We've all been there: You arrive at the airport for a flight and everything goes wrong, from the security lines to major discomfort on the plane.
With summer vacations right around the corner, News 6 wants to help you travel like a pro.
UCF grad and TheTravelBite.com blogger Rachelle Lucas said success and money savings start with when you book.
"Midweek sometimes is the best way to book, but I think it's more important what day you're leaving," said Lucas. "If you think about it, everybody goes away on the weekends. So usually Fridays and Saturdays are usually really expensive to leave, so if you can plan your vacation around flying out on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you're likely to get a better rate."
You also don't need to feel like you have to book a round-trip ticket. Sometimes you can find cheaper one-way flights, even by combining flights on different airlines.
"Definitely check out SkyScanner.com," said Lucas. "You can put the destination where you want to go and the time frame when you want to go, and if you're a little bit flexible on your dates, it's a great way to kind of scan all the airlines to see who's got the best fare. If you're not quite ready to book yet and you want to wait until it gets to a certain price, it will send you an email weekly to let you know if the price has gone up or down so you can book at the best rate."
To save even more money, time and space, Lucas said it's all about how you pack.
"I usually try to carr on on the way there and check a bag on the way back, because usually I've gotten some souvenirs and things that won't fit in my bag," said Lucas. "I also have a small little clutch that I keep my passport, my phone and my ID in, so that way it's easily accessible. You don't have to dig through a backpack or a big purse to get it, and then I just put it in my big bag once I get through security."
In order to make sure she fits everything easily in her carry-on, her secret is Ziploc bags.
"All Ziplocs are not created equal. There's one that has an expandable bottom and you can fit so much more into these than the ones that are just flat at the bottom. You can fit all of your little 3-ounce liquids into one quart-size bag, because I think it ends up being a quart and a half with the extra expandable bottom," said Lucas.
Photo Courtesy of TheTravelBite.com
"I like to pack different outfits in gallon-size Ziploc bags, and I also stick a dryer sheet in there so that way they smell fresh. Then what you can do is, you can press the air out of the bag and it kind of compresses it a little bit," said Lucas. "What it helps with is keeping all your outfits separate. The dirty clothes aren't going to mix in with your clean clothes and your clean clothes will remain clean smelling. It's also great for organizing because you can just tear through the bags and look for the outfit you want and throw everything back in, and you don't have to roll or fold everything back up."
Also essential for travel? Lucas' essentials kit.
"I'll pack in there some tea,. I also do a rosewater spray," said Lucas. "I call it my 'Mary Poppins' bag, but I try to keep it to a quart-sized bag. I keep a little bit of Advil, I keep a nail file, all of these little things that make your flight a little bit more comfortable."
Don't forget an empty water bottle and your own snacks.
"I usually bring my own empty water bottle through security, and there's a great one that I love that actually packs flat, so you can slip it into your bag, slip it into your purse, go through security and then once you get through security, you just fill up the water bottle," said Lucas. "A lot of people don't know you can actually bring food through security as long as it's not a liquid or a gel. So you could pack sandwiches, you can pack cookies or some carrots or celery, some raisins."
Lucas said the best way to make friends with passengers around you is to bring anti-bacterial wipes.
"I take anti-bacterial wipes and I wipe down the plane seat when I sit down, and this may sound absurd, but knock on wood, I never get sick when I travel," said Lucas. "So instead of getting strange looks, people are like, 'That's a great idea, do you have any extra?' So I end up passing them out to everyone in my row, which makes the whole row clean."
PREPARING FOR SECURITY
As for getting through security quickly, Lucas said it starts with how you get dressed in the morning.
"Don't put on a belt, don't put on, I know the big bangles are really popular right now, put all of these things in your carry-on and put them on after you get through security," said Lucas. "Also, having slip-on shoes really helps."
Make sure your pockets are empty, and while you're standing in line, you can pull out your Ziploc bag of liquids, put your phone and wallet in your carry-on and do other little things to prepare so that when you get to the machines, you're ready to drop and walk.
Lucas also recommends bringing what she calls "footies" so that you don't have to walk barefoot through the airport.
"You can get them at Publix, actually. Just the little, they're just kind of little footies, little slip-ons," said Lucas. "You don't want to walk barefoot through security. It's kind of dirty, it's kind of gross, so if you're wearing flip-flops or wearing something that's a slip-on shoe, you can take off the slip-on shoe. If you don't have socks, you can just put on the little footies, and once you get through security, you can just throw them away."
You also want to check out the security lines ahead of time. Experts say that with the TSA officer shortage, you can scope out to see if any of the officers seem to be moving people along more efficiently than others, or if it's clear that an officer in one line is in training, that could also make things move more slowly.
Also consider jumping in a line with what appear to be more business people traveling than families with children. They'll likely be more familiar with and efficient at following the rules and move faster than families, especially those with small children.
But Lucas said the best thing she can recommend is signing up for either the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Global Entry or TSA's Pre-Check programs. Global Entry has a one-time $100 fee, and Pre-Check costs $85 for five years.
"You don't have to take off your shoes, you don't have to take out your electronics, you don't have to take out your quart-size bags of liquids. You just put your bags on the conveyor belt, go through security and you're out in like five minutes," said Lucas.
For both programs, you have to fill out an application. For Pre-Check, you can apply online to pre-enroll and then make an appointment to visit an enrollment center. For Global Entry, you can also apply online, but you will need to also schedule an in-person interview to be approved.
"My husband went to the Orlando-Sanford airport to do that, so he was able to schedule his interview within a week of sending in his application," said Lucas. "So it's a really good time saver if you've got a vacation coming up. Schedule your interview at the Sanford airport instead of Orlando International."
You can also use the My TSA app to check security line wait times, but keep in mind that the app's wait time information comes from passengers, not the TSA. You can also follow airports on Twitter to see if they're updating wait times.
GETTING AN UPGRADE
If upgrades are your thin, Lucas said staying loyal to an airline is the way to go.
"If you go through them consistently, you can get those baggage fees waived, and it really helps with upgrades," said Lucas. "A lot of airlines have their own apps now, so you can actually request them in the app on your phone or you can request it when you check in at the airport."
Experts also said you can let gate agents know if you're celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary or even a honeymoon, but don't lie.
If you're flexible and can take a later flight if one flight is overbooked, you can get extra perks that way, too.
If you have any problems at the airport, like delays or cancellations, especially if they affect later flights in your itinerary, skip the in-person lines.
"You're going to get somebody a lot quicker and you're going to get more personalized service if you just call the airline's 1-800 number," said Lucas. "You may even get ahead of people in the lines and get on a new flight before it's booked."