5 entry-level travel hacks for smooth flying

After arriving at the airport recently with a few co-workers, we all headed for security, assuming we’d all checked in already.

One of us hadn’t, which made me realize: there are a few simple travel hacks that travel lovers take for granted, but that people who don’t care as much for traveling might not be aware of.

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These hacks could make for much calmer sailing when it comes to air travel.

1. Check in to your flight ASAP.

On most airlines, checking in right at the 24-hour mark will provide you better seats.

How?

Take Southwest Airlines.

Frequent flyers of Southwest know that the sooner you check in, the higher your boarding position number will be, and the better your selection of seats will be.

On Frontier Airlines, checking in at the 24-hour mark scored me a window or aisle seat ~10/10 times in the past three years.

On United Airlines Basic Economy flights, which don’t allow you to select your seat ahead of time, checking in at the 24-hour mark has actually given me an Economy Plus seat (extra leg room) 3/3 times I’ve tried.

On flights that allow you to select your seat, checking in at the 24-hour mark can allow you to select from seats that may not have been available when you initially selected your seats.

And considering there’s no telling what the check-in line at the airport will look like, checking in ASAP ensures you don’t have any close calls at the airport.

2. Sign up for TSA Pre-Check.

TSA Pre-Check costs $85 for a 5-year membership, but I would argue that it’s beyond worth the price.

If you don’t want to pay for it, there are several credit cards that include a full reimbursement for the Pre-Check membership fee.

When you are Pre-Check registered, anyone traveling with you on your reservation will also receive access to the Pre-Check line in most cases.

Not only will you typically be through security much faster than you would in the normal line, but you also get to keep your shoes, belt and jacket on, and your laptop and liquids in your bag.

You may be surprised how much stress TSA Pre-Check eliminates.

3. Consider lounges.

Lounges are hidden, quiet oases with free food, drinks, wi-fi and comfy seats.

People who have had a lounge membership will have a tough time ever going back to the days of waiting for flights in the loud, expensive, dirty, crowded airport terminal.

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An airport lounge.

How does one get access to these lounges?

Those credit cards I mentioned above all give you membership to the Priority Pass lounge network.

Those memberships typically allow you to bring in guests for free as well.

You can also buy an annual membership or a single day pass, but both of those options are very expensive.

Here and here are lounges that I reviewed for this site.

4. Loyalty pays.

You don’t have to be wealthy or a frequent business traveler to use airline loyalty to your advantage.

I took a handful of sub-$100 flights on Frontier Airlines last year, which earned me Frontier elite status.

With that, I used a status match to gain Alaska Airlines elite status, which has given me numerous upgraded seats and free checked bags on both Alaska and Alaska’s partner American Airlines (though American will stop giving elite benefits to Alaska elites starting in 2018).

With my Alaska elite status, I used a status match to earn United Airlines elite status, which has also scored me a few upgraded seats this year.

Eventually my elite statuses will dry up.

But you never know when you’ll end up flying an airline enough in a year to earn elite status, so have and use an active frequent flyer account for every airline you fly with.

On that note: just because you don’t ever fly one single airline enough to earn elite status, doesn’t mean you can’t earn it.

Most airlines are part of alliances, wherein they allow the miles you earn on that [example] Air Canada flight to be credited to your [example] United Airlines account, since those two airlines are part of the same alliance.

Here is a list of the airlines under the three major airline alliances.

Here is an article that discusses which airlines do and don’t require you to spend a bunch of money in order to earn elite status.

5. Get a neck pillow.

Sounds dumb right?

But finding a neck pillow that you find comfortable is like finding a soul mate. You’ll love it forever.

Try some out at Brookstone if you’re not sure what type to get.

Mine is shredding and tearing at the seams, but it was $10 on Amazon, it’s washable, and I love it.

If you have any thoughts or tips you think should be included in this post, please comment here.

Thanks for visiting!

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