1. Check In Online
The line at your airline's check-in desk or kiosks can be long and aggravating. Consider checking in online and printing your boarding passes at home. Then, once you get to the airport, you can quickly check your bags or, if only taking carry-ons, head straight to security.
2. Sign Up for Email or Text Message Alerts
There's nothing worse than arriving at the airport only to discover you'll be delayed for a while. Signing up for email or text message alerts is a great way to stay informed of any itinerary changes affecting your trip. While it would be great for customer service to get in touch to inform you of such changes, in this day of cash-strapped airlines operating on short staffs, it's highly unlikely.
3. Make Sure All Gifts Are Unwrapped—or Ship Them Ahead of Time
During the holidays a few years back, my friend's mother and cousin were traveling together for their annual family reunion. At the airport, her cousin asked her mother to watch his bag of Christmas gifts while he went to get a snack. Thinking she'd be helpful, she decided to go through security with the packages. An official, curious about the (wrapped) gifts, asked what they contained.
"I don't know," my friend's mother honestly replied. "Someone gave them to me."
Needless to say, she was detained until the cousin returned, the packages were unwrapped and rustled through for contraband, and a situation that could have been expedited got dragged into a prolonged affair.
Long story short: If you're bringing holiday gifts to the airport, make sure they're unwrapped and keep all of them with you at all times. Or, better yet—save everyone a lot of hassle and get them shipped to your destination in advance.
4. Know Your Airline's Baggage Policies and Be Prepared
The days of arriving at the airport, checking your bag with ease, and moving along to your gate are long over. Many carriers have now implemented first- and second-checked-bag fees; you may also find additional penalties for your bag's weight or size. Additionally, if you're transporting something unusual, such as skis, antlers, or the like, expect to be socked with an additional fee. The best tip? Know what you'll be paying before you go, so there are no unnecessary surprises, conflicts, or negotiations once you get to the check-in counter.
5. Have All Contact Information Handy
If you do find yourself delayed en route, make sure you have all customer service phone numbers easily accessible. You'll want to have the number for your airline, hotel, rental car, and tour operator ready in case you need to update your arrangements on the go. And if you're at the airport already, get in line while also calling customer service to stay ahead of the game and minimize further delays.