations…only delays and lost baggage. Your credit card likely has some travel insurance components—but you have to check. Here are two sites that offer comparisons of travel insurance:
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