American Airlines flight attendant Kevin Burrows shares his expert advice about how to survive air travel this winter.

It’s that time of the year where we have to start thinking about winter travel, and we have to start planning our holidays visits. The holiday season is the busiest time of year to air travel, and there are a few things you should consider before making that long haul trip across the country to see Grandma and Grandpa. Here are 5 tips to consider when planning your winter air travel.

5 Ways To Make Holiday Air Travel Less Stressful

1. Fly non-stop whenever possible

This is very important because the more connections you have, the more room you have for mistakes. Especially flying through northern airports you really have to be careful of snow storms and major delays. Even the slightest delay can make you miss your connections depending on where you are sitting on the aircraft, how big the airport is, and how much time you gave yourself to connect. On a normal day I suggest at least a 45 minute connect time. During the winter / holidays I suggest at least an hour and a half. Flying non-stop allows you to get to your destination is just one flight without the added stress. Yes, it’s going to be more expensive, but remember what you’re paying for. Convenience.


2. Purchase Travel Insurance

Every airline is different, but it’s common that if you book your flights through a 3rd party travel site the airline is not responsible for re-booking your travel if something happens that's out of the airlines control, like weather. If you’re worried about weather or other natural disasters I suggest buying travel insurance. There are several companies who supply insurance, but make sure you understand what they will and will not cover. You can choose your policy and purchase insurance before your trip starts. It usually covers acts of terrorism, illness, and/or severe weather. This is really smart especially if you're traveling during the winter where snow storms start hitting the globe nonstop.

3. Avoid trouble hubs

We have all heard of the worst airports in the country, and well, there's a reason for that. Major airlines like American and Delta operate massive amounts of flights daily, therefore making aircraft traffic unbearable. You have to remember that during peak travel time airlines increase their flight operations, making it more congested at their largest hubs. This causes longer taxi times, less available gates at each airport, and obviously more people to dodge in the airport. Some major hub cities to avoid are Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, Dallas, LA, and San Francisco. If you can avoid these six cities, you’re off to a great start.


4. Always check the weather

This is a no-brainer, but make sure you’re always keeping an eye on the local weather of your home airport and your destination airport. A little tip from me is to always check the weather in each state that your aircraft will be traveling over. Just because there's no weather where you start and end, doesn't mean that there isn't a snowstorm in between. This can cause a diversion or a reroute, which will put you way off track. This also goes hand and hand with travel insurance, because if you know that you’ll be affected by weather, you can always re-route your trip through a different city. Make sure you sign up for your airlines alert system so you can always be in the know of delays and/or cancellations.


5. Considering giving to your flight crew

While you’re busy traveling to go see loved ones, the flight crew is busy getting you from point A to point B safely. That being said, they’re not able to spend the holidays with their family, because they’re getting you to your loved ones. As biased as this may seem, a little gift could turn a bad flight into a good flight. Being away from family and friends isn't easy. At the end of the day, the flight crew goes to an empty hotel room where they eat leftover plane food and watch the very limited selection of cable channels. We usually never get a Thanksgiving dinner anymore. A $5 Starbucks gift card, box of chocolates, or even a thank you note goes a long way. It will lift the spirits of the flight crew, and it will definitely make your flight more enjoyable. And hey! We might even throw in a free drink!


This article was written by Kevin Burrows.