16 Airport Mistakes to Stop Making Before Your Next Flight

The best way to handle a cancelled flight, how to take a shower at the airport, and more airline travel advice all fliers should know.

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Don't wait at the gate desk when your flight is cancelled
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You wait at the gate desk when your flight is cancelled

Don’t get discouraged over a cancelled flight just yet. The best way to handle an off-schedule flight is to call the airline as you wait in line at the ticket desk. There’s a good chance you’ll reach a phone agent first. Equally as important, you won’t have to negotiate with the same frazzled agent who’s dealt with dozens of similarly disgruntled fliers. These are the things airlines won’t tell you (but every flier should know).

Check out Travel Hacks: 13 Ways It Pays to Read the Fine Print

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Expect large crowds the airport on peak travel days
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You expect non-peak crowds on peak days

Larger crowds lead to more chaotic parking and drop-off situations and longer wait times at security checkpoints. Plan accordingly. In general, airports are most crowded on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, as these days bear the brunt of business travel. Expect Fridays to get even busier in the summer months as recreational travel peaks. You’ll find the biggest crowds of the year on Thanksgiving Eve as well as the Sunday after it. And unsurprisingly, the busiest week to fly is the one that falls between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day; the number of long-distance travellers during this period typically rises by almost 25 per cent.

Planning on flying between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day? Here are the Best Times to Book Christmas Holiday Travel Anywhere in the World!

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Do not accept the first voucher offered on an overbooked flight
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You accept the first voucher on an overbooked flight

If your flight is overbooked, don’t accept the first voucher that comes your way. Airlines typically increase their offer until there are enough volunteers willing to give up their seats. If the airline bumps you involuntarily, insist on cash compensation instead of a voucher.

Thinking of booking your next trip online? Here are 13 Things You Didn’t Know About Booking Your Vacation Online.

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Visit the airport lounge during a long layover
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You don’t visit the airport lounge during a long layover

For infrequent flyers, it’s hard to justify the several-hundred-dollar annual fees that are associated with airline lounges. But if you’ve got a long layover, it might be worth it to purchase a daily pass. Amenities include everything from complimentary snacks and drinks to Wi-Fi and shower suites.

Offering everything from craft classes to mini golf, these are the 10 Most Exciting Airports in the World

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Check in to your flight ahead of time
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You don’t check in to your flight ahead of time

Along with saving you valuable time at the airport, checking in to your flight ahead of time can earn you bonus miles and help you score a better seat.

Check out 5 Ways to Get Through the Airport Faster

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The seats in the middle of the plane are best for those with motion sickness
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You try to avoid motion sickness by upgrading to first class

While a last-minute upgrade might seem like a good idea—especially if you often find yourself falling ill on flights—the seats in the middle of the plane are best for those with motion sickness. “A plane is like a seesaw. If you’re in the middle, you don’t move as much,” Patrick Smith, pilot, and author of Cockpit Confidential told Reader’s Digest.

More worried about safety than nausea? Here’s How To Survive a Plane Crash, According to Science

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Measure your carry-on
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You don’t measure your carry-on

Because carry-on requirements vary by airline, it’s best to confirm space allotments and measure your bag before you pack. And if you stuff it to capacity, measure the suitcase again before you leave.

Check out 11 Things to Always Have in Your Carry-On Luggage So You’re Ready for Anything.

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Check airport monitors for updated flight information
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You never check airport monitors for flight information

While it’s great to subscribe to flight-status updates on your smartphone (sign up for these when you check in to your flight), don’t use them as your only source of information. Airport monitors are still your best bet for the most up-to-date information. Double check your gate before you get on the trolley that takes you to the other side of the facility.

Are you a nervous flyer? Read 6 Facts About Flying to Help You Stay Calm on Your Next Flight.

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Do not pack liquids deep inside your carry on
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You pack liquids deep inside your carry on

Make security checkpoints a breeze by packing liquids (which are all 100 mL or smaller and zipped into a clear, closed and re-sealable plastic bag no larger than 1L of course!) into an outside pocket of your carry-on. Laptops and tablets fall into the same category. If your travels will take you through the Unites States, check out the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s website for a full list of items on the no-fly list as well as tips for getting through security quickly.

Before you go, read 13 Unexpected Things You Can Bring on a Plane in Canada.

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Bring a pen to fill out forms on the plane
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You forget a pen on an overseas flight

You’ll need a pen to fill out immigration forms on board. And your flight attendant will appreciate not having to supply the entire flight with extra ink.

Flight crews have their own way of speaking! Here’s how to Decode Airline Lingo

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Do not fly with a baby on your lap
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You fly with your baby on your lap

Although most airlines will allow you to fly with an infant on your lap for free, it’s extremely dangerous. “If there’s any impact or deceleration, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose hold of your kid, and he becomes a projectile,” pilot Patrick Smith told Reader’s Digest. “But the government’s logic is that if we made you buy an expensive seat for your baby, you’d just drive, and you’re more likely to be injured driving than flying.”

Travelling with tykes? Here are 8 Ways to Make Flying with Kids Easier

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Keep essentials in your carry on
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You don’t keep essentials in your carry on

If your checked bags get lost or delayed, it’s important to have your essentials packed into your carry-on. Start with prescription medications and medical supplies, a cell phone charger, a change of clothes, and the necessary paperwork to get you through security and into your hotel.

Here are 6 Household Items That Will Totally Change How You Pack a Suitcase!

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Wear sunblock when you fly
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You don’t wear sunblock

Flying the friendly skies isn’t so good for your skin. One study found that pilots flying for an hour at 30,000 feet get the same amount of radiation as if they had spent 20 minutes in a tanning bed. Another study found that they were 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with malignant melanoma.

Check out 14 Things You Should Never Do On an Airplane.

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Use the bathroom at the airport terminal
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You don’t use the bathroom at the terminal

A poorly timed pre-takeoff bathroom break could hold up the entire flight. “There’s a sequence to taxiing and getting in line for takeoff,” Sara Keagle, a veteran flight attendant and blogger at TheFlyingPinto.com, told Woman’s Day. “If somebody gets up to use the restroom, we have to tell the cockpit, and they have to stop the plane and wait until the person is back in his or her seat and buckled up. During that time we could lose our spot in line.”

Ever wonder what flight attendants are secretly thinking while on duty? Here are 21 Secrets Your Flight Attendant Won’t Tell You.

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Pick up a coffee at the terminal
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You don’t pick up a coffee at the terminal

Better to pick up a coffee, tea, or water bottle at the terminal—the stuff on board can be downright dirty. For one Wall Street Journal piece, reporters packed samples of water from the galley and lavatory taps of 14 different flights and tested them for quality. “The results of our water-quality snapshot: a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from salmonella and staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs. Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits,” they wrote. Eek.

Fine food in the air? Yes, please! Here are 10 Airlines With the World’s Most Decadent Plane Food.

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Don't be a pushover on lost luggage
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You’re a pushover on lost luggage

In order to receive a full payout, report lost luggage as soon as possible—many airlines have tight deadlines for filing claims. Submit your report before you leave the airport and keep all receipts related to unexpected expenses caused by the loss. You might be able to get a refund on those, too.

Check out 20 More Mistakes to Avoid at the Airport!

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest