Cultural Experience | Resources

9 Ways To Miss Your Flight

Mistakes you’re probably making and how to avoid them.

Alison Stone, WSA Europe guest writer

It’s good to be positive most of the time, but when you’re faced with a situation such as a “missed flight” all that Zen knowledge about peace and patience can disappear in a snap. Without a doubt, missing a flight is an awfully frustrating situation and one that will cost you money and time, apart from your sanity. We spend our next hours wondering what we could have or should have done to avoid this mistake. But by then, it’s probably too late.

If you are conventionally barely making it to flights (or have been fortunate enough to encounter a missed flight) , here are 9 mistakes you’re probably making again and again—and how to avoid them.

1. The last time you checked flight details was when you booked: Major misstep. This is especially important if you have booked a flight way ahead of time (for the next year, next holiday, etc). If need be, set a reminder on your phone a week or two before your flight so that you know exactly when to start preparing.

2. Banking on dangerously close connecting flights: We’re all in a hurry to get to our destination as soon as possible. However, this doesn’t mean that you book connecting flights that have a less-than-one-hour window between them. Even though airlines have increasingly made an effort to improve pre-boarding plans, there’s still a high chance you could get stuck in crowd when boarding off of a plane. Additionally, it could take time to get from one terminal to another. Moreover, it isn’t uncommon for flight timings to get slightly delayed, forcing you to arrive a bit late to the airport. To err on the side of caution, always book for ample time between two flights (at least an hour or more).

3. You haven’t checked your mail: We all get email and SMS notifications, but some of us tend to overlook these messages and check them at the very last minute. Don’t do that! Every time you get a notification double check your departure time, date, names, terminal numbers, flight number, and other information provided. For example, a simple name spelling error will lose you a flight just because it doesn’t match your I.D. Also, make sure the email notifications don’t end up in your spam folder!

4. You haven’t made a document checklist: Clearly, travelling requires documents other than tickets and boarding passes. Many travelers run into the problem of not having a valid passport. Some places require validity for a specific set of time.  The U.S. Department of State advises that you renew your passport early and avoiding the likelihood of running into travelling problems because your passport expires within six months.

5. You’re waiting to pack: It’s definitely not a good idea to pack on the same day as your flight. Not only will you risk missing out vital luggage, but also delay the packing process if you remember something “last minute”. Be sure to start packing in advance, possibly a week earlier and leave only the last two days for things you may have forgotten. Some airports also have small general stores where you can buy common luggage items but these are often overpriced.

6. Forgetting it’s a holiday: Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Days are some of the busiest travelling times of the year. You can expect to find a busy airport on holidays and typical vacation times. Plan for extra time getting to the airport and getting through security.

7. You plan to be “on time”: When it comes to airports, never plan to be “on time”—ever! Set the alarm early, have everything ready the night before – or the week before (your clothes, your shoes, your luggage, etc) – and make sure you arrive EARLY to the airport. Plan to arrive at least an hour or two before your scheduled flight, excluding the time it takes to travel to the airport. This will also give you plenty of time to locate your terminal, account for any changes, and be ready with all your necessary documents.

8. Meandering around the airport: Once you’ve spotted your gate and have all your documents ready, the next step is to stay nearby and wait patiently. When boarding starts, the line can get pretty long, so don’t hesitate to sit at the front, or at a seat that is the least distance apart from your gate. Try this on the plane as well if you want to get out fast!

9. Factor in security and customs: Depending on where you’re going, security could take forever to pack and unpack your luggage. This is especially true if travelling internationally. If you’ve packed something that seems “out of the ordinary” you can expect a slight delay just to do the explaining. And some airlines require a passport check even before security, so prepare for extra steps at the airport.

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Growing up the son of travel guru, Rick Steves, Andy visited his dad every summer with his family until he graduated from high school. Following extensive independent trips and a semester abroad in Rome, he witnessed a need for student-oriented travel. So Andy started working on Weekend Student Adventures, an online resource and travel company for backpackers in Europe. Since 2010, WSA is proud to have 3,000 happy customers and a great roster of young passionate guides across his 10 destinations in Europe.

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