- As November approaches, travel chaos is on the minds of those heading home for the holidays.
- Flight expert Gilbert Ott shares three tips for avoiding crowds, delays and canceled flights.
- Book an early flight, don’t check bags and practice good airport etiquette, he said.
Holiday travel usually comes with crowded airports and flight delays. That’s why Insider spoke with expert Gilbert Ott about his top tips for avoiding chaos this holiday season.
Ott flies more than 200,000 miles a year and has been blogging about flying for the past decade. Ott’s blog, called God Save the Points, covers everything from airline news and flight reviews to travel tips and money-saving hacks, such as how to best use credit card points.
Book an early direct flight
To avoid delays, Ott’s advice is simple — book direct flights early.
“If it’s one of the first flights of the day, most of those planes are parked overnight at that gate. They don’t arrive as early and they don’t get cleaned and changed,” he said.
Of course, other variables can cause delays, such as technical issues, missing crew members, or weather conditions. But earlier in the morning, there was less time for things to go wrong, which could delay a series of flights, according to Ott.
Likewise, direct flights are more reliable than connecting flights because there is less room for error.
“Just ask yourself, ‘How can I minimize the blunders?'” he added.
Do not check bags
To avoid long check-in lines and crowds at baggage claim, Ott recommended carrying only carry-on luggage. To minimize your packing list, Ott said it’s smart to buy toiletries at your destination. And if you’re visiting family for the holidays, Ott suggests leaving some clothes there so you have less baggage next year.
“I keep clothes at my parents’ house so I can keep it really basic with what I wear,” he said
Practice good airport etiquette
No matter how crowded an airport is, you can always do your part to make things run smoother by practicing good airport etiquette, which starts at the TSA checkpoint, he said.
To keep the line as fast as possible, Ott said you should remove anything you might need to remove at security, from large jackets to the contents of your pockets, before you get there.
“When I go to the airport, I take off my seat belt before I get there. I carry it in my backpack knowing I’m going to put it on as soon as I go through PreCheck,” Ott told Insider. “So keep the jewelry and the watch in your bag. Then when you get to the other side of security, where you’re not detaining people, you can do the shine.”
Once you get to your gate, Ott said you shouldn’t get in the boarding line until your group is called. If you line up too early, you may cause a delay.
“People don’t realize that flights are bound by air traffic control restrictions. So if you get everyone on board quickly, you can often be released in an earlier sequence of slots faster and land earlier,” he said. “But if they have to push people back, those minutes count. The next thing you know, you’re waiting for the next available slot to switch, which means you’re landing late.”
When you’re at the airport, Ott said it’s important to remember that there is an order, and any action against it has consequences.
So if you’re at the front of the boarding line before it’s your turn, Ott has a message for you: “Stop taking a seat. We’re all going to the same place.”
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