7 Tips for Better Domestic Travel

Flying within the United States can be a less-than-luxurious experience. Here’s how to make it more comfortable.

Domestic travel can be especially grueling for the frequent road warrior. The pampering international lounges, premium cabins with extra frills, and the wanderlust of far-flung destinations are not the same for those making weekly commutes around the country.

Couple that with the occasional hiccup and you have a recipe for headache and heartache. But domestic travel doesn’t have to be so bad. These seven quick fixes could smooth out some of the bumps.

1. Get Pre-Check
First, the $85 fee for five years of Pre-Check is a bargain for domestic fliers and is unlike the hassle of Global Entry interviews. The online application takes a few minutes, and the appointment is only to be fingerprinted. Appointment centers are popping up everywhere in places like H&R Block and even convention centers during major events. Many credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum cards will even refund you the cost if you pay with the card. When searching for an appointment time online, keep in mind that the clunky scheduling system sometimes lists new times if you refresh or check different dates and return. Also, many centers allow you to drop in and wait in line for the 10-minute appointment.

2. Make sure Pre-Check shows up on your ticket every time
Airlines no longer dole out this expedited security to elites for free anymore, but to those who have enrolled, there are a few things you can do to make sure you sail through each time. Start by making sure your Known Traveler Number (KTN) is listed in all of your airline profiles. Once you enter it, Pre-Check should begin showing on your boarding pass automatically. Occasionally, tickets booked by third-party websites or travel agents don’t seem to populate the KTN field properly. While it does not allow you to enter it online within 72 hours of departure, an airline agent can do so. If you don’t see it on your boarding pass, just ask the ticket counter at the airport (or phone agent) to enter it manually and reprint your boarding pass. Voila!


3. No legroom? No problem
Keep in mind that people are changing seat assignments constantly until the moment the door closes. Fliers are being upgraded, missing connections, or swapping with families at the last minute. Just because there was nothing better available when you checked in, keep checking. As a last resort, ask the gate agent before boarding to see if you can move out of that awkward middle seat. It’s best to ask before boarding begins and things get really busy.

4. Get into the lounge—even when you’re not flying
Many airlines permit their club members to get a gate pass to clear security if they have a meeting scheduled in one of their lounges. Even if you are not traveling that day, if you hold an annual membership to a lounge, you are entitled access. Some agents are not keen on processing these gate passes, but it is within the rules of most airlines if you are a paying member. Simply ask at the ticket counter and explain the purpose of your visit. And no, visiting the lounge to score a few free drinks before a night on the town is not a valid reason. But meeting a client or using one of the club’s boardrooms is.

5. Know when you can use a lounge in another terminal
If you have a lounge membership or Priority Pass access to a lounge behind security in another terminal, access varies depending on the airport. Some airports won’t let you enter another secure area without a valid boarding pass for that terminal, but if you’re a member of an airline’s lounge, try asking for a gate pass as mentioned above. Other airports like Los Angeles and Orlando let you go through security in any terminal if you have a same-day boarding pass. This can be helpful if you have a long layover somewhere—but be sure to leave time to get back to your departure gate.

6. Get onboard Wi-Fi—for less
Gogo is one of the greatest things for productive fliers, although the prices can sometimes outweigh the benefit if you just need to check email. But there is a great trick. If you purchase an Internet pass when you make your reservation online (or any time before your flight), it is usually priced at a discount. Plus, cardholders with the American Express Business Platinum card receive 10 free Gogo inflight vouchers annually.

7. Get lounge access without airline loyalty 
Check your credit card. Many cards like the Citi Prestige, American Express Platinum, and Chase Sapphire Reserve come with Priority Pass. Sometimes you have to call the credit card program to request your membership packet, which is an extra step that might be holding some travelers back from accessing a lounge. For those enjoying Priority Pass with Chase Sapphire Reserve or Citi Prestige, there is yet another bonus. These versions of Priority Pass membership come with guest access (whereas others have to pay a fee to bring in a guest). Even if you don’t have lounge access, keep in mind that some cards like the American Express Platinum or Business Platinum cards and Starwood Preferred Guest and Starwood Preferred Guest Business credit cards also offer free wireless Internet through programs like Boingo Wireless to use in airports and hotels that partner with Boingo.

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