Tips for air travel
Avoid the hot spots. If your travel is for vacation, rather than to visit family, and you can be flexible, consider booking a trip to a less popular destination. You’ll skip many of the usual holiday-season hassles and probably save money, as well. (Hotel rates in New York City, for instance, can skyrocket during the holidays.)
Make advance reservations for airport parking. Even off-property lots can fill up during the holiday season. You could look into staying at an airport hotel the night before an early flight; these hotels sometimes have great long-term-parking deals that can offset the price of a night’s stay.
Check rental-car availability. Due to a shortage of rental cars, prices have skyrocketed — sometimes exceeding the cost of a flight — so it may be in your best interest to book flights to match car availability, if you have the flexibility to do so.
Research your destination’s COVID-19-related rules. For international travel, understand what testing and vaccination requirements are in place at your destination.
Even for domestic journeys, look into your destination’s COVID-19 rules; some cities, including Washington, D.C., and New York City, require face masks in indoor public areas (among other requirements). You’ll want to know what to expect as soon as you hit the ground. Individual attractions and businesses may have their own rules, such as requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
Arrive at the airport, and the correct terminal, early. Fliers nervous about travel in the holiday season should allow plenty of time before their flight and do their homework, advises Doug Yakel, public information officer for San Francisco International Airport: “Know which terminal your flight is operating from; getting dropped off in the wrong location can make for a stressful start to a trip. Arrive at the airport two hours prior to a domestic flight, three hours prior to an international flight.”
Get through TSA security screening as efficiently as possible. Try to streamline your boarding process by signing up for and using the Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler programs, including TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. If you aren’t enrolled in one of these programs and need to take off your shoes and jacket, do so before you’re standing in front of the conveyor belt, so you don’t hold up other passengers.
Remember that, due to the pandemic, you’re allowed to bring liquid hand sanitizer in containers of up to 12 ounces in carry-on bags; previously, liquids had to be in containers of no more than 3.4 ounces. You’re also still allowed to use a driver’s license that expired on or after March 1, 2020, as acceptable ID at checkpoints, for one year after the expiration date.
Splurge on lounge access. Consider paying extra to escape the airport crowds and decompress in an airline lounge (or sign up for a credit card that gives you access to the lounges) before boarding. A day pass is about $25 to $40; the LoungeBuddy app allows you to reserve in advance.
Don’t hog overhead bin space. Use the space above your seat, if possible — not the first space you see when you enter the plane. And don’t shove in your coat and other bulky items along with the allowed carry-on bag. Your one personal item, like a purse or laptop bag, should fit under the seat.
Be nice. Don’t cause problems about the rules, and, again, be patient; airlines and the feds are cracking down on unruly passengers’ behavior, which has accelerated in recent months. Not to mention that airports and airline workers have plenty of other stressors, including staff shortages. They certainly don’t want to contend with rude customers (nor do other passengers).