Bring a car seat for your child. "Car seats aren't just safer for children," notes Veda Shook, a flight attendant who has been with Alaska Airlines for 16 years. "They also help kids stay calmer, since they're used to being in them." Shook suggests investing in a car seat-stroller combination. "The seat slides right out of the stroller part, which you can check at the gate," she says.
Corral your in-flight necessities. Blocking the aisle during boarding while you dig for gum, a book, or a snack can delay the entire plane. Dezirae Bridges, a Delta flight attendant for 11 years, suggests packing small must-haves in a resealable gallon-size bag that you can toss onto the seat while you put away everything else.
Stow your bag near your seat. "It's tempting to toss your suitcase into the first empty space you see, but that slows down deplaning, as passengers who had to stow their bags near the back move downstream to collect their belongings," says Beth Jones (not her real name), a US Airways flight attendant with 34 years under her (safety) belt.
Call for help. If you've missed a connection, don't stand in line to rebook with a gate agent. Instead, use your cell phone to call the airline's customer-service number (tuck it in your wallet before leaving). You may speak to someone faster, giving you a better shot at a seat on the next flight.
Utilize cell-phone lots. Free-parking areas where drivers can wait for the "I'm here" call for 30 minutes or longer have sprung up at more than 50 airports in the last few years. For a complete list of these lots, visit the Airports Council International website at aci-na.org.
Get fed fast. To have dinner waiting in your hotel room when you arrive, call and order room service from the road. "It can save a hungry half hour," says Barbara Talbott, an executive with Four Seasons Hotels in Toronto who flies about 20 times a year.