Flying this week? You won’t be alone. TSA estimates a record 46 million people will be joining you in domestic airports and on airplanes, which will beat all records in holiday air travel.
It goes without saying that you need to get to the airport early. But this week, double the time you might normally allow to arrive, get through security, and to your gate.
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.
Best time buy
The absolute best time to buy your airline ticket is Wednesday morning, according to travel guru, Peter Greenburg, Travel Editor for CBS News. His rationale is complicated but very well sourced, given his years of experience and insider knowledge of the system. Basically, he says that fare wars are alive and well in the airline industry and the war starts over every week, late at night on Friday. Prices tend to go lower by Wednesday before they start heading up again on Thursday.
Travel tip: 1 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday morning is when to strike to find the cheapest fares, says Peter.
When deciding which security line to get in, keep this in mind: The majority of people, without thinking, tend to always 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 2017, more than $869,000 in loose change was left by passengers at security checkpoints in U.S. airports.
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.
BYO disinfecting wipes
Airplanes are not clean. In fact, all they do between fights to clean the restrooms is restock toilet tissue and spritz into the air with Lysol. That tray table? The armrests? Rarely, if ever, cleaned. You would not believe what passengers before you have done on that tray table and stuffed into the seat back pocket. It may have been emptied, but that’s about it.
Travel tip: Bring your own fresh disinfecting wipes. Clean your space first thing once you sit down.
MORE: My Travel Buddy
AirHelp, a for-profit organization that helps air passengers around the world get paid for delayed, canceled, or overbooked flights (they do all the work and take a 25% cut of the amount awarded), says that on domestic flights, passengers may be entitled to up to twice the cost of a one-way ticket if a flight arrives two hours late and up to $1,350 if it is more than two hours late.
Travel tip: Keep your boarding pass(es)! That’s what you will need when you contact AirHelp should you have a delay or problem. You have up to three years to seek compensation.
Don’t drink the coffee
Seems pretty foolproof to order a cup of coffee during the flight. Well, don’t. The dirty little secret of flying is that the water used to make the coffee and tea is, well, dirty. An NBC investigative report confirms what flight crews have known for years—bacteria persist in the tap water on an airplane. If you ask for water, make sure it’s bottled.
Travel tip: Grab a coffee in the airport and bring it onboard with you.
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.
Change your mind
There’s nothing quite so discouraging as buying an airline ticket and then your plans change. Sure you can change your ticket, but it will cost you a lot in change fees—likely as much or even more than what you paid for it. Airlines’ change fees vary, but none are as awesome as Southwest’s. Its change-your-mind-fee remains at $0. This is the only airline without a change fee.
Travel tip: Always check Southwest first if there is even the hint of a chance you may need to change your schedule.
Luggage in 20 minutes
Only Delta offers such an amazing guarantee on checked luggage. It goes like this: If you’re flying domestic and your checked-bag doesn’t arrive at the carousel within 20 minutes or less, you get 2,500 bonus SkyMiles (but you must be a member of the Delta miles program at the time of your flight).
Travel Tip: If there’s any chance you will ever fly Delta, join its SkyMiles travel club. It’s free.
Got an air travel tip? We’d love to know about it in the comments below. And hurry … some of us are getting ready to board any minute now! ✈️