Summer may be the season of relaxation, but not for frequent airline travelers. It might be the most difficult season of all.
Here are six tips to help keep your blood pressure from rising along with the temperatures.
1. Prepare for infrequent travelers — For those used to flying on planes where the biggest hassle is competing with elites for early boarding and upgrades, summer changes the equation. Folks who don’t fly regularly are most likely to fly during summer vacations (along with winter holidays, but that is a relatively small window).
This means more travelers who don’t have the drill down on TSA, dealing with kiosks, boarding, etc. in airports, stressing the system. Don’t be shocked if they don’t realize there are baggage charges. Lines won’t move as quickly as they may normally.
2. Thunderstorms — The big snow storms may get the headlines, but summer thunderstorms cause more delays. It can seem as if they happen every afternoon in Chicago, Boston and New York. Plus, Florida and Texas have more than their share as well.
Can you predict the weather? No, but it’s a good idea to allow extra time with connections and to be particularly careful when booking a trip where you absolutely, positively need to be somewhere by a given day.
If it’s time-critical, extra time hanging around an airport or arriving a day early may be a small price to pay for making sure you make it to your destination.
3. Full planes — Of course, most planes are reasonably full these days. But in the winter and shoulder season, depending on the route, there is often a decent chance of finding a standby seat here and there, especially for elites.
Many frequent fliers get quite used to booking a flight and figure they will get on the next flight standby if they miss it. In the summer, the next open flight might be the next day.
4. Get seat assignments — If you’re not an elite level frequent flier, consider paying extra for a seat assignment or work with a travel agent with a preferred seating arrangement with an airline. The combination of full planes, and yes, more families than usual, means that waiting until you get to the airport for a seat assignment is riskier than normal.
If traveling with your family, the same thing applies. Yes, airlines do try to help parents traveling with children at the airport, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
5. Recharge personal electronics — If you’ve got a battery-operated charger, bring it. Or, bring unplugged entertainment (something old-fashioned like a book). With both crowds and delays, power sockets are likely to be at a premium in the airport. If you are stuck on the ground in the plane waiting for takeoff, flight attendants may or may not let you turn on electronic devices.
6. Travel with a sense of humor — As always, bring a sense of humor. These days it may be the only way to keep from crying.