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I'll admit that I consider an airplane my second home. I've flown to 6 continents and to over 40 countries.  Here's what I've learned about being prepared for your next flight.  


  • Join the airlines' loyalty programs.  Try to fly the same one or

two airlines to gain miles and loyalty.  If you have higher status

with an airline, you have a designated phone and in-person

line and will likely get to a representative sooner (this is

especially important if your flight is cancelled and you need to

get a seat on another flight before all those seats get booked). 

  • Consider airline credit cards. These cards come with perks

such as possible upgrades, access to airline lounges, free

checked luggage, free alcoholic beverages on flights,

possible travel interruption protection and more.


  • Save your miles for international long-haul flights so you may have enough miles to get a seat in first class or higher.  Saving your miles so you can purchase a business class lie-flat seat is a game changer!  It's a lot nicer not only being comfortable, but also getting better sleep, having first class meal service, and a designated lavatory for that section of the plane.

  • Bring noise-cancelling headphones and a comfortable eye mask.  These must-haves for long haul flights make getting some zzz more likely.

  • Hydrate well in the days leading up to your flight.  I do this because I don't like to drink a lot on the flight to lessen trips to the lavatory. 

  • Bring tylenol or other medication for headaches.  Being in a pressurized cabin at a higher altitude for a long period of time can cause headaches, especially if you are dehydrated. Don't forget to carry on all your prescription medications too...and remember to take them at the appropriate time during flight.  Keep time changes in mind!

  • Bring travel-size saline nasal spray, hand lotion, face moisturizer and lip balm to use during flight to combat dry air. If your hair becomes full of static, rub a dryer sheet on your hair to tame the flyaways.  

  • Bring a travel size deodorant and mouthwash/toothbrush.  Your neighbors will thank you for smelling fresh.

  • Bring a travel pillow and blanket.  Wear comfortable, breathable clothes (not jeans - jeans are so restrictive and feel gross after sitting in them for 16 hours)!  Bring whatever puts you in the mood to go to sleep.

  • Wear compression socks. Trust me, your ankles will thank you later!

  • For better chances to get sleep and make the time go by, I prefer to fly red-eye long-haul flights.  People will be more quiet and the cabin will obviously be dark flying at night vs during the day.  Upon arriving at my destination, to adjust to my new timezone, I nap for 1-2 hours to freshen myself and then stay awake until bedtime in that timezone.  But trust your body - do what your body tells you!


  • If you travel often, consider purchasing TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry or CLEAR.  Having this pre-screen will give you access to the "short line" and get you through security faster.

  • Remember the 3-1-1 liquids rule.  Travelers are allowed to bring one quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the TSA security checkpoint.  Each item is limited to 3.4 ounces or less.

  • If you are unsure if your item can be packed in your carry-on vs your checked luggage, TSA has an easy-to-use Q&A service.  Travelers may send a question about where an item should be packed via Twitter to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger for live assistance. The service is available from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET seven days a week, including holidays.

  • Arrive early and be prepared. Have your ID and boarding pass ready when you get in line.

  • Empty your water bottle prior to arriving at TSA.

  • Know what to wear to get you through security without hassle


  • SHOES:  If you are in the general security line, you will likely be asked to take off your shoes. ​Wear comfortable shoes that are easy to get on and off, like slip-ons without metal, buckles or laces.  Don't wear flip-flops or sandals if you're concerned about germs on the floor.  Always wear socks to protect your feet... we don't know what else could be on that floor. Don't wear footwear that is difficult to get off or put back on, like tight-fitting boots.  Boots may also have metal tips or thick soles which could trigger the metal detector.  

  • CLOTHES:  Wear comfortable clothing that isn't too bulky/flowy or has too many pockets. If you're wearing a coat, take it off prior to getting to TSA.  Flowy dresses, skirts or bulky sweaters/sweatshirts may cause you to get selected for a pat-down to make sure you're not hiding anything.  Cargo pants or clothing with a lot of pockets make it easy to forget about something in your pocket that could flag security.  Clothing with metal studs or a lot of zippers may set off the metal detector, subjecting you to further screening or a pat-down.  Wearing a belt can be a hassle because you will have to take it off for screening.  Avoid wearing anything with profanity or that may be offensive.  Airports are considered a family-friendly atmosphere, so try go keep your clothing PG.

  • ACCESSORIES:  Don't wear large costume jewelry or jewelry with a lot of metal, as you will likely be asked to take it off.  If you wear a hat, know that you will have to take it off for screening. ​Metal hair clips or a lot of metal bobby pins may set off the metal detector and risk inspection, thus possibly ruining your styled hair.


  • Please bathe and apply deodorant/antiperspirant prior to your flight.

  • If a passenger puts on headphones, interpret it as a "do not disturb" sign.

  • Try not to talk loudly, as passengers around you may be trying to sleep.

  • Respect the passengers around you.  Consider how much space the person behind you may need before reclining your seat.  Do not touch the passengers next to you.

  • Typically the passenger in the middle seat has priority access to the armrests.

  • Typically the passenger in the window seat controls the window shade.

  • If you use the lavatory often, consider booking an aisle seat to avoid constant disruption to other passengers in your row. 

  • If you are sick, please wear a mask to avoid spreading your germs.

  • Don't allow your children to touch other passengers and try to control them if they are screaming.

  • If you need to expel gas, or loudly blow your nose or cough, clip your nails, or do anything else that most passengers would consider rude, please visit the lavatory. 

  • Avoid painting your nails or doing other other activity that would emit an unpleasant odor.


  • Book an early flight.  Flights are more likely to be cancelled as the day wears on (due to incoming plane delays and thunderstorms developing in the afternoon/evening). 

  • Please be kind to the agents.  The delays/cancellations are not their fault.

  • If you get stuck at the airport for the night, ask for a hotel voucher and meals.  While you may/may not receive compensation, it doesn't hurt to ask.  Note: if your flight is cancelled due to maintenance or crew staffing issues, you are more likely to be given vouchers than if your flight was cancelled due to weather. 

  • You may ask for reimbursement by filing a complaint with the airline after the cancellation, so please keep all of your receipts.

  • File a claim with your travel insurance company (if you purchased insurance) after the cancellation.

  • If you are in a customer service line or on hold on the phone, do your research on your phone/computer while waiting.  Find alternative flight itineraries and present them to the agent when it's your turn.  This will save the agent the extra time spent researching alternate flights and could get you a possible assigned seat sooner. 


Airlines overbook flights because statistics show that not everyone who books a ticket will show up for the flight.  Airlines want to maximize profit.  Life happens and there typically are no shows, last-minute changes/cancellations and layover delays from previous flights not getting in on time for passengers to catch their connecting flight.  Airlines count on these events happening, so they overbook flights so they don’t lose money by flying with empty seats. 


Here are some tips to help you *not* get bumped:

  • Don’t book the cheapest type of ticket.  If you book a ticket where you won’t be assigned a seat until you are at the gate, your seat is not 100% confirmed. 

  • Book a morning flight. As the day goes on, delays happen due to weather and connecting flight delays, so more people are added to later flights’ standby lists.  In the evening, typically less people will volunteer to give up their seat because there won’t be any other flight options that day and they will be forced to spend the night at that location.

  • Check in for your flight early, preferably online or via the carrier’s app.  Airlines allow passengers to check in up to 24 hours prior to departure. 

  • Check your luggage at the ticket counter. If you get bumped from your flight, so does your luggage.  So, unfortunately for the airline, that means extra time at the gate and likely a late departure time for the airline to locate your luggage and get it off the plane.

  • Travel with other people and book tickets on the same reservation so the airline knows you’re together. 

  • People with disabilities, unaccompanied minors, and people traveling with children are less likely to be bumped. 

  • Arrive at the gate early and board when your zone is called.  10-15 minutes prior to departure, all seats are fair game and if you’re not at the gate, you will be deemed a no-show.

  • Be courteous to gate agents. If a passenger doesn’t show up, your kindness may get you your seat back.


However, if your travel plans are flexible and you're looking for perks, volunteer to be bumped!  If your plans aren't set in stone, take advantage of the flight voucher (or some airlines may still give cash) to use for your next vacation.  

Cheryl Nelson travels to Alaska
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