You don’t need to be afraid of the air travel experience.
- 45% of Americans rate their air travel experience as average or below.
- Getting through the airport is much easier with a Global Entry membership and airport lounge access.
- There are some other tips you can follow to have fun while flying.
Flying is the most convenient way to travel long distances, but it’s often not the most enjoyable experience. The check-in line can be long. Airport security is hectic and inconvenient. The flight itself isn’t any better for the average passenger, especially considering seats have gotten a few inches smaller over the years.
That may be why nearly half (45%) of Americans rate the air travel experience as average or below, according to travel data by the US Travel Association. While the experience of flagging air travel is frustrating, there are strategies you can use to make it much better.
Apply for Global Entry membership
There are two Trusted Traveler Programs that help you get through airport security more quickly: Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Here’s how it works:
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- Global Entry allows you to go through expedited security checks when returning to the United States from abroad. It costs $100 for a five year membership.
- TSA PreCheck lets you go through expedited security screening at US airports. It costs $78 for a five year membership.
The reason for applying for Global Entry is that it includes TSA PreCheck membership, so it’s an effectively two-for-one deal. The same is not true if you apply for TSA PreCheck.
Both programs can help you save a lot of time and stress going through airport security. You don’t have to pay for it yourself either. Many popular travel credit cards cover the cost of your membership to either program.
Visit the airport lounge
Airport lounges provide travelers with a more comfortable place to spend time before a flight. Lounges usually offer much nicer seating than you’ll find elsewhere in the airport, as well as free food and drinks.
There are several ways to gain airport lounge access. Airlines generally offer their lounges to travelers flying in business or first class, so if you book one of these fares, check to see if it will get you in the lounge. There are also some credit cards with airport lounge access included as a benefit.
Consider hopping for a better seat
Your seat plays the biggest role in how comfortable you are on a flight. If you really want more comfort, the best option is to book a seat in a higher travel class. Premium economy and first class are good choices for domestic flights. Business class is usually more than enough for international flights. International first class can be a spectacular experience, but it can also cost a lot more.
While spending more on airfare increases your travel costs, it can be well worth it. Also, keep in mind that you don’t always need to pay cash. If you have a travel card, credit card points are a great way to get expensive airline tickets for free.
Compare your airline options before booking
When you have several airlines to choose from, do some research online to see how they compare. Quality can vary slightly from airline to airline. For example, one airline might offer reclining seats in business class, while another airline’s business class has large reclining seats. That’s a huge difference, especially on long flights where it’s easier to sleep if you can lie down.
To get an idea of what airlines have to offer, search online for the airlines, routes, and fare classes you’re considering. For example, if you’re thinking about taking United Airlines from Chicago to Frankfurt in Polaris business class, you can search for that. This is an easy way to see what kind of seats and service the airlines have on your booked route.
Plan ahead and arrive early
It’s so much easier to have fun on the move when you’re not in a rush. If you have to skip breakfast and run through the airport because you’re late for your flight, it’s nearly impossible to enjoy the travel experience.
Make your flight day as relaxing as possible. Make sure you have time to eat before you leave, unless you are planning to eat at the airport. If so, don’t forget to check the food choices beforehand. Aim to get to the airport in longer time than you need to, so you’re not stressed about whether to make your flight. It also gives you time to relax in an airport lounge or cafe and enjoy every step of your journey.
Bring your own entertainment
Air travel involves a fair amount of sitting around. Inflight entertainment options can be up and down, and you can never be sure how long you’ll be sitting at the boarding gate. That’s why having your own entertainment is a must.
Fortunately, there are many options to choose from. Many streaming services allow you to download shows and movies to watch offline. If you like to read, an e-reader won’t take up much space in your trunk.
Believe it or not, it’s totally possible to look forward to going to the airport. Air travel has its downsides, but most of your overall experience is within your control. If you follow the tips above, you will have a much better time at the airport and on your flight.
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