Flying is so much more complicated than it was two decades ago because of 9-11 and other terrorist attacks. Not even seasoned travelers are exempt from the tensions and frustrations of airport travel. It's bad enough that you have to deal with layovers, delays, and other issues.
The act of booking your trip and getting through the airport is something else entirely. Have you ever watched the movie, Planes. Trains, and Automobiles? You don’t want to face the same dilemmas as Neal Page.
Book Your Ticket
Booking your ticket is one of the easiest parts of air travel, but it's also an expensive, sometimes frustrating endeavor, particularly if you want to fly during high-volume travel times.
While you can always buy tickets directly from the airline of your choice, such as JetBlue or US Airways, you might have better luck finding seats and lower prices on a travel aggregate Website. Try Travelocity, Expedia, or Hipmunk to get an idea of what's available during your travel dates and times. Be as flexible as possible with your travel dates, your willingness to deal with layovers, and the airline you want to use.
Remember, the earlier you book your trip, the better. It's possible to find more affordable rates, you may not have to sacrifice your ideal vacation time, and you might be able to choose your own seat.
Find and Bring Your Photo ID
You always need some type of photo identification when you travel. For trips within the United States or its territories, a driver's license is sufficient. For international travel, however, you need a passport.
In most, if not all cases, you need a passport that's valid for at least six months before your departure date. So, if you intend to fly to Paris on October 17, you need a valid passport by no later than April 17. Your passport can also double as a photo ID if you don't have a driver's license or if you're too young to have one. Consider getting a state-authorized photo ID, as well. That way, you have a back-up, just in case.
Check Out Luggage Requirements
Each airline has different luggage requirements. With some, you must pay to check even one bag, while others charge for additional bags after the first one. Still, other airlines charge extra for bags that exceed its weight limit.
Restrictions are stricter than they used to be, making it essential to pack carefully and efficiently. You need to maximize not just the space in your suitcase, but the weight of what you pack.
Take care with your carry-on bag, as well. Most airlines allow both a carry-on bag and a personal item, which is broad enough to give you some leeway. Obviously, you can carry a laptop bag or a handbag, but you could also use a large tote or weekender bag.
As long as your carry-on fits the necessary measurements, you can use a small rolling suitcase and pack clothes and medications. Pack your necessities in your carry-on bags, and extras can go in your other bags that you check.
Print Your Boarding Pass
You can save ample time and hassle by printing your boarding pass before you get to the airport. You don't have to — an agent can print it for you at the airport — but if you're able, do it.
For example, to get your US Airways boarding pass, print it from home, your office, or at an airport kiosk. Keep your hands on it between the time you print it and when you arrive at the airport, though. That's the last thing you want to lose.
Check In Early
Checking in early shaves more time off your travel, at least at the beginning. Many airports allow you to check in online. Often, you can even choose your seat, provided you weren't able to do so during booking. Again, you may be able to do this at an airport kiosk. Depending on the airport, you have to do it through an agent.
If you have no bags to check, however, it's possible to skip the agent altogether. When you have to check a bag or more, then you need to see an agent after you get to the airport. At that point, your baggage is weighed, measured, and tagged for its destination.
Head through Security
Going through security is your next step. At the beginning of the line, there's an agent who checks your ID and your boarding pass. As you continue, you place your belongings in a tray, including your personal item, your carry-on, and your phone, laptop, tablet, and anything from your pockets. You must remove your laptop from its bag to go through security. Take off your shoes, as well.
Get to Your Gate
Your gate location is printed on your boarding pass. One of the reasons you want to arrive early is because going through security and checking your bags may take much longer than you planned, and then you may have a hike to reach your gate. Some airports provide shuttles for distant gates.
Even if you've flown before, the whole traveling process starts out a bit stressful. What do you do to make your journey run smoothly?