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Before You Leave Home

Here`s a helpful checklist to prepare you for your journey. If you keep this list handy, we think your travels will be easy, safe and enjoyable.

•Check in online. Print your boarding passes, verify your seat assignments, and plan a smooth trip through the airport to catch your flight.
•Check your flight status. If you sign up for text alerts on the airline`s website, they will let you know if there are any delays. Download such apps as FlightStats and TripIt and they will alert you as well.
•Put your identification, credit card and boarding pass in a compartment of your bag that is easily accessible to you. If you do this, you ensure that you don`t leave home without these items, and you can access these items at a moment`s notice at the airport during check-in, security or boarding.
•If you don`t need a certain item until you get onto the plane, pack it out of sight and out of mind until then.
•Know ahead of time where you`re going to park. Knowing where your parking lot is and how far away it is from the terminal could save you lots of stress later. Also keep in mind that during high travel season and on various holidays, parking could be at a premium, so be sure you are on top of the parking situation before you get to the airport. Consider off-airport lots if you are budget-minded; many of these allow you to reserve your spot in advance.
•Research your destination airport in advance. Check out the airport, download a map of the terminals, and find out where the hotel shuttle and rental car counters are located. Researching the destination airport is also helpful if you have someone picking you up, so you can feel sufficiently oriented to tell them to meet you at a certain location.

At the AirportBefore Check-In

•Make sure you remember the spot where you hid your identification, your boarding passes, and other important documents, because you will need to present these items at various points throughout the airport. Remembering your hiding place means smooth sailing for you and for airport workers accommodating you.
•Take note of your luggage and make sure each piece is secured (aka zipped up). Note that you cannot lock your baggage. Do not pack medicine or other important items into your checked baggage in the unlikely event that your luggage does not make it to your destination with you. Instead pack such items in your carry-on bags. Before checking in, double-check the weight of your bags; many airlines charge an extra fee for bags over 50 pounds. You can make necessary adjustments at the curbside dropoff at many airports, or simply do so at home before leaving. Customize your luggage in some manner (for example, sewing a patch onto your suitcase) so you can distinctly identify it as your own.
•Small bags are fine to be carried on, but make sure all size requirements set by the airline have been met, or else the bag you planned on carrying on may have to be checked.

Checking In

•Remember to be at the airport at least two hours in advance if you are checking baggage onto a domestic flight. If all you have are carry-on bags, arrive 90 minutes in advance. Allow for two or three hours` advance arrival at the airport if you are traveling internationally or to Alaska, Hawaii or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also consider adding a half-hour to an hour during peak travel season in your area.
•There are many different ways to make the checking in process easier and faster. First, you can check in via the airline`s website up to 24 hours before your scheduled departure. Second, there are unmanned self-service kiosks in the airport that will allow you to check in at your pace. If you check in using either of these services, a boarding pass will be printed out for you, e-mailed to you for you to print out, or available for download to your smartphone. By doing this, it means you will also have the best seat selection available to you, if you need another reason to take advantage of early check-in!
•Do keep in mind that an airline can cancel your reservation if you are not waiting at the departure gate when the flight is scheduled to depart. Your seat may be given to another customer even if you have a boarding pass. Also, if you are late checking your baggage, there is no guarantee it will arrive on time with you at your destination.

Between Check-In and Airport Security

•Stow everything except your boarding pass and your identification in your carry-on bag. This will allow you to go through security as smoothly as possible.
•Make a mental checklist of the things you will need to do when you get to the front of the security screening line. Make sure you know all the things that need to be removed before screening, and what needs to be taken out of your carry-on bag (for example, many types of laptop computers). Once there, you will be prepared and getting through security will be a breeze.

On the Other Side of Security

•Take a look at the departures board again. Unless you arrived very early, you will get a better idea of what delays your flight may have, if any. You`ll also see if your flight is scheduled to depart out of a different gate so you can plan accordingly. Even though the departures board will be of great help, go straight to your gate for any extra information. They will be privy to `breaking news` about your flight before the departures board will have a chance to update. Plus, by heading to your gate first, you can make a mental note of how full your flight will be, and where the closest bathrooms, convenience stores or restaurants are compared to where your gate is.
•Look up your airline`s toll-free number and program it into your phone. If, for whatever reason, your flight is delayed and your itinerary does not proceed as planned, you will need the number to call and figure out what your next step should be. If you have the phone numbers of all the flights that fly your specific route in your phone, you will find a solution a lot faster than if you didn`t save those numbers.

What to Expect at Airport Security

•If you haven`t flown in the past few years, you will find that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has updated its screening process to include full-body scanners and `enhanced` pat-down techniques. Metal detectors are still in wide use across the country, but full-body scans are becoming more and more prevalent. These scans use millimeter wave or backscatter technology to create an image of a person`s body on a screen, similar in execution to an X-ray.
•You may refuse to be screened using the full-body scanner, but that means you will receive an `enhanced` pat-down by a security guard who is the same gender as you. The palms of the officer`s hands pat down the entire body, including the groin and the chest. You are also allowed to request that your pat-down be conducted away from the public and the eyes of all in the security line.
•At all U.S. airports, you will need to remove your shoes, jackets, belts and anything in your pockets before going through the security process. Laptops will need to be removed from their carry-on bags and placed in a bin to be processed on a mini-conveyor belt. Tablets, phones, cameras and other electronic devices of smaller size than laptops can be left in the carry-on bag and do not need to be removed and placed in a new bin.
•Keep in mind that toothpaste, shampoo, and other liquids, gels and aerosols will not be allowed for travelers to carry in carry-on bags unless the bottles are all individual-size and each weigh in at 3.4 ounces or under. All of these little containers need to be placed in a clear quart-sized plastic bag. Anything larger will need to be placed in checked luggage.

Amenities at the Airport

Amenities can vary depending on the airport. At large international airports, you can find many food options, duty-free shops, spas, Internet access, gardens, art installations, and even swimming pools. At smaller airports, a few shops and a couple of food choices may very well be all that`s on offer. Visit your airport`s website to see what amenities are available to you when you fly.

Delays and Cancellations

•Make sure your flight is leaving as scheduled before you make your way to the airport. You can do that by going to the airline`s website directly; if you don`t want to check the website again, airlines will offer the choice of text alerts that will be sent to your cell phone in the event of a delay. also offers this service (for free).
•Airlines are not required to give compensation to passengers for flights that end up being delayed or canceled. Each carrier has a different policy, and no federal requirements are in place requiring an airline to compensate travelers who have had their flights abruptly canceled. Most airlines will seat you on the next flight to your intended destination. Others may give you vouchers for meals and accommodations if your flight is delayed overnight or in excess of 6-8 hours. You won`t know what arrangements your airline has in mind until you ask.
•If the delay is caused by bad weather, or other conditions beyond their control, some airlines will not offer amenities. Compensation is only required if a flight is oversold (more on that in the next subsection). Many airlines are now informing passengers about the factors which caused delays in their flights, although they are not obligated to do so.

Overbooking and Bumping

•As a well-publicized incident in 2017 underscored, the practice of overbooking flights is unfortunately legal, and most airlines partake in the practice. The airlines are required, however, to ask passengers to volunteer to give up their seats if the crew finds the flight is indeed overbooked. If you are bumped from the flight without a choice in the matter, you are required by law to be given a written statement describing your passenger rights and describing the airline`s overbooking process. You may keep your ticket and use it on another flight.
•You are allowed to request an `involuntary refund` for the ticket if you decide to make your own arrangements. You will also be entitled to compensation, although you will find there will be a few caveats. One such caveat would involve a complete loss of compensation if the airline can get you to your destination within one hour of your scheduled arrival time.

How to Avoid Being Bumped on a Flight

•Arrive as early as possible to the airport and check in before leaving the house. The people who tend to be bumped involuntarily from flights are usually the last ones to arrive at the gate. If you are one of the first passengers at the gate, you will most likely not be bumped in the case of an overbooking.
•According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, involuntary `bumps` account for just one out of every 10,000 airline passenger experiences. This probability will be higher during peak travel seasons, but in most cases, overbookings are solved by the request of volunteers to fly on later flights.