The AAA expects a busy travel season this summer.
After a brutal winter, many Americans are eager to get on the move this summer. The skies will be more crowded with travelers from June through August than at any time in the past six years, according to Airlines for America, which predicts that 210 million passengers will fly on U.S. carriers. The company also forecasts another 30 million will travel to international destinations, which is an all-time high.
On the road, AAA estimates a total of 36 million people will trek 50 miles or more during Memorial Day weekend (the good news is that gas prices are less of a concern thanks to rising supplies). If that holds true, it will be the largest amount of people traveling during the holiday weekend since 2005.
So, in order to cut down on wait time and optimize your travels, here are some ways to keep your travels in the express lane:
Use Alternative Airports
If possible, search for flights at an alternative or secondary airport. Here are the nation's busiest airports that travelers should try to avoid: Dallas/Fort Worth, George Bush (Houston), Denver, Los Angeles, Chicago O'Hare, Las Vegas McCarran, San Francisco and Phoenix Sky Harbor. So, for example, check out Midway Airport in Chicago or Love Field in Dallas. Los Angeles has three other options: John Wayne, Ontario and Bob Hope in Long Beach.
Although this is easier said than done, it's important that you pack light to ease the back burden and reduce travel-related stress. Consider this: The likelihood that you'll wear everything in your suitcase is slim to none, so only bring the essentials.
Need help shedding luggage pounds? For family travel, leave your work at home. This is your vacation, make it feel like one.
Book Flights Strategically
The day of the week and the time of the flight matters. Cleary, flights on the weekend tend to be more crowded than a Wednesday morning. While business travelers tend to fly on Monday to start the work week, those on leisure travel try to stretch vacations with post-work-hour departures and returns. So, early morning flights from Tuesday through Thursday are ideal.
Check Traffic Patterns around Airport
If you want to be extra savvy, you can look into historic traffic patterns on roads to the airport at the time you're flying and plan the best route to your terminal. It's not a bad idea to check the departure gate before heading there, because it sometimes changes.
Abide by the 3-1-1 Rule
If you've waited in airport security, you know that forgetting to put liquids in separate bags can slow things down, which is the last thing anyone needs before boarding. Pack your liquids into containers that are less than 3.4 ounces in a 1-quart-sized bag, with one bag per passenger. Containers larger than that will have to be stored in checked luggage, throwing on a $25 fee or more.
Hold onto Valuables
You should also pack essential items like keys, prescription medication and irreplaceable items in your carry-on in case your checked luggage doesn't make it to your destination at the same time.
When you are roaming the streets in a foreign destination, bring only the items you will need. Leave extra cash in the safe box in the hotel. To avoid petty crime, keep valuables in your front pockets, never the back.
Print out Boarding Passes
Forget about the long lines in the front gates of the airport. Printing out boarding passes ahead of time can make your air travel experience a bit breezier.
Prepare your Documents
Have your boarding pass and ID (driver's license or passport) ready before you enter the TSA screening checkpoint. TSA officials will always ask to see these documents.