The number of Americans traveling for Thanksgiving is up 7 percent this year over last, according to TripAdvisor’s Thanksgiving travel survey, and if you’re like most of them, there is a lot stressing you out about flying over the holiday with the list including crowded airports, long security lines, and flight delays and cancellations. Here are six ways to minimize such holiday travel hassles:
Download the right apps for use at the airport.
The MyTSA app can point you to the security checkpoint with the shortest line. If your flight is delayed, GateGuru tells you what’s nearby in the way of services, restaurants, and shops. If you want to escape the crowds, LoungeBuddy points you to the nearest airport lounge clubs you can access for a fee. And if your flight is cancelled and you’re stranded overnight, the TripAdvisor app can point you to your best hotel options.
Wait out delays in an airport club lounge.
More and more lounges not affiliated with any airline are popping up where you can pay an hourly or daily fee to relax in comfy armchairs—with Wi-Fi, televisions, and snacks—and work at a desk, shower, or even nap. A chain of lounges called The Club now has locations at Atlanta Hartsfield, Dallas-Forth Worth, Las Vegas McCarran, Phoenix Sky Harbor, and San José airports. There are Airspace lounges at New York’s J.F.K., Cleveland, Baltimore-Washington International, and San Diego airports. Access usually costs between $25 and $50. There are also Centurion Lounges available to AmEx cardmembers at Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, New York’s LaGuardia, and San Francisco, for $50 per day.
Be the first to find out if your flight is cancelled.
If a storm is brewing in the days before your trip and it looks like your flight could be cancelled, check your airline’s Web site frequently so that, if the airline announces it’s waiving ticket-change fees, you can take immediate action. The sooner you know, the better the alternate flight you can get rebooked on. Sign up for flight status alerts on your airline’s Web site and also on FlightStats.com (sometimes a more reliable source). Monitor the airline’s twitter feed too, since that may provide quicker updates.
Flight cancelled? Look for a hub to connect in that’s storm-free.
FlightStats.com tells you at a glance which airports and airlines are suffering weather-related delays and, just as important, which are not. Choose “Stats” from the navigation menu and then, from the drop-down menu, choose “Global Cancellations and Delays.” Note which large hub airports are having no weather issues and, if no seats are available on alternate flights on your route, rebook to connect through one of those hubs. (Las Vegas is often a good option, given its frequent flights and inexpensive hotels. Vegas may not be in the linear path to your final destination, but you could end up at your destination much quicker.) If you’re a family with kids, consider splitting up so that each parent flies with one child.
Find out for yourself which alternate flights have empty seats.
Rather than calling the airline’s jammed phone lines and getting stuck on hold for hours, waiting in an endless line at the customer-service desk at the airport, or depending on a harried airline agent to come to the rescue with a suitable alternate flight, find the seats you need yourself. ExpertFlyer.com provides such flight and seat availability intel for a subscription fee of $4.99 per month. Armed with the info you need, you can then phone the airline and ask for those specific flights.
Call one of the airline’s international customer-service lines to avoid long waits on hold.
Rather than getting stuck on hold for hours, phone one of the airline’s English-speaking customer-service desks in another country. (Australia, England, Germany, and Singapore are often good options). Here, for example, are American Airlines’ worldwide reservations phone numbers. Use Skype so the phone call is cheap.
I’d love to hear your hard-earned tips for coping with airport stress and airline delays over the holidays. Share them with us below!