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Pack patience for air travel amateurs

By Brett Snyder, Special to CNN
updated 8:49 AM EST, Mon December 19, 2011
More time and patience will be needed to navigate airports over the holidays.
More time and patience will be needed to navigate airports over the holidays.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Infrequent fliers will be out en masse over the holidays
  • Note to seasoned travelers: Be nice, allow extra time
  • Check your bags to avoid elbowing for overhead space

Editor's note: Brett Snyder is the founder of air travel assistance site Cranky Concierge, and he writes the consumer air travel blog The Cranky Flier.

(CNN) -- Everyone loves the holidays, right? Business slows down, and people get to spend time with their families and friends. But when it comes to holiday air travel, it's a different story.

Business travelers who are used to the routine of travel find their peace invaded by amateurs, and stress levels go up all around. Here are some tips to make things run a little more smoothly for agitated frequent fliers.

Take more time

The old saying "time heals all wounds" actually fits quite nicely here, just tweak the intended meaning. When you travel around the holidays, leave more time for just about everything. The wait for the shuttle from the parking lot can be longer, and so can the line to check your bags. Security lines are longer, boarding lines are slower ... you get the idea. So just leave yourself some extra time, and don't test the system to see how close you can cut it, as you might normally do.

If you still haven't scheduled your flight, look at trying to add some extra time in your itinerary. Go a day or two before you need to be somewhere, just in case. And add some time on your layover. Normally, you want the shortest layover that's legal, but in this case, a buffer can't hurt. There aren't going to be as many options for a new flight at this time of year if things go wrong, so give yourself some slack.

A guerrilla approach to flying with kids

Chill out

Getting all wound up about things isn't going to get you there any quicker. If that person in front of you in the security line forgets to take off her shoes or fails to remove her laptop, just take a deep breath and realize you'll get there sooner or later.

This is sort of a golden rule for all parts of the journey: Just chill out. When it's time to board the flight, don't huddle around the gate, waiting for your chance to jump on. Just relax, and head up there when it's your turn. Of course, you ache to get up there in every bone in your body, because you need that bin space, right? That brings me to my next point.

Pack light or check a bag

When you're on the road, your goal is to squeeze everything you need into your carryon, right? If you can't pack light, give yourself a break and just check a bag or two if you need it. You'll be amazed at how much easier things are when you aren't fighting for space for your bulging bag in the overhead bin. Just bring what you need on the airplane, and it'll fit nicely under your seat.

I know, I know, you don't want to pay bag fees. If you're an elite frequent flier, you won't have to. But if you're not, you can try to fly Southwest or JetBlue, neither of which charge for your first bag. Just remember to compare total prices, because you might find another airline to be cheaper, even when you check a bag.

Bring a distraction

This is the time of year when the talkers come out of the woodwork. Often, it's the infrequent flier who's a little nervous about flying, or sometimes people just don't realize how annoying their chatter can be to some people. Regardless, there's a better chance that you'll get stuck next to a talker around the holidays.

Bring headphones or a book, or even an eye mask for sleep. That's the best way to signal to your seatmate that talking time is over. Sadly, this doesn't always work, but it should help a lot.

Be nice

If you're a frequent traveler, you probably already know this last tip quite well. But there's nothing wrong with a little reminder. As frustrating as the experience can be when you're a pro traveler surrounded by newbies, just be nice ... to everyone. It can go a long way to making this a more pleasant travel season for anyone taking to the skies.

Remember that the gate agent didn't cause snow to cancel your flight, that guy in front of you didn't make the plane break, and, ahem, Mr. Baldwin, that flight attendant didn't make the rule that requires you to turn your electronic devices off.

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