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16 Air Travel Tips to Follow for Smooth Flying

With inclement weather delays to in-flight problems, anything can happen when you're traveling via airline. The good news is, being prepared for the unexpected can be simple and easy. These travel tips for airline travel will show you the best way to handle a canceled flight, how to take a shower at the airport, and everything in between.

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Air travel tip #1: Don't wait at the gate desk when your flight is canceled

Don't get discouraged over a canceled flight just yet. The best way to handle an off-schedule flight is to call the airline as you wait on line at the ticket desk. There's a good chance you'll reach a phone agent first. Equally as important, you won't have to negotiate with the same frazzled agent who's dealt with dozens of similarly disgruntled fliers. These are the things airlines won't tell you, but every flier should know.

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Air travel tip #2: Don't expect non-peak crowds on peak days

Larger crowds lead to more chaotic parking and drop-off situations and longer wait times at security checkpoints. Plan accordingly. In general, airports are most crowded on Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, as these days bear the brunt of business travel. Expect Fridays to get even busier in the summer months as recreational travel peaks. You'll find the biggest crowds of the year on Thanksgiving Eve as well as the Sunday after it. And unsurprisingly, the busiest week to fly is the one that falls between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day; the Department of Transportation found that the number of long-distance travelers during this period rises by 23 percent.

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Air travel tip #3: Don't accept the first voucher on an overbooked flight

If your flight is overbooked, don’t accept the first voucher that comes your way. Airlines typically increase their offer until there are enough volunteers willing to give up their seats. If the airline bumps you involuntarily, insist on cash compensation instead of a voucher. Flying is rough enough; could you handle the longest flight in the world? 

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Air travel tip #4:  Visit the airport lounge during a long layover

For infrequent flyers, it’s hard to justify the several-hundred dollar annual fees that are associated with airline lounges. But if you’ve got a long layover, it might be worth it purchase a daily pass. One-day passes are available for Admirals Club, Sky Club, and United Club, all for $60 or less. Amenities include everything from complimentary snacks and drinks to Wi-Fi and shower suites. Here's how to make the most out of your airport layover.

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Air travel tip #5: Check in to your flight ahead of time

Along with saving you valuable time at the airport, checking in to your flight ahead of time can earn you bonus miles and help you score a better seat.

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Air travel tip #6: First class isn't where you'll escape motion sickness

While a last-minute upgrade might seem like a good idea—especially if you often find yourself falling ill on flights—the seats in the middle of the plane are best for those with motion sickness. "A plane is like a seesaw. If you're in the middle, you don't move as much," Patrick Smith, pilot and author of Cockpit Confidential, told Reader's Digest. Here are some more secrets your airplane pilot won't tell you.

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Air travel tip #7: Measure your carry-on ahead of time

Because carry-on requirements vary by airline (9"x14"x22" is standard for Delta, United, and American Airlines; Southwest allows 10"x16"x24") it's best to confirm space allotments and measure your bag before you pack. And if you stuff it to capacity, measure the suitcase again before you leave. Make sure you're following these golden rules for stress-free air travel.

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Air travel tip #8: Check airport monitors for flight information

While it's great to subscribe to flight-status updates on your smartphone (sign up for these when you check in to your flight), don't use them as your only source of information. Airport monitors are still your best bet for the most up-to-date information. Double-check your gate before you get on the trolley that takes you to the other side of the facility.

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Air travel tip #9: Don't pack liquids deep inside your carry on

Make security checkpoints a breeze by packing liquids (which are all 3.4 ounces or smaller and zipped into a 1-quart Ziploc bag, of course!) into an outside pocket of your carry-on. Laptops and tablets fall into the same category. Check out the TSA's website for a full list of items on the no-fly list, as well as tips for getting through security quickly. Learn some more secrets TSA gate agents aren't telling you.

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Air travel tip #10: Always bring a pen on an overseas flight

You'll need a pen to fill out immigration forms onboard. And your flight attendant will appreciate not having to supply the entire flight with extra ink. Here are some more things you should never, ever forget to pack when traveling internationally.

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