Long Beach, CA (PRWEB) July 21, 2008
The year was 1965...or 1970...or 1975. Airline travel was special. Passengers dressed up. Flight attendants greeted passengers at the door and assisted them with stowing their bags. They chatted with passengers and smiled. Meals were served on virtually every flight. Flying was fun. That was before overcrowded flights, overcrowded skies, daunting delays and economic downturns. Try these tips from a veteran flight attendant to ease the strain and put some fun back in the sky:
Plan ahead. Spontaneity is wonderful, except when it comes to air travel. Best routing, best airfares, and best seat choices must be purchased in advance. Book flights as far ahead as possible. Join frequent flyer programs and take advantage of the benefits. Follow TSA rules and restrictions to avoid security delays. Keep up with the latest changes at TSA.gov.
Leave a day early when flying to a crucial business meeting, family wedding, and special celebration or for a cruise or tour. Many distraught passengers miss important events due to flight delays or cancellations. Also arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare to avoid security delays. After security, go directly to the gate and board the airplane as soon as your zone is called to prevent becoming a victim of oversold seats. The airline can and will reassign your seat if you have not boarded by the required time.
Choose flights that depart early. If a flight cancels or is delayed, you have a full day to get back on track. Avoid the last flight of the day. If you misconnect or it cancels, you are stuck...often at your own expense.
Avoid close connections, unless you like to get your exercise dashing frantically through airports. A 40-minute "legal" connection in a major airport is guaranteed to add stress to your day. Choose flights with a minimum of 90-minutes connecting time. Relax, dine or wine rather than dash in distress.
Seat choices make a difference in flight enjoyment or misery. Being cramped in a middle seat for five hours is never fun. Don't let an agent randomly assign your seat. I recommend requesting two-abreast seating or an aisle seat in the over-wing area for the most in-flight comfort. Check out SeatGuru for more seating savvy.
Traveling with small children? Airline help is minimal. There are no amenities on-board for tots. Take what you must have, but travel as light as possible. Don't forget non-messy treats and surprises to ease in-flight boredom. Although children under age two do not have to be ticketed if they share your seat, think twice about trying to hold the child to save money. You would never hold a child in a car; an airliner can be equally dangerous in unexpected turbulence or an emergency or simply hard landing. And, hours holding a squirming child are exhausting for both of you. Invest in a stroller that converts to an FAA-approved child-restraint seat for added safety and comfort.
Small comforts increase in-flight pleasure. Small comforts include: an inflatable pillow and small blanket /wrap. Airline pillows and blankets are scarce and they are not replaced for every flight. Bring your own gourmet snacks and bottled water, purchased after clearing security. Noise-reducing headsets are more comfortable for on-board movies/music and a godsend for tuning out crying babies, engine noise and chatty seat mates. Add to comfort and entertainment with a great novel/magazine, travel-sized toiletries in your TSA-approved 3-1-1 zippered bag to freshen up and support socks for warmth and to prevent legs and feet from swelling.
Escape the maddening crowds. Sometimes it is difficult to find a quiet airport oasis. Airline VIP lounges offer soothing respites from crowd gate areas and offer amenities such as complimentary cocktails, snacks, large-screen television, personal flight assistance and a wide range of newspapers and magazines. Although annual memberships typically exceed $400, frequent travelers consider membership is a must. And, there are other options to expensive annual memberships. Most airlines offer day passes ranging from $25-$50. Priority Pass provides access to 500 airline lounges in 90 countries worldwide with three different fee tiers starting at $99 plus nominal per visit charge.
Have a back-up plan in case things go awry. Rather than joining the endless line at the ticket counter or stressing about ground delays and missed connections, program the airline reservations number into your cell phone and get a jump on re-booking. It also pays to do your homework before becoming stranded in an airport. Check out over 250 airport guides on five continents at World Airport Guide. Visit Skytrax for airport reviews and ratings on 31 front-line products and services at worldwide airports.
Lynne Christen is a freelance writer for iCheapAirfares.com. Her passion for travel began as a flight attendant with Eastern Air Lines for over 22 years. Through her airline years and as a present day leisure traveler, Lynne has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and to 47 countries.