Flying to Europe? Here are some tips to de-stress your trip by choosing the right flights...
With all the extra details involved in travel these days, one way to simplify and destress your travel experience is to choose either direct flights at reasonable hours or ones that connect with ample time in airports that are traveler friendly and have a good track record.
- Are the flight times convenient? Do not book flights that arrive in the wee hours. Between the hours 10 pm and 7 am (varying by destination). Why? Public transportation may be limited; taxis and drivers have a surcharge and there may not be any; and hotel check-in hours may require for you to book the previous night if arriving early in the morning; or you may have to hang out in the lobby until check in time (usually after 2 pm).
- For your Return flight times, consider whether you can get to the airport on time. If the best choice is an early morning flight, consider spending extra on a night at an airport hotel. Keep in mind that for international flights you should arrive 3 hours prior to flight time. And don’t forget to think about if you are able to get transportation home from the airport at the time your prospective flight gets in.
- Check the seating map, and pre-book seats that best suit your needs.
- If you require a special meal, remember to request it at least 24 to 48 hours in advance, see your airline’s guidelines.
- Look for flights that are refundable and/or have no change fees.
- BOOK DIRECTLY with the airline. Should you need to change, cancel, etc., it is much less complicated to deal directly with the airline than a booking with a third party website ie.Travelocity; Expedia etc. Also in some cases, even though the airline is not charging a change or cancelation penalty the booking service may.
Non-stop flights are not an option to all destinations, and for longer flights, I prefer to get off the plane and walk a bit. When booking connecting flights, be sure to give yourself ample connecting time. And today, that means at least an hour and a half domestically; and for international connections, three hours. Also keep in mind that when returning home to the USA, at your port of entry, you will have to claim your bags and clear security and customs, and recheck your bag for your domestic flight (unless you have gone through US Pre-clearance aboard - more below). Thus you need to have extra time for connecting at your port of entry.
- Avoid returning through airports such as Miami or Ft Lauderdale, which are notorious for long wait times. Instead consider Palm Beach International (PBI), Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX), Baltimore/Washington International (BWI), Washington Dulles International (IAD), Raleigh-Durham(RDU), which all ranked as having expedient customs and immigration. Even Boston, although not rated among the fastest, is an easy airport to get through.
- Avoid airlines that tend to have flight delays. Check stats on OAG, here is a link to June 2022 ratings https://www.oag.com/en/on-time-performance-airlines-june-2022.
- On return flights consider connecting in Europe. I find it easier, since you will not have to claim your luggage until you arrive at your final destination in the USA.
- Avoid flights with less than 2 hour connections, especially at airports such as Charles de Gaulle in Paris (CDG), which is currently understaffed.
- Some of my favorite European Airports for connection in are Dublin, Munich, Zurich and Rome. Although you may need to go through security in some cases, you will not need to claim your luggage, until your final destination.
US Pre-Clearance Airports:
Most US Pre-clearance locations are in Canada, but there are also facilities in Ireland (both Shannon and Dublin) and in Abu Dhabi, as well as in the Caribbean.
Find list of Pre-clearance locations here.
If flying home from one of the 16 US Pre-clearance destinations, you will go through the customs and security check before boarding your flight. For example, if you are traveling from Dublin, Ireland on a flight that connects in New York to your final destination in the USA, you will clear customs before boarding Dublin. Upon arrival, you will bypass Customs Border Protection (CBP) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) inspections and proceed directly to your connecting flight. All passengers traveling directly to the US from Dublin Airport go through US Pre-clearance.
NOTE: It is advisable to have extra time for check-in to get through the process (3 hours is recommended), but you’ll save time at the other end making connecting to your domestic flight faster. Requirements change, so be sure to verify which airports offer Pre-clearance and if you qualify. Link to CBP Pre-clearance: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/preclearance
REMINDER: Purchase travel insurance within 14 days of any non-refundable payments.
Airport ratings: https://usebounce.com/blog/airport-wait-times
Airport and statistics: https://www.oag.com