If you're flying this week, you probably already know you should get to the airport earlier than usual due to more stringent security-two hours at major airports, says our Savvy Traveler, Rudy Maxa. But Rudy says there are some other items you should keep in mind.
First, re-confirm your flight and make sure you have a seat assignment. Airlines have been shuffling flights faster than a Vegas sharpie, and while they should have notified you of any schedule changes, it won't hurt to double check. If the aircraft has been downsized, you probably weren't notified, and that could affect your seat assignment. Don't wait until you get to the airport to find out you're in 8-C and your traveling companion is in 36-F.
Before you leave home, do research on back-up flights by going on line and checking schedules or asking your travel about other flights around the same time. All it takes is one thoughtless football fan in Atlanta racing down an up escalator to screw up a good part of the country's air traffic network. You should alternative airlines and flights BEFORE you leave home.
This is definitely the season to take public transportation to and from airports. And it's not just because of crowds. Last week I was in Charleston, South Carolina's, where police stopped all cars approaching the airport and searched trunks. Los Angeles International Airport has eliminated curb-side passenger drop off and pick up at terminals. Others airports have eliminated some public parking spaces for security reasons. Take a subway, bus or cab and skip the hassle of traffic and parking.
If you're picking up grandma or other loved ones at the airport, remember you won't be allowed past security to greet them at their arrival gate unless you have a good reason and a note from someone in a uniform. If you're driving to meet your party outside a baggage claim area, you won't be allowed to linger in a car. Get your signals straight ahead of time with the person you're picking up.
I've sometimes suggested taking your own picnic aboard planes as a way of eating better and healthier. Well, this season, it may be the ONLY way you'll get to eat while traveling, period. Most airlines have cut back on food service. So why not cater your own meals? After all, who knows your likes and dislikes better? Remember, don't pack anything that requires a metal knife to enjoy. Pate, cheese, fruit, pastries . . . these are a few of MY favorite things.
E-ticket or paper ticket? That's the question I've been asked most frequently lately. It's getting more difficult and more expensive to get a paper ticket. But if you're changing planes somewhere with dicey weather, or if you just plain feel better having actual flight coupons in your hand, ask for a paper ticket. Until airline computers can talk to each other, it's much easier for an airline to endorse a paper ticket to a rival airline if your flight is cancelled or severely delayed.
Don't forget to minimize what you carry-on. Send gifts ahead or, if you must carry them aboard a plane, don't wrap them, as they might have to be opened at security checkpoints.
And, finally, if you haven't flown since September 11th, you'll see troops in battle fatigues carrying assault rifles. When it comes to air travel, they're the most dramatic indication of how the rules have changed.
I'm Rudy Maxa for Marketplace.
You can read - and hear - more from Rudy and company at SavvyTraveler.org!
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