Missing a connecting flight is every traveling family‘s nightmare. When the flight missed is a long haul one, it can get even trickier, since it can also involve additional waits at the airport and unplanned extra expenses for food or lodging.
Today’s tight airline schedules and oversold flights make missing connections almost inevitable if you travel frequently enough; here are 10 tips to help you and your family survive these stressful situations.
1. Book early flights
Early morning flights generally have a better track record of leaving on time than the ones later in the day. It is well worth booking that 6 a.m. flight and face any family member’s complaints.
2. Never book a tight connection
When you make your flight reservations, don’t accept a connection shorter than two hours for a domestic and three hours for an international connection — even if the airline representative assures you it is all right.
You need to remember that on any U.S.-inbound flight you clear Immigration and Customs at the first airport you land in. If the airport you land in happens to be busy, you might be stuck in a long line that can exceed the time you have between flights. Add that to retrieving several items of family luggage and taking them to your next terminal, along with passing through a TSA checkpoint and you might run out of time faster than you anticipated.
3. Chose seats at the front of the plane
The closer to the exit door you all sit on the plane, the faster you’ll reach your next gate; choose your seats carefully. Airlines have mastered the pre-boarding process, but when it comes to deplaning, everyone wants to get off — and fast! The scene only gets more chaotic if the flight is delayed. Once the plane reaches its destination, most fellow passengers don’t really heed to the flight attendant’s plea to let those with connections to catch exit the plane first. Instead, most will dart out as soon as possible and won’t be concerned with those who might end up missing their connection. If you’re seated in the plane’s back section, it might take 20 minutes to deplane.
4. Consider ditching your checked luggage
One of the most frequent woes passengers experience is the delay or loss of their checked luggage. The chance of experiencing such mishaps exponentially increases when taking multiple flights. In many cases, when you check your luggage at the initial airport of departure it will continue to the next airport without you, should you miss your connecting flight. The best way to avoid such mishaps is to travel with carry-on luggage that you can have access to at all times — especially if you are delayed or diverted from your original itinerary.
5. Download or print out a map of the airport you are connecting through
This will enable you to know where everything is located and help you navigate the premise faster when you are short on time Make sure to mark restrooms, food venues and the transportation between terminals if needed.
6. Register for digital notifications
In today’s digital age, keeping in touch with your airline carrier is crucial. The earlier you are aware of delays or aircraft changes, the faster you can rebook your flights without additional disruptions. Remember to make sure the airline has your email address and cell phone number to contact or text you when necessary.
7. Follow the airline on Facebook and Twitter
Like many other companies, airlines have a growing social media presence — take advantage of. Sometimes a tweet about an issue you are encountering during your travels can be addressed faster than calling the customer service line.
8. Have all your family members use the restroom an hour before landing
Depending on the terminal layout and time of day, you may find yourself standing in line (especially in the women’s restrooms) so using the airplane lavatory can be a real time saver when you have to run to your next departure gate to catch your connecting flight.
9. Carry snacks in your handbag
Carrying a chocolate bar or candy can prove priceless when you need to rush to the next connecting flight and your child is whining that they are suddenly hungry. If you forget to pack something, take the in-flight snack with you or purchase an inflight snack box to take off the plane.
10. When all fails, ask for help
If you are on a flight that is delayed and have limited time to get to your next gate, ask the flight attendant for help. Crew members can notify the staff at your next gate of the delay, and arrange for an airport cart transportation to pick you up from the gate you arrive at take you to your planned departure gate.