“Summer vacation.” To this day, the phrase makes me think of bare feet, slip ‘n’ slides, and a face permanently covered in popsicle juice. Unfortunately, as a grown-up summer vacations are more likely to include requesting time off from work, shelling out cash for travel expenses, and lingering in stuffy airport lounges full of screaming children and busted vending machines. While I can’t talk to your boss or give you money to go visit Aunt Adeline, I can recommend a few ways to beat the bustling crowds and keep your sanity.
USA Today recently reported that American air travel will be busier in 2014 than the six previous years. A predicted 210 million passengers are expected to squeeze their sweat-pant-clad butts into plane seats this summer from June 1-August 31. What’s with all the frantic flyers, you ask? This year, the United States experienced a particularly long, cold winter and people are ready to soak up the sun and get high (in their plane of course) to forget about the frostbite. Join your fellow Americans in the hunt for warm weather but avoid the turbulence of airport travel by using these five down-and-dirty tips:
Book ‘Em in the Middle
If your travel schedule is flexible, book your flight during the weekday. Tuesday and Wednesday flights are not only statistically cheaper to purchase, but attract fewer people as well. It’ll be worth it to take another day off work and avoid doing the slow shuffle that comes with crowds that even Disneyland couldn’t contain. You know that most people fly over the weekend, so be savvy and book during a weekday. And departing in the wee hours of the morning or taking a red eye are lifesavers not only for your wallet, but for decreasing your chances of sitting next to an annoying in-flight neighbor as well. Say hello to a nice empty spot for your trusty Harry Potter books to occupy, you’ll feel as smart as a Ravenclaw for thinking ahead.
Everyone’s Got Baggage
The luggage carousel at the airport is my very own, circular version of Dante’s Inferno. Pack smart and cram everything you need into a carry-on. Not only will you have all of your things with you, but you miss the risk of losing your precious Louis Vuitton baggage if it’s right above you. And what fun is traveling to Hawaii if your favorite swimsuit and digital camera didn’t make the trip? Carry-ons significantly cut down on your time leaving the airport, meaning you have a few more precious minutes of sipping mai-tais on the Hamakua coast, instead of standing next to pushy passengers eyeing the carousel like a pack of wolverines lusting for leather.
Because You Never Wait in Line at the Bar with your Friends
Just because you don’t have big money to spend doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy big perks. For under a hundred dollars, join the smug pant-suit-wearing frequent flyers at the front of the line. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) now offers the TSA Pre✓™. The service is available to U.S. citizens who are frequent flyers and allows you to cut the security line at participating airports. To apply all you have to do is fill out an application online, pass a background check, and pay an application fee of just $85. Once you qualify you’ll receive a Known Traveler Number (KTN) and be eligible to use the program for five years. So essentially, for $17 bucks a year you can say goodbye to waiting behind groups of high school students on senior trips and overly-friendly bald men (sorry to all the chatty Uncle Fester lookalikes out there). That sounds pretty worth it to me! Currently, 11 different air carriers provide frequent flyer programs compatible with TSA pre-check.
Scout it Out
Hopefully this is a “duh” and not an “a-ha” moment for you, but check out your surroundings to see where you can shave time off your travels. A family with five small children heading towards the same security line as you? Make the executive decision to hop into the next closest line to avoid getting stuck behind too-slow toddlers. Getting off the plane and see everyone filing to the same bathroom? Cross your legs and do the potty dance until you find another restroom on your way out. At least you’ll be walking towards relief instead of waiting in line for it. Think you need a cup of Joe in the terminal? I guarantee there will be a coffee stand in the airport waiting for you when you land, or score free coffee from your flight attendant. If you’re extra polite, you might even get some extra creamer.
Dress for Success
Although those thigh-high lace up boots and heavily pocketed trench coat look good on you, don’t wear them to the airport. If you hadn’t noticed the long line of people rolling their eyes behind you, let me tell you: making people wait is not cute, boo. You know you’re going to be asked to remove your shoes and any protruding coats or layered clothing, so keep the fashion faux pas limited to your final destination. Dress down with some breezy sandals, jeans, and a t-shirt. Not only will you fly through security in record time, but you’ll be more comfortable during the plane ride as well. And don’t forget to take out those loose pennies in your pockets and put all of your carry-on liquids in a separate bag!
Take the stress out of your summer and feel like a kid again by making it through the airport in record time. And hey, even though you may not be able to safely or gracefully slip ‘n’ slide nowadays, it looks like you still have some serious skills when it comes to squeezing the majority of your wardrobe into a suitcase. That’s still something, right?