This post was written and turned in until the Sunday power outage at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson airport, the world’s busiest airport, threw things into a tailspin. My flight was canceled because my aircraft was incoming from ATL. In an instant the customer service lines were 15 passengers deep and growing.
Follow these tactics to get yourself and your family through similar travel situations (and not just air travel) this holiday season with minimal aggravation from the other 107 million travelers on the road for the holidays.
Be proactive. Do anything and everything to decrease the amount of tasks between you and your final destination on travel day. Gas up and load the car the night before (unless you think it will get stolen). Reserve your taxi now and use a ride-share as a back-up.
Manage your expectations, and by that, I mean expect something to go wrong. Flights get canceled. Roads get closed. Your carry-on suitcase gets left in the airport bar. Your teenager packs 84 pounds of crap into an oversized checked bag. It is not the end of the world if you have a good plan.
Be nice. Be considerate. Duh.
Go analog. Ditch the app and emails in favor of paper travel documents. Ever had to go through the TSA line twice because the scanner couldn’t read your electronic boarding pass? I have. It is as fun as you’d expect. Check-in online, and print a boarding pass at the airport.
Build extra time in to your plan. Time is the one resource you can’t buy more of while traveling (or at any point really). Arriving at the airport two hours in advance may not be enough during the holiday surge. Security checkpoints are max out quickly—including pre-check lines. Check TSA wait times and parking capacity on the Houston airport system website.
Set a rally point before you get in the security screening lines at the airport, bus station, bowl game, etc. Someone will be separated from your group. Do not rely on texting to communicate. It is much quicker to set a rally point, like next to the moving sidewalk at Hobby or next to the George H.W. Bush statue outside of Terminal C security.
Move with a purpose. Walk the terminal like you actually want to board the flight, which means putting your phone in your pocket and watching where you’re walking. You should be focused on keeping everyone in your group together.
Do not check luggage. Checking baggage is very convenient when flying. However, you are no longer able to switch flights once your baggage is checked. Carry-on and maximize your flexibility.
Go to the gate counter/customer service counter with the shortest line. Like I said, the line was 15 people deep and growing by the time I’d realized my flight had been canceled. The gate agent next door had no line, so I went there and was assisted quickly. 90 percent of the time another agent can help.