Your Sanity-Saving Pre-Flight Checklist

Eleven things to do before you board to have a great trip.

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Photo by Aaron Dyer

At Home

  • Stay up-to-the-minute. Don't depend on your airline to let you know when there's a delay. Sign up for text and e-mail alerts with an online flight-tracking service, such as FlightStats (free, Android, iOs). Or manage your itinerary with Triplt Pro ($49 a year, Android, iOs), which comes with flight alerts.
  • Buy some peace of mind. Worried that a flight delay or cancellation will ruin a vacation? Berkshire Hath-away's AirCare insurance ($34, bhtp.com) will reimburse you $50 for a delay of more than two hours, $100 if you miss a connection due to a delay, and $500 if your bag goes missing for more than 12 hours. The company tracks flight status automatically and issues payments directly to a PayPal account or a debit card.
  • Score a prime seat. Don't want to pay extra for premium economy, and you're not into ponying up for a prime aisle seat ahead of time? Then sign up with ExpertFlyer.com, which alerts you when your seat of choice becomes free, so you can log on and grab it. Use the cabin maps at SeatGuru.com to help you pick.
  • Sync up with the time zone. Jettison jet lag by following the personalized schedule for your itinerary at StopJetLag.com. You'll get an hour-by-hour plan that includes when to eat, rest, exercise, and get sun exposure so you'll be right in step with your destination's local time.
  • Get fast-tracked. If you haven't already, sign up for TSA PreCheck ($85 for five years, tsa.gov), which will expedite you through security in more than 150 U.S. airports. Better yet, become a member of U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program ($100 for five years, cbp.gov) and you'll get PreCheck and the ability to zip through U.S. customs.
  • Check that your carry-on is really a carry-on. Some domestic carriers have started enforcing a 22-by-14-by-9-inch size limit, which not all bags advertised as carry-ons meet. To avoid gate checking (and paying) for a bag, go to the airline's site to find out size restrictions before you leave. For regulation-size carry-ons, try Tumi.com and Travelpro.com.
  • Size up toiletries. Limit liquids, gels, and aerosols to 3.4 ounces or less and place them in a one-quart clear plastic zip-top bag in your carry-on. For perfectly sized portions, head to 3floz.com to find TSA-approved minis of more than 60 brands.
  • Dress smart. To move through airports with ease and emerge from a flight unrumpled, stick with wrinkle-free fabrics, such as knits, jersey, and stretch denim. A cashmere wrap or sweater is invaluable in an over-air-conditioned cabin. And a comfortable pair of slip-ons will help you speed through security.

 

At the Airport

  • Know your way around. GateGuru (free, Android, iOs) helps you navigate terminals at more than 225 airports around the world and points you wherever you need to go. Handy on a layover, the app also lists airport amenities and restaurant reviews.
  • Stay connected. A Boingo account (from $5 a month) keeps you online at more than 30 domestic airports (and more than 1 million hot spots across the globe). If you set up a profile with the hot-spot provider's new Passpoint Secure service, you'll get even faster secure connections at a growing number of airports. (Tip: American Express Platinum cardholders are eligible for free accounts.)
  • Join the club. Dealing with a long layover or an extended delay? You can get a day pass to a lounge for $25 to $50, which can pay for itself in free Wi-Fi and food. Or consider a membership to an independent club, like Priority Pass ($99 a year, prioritypass.com), which has more than 700 lounges around the world.