Advice: Fly now, skip the first toilet and 7 other insider travel tips from a retired pilot

I was a pilot for 42 years before retiring about a year ago. Traveling was work and of course the ability to fly off on days off was a big problem. That meant more travel. Now retired with children and grandchildren scattered across the country, my dear bride and I continue to fly regularly.

Read: How to be resilient while traveling during COVID-19

Are you planning your next trip? Here are nine tips to make the inevitably stressful experience a little better:

  • Never book a trip with connecting flights unless absolutely necessary. Bad things happen when connections are missed. Go non-stop when you can. It makes a huge difference.

  • If you have to transfer, do not book a connecting flight which is the last flight of the day. Instead, make sure there is at least one later flight as a backup. If you can, start a day with connecting flights early to mid-morning. Be prepared for delays and cancellations. Joining may be a cheaper ticket, but it could cost you more in the long run.

  • When I worked as a pilot, employee parking was free. Now I have to pay. Depending on the airport, airport parking fees can be excessive. It can also be a hassle with late and crowded buses. If our trip is longer than a few days, we use Uber because it is cheaper and much more convenient. This will also save you 20 minutes or more at each end of the journey.

  • TSA PreCheck essential. It makes some of the nonsense disappear. Apply online and then do the required interview. It is absolutely worth the price and the one-time inconvenience.

  • Drive when you can. We draw a circle of six hours’ drive around our house. If we’re in six hours, we’ll be in the car. The airport experience and hassles that come with flying today make driving a much less stressful journey. That’s true even with gas prices where they are now.

  • If possible, find a smaller airport near your destination, such as Melbourne, Florida, rather than Orlando. Smaller is better – assuming you can get there non-stop. You will see that each row is less crowded. For many major airports, you will be surprised at how many smaller airports are nearby and served by a number of airlines. An added bonus: Tickets are often cheaper.

  • Sign up for a car rental company’s ‘fast break’ program. In general, this ensures that you get to your rental property with little or no time in line. This is both coming and going very important. It’s convenient to end or start a stressful day of travel without frustrations in a car rental line, and these programs are free.

  • Never check bags if you can. We can pack a week long trip in a hand luggage. Find out how to do it. In general, you never wear all the clothes you pack anyway. Of course you can’t check golf clubs or skis. See if they can be shipped separately. We do this regularly to avoid the baggage claim and the risk of losing our luggage.

  • Don’t stop at the first toilet you see after getting out. Everyone on your flight will be there. Pass that one on and maybe the next one too.

This column originally appeared on Humble Dollar. It has been republished with permission.

Tom Kubik recently retired from American Airlines after 42 years as a pilot. He worked on both the management and union sides of the company and saw prosperity, bankruptcies and the disappearance of pension plans. Faced with this upheaval, he also had a side business as a home builder. Today Tom and his wife still travel a lot. Three children and seven grandchildren keep them on the road.

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