CrunchGear Tips for Airplane Trips

Booking flights is one of the most depressing parts of traveling. Those big adventure plans always seem great until you see how much it’s going to cost. But all is not lost. There are several ways to significantly reduce your airline expenditures. And fortunately for you, we’re familiar with more than a few ways to help you realize that goal.

1. Before you decide on an airline, take a gander at SeatGuru. It has gobs of information on practically every airline you could possibly imagine. SeatGuru shows handy seating keys that list specific information such as good and poor seats, exits, lavatories, etc.

It also indicates in-flight amenities like audio, video, AC power and Internet. Using SeatGuru, you can quickly examine check-in and baggage rules and gather the other information you need to get your trip in order.

2. Booking early is the single best piece of advice you can have. The question is how early. Using FareCast, you can help dispel some of that mystery. FareCast monitors your travel details are forecasts the best time to purchase your tickets.

It will indicate whether prices are expected to rise or fall and alert you when to buy. FareCast isn’t enabled for every airport yet, but its availability is spreading quickly. I know more than a few people who have had enormous success at getting ridiculously cheap tickets through FareCast.

3. Tthis one is going to be a bit counter-intuitive to the first two tips, but it’s something I swear by. If you frequently fly around the States, use Southwest. Not only does Southwest typically offer some of the lowest prices available, there is a considerable advantage to flying only one airline.

If you enroll in Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program, it takes just eight round-trip flights to get a free flight. Another great thing about Southwest is that there is no assigned seating, which leads us to the next tip…

4. Get e-tickets and check in online. No matter what airline you use, you can get e-tickets. I assume everyone is familiar with this, but for the one or two of you who aren’t, the e-ticket is the best thing to happen to passenger airlines since the jet engine. It removes all of the hassle of keeping track of your ticket, so you don’t have to worry about missing your flight because of a lost pass.

E-tickets also provide the advantage of online check-ins. This is especially important for an airline like Southwest since there is no assigned seats. Check in 24 hours in advance to ensure that you land in seating group A. This will be the difference between that comfy exit seat and that center seat trapped between two morbidly obese people who protrude into your own seat. Also, if you have no bags to check, online check-in can reduce the number of lines you have to wait in. So unless you’re some sort of freak who likes to wait in lines, this is a good thing.

5. Travel light and pack effectively. Let’s face it, you probably never use or wear half of the things you pack. It took me about a million airline miles to come to this fact. I would travel all over and when I returned home, there was always some unworn jeans and shirts at the bottom of my pack.
Those jeans are good for a couple of wears, so you can probably get by with fewer pairs. Fewer jeans means its more likely that you can fit all your stuff in a carry-on and carry-ons means less chance of your bag ending up in Iwo Jima.

It’s also important to remember that it’s still difficult to bring fluids on the plane. There is some weird esoteric rule that states you can bring an randomly defined amount of fluid ounces (seriously it changes from airport to airport) with you, but I’ve never had any lucky hitting the figure. I’ve simply stopped traveling with fluids. When I arrive at my destination, I buy new crap at a drugstore on my way to the hotel and usually I’ve finished it off when it’s time to go home.

6. Last but far from least: While e-tickets and online check-in can significantly reduce your wait time, it’s important to remember that airport regulations are effing crazy. The rules are absolute shenanigans and, as far as I can tell, they’ve been rigorously designed to maximize the time you spend in the airport. Being aware of the screening rules can help you save a lot of time.

Keep in mind that when you go through the metal detector, you’ll have to remove your shoes and belt and take everything from your pockets, so be ready. I’ve gotten my unshoeing and de-belting procedure down to ninja-like precision. Unfortunately it still takes me about 15 minutes to get everything back on, so everyone still bottlenecks behind me. Baby steps, right?