How To Get Out of Town Painlessly This Holiday

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Welcome to December, where the majority of us don’t do anything productive. Instead, we half-ass through the month, with the self-fulfilling assumption that “everyone else is out of the office.” Turns out, we’re all still in the office. We don’t actually leave the office until around December 20th, and we all do it at the same time, headed to the same airports, on the same flights, and wonder why it’s so damn crowded!

With that, I offer these ten tips as a way to get out of town painlessly this holiday, whether you’re going to Grandma’s, back home, or to an island off the coast of Portugal.

These tips work. Trust me. I travel close to 250,000 miles per year on Unitinental Airlines. (My name for the Continental/United merger.) As such, these are things I do daily. Use them. They work.

11) The flight is not the time to be cheap, if you can afford not to be. Yes, it’s great to get a flight for $60 each way from NYC to LA. But know this: You’ll board last, you’ll be charged for everything, and you’ll probably wind up being miserable enough to make that $120 r/t fare cost you hundreds more. If you can afford it, pony up for economy plus or similar, at the least. It’s worth it, and usually have enough perks (first bag free, earlier boarding, more legroom) to make it the price worth it. Besides – ask yourself: How much are you really worth? Enough to be cramped for six hours, or enough to have some room, be able to get some work done, and have a drink?

10) Book the first flight out in the morning. Yes, it sucks to get up at 3am to make a 5:45am flight. But it’s worth it for the following reasons: First flights out are the ones that are usually the most on time. There’s nothing blocking them, the planes are usually already at the gate from the night before, and the skies are the least crowded. Chances are, you’ll get out on time, and make any connections you need to make. The later in the day your flight, the more of a chance of a delay, a missed connection, and one less day of actual “rest.” Bonus: Getting to the airport at 4:30am for a 6am flight means hardly any TSA lines.

9) Hubs are your friends. If you live in a city without an airport hub, your flight choices are limited, at best. Airports like Newark, which is like, 90% Unitinental, have multiple flights to the same destination over the course of the day. If you miss one, you have a better chance of getting the next one. If you live in Boston, for example, an airport without a “home” airline, it could pay to leave the night before, take Amtrak to NYC, have dinner with friends, and fly out first thing the next morning. More options equals less chance for delays or cancellations that affect you.

8) Look for alternate security lines. You know how buses, car rental shuttles, and cabs all seem to go to the same place? Chances are, the thousands of people they’re dropping off will just move like sheep from the curb to the ticket counter to the TSA line, without questioning anything. I like to walk to one end of the terminal or the other – More often than not, there’s another security line there, with much, much fewer people there.

7) When everyone is elite, no one is elite. At some hub airports, they have special checkpoints for elite travelers. The problem is, as any elite traveler will tell you, at those hubs, almost everyone there is elite, and the people who aren’t are crowding the lanes because they don’t know they’re not allowed to use them. Chances are, the non-elite TSA checkpoints will actually move faster, if they’re separate checkpoints. If they’re three LINES, and one is elite, get on the elite line. But if it’s an entirely separate checkpoint, you might do better in a regular lane.

6) A coin is metal, as is a cell phone, jewelry, and your business card holder. Be smart. Put everything you have into your jacket pocket, and put the entire jacket through the x-ray. This includes your belt. You’re allowed to take it off before you get to the security line, you know. The less you’re wearing on your person, the less likely Joe-TSA is going to direct you to the Anal-Probe corner.

5) Don’t check bags. If you’re going to California for ten days, yes, it’s understandable that you’ll need a suitcase. But guess what? It’s not a requirement that you travel with it! If you use FedEx ground a week before your flight, not only will your entire suitcase be waiting for you when you get to the hotel, and not only will you be out of the airport, on average, 30 minutes before those checking luggage, but with the fees that most airlines are charging for checked bags, using FedEx ground will actually save you a decent amount of cash! Just don’t check bags. It’s not worth it. I’m a huge fan (and on the board of) the ScotteVest. I’ve actually traveled to Asia for four days with nothing more than my vest holding everything I could possibly need.

4) Being a dick will NOT get you a better ANYTHING. A note about gate agents: They’ve heard it all, and they’ve been abused worse than Michael Vick’s childhood pet. There’s nothing you can say to them, no way you can threaten them, that will make them help you. BUT – Being nice, understanding that the holiday season brings out the newbie travelers which they can’t stand, can go a long, long way. Nod knowingly. Smile. Heck, bring chocolate. Gate agents have the power to make your next six hours a ride in a limo, or the equivalent to being kidnapped in Kandahar. BE NICE. It’s beyond amazing what being nice can get you. In general, this rule goes for life, as well.

3) For God’s Sake, board when called, and not before. I can’t TELL you how many times I’ve been ready to board, and they start with First Class and Top Tier elite. I then have to push past 100 idiots who are sitting in 34-K, but figure “Hey, if I’m close, I can get on first.” NO, YOU CAN’T. What will happen is you’ll block everyone else, make the flight board late, and possibly cause us to miss our wheels-up window, potentially delaying us for hours. If you do this, those who WERE in the right place at the start of boarding will KILL you, and it’s totally allowed. Yes, it sucks to not have overhead space because you boarded last. But you could have chosen a seat closer to the front. And besides, if you listened to me in tip 5, that won’t be a problem anyway.

2) When you land at your destination, and you’re walking out of the plane, compliment the pilot on a good landing. The landing is the one thing that has the least amount of computer control – it’s pretty much all-pilot. You want to make a pilot happy? Compliment him or her on what they actually did, as opposed to complimenting them on a good flight, which just means that the auto-pilot computer wasn’t running Windows XP.

1) Lastly, give yourself tons of extra time – Download some good apps, good books, or good magazines. Bring them, and know that shit happens. Don’t look for people to blame, don’t post to Twitter how much something sucks and how inconvenienced you are. You’re not alone, you’re not the only one to whom this is happening, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not in an airline’s best interest to not get you to your destination on time. They’re not doing this on purpose. Smile, know that things might go wrong, and try not to be “that guy” that bitches and complains, and without fail, gets recorded and sent to YouTube under the tag “douche.”

Happy flying, and happy holidays, my friends.

Any other tips? Leave them below – I’ll give a discount code for any ScotteVest product to the best one.

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