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Priceline and Hotwire Air Travel Check List

Tips to help your flights go smoothly

This page gives you practical, easy-to-follow tips to help your airline trip go smoothly. Most of this information is helpful for travelers with any type of online ticket, not just Hotwire and Priceline travelers.

Although we list many steps here, it's easier to do these than to try to solve some reservation problem at the last moment.

These airline travel tips add to what you learned in Airfare Savings Strategies.

Day one

Once you have your on-line reservation, you have a few more essential steps to take.

  • Print out your itinerary and receipt as “proof” that you are booked and prepaid. This receipt should show your transaction number and an 800 number for customer service.

    Be sure to take this itinerary and receipt when you go to the airport—along with your government issued photo ID.

  • Next, confirm that your airline actually has your reservation by calling the airline at least 30 minutes after booking your reservation but on the same day. Ask for and then write down your airline confirmation number on your printout.

  • While on the phone, request specific seats (most people prefer aisle or window ones for extra comfort). If too early, find out when you can request these.

Ask about check-in times and kiosks

When you call the airline to check on your reservation, also ask the suggested and minimum check-in times for your flight.

There are two deadlines you should know:

  • The deadline for checking in, with or without luggage to be checked, and

  • The deadline for showing up at the departure gate before your seat is given to a standby passenger.

Ask if your departure airport has check-in kiosks—computers for automatic self-check in.

If your airport does not have check-in kiosks, it's best to allow extra check in time. You’ll find out how to use these kiosks below.

Seventy-two hours prior to departure (unless just booked)

Due to higher fuel prices, airlines have been canceling and consolidating more flights than usual.

Go online or call the airline to make sure that your flight numbers and times have not changed. If flight times or numbers have changed, ask your airline to confirm that you're on the new flight.

The earlier you find out about changes, the easier it is for your airline to fix any problems, if it has not already done so. You can also let the airline know if you can leave earlier or later if you're interested in more flight options.

NOTE: For some international trips, especially when flying on non-U.S. airlines, you must reconfirm your return reservation with the airline at least 72 hours prior to departure, or your booking may be cancelled.

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Avoid checking luggage if at all possible. Increasingly, you have to pay extra to do so. More importantly, although airlines eventually recover most missing bags, too many are delayed.

Instead, spend extra time carefully planning what you will carry on.

Generally, for domestic flights, you may carry on one smallish bag plus one personal item, such as a briefcase or purse.

I use a soft-sided suitcase that squeezes into small spaces.

For the personal item, I use a small backpack made for a laptop, which has room for other items.

(For additional suggestions, ask a female or male friend who frequently travels for professional reasons. Almost invariably, they've learned not to check luggage.)

If you need to pack a lot, call your airline to find out allowed dimensions and weight for your larger bag—both as carry on and as checked luggage. Allowances vary by airline and destination, and are steadily being reduced during this time of increasing fuel costs.

Never pack prescription drugs or valuables in your larger bag, in case your airline wants to check it (or store it out of sight on a smaller plane).

Be especially careful that you don't accidentally attempt to carry on prohibited items. The following link, which opens in a new window, lists prohibited items for U.S. departures: TSA: What to Know before You Go.

24 hours prior to traveling

Twenty-four hours prior to departure

If you have access to a printer, print out your boarding passes online. Visit the check in area on your airline's home page.

At this time, you'll be given the chance to change your seating assignment.

You need not complete this check-in process exactly 24 hours prior, but I like to do so, because of the chance to get better seats.

If you don't have some of the information needed to check in online, call your airline.

Note: If you're traveling on Southwest, definately check in online as close to 24 hours prior to departure as you can. This is your best chance to get a good seat—not a specific seat assignment, but instead the priority to board early to select a good seat. Also, for top priority, check in online on Southwest even if you can't access a printer. You can then print out your priority boarding pass at the airport.

Prior to traveling to the airport

Check your flights online one more time, in case of weather or other delays. The homepages of airline sites have a section where you can enter your flight numbers for quick updates.

If it looks like any of your flights may be delayed, and you might have trouble making a connection, call your airline. It's much easier to correct this situation now than at the airport.

At the airport

If you printed out your boarding pass online and have no luggage to check, you're in luck. Go directly to security bypassing the check in lines.

If your airline has check-in kiosks at your airport, you'll may still be able to check yourself in and board very quickly, as long as there are no delays at the security check point.

You'll find that the on-screen instructions are very easy to follow.

Typically, you can insert (and then quickly remove) any credit card with your name on it or perhaps your passport, in order to print a boarding pass, which you’ll need to show security. The credit card does not need to be the one used to buy your ticket. Alternatively, you may be asked your frequent flyer number.

You should also request specific seats at this time, if you have not already done so. You can also check if better seats are available.

If there are no kiosks, just get in a check in line to get your boarding passes.

Airport security

At security, wait until you are first in line for the metal detector before putting your laptop or other valuables on the conveyor belt. Otherwise, these could move out of your sight, and easily be stolen. (Put your larger bag and shoes on the belt first so that you're not holding up the line.)

Once through the detectors, remember to collect all your items. This point seems obvious, and yet Security sometimes finds jewelry, computers, and even purses left behind.

Departure gate

Because departure announcements as well as other loudspeaker messages often compete with each other, it can be hard to hear your own departure announcement. Protect yourself by being near your gate at or before the time to board.

BidonTravel wishes you a smooth trip!

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