Posted by: Korry | November 21, 2011

Your Pilot’s Holiday Travel Tips (Part 1)

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is already here! But before you can enjoy the football and the food coma, you may need to go head-to-head with the busiest travel period of the year. The Air Transport Association is forecasting some 23.2 million air travelers during the next week and a half. Sound stressful? Don’t worry; it doesn’t need to be. If you follow the travel tips that I’ve picked up over the years, you’ll turn your holiday travel stress into success!


You’re just visiting, not moving in, right? Most airlines now charge for checked bags (check your carrier’s website for specific limitations and fees) so it’s in your financial interest to pack smartly.

  • Shoes are space killers. Pick outfits that can work with only one or two pairs.
  • Checking multiple bags? Weigh and combine them if necessary to stay under the weight limits.
  • The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screens every bag and randomly selects some bags for hand searches so only use TSA approved locks to prevent having your lock cut.

While most bags arrive on time, the unfortunate truth is that a few won’t. Just in case:

  • Arrive early. Cutoff times for checked bags vary between carriers and type of flight, but expect 45-60 minutes prior to departure time to be the bare minimum.
  • Never pack critical items such as medications in your checked luggage. Prescription drugs (that are clearly marked) are not subject to TSA liquid restrictions so carry them on.
  • Carry on at least one set of clothing to have as a backup.
  • Multiple people in your party? Pack a little bit of each person’s clothing in each bag as opposed to one bag per person. This way if one or more bags arrive late, everyone will still have some of their clothes until the airline delivers the late bag.

Getting Ready to Go

When choosing what to wear on the plane, consider several things including dressing with airport security in mind.

  • Limit jewelry (engagement/wedding rings should be fine) and metallic items that could set off the super sensitive metal detectors.
  • Remove all coats and anything that may look like a coat such as a vest or fleece. Keep this in mind if you’re layering.
  • Wear shoes that are easy to take on and off (adults but not kids under 12 must remove shoes at security), comfortable for walking, and supportive in the extremely unlikely event of an emergency evacuation. While there’s a time and a place for heels or flip flops, I’d recommend packing them.
  • Dress in layers. Cabin temperatures can vary and layering will keep you comfortable in the hot or the cold.

There are also several important things to do before you leave that will save time and stress at the airport.

  • Check in for your flight online (including pre-selecting your seating assignments) and print out boarding passes. Most airlines allow this starting 24 hours or so before departure.
  • Bag fees have made overhead space a premium. If carrying on, select a seat in the rear of the plane so you can board first and potentially avoid your bag being “gate checked” (stowed in the cargo bins and checked through to your final destination).
  • Write down your airline’s contact information in case you need to reach them during your trip.

At the Airport

I find parking, check in, and security to be the most stressful period of the trip so be sure to do the following:

  • Plan some extra time to find parking and ride the shuttles to the terminals. Lots will likely be quite full.
  • Since you already checked in, you can use curbside bag check or look for the “Bag Check Only” line because you already have your boarding pass. Some airlines even allow you to print the bag tags from home, too.

Security lines may be lengthy and arriving early means more spare time which equates to less stress. The real key to getting through airport security unscathed is to know the rules! (The TSA’s website is actually quite good so check it out).

  • Liquids must fit the 3-1-1 rule, that is, 3.4 ounces (100ml) per item all fitting into one quart-size baggie with only one baggie per person.
  • Place your liquids baggie and your belts, [easily removable] shoes, jackets and your [few if any] metallic items in the bins to be screened.  
  • Laptops (unless you have a TSA approved computer bag) must be placed in their own bin.
  • Be prepared for your turn. Even a few extra seconds per passenger holds the security line up significantly…and you don’t want the evil glares you are bound to get if you do!

Once you’re through the security line, I’ve got some tips covering how early to be at the gate, what to do onboard and what to do if your flight is canceled among other things. But you’ll have to check back tomorrow to find them out!

Did you find this post helpful? If so, maybe your friends would like it, too! Feel free to share it using one of the buttons below.



  1. […] in Part 1 I talked about travel tips I’ve picked up over the years including packing, checking in, and […]

  2. […] (Thanksgiving earns the top spot). So aside from being ready to use the travel tips I wrote about here and here, there’s something else you should be prepared for: Delays. And while some delays […]

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