If you haven’t already, sign up for TSA PreCheck ($85 for five years), which will expedite you through security in more than 130 domestic airports. Better yet, become a member of U.S. Customs & Border Protection’s Global Entry program ($100 for five years). You’ll be able to zip through U.S. customs.
Buy some peace of mind.
Worried that a flight delay or cancellation will ruin a vacation? Berkshire Hathaway’s AirCare insurance (starting at $34) will reimburse you for a delay of more than two hours, if you miss a connection because of a delay, and if your bag goes missing for more than 12 hours. The company tracks your flight status automatically and can issue some payments directly to a PayPal account.
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You shouldn’t depend on your airline to let you know when there’s a delay. Sign up for text and e-mail alerts with an online flight-tracking service like FlightStats (free; Android, iOS). Or manage your itinerary with TripIt Pro ($49 a year; Android, iOS), which comes with built-in alerts.
Score a prime seat.
Don’t want to pay extra for premium economy, and you’re not into ponying up for an aisle seat ahead of time? Then your best bet is to sign up with website ExpertFlyer, which alerts you when your seat of choice becomes available, so you can log on and grab it. Use SeatGuru’s online cabin maps to help you pick.
Check that your carry-on is really a carry-on.
Some domestic carriers have started enforcing a stricter size limit for carry-ons. So if you want to avoid having to gate-check (and pay for) your bag, know your airline’s size restrictions before you leave home.
Size up your toiletries.
Carry-on liquids, gels, and aerosols have to be 3.4 fluid ounces or less and fit in a clear, quart-size bag.
To move through airports with ease and emerge from a flight unrumpled, stick to wrinkle-free fabrics, such as tight knits and wool. For overnight flights, a pair of leggings or jeans with a bit of stretch go a long way. And a good cashmere wrap or sweater is invaluable when facing the chill of an air-conditioned cabin.
Know your way around.
GateGuru (free on Android and iOS) will help you navigate terminals at some 200 airports around the world and point you wherever you need to go. Particularly handy during a layover, the app lists airport amenities and restaurant reviews.
A Boingo account will keep you online at more than 50 airports across the globe. And if you set up a profile with the hot spot provider’s new Passpoint Secure service, you’ll get even faster connections at a growing number of airports.
Join the club.
If you’re facing a long layover or extended delay, you can usually get a day pass to a lounge for $25 to $50—which often pays for itself in free Wi-Fi and food. Or consider a membership to an independent club, like Priority Pass ($99 a year), which has 700 lounges worldwide.