Finally, the big day is here. All your bags are packed, you're ready to go, I'm standing here outside your door . . . wait a sec, I just went completely John Denver today. Sorry, it shall not happen again. You've still got a few hours to go before you head to the airport. What to do in those last few moments before braving the ticket counter and security lines? Never fear, I've got a few suggestions. As always, contact your air carrier for specific information regarding their services.
Before going to the airport
*Call the airline within 24 hours of departure to confirm your reservations. Also call to confirm your flight's status before leaving to go to the airport if there are any weather issues that may affect your flight. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and you may be able to save yourself a headache.
* Check in online. If you're only taking carry on bags and have an Eticket, there is no reason to not do this. You can save yourself time by not having to go through the ticket counter line. And if you do have luggage, double check with the airline whether they have curbside service or a central baggage collection area outside of the ticket line.
* Check in at the kiosk. Don't have access to a computer and the ticket counter line is three miles long? Again, our good friend the Eticket comes to the rescue. Most major airlines now have kiosks near checkin and security areas which allow you to check yourself in at the airport. It will print your boarding passes for you and your can proceed to security, all without waiting for an airport employee assistance.
* Early check in does not supercede the security line. Plan to give yourself enough time to get through security. Most flights begin boarding a half hour prior to departure and close the door 10 minutes later. If you have not given yourself enough time to get through security, you may be denied boarding.
* Pack any essential items in your carry on luggage, such as medicine, money, cameras, and even a change of clothes if you can fit them. This is just in case your luggage does not make it to your destination with you.
* Weather and Holidays can and will affect checkin times and lines. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. If you're leaving a car at the airport, be sure to call ahead and make sure the airport has parking available, or try off site airport parking (check your local yellow pages).
*Have your ID ready. All commercial flights in the United States require that all adults show positive picture identification. For domestic travel, a driver's license is sufficient. If there's been a name change due to a recent marriage or divorce, bring the apporpriate legal document verifying the name change. For international travel, contact the airline for customs and visa information specific to the country you are going to visit, as well as for re-entry back into your own country. You will be required to show it at the ticket counter and security, and many airports require positive ID at the gate prior to boarding. If you have an infant who will be travelling as a lap child, bring a copy of the birth certificate to verify the child's age. Children deemed to be two years or older at time of travel are required to have a purchased seat, and airport agents may require the unprepared parent to purchase a full priced seat (at last minute rates) for a child they do not believe is under the age of two. Keep all ID in an area where it can be easily accessible for you, as you may need to access it several times at the airport, but be aware of your surroundings and always know where it is at to avoid identity theives.
* Visit the TSA's website www.tsa.gov for the most up to date list of items that are not allowed onboard the aircraft. You may be surprised by both what is on and not on the list. It is also a great resource on current policy regarding all transportation systems, including airline, bus, and rail, as well as travel tips to help avoid any problems with security.
That's it for part 3. Next, we'll discuss what to do once your at the airport. Again, policies may be different betwen airlines. Always contact your carrier for any questions specific to your flight plans. These posts are developed after years of assisting passengers with questions and are not intended to supercede or affect any airlines policies, nor do they reflect any one airline's policies.
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