Over the last 18 months or so I have had the pleasure of traveling on a total of around 40 airplanes. Why so many? Well I do live in a location that requires a connecting flight to get almost anywhere, in fact my flight to Washington DC just a few weeks ago was the first flight that was direct in well over two years of traveling! Given this, I have learned quite a few things around travel and how to prepare yourself to get to the destination. In the end anyone traveling has one end goal; to get to the destination in one piece with all baggage intact. To help make this possible I've come up with a few proven practices to help when it comes to planning for travel that can help prevent issues, or at minimum help delay the impact of issues. In this posting I'll review some of these points.
Be Aware of Short Layovers
When booking flights, especially through sites such as Expedia, it can be very common to overlook the layover times between flights. Although that 1 hour layover sounds great as no one enjoys spending time waiting in an airport, in more "common" situations that 1 hour layover is just asking for a delay. When traveling, especially in the winter, delays of 20-30 minutes are quite common for things such as de-icing or other weather related delays.
Although I REALLY don't like waiting in an airport I have started setting a personal minimum of 1.5 hours for any layover and have noticed a great improvement in my ability to connect to the other flights stress free.
Book Early Flights
Airlines these days are pushing planes as far as they can, and schedules are getting tighter. Some airports are even running on more limited ground crews. What does all of this add to to mean? Well in many cases airlines are seeing more and more flight delays, typically they are not all that bad, but even a 20-30 minute delay can make a trip with a short layover much more interesting than you initially expected. There is nothing you can to do prevent these delays, but with a bit of planning when booking your flights you can reduce the risk of a longer delay with a bit of thinking.
Typically each day airlines have multiple flights between various destinations. For example from Atlanta (ATL) to Des Moines (DSM) there are at least three flights a day; 9:41 AM, 4:20 PM and 9:15PM. With this information I would not book any connecting flight from ATL -> DSM that was scheduled to be on the 9:15PM flight, as if that flight is missed there will be no option but for me to stay overnight in ATL. Looking at your schedules before actually booking the flight can help you keep your options open should you have a delay.
Be Mindful of Connection City
My last area of concern is specifically geared towards those that are like me and traveling out of the Mid-West or other locations that are often prone to weather related delays. When booking flights in the winter months I'll often take the "slightly longer" route that connects me through Atlanta over the one that connects through Minneapolis or similar northern destinations.
When going through airports in multiple weather prone areas can result in a stacked delay that really can put you off schedule. Sure, I might spend 4 hours on the plane rather than 2, but it is a lot better than spending a night in the Minneapolis airport due to weather delays!
I hope that you found these tips helpful, I know that these items have really helped me make air travel more tolerable. Share your own comments/suggestions below.