This is the best advice for surviving the busy summer travel season

summer travel advice

The hectic summer travel season is only weeks away, so what better time than now to improve your air travel literacy? You can start by listening to the business travelers who are on the road for weeks at a stretch. They have the best advice for surviving summer travel.

It’s easy to miss them sometimes. They’re the ones quietly sitting in the exit row seat, finishing a spreadsheet on their laptop computers. You might not even know you’re staying in a hotel with one, because they check in late and leave early.

About 1 in 10 people travel for business, and if you’re lucky enough to sit next to a road warrior on your next flight, you might learn a thing or two about improving your air travel experience. Such secrets include sage advice about where and when to book, how to travel more comfortably, and insider tips for surviving a crowded flight.

Book direct and fly nonstop

Michael Stanat, the director of global operations for the market research firm SIS International, says repeated flights have taught him to book directly with the airline and to avoid connections. “It is your safe bet in case you get delayed,” he says. “If you get stranded, you can rebook or get rerouted much easier than if you booked with an online agency. It may be more expensive to fly nonstop, but if your flight is delayed because of a missed connection, especially cross-country, you may be on the hook for a lot more.”

Cheaper isn’t always better

“The cheapest fare is not always the best,” warns Sherrie Wilkolaski, who publishes the magazine Luxe Beat. If your plans change, you may pay more in fees, surcharges and penalties. Often, it’s better to choose a more expensive ticket with fewer restrictions.

Patience pays

Rebecca Washuta, a nutrition and wellness consultant who has spent weeks at a time on the road, says she avoids early morning flights because they are crowded and more expensive. “If your schedule allows, take a mid-morning flight,” advises Washuta. “You’ll likely have a row to yourself, and you’ll have a better chance of getting bumped up to first class.”

Get to the airport with time to spare

Leisure travelers often wait until the last minute to head to the airport. But Tommy Goodwin, head of field operations at Eventbrite, says years on the road have taught him to do the opposite. “I arrive at the airport early so I’m not stressed out,” he says. “Nearly all airports have Wi-Fi so you can work if you need to, and most major airports have great restaurants, bars, retail and even spas.”

Membership has its privileges

Real road warriors invest in premium security access programs such as Global Entry and Clear, according to Sheree Sekou, a leadership consultant and frequent corporate traveler. “It mitigates unnecessary delays,” she says. “Without the Clear premium access program, I’m certain I would have missed several flights throughout the years.”

Be nice to the crew

That’s the advice of David Decker, a national distribution executive for Royal Neighbors of America, an insurance organization. “Say ‘hi’ when boarding and ‘thank you’ when they serve you,” he says. You’d be surprised at how few passengers do this. But when it comes time to ask for a favor, like an extra drink or if you have to move seats, “this common decency goes a long way, and the crew remembers that during the flight.”

Never miss opportunities to eat

Airline food is scarce, and the quality is often questionable. “Never pass up an opportunity for a meal,” says author and astrophysicist Jeff Hester. Too many air travelers subsist on Cheetos and then gorge themselves on their next meal, he adds. “Don’t stuff yourself senseless, but eat when you get a chance. You don’t know when you might see food again,” he adds.

Be a volunteer

Whether a flight attendant asks you to switch seats with another passenger or give up your seat altogether, do it. The rewards can be considerable, from the goodwill of the crew to money, according to Mark Ortiz, a frequent traveler who founded the company ReviewingThis. “You can get cash compensation for the inconvenience,” he says. The trick is to ask. Airlines may offer a flight voucher; federal regulations limit cash compensation to a maximum of $1,350.

Don’t forget your ‘cheat sheet’

Electronic tickets are convenient, but they have one flaw: Smartphones can run out of battery power, leaving you without vital travel information. That’s why Brad Daniel, a frequent air traveler who runs a marketing agency in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, carries a “cheat sheet” with his itinerary. “I make it a practice to have flight number, terminal and departure time printed,” he says. “I can’t tell you how many times this cheat sheet comes in handy.” By the way, it works for the rest of your itinerary, including your car rental and hotel.

Most of these veteran road warriors learned these tricks the hard way, which is to say, they made mistakes. They booked the wrong ticket class, took their flight crew for granted or relied on their battery-challenged smartphones. But now you don’t have to.

More summer travel advice

• Know the code. Every airport has a three-letter code, known as the International Air Transport Association’s location identifier. When you check your luggage, make sure it has the right airport code. And assume nothing, especially if you’re flying from Chicago (where O’Hare is designated ORD) to Orlando (MCO).

• What’s the difference between a nonstop and direct flight? A direct flight stops en route from A to B, but you stay on the same aircraft. A nonstop flight goes from A to B without landing anywhere else. It helps to know that if you want to fly somewhere without a stop.

• OK, on second thought, maybe you need a travel agent. A qualified travel adviser can help you sort through the stuff you don’t know and find you the best deals. You can find one using the American Society of Travel Advisors website.

Posted in On Travel Tagged

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.