Getting on an airplane, especially for international travel, has in most travelers minds become the absolute worst part of a trip, and for many legitimate reasons. Customer service levels have dropped, seats have shrunk in size, punctuality has suffered and don't get me started on where your baggage may end up. Personally, I still love to work my way through an airport, as efficiently as possible. My own rules are to fly business class for any flight over 7 hours, whether I'm finding a good fare or spending my hard-earned award points.
So one tip before we even get to our Top 5 is to save your credit card and airline loyalty points for the long distance international business class splurge you deserve, and book them as soon as the window opens usually 11 months before travel. Nearly all award bookings are cancellable for a full refund of the points and any associated taxes, so you have nothing to lose.
Top 5 - The J5 Fly Guide
1. TSA/Global Entry
Global Entry includes TSA precheck so is the best value out there in terms of a program that can cut your lines at an airport. Global Entry can also be spectacularly rewarding on arrival back in USA. I have honestly saved well over an hour on several occasions at Charlotte, Miami and JFK airports just in the last couple of years.
Processing times are long, so just get on and do it. I promise it will pay off, and there are several credit cards that will refund the cost as a card benefit, so check on that too.
2. Lounges (above and below)
I'm not going to go into the details of which credit cards come with which access to which lounges, but just know that there are several options out there, where you can effectively receive lounge entry at airports all over the world for no extra cost over your credit card annual fee. Despite many lounges being filled to capacity over the last few months, during shoulder season and off-peak travel times this benefit is a way to take away stress while waiting for a flight and can save the day when there are significant delays.
3. Airline Status
Airline loyalty programs are continually shifting and it is really difficult to keep up with them and understand the potential benefits and pitfalls. We suggest getting to know your preferred airline intimately. Take the time to go through the airline's website and all pages on loyalty...how you earn points, what are your benefits at a certain status, how are points best used, what partner airlines can you book award flights with etc.
With many programs going to points earning through credit card spend, also understand where you are in qualifying for next years status and whether it's worth chasing that next level up.
It's probably my biggest pet peeve that virtually every airline has a different policy on reserving seats for your flights. Different status levels can get you better or even free access, some airlines charge for any seat after booking, even in business class, some small airlines don't actually have seat reservation capability, and you have to rely on allocation at check-in. As you can imagine, this confuses our clients as much as ourselves.
The tip: if seat locations are very important to you then book them, either for free (if applicable) or by paying the fees immediately after you make your reservation. If seat location is not imperative and the extra cost is prohibitive, then grab them when online check-in opens, as this is when there is usually a decent selection for free.
5. Team Tips
Here are the team's tips (well, those in the office today!) to improve your on-board experience.
Shanna - Don't forget your noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds (above). The whole team has these and they really make a difference when you want to tune out.
Morgan - Wear layers to avoid what can be wide temperature fluctuations on board. A super thin, easily packable thermal blanket is also a great addition to your hand luggage.
Kendall - For long haul flights Kendall always wears compression socks to keep bloodflow on track, and she finds she is far more energetic when reaching the destination even with jetlag.
John - Apart from booking a lie-flat seat, hydration tablets are a really good idea for long haul travel, both on the aircraft and over the first few days of you trip.
If you're ready to start planning your next vacation with J5Travel, let us know by clicking the button below.
I love travel and I love travel planning just as much and I am proud to be building a team as passionate about exploring the world as myself. It took me a very long time to align my career with my undeniable passion for exploring, but now I and the team are here for you. Your personal travel tailors - award reservation and luxury custom itinerary experts.
We provide a bespoke service, imagining and creating itineraries for independent minded families and groups.
Follow us on our travel adventures and stay up to date on the latest in the travel industry.