Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Travel tips from a frequent flyer

San Francisco, Ft. Lauderdale, Phoenix, Orlando, Albuquerque, Tampa, Minneapolis. These are among the many U.S. cities I have traveled to in the past couple of years. Additionally, I traveled to South Korea with my family. When I began traveling I was truly a novice and stumbled my way through all of the various activities related to flying: checking in, getting through security, and flying. However, after logging thousands of miles to a variety of locations, I have learned how to travel as efficiently as possible.

In this post, you will find my tips for checking in and preparation on your day of travel.

Check in online 24-hours in advance. Most airlines permit you to log on to the respective airline website and use your flight identification number to check in 24-hours in advance of your flight. The websites are exact on the time, so that if you check in 24 hours and one minute before your flight you won't be able to check in. Checking in T-24 hours is essential if you are using Southwest Airlines as your carrier because seat assignments are prioritized based on when you check in.

Get your boarding passes. After checking in online, you can choose to print your boarding passes, have them e-mailed to you for printing, or use an electronic boarding pass (e-boarding pass) using your smart phone. Showing a PDF or e-mail version of the boarding pass is different than an e-boarding pass. The e-boarding pass looks similar to a QR code, the square code with three smaller squares in the corners.

Look for the baggage-only line. Frequently, airlines have a waiting line for people to check in, people who need to make changes, and a line for those who already have boarding passes and just need to drop off bags. If you are not taking your luggage as carry on, be sure to look for the baggage drop line. There won't always be one - every airport is different - but if there is, it can save you some time.

Verify the gate and time of your flight. Once, when I was traveling from Washington, DC to my home city, an Israeli diplomat also happened to be leaving at the same time. He was so politically connected that the Presidential limo and connected security vehicles transported him to his plane. As a result, no other planes could leave the terminal until his plane had taxied to the runway. A delay, weather event, or even a medical emergency can affect airline travel across the country.

Download the airline travel app. Most airlines offer a smart phone app that can be downloaded from the app store for your device. These apps are extremely convenient because you can check for flight delays, gate changes, and, possibly, even change seat assignments. On one trip, while waiting at the airport, my smart phone app was updated to show a delay before the display at the gate. If you are changing planes at an airport, you can also use the app to check for changes as soon as your plane lands.

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