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Summer travel season is now in full swing. While the warmer months are traditionally the time that many families take the great American road trip, millions of other travelers will take to the friendly skies when visiting loved ones or exploring exotic new places.
Flying can be fun. But it can also be frustrating. Crowded airports, delayed flights and lost baggage are just a few of the hassles that bedevil air travel. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Following are seven air travel secrets that will improve your next flight.
Book an early flight
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We all hate flight delays. Nearly 19 percent of flights did not arrive on time in 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Booking early in the morning might be your best bet for avoiding this travel scourge. A couple of years ago, Travelzoo analyzed data from the Bureau of Transportation and found that flights in the early morning hours are much less likely to be delayed than takeoffs later in the day.
Avoid flights on Sunday — and in December
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Airfare research firm Hopper found that Sunday is the most expensive day to fly. Waiting until Tuesday or Wednesday will save you an average of around $25 round trip.
In addition, you can keep your costs down by avoiding flights in December, the most expensive month to travel. “Good” airfares in December average $360 round trip, compared with just $279 in January.
And we have some bad news for summer travelers: The warmer months tend to be particularly expensive times to fly. In fact, July’s $358 average round-trip rate makes it the second most expensive month to coast through the clouds.
Try to get a seat in the middle of the plane
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We know, this is counterintuitive — just about everyone wants to sit near the front so they can quickly deplane, get into the airport and start their vacation.
But Time magazine pored over data from the Federal Aviation Administration’s CSRTG Aircraft Accident Database and determined that people sitting in the middle of the airplane have the highest survival rates in the event of a crash.
To further improve your odds should a crash occur, choose a seat near the exit. Time explains:
After a crash, survivors who are near an exit are more likely to get out alive, according to a study published in 2008 from the University of Greenwich which looked at emergency exit usage after an accident.
Need Wi-Fi? Go with JetBlue
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A couple of years ago, Gizmodo ranked the Wi-Fi service of many different airlines, and it dubbed JetBlue’s service to be “the fastest in the sky.”
Need an even better reason to use JetBlue for Wi-Fi? The service is free on all its planes.
Pack your own travel kit
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An anonymous flight attendant told the New York Times that people should pack their own “amenity kit” to make air travel more pleasant. Items to consider include:
- Neck pillow
- Sweater or blanket
- Lip balm and travel-size lotion to ward off cracked skin
- Noise-reducing headset
The flight attendant also recommended bringing your own food, such as fruit, protein bars and sandwiches. As the attendant confessed to the Times:
“The meal portions airlines give to passengers have gotten smaller over the years and leave them still hungry. And they also tend to be high in sodium and fat.”
Consider shipping items instead of checking bags
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Most airlines today — with the exception of Southwest — charge you to check any luggage. In some cases, it might be cheaper to ship your items via a service like FedEx or UPS.
Shipping your items via one of these services has other advantages, according to USA Today:
Your baggage is insured against loss or damage for the full value of its contents, which is not the case with checked baggage. By arriving at your destination airport baggage-free, you save the wait at the baggage claim. In many areas, you also have the option of taking less-expensive public transportation from the airport to your hotel, which may help offset the cost of shipping your bags.
Shipping probably works best when you will be staying at the home of a friend or family member. However, call ahead and see if your hotel will be willing to accept and hold shipped items until you arrive.
Know your rights on delayed or canceled flights
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If your flight is delayed or canceled, you may have more leverage than you realize. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation:
If your flight is canceled or diverted or experiences a lengthy delay and you choose to cancel your trip as a result, you are entitled to a refund for the unused transportation — even for non-refundable tickets — and for any bag fee that you paid.
In addition, if your flight is significantly delayed, the DOT suggests that you try to find a seat on another airline and ask the first airline to endorse your ticket to the alternative carrier. However, the DOT stresses that airlines are not obligated to honor your request.
For more great travel tips, check out “8 Great Travel Freebies You Can Get in 2017.”
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