Pretty soon you’ll be booking your flight home for the holidays, if you haven’t already. But I want to share three things you must know before booking your holiday flight.
- Be careful about connecting flights. No one likes to wait in the airport so we all try to make our layovers as short as possible. However, flights are notoriously delayed during peak times, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. Say you have a thirty minute layover, which you think is plenty of time to get two gates over to catch your next flight. However, your flight was delayed a half hour taking off. Well, you do the math. You missed your flight and are now standing in a long line trying desperately to rebook your ticket. But how do you know how much time is enough but not too much? As a general rule, you should not make your connecting flight less than forty-five minutes after your arrival time. This allows some padding if a flight is 20-30 minutes late taking off or ample time to get to a terminal that is far from to your arrival terminal. For those who want to play it safe, make your connection ninety minutes later than your arrival time. The last three flights I have been on have included a medical emergency. One time included an hour delay taking off while a passenger was evaluated to determine if she was able to fly (It was determined she was not and she was removed from the flight). The other two times we were delayed disembarking because protocol requires medics to board the plane and assess a passenger that is showing signs of illness to determine if he/she is able to safely walk off the plane or whether he/she needs to be carried off the plane. Passengers must remain seated while the assessment is made and the passenger walks off or is carried off the aircraft. To learn an airline’s on time arrival average to help you choose connecting flights, see FlightStats.
- Be aware of the latest TSA rules for gifts you plan to carry-on the plane. Do not gift wrap anything because TSA officials will most likely remove the wrapping paper. You can wrap your gifts when you reach your destination or use gift bags, which are accepted by TSA. No alcohol over 140 proof is permitted if you plan on gifting booze. Also, all liquids must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule. This means they must be clearly displayed and not exceed 3.4 ounces. This includes perfume, wine, make-up, petroleum jelly, hand sanitizer, and alcohol (unless purchased in the DutyFree shop after clearing security). Even snow globes must be 3.4 ounces of liquid or less. Nothing, including toys, that resembles a weapon is permitted. If you plan to give your grandson or nephew a bat or lacrosse stick, TSA will not permit you to carry those types of sporting equipment or household items on board (this is anything that can be used as a weapon). No flammable liquids, such as aerosol items, are allowed. Meats and cheeses (or any animal products) should be 3.4 ounces or less and be declared to customs. Scissors, razors, wine cork openers, pocket knives, and some medical equipment is not allowed. Be sure to check with TSA for the most up-to-date information.
- You should know there are best and worst days to fly. The busiest (worst) days will have the highest fares and biggest chance of delays.Conversely, the least busiest (best) days will have the lowest fares and least chance of delays.THANKSGIVING (11/22 & 11/26 are the worst days to fly or be on the road; 11/21, 11/24, 11/25, & 11/28 are the best days).
CHRISTMAS & NEW YEAR’S (12/22, 12/23, 12/24, 12/29, 1/2 are the worst days to fly or be on the road; 12/19, 12/20, 12/21, 12/26, 12/27, 1/1, & 1/3 are the best days).
FYI: Airlines allow check-in up to 24 hours in advance. Checking in with the airline in advance means no check-in line at the airport. It also guarantees the best seat selection if you haven’t already been assigned a seat. Southwest Airlines does not have seat assignments but early check-in means a higher seating choice priority. Expect longer security lines during the holidays.
As always, my advice is to be patient, pleasant, and prepared.