For many, the most dreaded part of vacation is the travel itself.
By John Morris
In this column, you will find tips to make your air travel experience more pleasant, perhaps even fun. Our vacations should not have to start out with dread and despair. Follow some, or all of these recommendations to avoid unnecessary frustration.
1. Pack lightly and know your carrier’s baggage policy Carry-on and checked luggage policies vary by airline. On Southwest, your checked bag flies free, while you’ll pay $25 on the nation’s legacy carriers — American, Delta and United. On low cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit, you’ll be forced to pay if you carry-on anything larger than a backpack. Packing economically for your vacation will save you money and the frustration of lugging a portable closet through the airport. If you are going to Las Vegas this summer, you will not need that winter coat — I promise!
2. Negotiate security like a pro Familiarize yourself with TSA rules and regulations. Yes, laptops and liquids must be removed from your bag for screening. No, you may not pass through security with your shoes and belt on. If you would like to have those privileges, sign up for the expedited security and trusted traveler program, TSA PreCheck (http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck). Otherwise, arrive early enough to the security checkpoint and be prepared when you pass through screening. Remove everything from your pockets and follow instructions. Summer security lines are long, and no one appreciates being held up because the person in front of them did not listen.
3. Don’t be a boarding Gate Louse The term “Gate Lice” refers to people who crowd the boarding area before their zone has been called. Remember that the first people to board are passengers requiring special assistance — those with wheelchairs, walkers/canes or children under age 2. Next will be first class passengers, elite frequent flyers and, finally, economy. If your zone has not been called, remain seated or stand away from the boarding lanes. Crowding this area slows down boarding and can delay departure, inconveniencing everyone.
4. Consider upgrading your seat Oftentimes, upgrades are available to premium economy or first class for a relatively small fee. You might be surprised by what your airline may have to offer. Travelers have reported paying as little as $49 to upgrade from discounted economy to first class on domestic flights. If you have a collection of frequent flyer miles, those can be used to purchase upgrades as well. Contact your airline for more information.
5. If something goes wrong, don’t get flustered Delays, cancelations, missed connections, broken seats, lost luggage — you name it; it can go wrong. The stress of travel often leads disgruntled passengers towards anger and frustration. Don’t be that guy who embarrasses himself by blowing a fuse. Understand that any issues that may arise were not orchestrated to inconvenience you. Patience and respect will go a long way in making sure the airline takes good care of you in the midst of irregular operations. A smile and a few kind words is the golden ticket.
John Morris is the globe-trotting founder of WheelchairTravel.org. He holds a B.S. in history and political science and a M.S. in history from Florida State University. Following a serious car accident in 2012, he became a triple amputee and has since committed his life to opening the world for others. Having flown nearly 200,000 miles in 2014, he is among the world’s most traveled wheelchair users.