1. First, Breathe
Around this time every year, we begin to see the same travel news headlines everywhere. Something to the effect of “Its The Holidays And Travel Is Horrible and Everything Is Awful Blah Blah.” And every year, there is a news segment of a horrible delay at an airport with stranded passengers sleeping on floors or worse. And it’s true—shit happens. But when you’re prepared, your levels of said shit will and do vary. But before we get into how to manage your holiday #TravelFly life, first I want you to breathe. Think of how much fun your holiday will be, breathe in all of the nervous energy that is compounding in and let-it-go. Because like most things, holiday travel all starts in how you look at the situation. You’re going to be (and look) amazing, you’re reading this so you can be prepared and relaxed through it all. And that starts with a deep breath and a game plan. So first, breathe.
2. Get Your Seat Game Right
Ok. You’re about to book or check-in online and you have the option of choosing your own seat. Do you choose the seat suggested for you, or perhaps one of those extra-legroom/comfort seats that come with a small price tag? Neither. Before making any decision what you should do is have Seat Guru opened in another browser window with the selected airline and plane model/flight number chosen, and your flight’s seat map already displayed. This way you can see what your seat’s pitch (legroom) really is like and possibly images of your seat as submitted by other SeatGuru users. Are the extra-legroom seats worth the bump if the exit-row seats are available and offer more legroom? SG will let you know. Tip: Always book the second row of the exit-row seat as the first row can’t recline far.
3. Put Your Status To Work
If you’ve already booked and been a longtime reader of Parlour you know that we live and breathe status, getting it and keeping it. And there is no time like the holidays to start to flex your status benefits when it comes to booking and planning your travel experience. While this may not be the best time to maximize your air miles to secure a ticket (tip: use those in the low season), early online access to seat upgrades and extra-legroom rows, dedicated TSA and check-in lines, priority boarding and private customer service lines are your definite friends right now. Brush up on the benefits covered under your status and do not be afraid to work them for the sake of getting to the gate on time. If you do not have any status, this is the perfect time to start. Research the airline you want to join while standing on line (get to the airport 2x early!) to figure out which one is best for you. Signing up takes just a few minutes and by this time next year that coveted first-class seat could be a complimentary holiday gift.
4. Go To The Club
Airports these days are redesigning themselves to become more like lifestyle destinations with a bevy of shops, fine dining and more all for the purpose of making your travel experience better and (to be honest) for you to choose that airport/airline again. During the holidays, these otherwise fun ways to pass the time can become a nightmare with long lines, and short tempers everywhere. But in every major airport, there are sanctuaries with dedicated quiet areas, cocktail bars and cafes, showers and workout rooms, plush seating and all the electrical outlets you can take—the airline/travelers lounge. While most airlines have their own brands (American’s Admiral’s Club, Delta’s Sky Club, Virgin’s Clubhouses, etc) there are also privately operated clubs like Priority Pass, Lounge Pass and American Express’ Club Access Program for platinum cardholders. And this is where a little research is absolutely key before you get to the airport.
I personally love Priority Pass for their access across smaller airports internationally, but when it comes to holiday travel I tend to stick with the club of the airline that I am flying and I do that for one reason—dedicated customer service and flight updates. Because independent clubs aren’t attached to an airline, they don’t have personnel that can look up a flight change, call a gate for you, etc in the event something goes awry. But at my preferred club (American) when I check in upon entering, I get a quick flight update and access to assistance with seats, upgrades and more without a horrendous wait and overworked gate-agent. When it comes to getting in, most clubs come with an annual membership fee but they also offer day-passes which can be purchased in the club or online before you arrive.
5. Cheat On Your Apps
There are plenty of travel information apps to love like Gate Guru, Flightaware, WorldMate, TripIt and more but I find that no one gives me up-to-date flight data like airline apps. In the most extreme some case, my American Airlines app beaten my WorldMate app by almost 15 minutes! In addition to American, both Delta and United’s apps have also performed well and I’ve had limited, but good experience with Jet Blue’s too. Use your airline and other tracking apps in tandem to make sure you have the most recent information and can beat the crowds to the customer service agent when a delay or cancellation hits.
Through it all remember that the holidays mean many things to many different people, but in the end we just all want to get to our destination. So stay ready and informed, but also try to keep your spirits in a good place, offer a smile, a compliment and never forget to say thank you. Travel Well, #TravelFly.
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