Know your airport's code. It's easy for luggage-destination tags to get mixed up at a curbside check-in. Learn the three-letter airport code for your destination and make sure your skycap labels the bag properly. The codes aren't always intuitive (for example, New Orleans's Louis Armstrong Airport is MSY), so check the list at airport-technology.com, especially if your destination has more than one airport. "Cities with multiple airports can cause problems if passengers don't know which they're flying into," says Tim Wagner, a spokesperson for American Airlines.
Ask about your options. Stuck with your children at Boston's Logan Airport? An airport employee can direct you to terminal C, where a baggage carousel–style slide anchors a play area. Tired of the same old food-court choices? In the Austin, Texas, airport, make a beeline for Salt Lick―it serves up some of the state's best barbecue. You can even get through security faster by seeking out additional lines: "Airports will often open another line during peak times, so it pays to ask," TSA spokesperson Sterling Payne says.
Exercise caution in duty-free shops. "Not everything in duty-free is a bargain," says Janice Mosher, director of the Customer Service Center for U.S. Customs. "If you really want that bottle of perfume, find out what it costs in your local department store first." And consider the three-ounce rule when stocking up on things like alcohol and olive oil. "If you are transferring to another domestic flight after clearing customs in the U.S., you'll have to put your liquid duty-free purchases in a checked bag," Mosher says.
Spring for an afternoon in the lounge. For a fee―usually about $50 a day, which you can pay on the spot―you can take advantage of the snacks, uncrowded bathrooms, and comfy chairs at most airline club lounges, plus you can get help from the club's dedicated ticket agents. "Several times when it's looked like I would be stuck somewhere for another day, a club agent has pulled a rabbit out of his hat," says Bill Coffield, an attorney who flies between 50,000 and 100,000 miles a year.