6 Ways to Survive the Busy Air Travel Season

The airport during the holiday season resembles a high-traffic tourist destination, like Times Square in New York City or the Mong Kok district in Hong Kong. You have your veterans who know exactly what they are doing and where they are going and then those who look absolutely lost and become a roadblock.

For corporate travelers who are in and out of airports all the time, we know that this time of year — when you’re surrounded by infrequent fliers — can be a frustrating experience. But take our advice below and you’ll get through it, one security line at a time.

1. Arrive bright and early

Not only is booking an early morning flight one of the cheapest times to fly, but you’ll breeze through the airport security lines during this wildly unpopular departure time. Plus, these early flights have the best track record for leaving on time. And if by chance your flight does get canceled, odds are in your favor that you’ll score a seat on another plane leaving that same day.

2. Join Global Entry + TSA Pre + CLEAR

You cannot call yourself a true jetsetter until the U.S. government calls you a “Trusted Traveler.” We, of course, are referring to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) program (which encompasses Global Entry and TSA Pre✓) that get passengers who have been vetted by CBP through security lines more swiftly and with less hassle. Unfortunately, if you haven't already started the application process, you will not be able to get this done in time for Thanksgiving. But here’s an article that will help get you going.

And for those of you who have been enjoying the benefits of Global Entry and TSA Pre✓ for a while and actually are a tad annoyed to see how successful the program is by how many more passengers are joining the queue, we recommend CLEAR, a private Trusted Traveler program that will get you past even the TSA Precheckers and to the front of the security screening line. Because of its annual $179 membership fee, we doubt as many leisure travelers will be joining the CLEAR club and clogging up the lines.

3. Work those points

If your travel policy has limitations on what cabin you can fly and what you can spend on an airline ticket — as it should — it would be wise to now use some of your airline loyalty points and splurge on an upgrade. Whether you treat yourself to a seat in business class for a coast-to-coast flight or cash out on a premium economy seat for more legroom, you’ll realize it was well worth it when you are already settled in the plane while others are still stuck standing in the aisle.

Or you may decide to shell out $50 for a daily pass at the airline lounge if you have a long layover or arrive super-early for check-in. If you do that, here’s another tip: See if you can sweet talk your way into an upgraded seat with one of the friendly airline employees at the lounge, who will have full access to flight details and is more available to assist you with a new seat assignment.

4. Lighten the load

Long before the airlines began charging checked baggage fees, frequent business travelers were very much in the habit of taking carry-on only to avoid dealing with baggage claim. But as more passengers on domestic flights are doing the same to avoid forking over 50 bucks to the airlines for an amenity that used to be free, you’ll want to double check that your own bag meets the airline’s size regulations. Especially during the busy season when the overhead compartments will be stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey, attendants will be taking a closer look to ensure bags meet their carry-on requirements — and may charge those who are in violation. Because each airline has its own size restrictions, be sure to check the carrier’s website for its rules.

And for those who have a longer trip and can’t travel light, consider a luggage shipping service like DUFL, which not only will get your bag from your home to your hotel in time for your arrival (no lugging it to the airport!), but it also will have the clothes waiting inside freshly laundered.

5. Don’t delay if there is a delay

Once you find out that a flight has been canceled due to inclement weather, a mechanical issue or some other problem, get rebooking.

If it’s a widespread problem, the airline phone lines likely will be jammed up, but you know who will be waiting to pick up your call? Our super-friendly travel counselors who can help rebook your flight and hotel.

If you do not have the customer service number for American Express Global Business Travel stored, whip out your smartphone and save it to your contacts list. Like right now. And while you’re at it, download the Amex GBT Mobile app, so you can have your trip itinerary and real-time travel updates delivered to you instantly — and get wind of cancellations earlier than most.

6. Fully charge your devices

It’ll be hard finding a free charging port when the airport is at max capacity, which is why it is critical to have all your electronic devices fully charged and raring to go before you arrive. This will become even more important if there is a delay or cancellation and you need to make alternative arrangements. And be sure to pack a portable wireless charger to give your device a boost on the fly.

While we’re on the topic of devices, here’s one last sanity-saving tip: Before leaving home, load up the laptop with binge-worthy TV shows and your e-reader with books that have been on your Kindle Wish List and then pair with your best noise-canceling headphones. If your flight is delayed, you’ll definitely want to tune out the grumbling from other travelers.