Flying 101; Surviving The Chaos Of Flying

“Find joy in the journey.”  -Unknown

As travel around the world starts to return to pre-pandemic conditions, one area of challenge that persists is flying.  Weather delays, airline staffing shortages, and the “timing out” of flight crews (legal thresholds restricting how many hours flight crews are able to work) are leading causes of chaos in airports worldwide.  Hopefully, these tips can help you as you plan to fly and can help you to find some joy in the journey. 

Book your flight

When you fly, do you ever have a feeling of being out of control?  In more ways than one, you really are.  Consider the challenge of a canceled flight or a missed connection that causes you to miss your best friend’s wedding, an important family event, a funeral, a cruise, or that once-in-a-lifetime European tour for which you have saved so diligently.  To take back some of your control, consider these tricks that can help you to have some flexibility in your travels: 

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When possible, book your flights for an earlier arrival than you would normally need, perhaps 24 to 48 hours early.  Allowing extra time for flight delays or cancelations can give you the time to find options for getting where you need to be and hopefully allow for possible lost luggage to catch up to you.  Consider the extra expense an investment in time.    

Book the earliest flight of the day for your destination.  An early flight might mean an early alarm for your travel day but flying early can save you a lot of grief.  Early flights are less likely to be canceled and if they are, you have all day to rebook and adjust your travel day.  Also, if you are traveling during the summer months, keep in mind that afternoon storms can pop up and can adversely impact flight schedules even if the storm is not outside your window. 

Book flights with long layovers.  A longer layover can be a lifesaver if your previous leg is delayed or there is a problem with your baggage.  This trick could also give you a cushion to find another flight if your connecting flight is canceled. 

Flights are full.  If a flight is oversold, the first traveler likely to be bumped by the airline can be those who have booked their flights through third party sellers like Expedia, Kayak, or Hotwire.  Consider booking directly with the airline.

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Travel insurance

Travel insurance can be another extra expense when traveling but, in the long run, it could help you to recover some of your travel investment if you are not able to make it to your destination.  A travel agent can be a good source of travel insurance and some travel options such as cruises offer travel insurance options as well.  As you consider travel insurance, do your research.  Be sure to understand what circumstances are covered by an insurer before you purchase an insurance package.  Travel is an investment of your hard-earned money so if a canceled flight impacts your travel so much that you miss your vacation, travel insurance could help you recover some if not all of your lost investment.

Carry on

Pack light but carry essentials.  Checked bags get lost and it is a great idea to carry on a small suitcase or book bag with flight essentials and any essentials that could serve you if your suitcase doesn’t arrive when you do.  I’ve shared some tips for a comfortable flight at https://letsjustgo247.com/2022/05/28/7-carry-on-packing-tips-for-a-comfortable-flight. Remember that space on the plane is limited because everyone wants to squeeze on their carry-on.  Keep your carry-on limited to what it will hold without extending it to hold its maximum so that it will fit into the overhead easily.  Oh, and remember that you need to be able to get your carry-on in the overhead on your own.  Make sure that you can lift your carry-on over your head easily without hurting yourself or any of your fellow passengers. 

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Luggage tags & tracking tags

Make sure that your checked bags and carry-on, are clearly marked with a sturdy luggage tag with identifying information.  Read all about this topic at https://letsjustgo247.com/2021/08/11/luggage-tags-how-why-you-should-use-them

Another way to keep tabs on your checked bags is to invest in tracking tags.  A tracking tag is a device you leave in your luggage.  It connects to your cell phone and tracks where your suitcase is.   Like luggage tags, these devices won’t prevent your bags from going rogue but this investment could help you to track and recover them. 

Download your Airline’s app

Many major airlines host a cell phone app.  Consider downloading your airline’s app onto your phone before you travel.  These apps can help you to confirm your flights, maintain a current boarding pass, track your checked bags, and alert you to a gate or flight changes.  Many times, the app will alert you to a gate change or canceled flight before they are announced at the gate.  If you have a canceled flight or miss a connection, use the customer service number in the app to help get you back on track without standing in line.  

Be nice

The challenges of flying are not yours exclusively.  The people who get us into the air and support us on the ground are short-staffed, overworked, and fellow flyers that are upset are likely to blame the staff member in front of them without being polite or understanding. If you need help and it’s possible for someone to do so, they will be more likely to do everything they can for you if you’re nice! 

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Drive your own car

If your travel plans could be better served by driving, you should seriously consider it!  Gas prices and time in a moving car can outweigh the headache of canceled flights, missed connections, overbooked flights, limited personal items you can take with you, or totally missing out on your vacation.  Even traffic won’t completely kill your vacation and you can control your own travel timeline.  My husband and I drive as often as possible.  It is cheaper, more comfortable, and we can often be at our destination sooner or within the travel day, we would’ve had if we had flown (including arriving early at the airport, long layovers, etc…)  The best part of driving ourselves is that we have our own car, we can stop when we want, explore along the way, take as many heavy suitcases as we wish, and our travel adventures begin as soon as we are loaded up and on the road.  Check out these road trip tips: https://letsjustgo247.com/2021/02/28/7-tips-for-a-great-road-trip/.

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No matter how you decide to travel on your next trip, remember to manage your expectations and be prepared.  I can’t guarantee that these tips will make certain that your travel is free of challenges but things happen and you can only do what you can. Try to be as flexible and patient as you can, even if you drive.  Be prepared, know what your options are if an issue arises, and travel early. 

Wishing you safe travels with no delays!

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