The Nine Mistakes That Millions of Air Travelers Make Every Day Part Two: Plan Carefully

There are thousands of blogs out there in cyberspace that focus on a niche air travel subjects—like getting upgrades or maximizing miles or churning credit cards—but that’s not the focus of this post. This post is not niche. It’s not about upgrades or miles or credit cards. Instead, it’s about some important air travel basics.

This post is about avoiding the mistakes that millions of air travelers make every day.

If you’ve landed on this post, you’ve likely already read the advice in Part One .

Part Two: Plan Carefully

  1. Fly Non-Stop.
  2. Fly Early in The Day.
  3. Select Seats When You Purchase Your Flights.

  1. Fly Non-stop

This seems so self-evident, so common sensical. But still, millions of air travelers make this mistake every day. Why? Usually they’re chasing a cheaper fare, and they rationalize their decision based on a marginal dollar difference. But having your travel day blow up because of a missed connection is a cost that you need to factor in to your thinking.

Let’s look at flying non-stop. If you live near a major city, there is no excuse for choosing anything other than a non-stop. But, if your closest airport is in a smaller city (ours is Albany, New York) you might think it’s better to fly from that airport and connect.

And yeah, it’s usually okay. But not always. Sometimes, it just makes sense to drive to a bigger airport so that you can fly non-stop. Here’s a frame we use: if a missed connection will significantly impact the overall trip (e.g., missing an event like a wedding, or missing the start of a family vacation), we will drive to Newark, New Jersey, and get a non-stop from there.

2. Fly Early in The Day.

There are so many benefits to flying early in the day it could be its own post.

  • When you fly early in the day: Your plane is oftentimes already at your gate waiting for you. This is a big step toward a smooth travel day.
  • When you fly early in the day: If your plane is not at your gate, it will be soon, and you can track its progress on your airline’s app. If it’s delayed—or cancelled—you can start planning right away.
  • When you fly early in the day: You are at the start of the day’s traffic (which will increase exponentially as the day wears on). Less traffic means shorter lines of taxiing planes (on and off the runway), less time spent circling an airport waiting for a landing slot, less congestion at gates, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
  • When you fly early in the day: You have a bigger window in which to solve any problems that arise. The closer you get to the end of the flying day the fewer options you have for getting to your destination (think about it: airports close and flights stop late in the day).

3. Select Seats When You Purchase Your Ticket.

This is such an easy-to-avoid mistake. And why is it so important? Because without an assigned seat you will be the first to be bumped off the flight. And you might even get bumped twenty-four hours before your flight. And you will not know until you get to the airport. And, at that point, your travel day is probably over. Or, if it’s not over, you’re probably in for a long day.


As I said at the outset: this is not a post about getting upgrades or maximizing miles or churning credit cards. For most air travelers that stuff just doesn’t matter.

What matters is getting to your destination with a minimum of problems.

If you avoid mistakes, then you’ll have gone a long way toward making your air travel experience successful.

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Part One

Part Three

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    Tom Costley

    When Tom Costley founded Overland in 1984, he sought to create experiences for young people that were fun, where new friendships could grow, where natural beauty was embraced, where there were real and varied challenges, and where Overland’s students would achieve something of importance to them. Overland’s focus on small groups, carefully crafted trips, and superlative leadership has made it a leader in the summer camp world. Overland’s commitment to excellence in everything it does has led to its success: over the past four decades, Overland has served 40,000 students and 5,000 trip leaders. Tom writes about the outdoors and travel from Williamstown, Massachusetts.

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