1. Nonstop and direct are not the same thing – Direct means you get from one city to another on the same ticket. Nonstop means the route has no stops.
2. Always check the fee schedule – Airlines have different baggage fee policies. Some airlines like Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier have fees for nearly everything – getting a seat assignment, bringing a bag on the plane, or getting a soda on the plane. It’s important to add up all those fees to determine which airlines offers the best deal.
3. Another airport may be a better choice even if it’s further away – A nonstop route out of an airport 90 minutes away could get you home faster than a route with 1 stop to your local airport because of the lengths of the layovers. This can be especially true for international flights since you have to build in a longer layover to clear customs and immigration. My husband and I often drive from Tampa to Orlando to fly nonstop to the Caribbean.
4. There is a faster way to get through TSA – Trusted traveler programs give you access to expedited lines. You have to apply, agree to a background check and get fingerprinted. Global Entry is $100 and secures you TSA Pre-Check (where available) and expedited US customs and immigration for five years. If you live in a state bordering Canada, you qualify for Nexus.
5. Always check the baggage policies – size and weight limits matter. Overweight charges can be severe. I personally had this problem when one flight had a weight limit of 50 pounds per checked bag and the next flight had a requirement of 40 pounds. All of a sudden, I was ten pounds overweight and trying to shove books and shoes into my carry-on so I wouldn’t have to pay the extra fees.
6. Choose your seat when you make your booking – Once you have a ticket, you can go online and choose seat assignments in many cases.
7. The time of the flight matters – First flight of the day usually means that plane arrives the night before so delays can be less likely. Taking the last flight can be risky as delays tend to pile up and you may be in a situation where you don’t have a crew because airline crews are limited how many hours they can work in a day.
8. Bring your own drinks and snacks – Minimally, I bring a refillable water bottle and some type of snack. It can up to an hour and half or more before the flight attendants head down the aisle with drink service.
9. Pack your bag for security and then fix it for the flight – When going through TSA, be sure your quart size bag with your 3 oz or less liquids in easy to reach. Empty your pockets into your bag so you lessen the chance of leaving something behind. When you get to the gate, you can repack your bag. You’ll want to repack based on what you think you’d like to access during the flight.
10. Be prepared to fight the dry air– nasal spray, eye drops, hand and face lotion, and water can go a long way towards fighting jet lag.
And your mom was right…always bring a sweater.