Air Travel - Can't We All Just Get Along?

By now, you have probably read about - if not experienced - recent long lines at airport security checkpoints.  If news reports are accurate, these are only expected to get worse as the summer travel season heats up.

Combine that with oversold flights, crowded airports and cranky passengers?  Well, that's just a recipe for unpleasantness all around.

There's not much we can do about the lines - but much of the airport experience is entirely within our control. 

I have written a lot about how to plan and pack for a smooth travel experience, and I'm sure I'll have more to say throughout the summer (thanks in advance for staying with me!).  

Photo from Getty Images.

Photo from Getty Images.

Most weeks, I take anywhere from four to eight flights.  That means packing, rushing to the airport, checking in, going through TSA security, lining up and boarding, scrambling for overhead space - and trying to settle in for a productive flight - several times each week.

In all of that, I can stay pretty chill - even in the craziest of circumstances - because I have a routine and plan for the "unexpected."  A few tips for making the skies just a bit more friendly:

#1 - Create a "Happy Zone" Around You.

Decide before you leave the house that you will be friendly and pleasant to each and every person you see.  The ticket agent, TSA workers, the people next to you in line.  Say good morning, ask them how they are, wish them a good day.  Even if you have to fake it at first, you will make their day better - and you will feel better as well.

#2 - Get. There. Early.

No excuses.  If you have to plan to leave at 8 a.m. to get out the door at 10 a.m. for a 1 p.m. flight, do it.  Don't plan to leave at 10 a.m., not leave until 11:30 a.m. - and then be surprised that "unexpected" security lines and crowds made you miss your flight.  As Scott can tell you, when at home, I generally go to the airport three to four hours before a flight.  Sure, that means I spend a lot of time in airports - but I have never missed a flight because I got to the airport late.

#3 - Plan to Wait.

Plan to get stuck in traffic. Plan for long lines to check in and check baggage.  Plan for long security lines.  And - of course, plan to be the person randomly selected for additional screening (this happens to me - a lot).  Just assume that all of these will happen, so you can still make your flight stress-free with plenty of time to spare when they do.

#4 - Sign Up For PreChek (Maybe).

It should be a no-brainer for regular travelers to sign up for PreChek, and CLEAR (if it operates in the airports you frequent).  I am part of both programs, but they are not practical for people who only travel once or twice a year.  But even PreChek is not a guarantee you will speed through security.  In some airports, PreChek lines are sometimes closed, or only operate during limited hours.

#5 - Be Nice.

Have I mentioned this yet?  Make it a game if you have to - just do it. Smiles are contagious, and they will help you maintain a good attitude – even when faced with travel disruption.