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TRAVEL TIPS: Our top hacks, suggestions and secrets for making the best of airline travel

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | July 13, 2018 at 9:29 a.m.

This is fairly obvious, but for those who aren’t sure, I can attest to the fact that TSA Precheck is worth every penny of the $85 membership (good for five years).

— Karen Martin

Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy two tickets rather than one (or four tickets rather than two.)

American Airlines and Southwest, for example, are offering $49 flights from Little Rock to Dallas. As a result, one can save money by buying (for example) a LIT-DFW ticket and then a DFW to DCA (Washington Reagan) ticket as opposed to buying a LIT-DCA ticket.

— Frank Lockwood

Do you have a favorite airport kiosk that has great food and short lines? A favorite lounge? A carry-on that’s been a lifesaver? Share your best airport hacks with fellow readers and read ours below.

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Cousin’s Barbecue in DFW Airport… never expected to find good barbecue in an airport; Cousin’s was excellent. The Fort Worth-based restaurant has six locations in the Fort Worth area, including two at the DFW Airport in DFW’s Terminal B: gate 12 and gate 47. Wondrous fork-tender beef brisket! Servings were generous and the sides, including coleslaw and beans … were flavorful. The beef and pork are all-natural; no hormones, no antibiotics. One of the better barbecue meals I’ve had …

— Ellis Widner

Roll your clothes when you pack so you can get more in your carry-on case. Skyroll — skyroll.com — sells a carry-on suitcase and garment bag in one; the garment bag wraps around and attaches to the outside of the suitcase. Make sure the purse, messenger bag or computer bag on which you also get a free pass is cleverly designed for storage.

— Helaine Williams

I used to fly in and out of the Atlanta airport quite a bit and really liked their Cafe Intermezzo in Concourse B. It’s small and can feel a little cramped with everyone’s bags and things, but they have crazy good coffee drink options, and tons of tasty desserts, too. They have real food, too, but the coffee and desserts are most memorable, I think.

— Jeanne Lewis

A few years ago, I was home in Philadelphia over Christmas and a nearly two-foot snowfall canceled almost all the flights out of Philadelphia International Airport, including my flight on Delta, and at many other airports up and down the East Coast. In trying to reschedule my flight, It was impossible to get through on either Delta’s main number or the number they have set up for frequent flyers, and the website, too, was snowed under. (This was before Delta had set up an app that might have made connecting easier.)

My sagacious father suggested that, as a member of AAA, I should call to see if they had a back-door, travel-agents only number for the airline. Which they did. I only reached a recording that said they’d return the calls in the order that they were received, but they’d call back. Which they did, within about 90 minutes. The next flight they could get me on wouldn’t take off for three days but at least I spent those three days a) at home and not at the airport, b) not on the phone or the computer trying to get through to the airline, and c) with a firm reservation for a flight.

— Eric Harrison

I always get air sick. My biggest tip is to buy Dramamine at Walmart and have it ready because it costs a MINT to buy Dramamine at the airport when you’re desperate for relief. I’d love to know any tips people have about not getting sick on airplanes.

— Sandra Tyler

• Remove footwear and have it in hand when you enter the TSA screening line. It’s easier to wear loafers, boots or other laceless shoes.

• Dress well. Wearing a suit or business casual stands out positively among fliers wearing jimmies, flip flops and other Xanax-chic apparel, and this garners better, more respectful treatment from TSA and airline staff.

• If your schedule is flexible — more likely on a return flight — be willing to negotiate terms when they call for volunteers to surrender their seats on overbooked flights. You can get some really sweet deals this way. On three different occasions I have been upgraded to First Class on later flights. Sometimes they ask if you’ll be willing to give up your seat in advance at check-in. Do not be afraid to ask, “What’s in it for me?” I was handsomely rewarded for that question while checking in at Panama City, Fla.

• I always get a pecan-encrusted, caramel covered apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory at the Denver Airport. See’s Candy is a must-have in the West. I see it in Denver, LAX and San Diego.

• Showing humility and respect to customs and security officials in foreign airports goes a long way to avoiding problems and smoothing your way. My brother nearly got in big trouble at a South American airport during a routine bag inspection. All was well until he made a circle with his thumb and index finger. In the States, that means, “Cool, fine, A-OK.” In Sudamerica, it means you’re calling the recipient an a**hole. Big mistake. Fortunately, a Spanish-speaking companion was able to diffuse the situation.

— Bryan Hendricks

• If you need to avoid dairy, don’t assume that airport coffee shops’ “plain oatmeal” is dairy-free. For example, at the Denver Airport, Caribou Coffee’s six-grain plain oatmeal is made with something called bou powder, which adds the creamy texture and does contain dairy.

• The hotels that Expedia lists as “pet friendly” might or might not accept cats, so it’s smart to call and ask before you book. Also, “with conditions” can mean an extra fee. For instance, Residence Inn Little Rock Downtown accepts any pet, and the cleaning fee is $75.

• If you buy a nonrefundable ticket and then have to cancel the flight, it pays to call the airline and ask whether it will give you credit toward a future flight. I thought I’d bought a refundable ticket from Colorado Springs to Arkansas on American Airlines, but in fact I’d picked a no-refund ticket (so I’m not a great shopper). Counting taxes, it was a $434 mistake. Ouch. The airline gave me credit worth $234 in future travel. Better than nothing.

• Visiting London in April 2018, we found ourselves lost in the Tube underground and getting really close to the end of the day’s service to the area where we’d booked a hotel. It may be one of the world’s great cities, but most of London’s 11 Underground lines do not run 24 hours a day. Fortunately, every staff person we met was really friendly. A man with a badge listened to our gasped “how do we get to …”, gave us succinct directions, pointed to the right tunnel and said, “Quick.” We just caught the last train.

Once you learn to read its maps and use its app, the tube seems almost logical, and, if you pay via Oyster card and avoid rush hours, it’s an inexpensive way to get around. The Victoria, Central, Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines did have Night Tube service in April. Others generally stopped at midnight, and Sunday hours are shorter. Night owls should research the bus routes, too. Also, in touristy areas, it often makes more sense to walk than use the tube.

• Don’t call your waist-wrapping utility belt a “fanny pack” in Europe. Call it a “bum bag.” I don’t want to explain why. You could Google to find out.

• Visiting Ireland’s Ring of Kerry, we enjoyed a free tasting at the Skelligs Chocolate factory and cafe in The Glen, Ballinskelligs, near the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This a family business near the spectacular Skelligs Michael, which was the setting for part of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You step to a counter where a pleasant lady cuts little pieces of intensely flavored chocolate truffles and then watches your reaction as you enjoy them.

You can see them making the candy, too.

It really was a free tasting, although we bought a lot of chocolate before we left the cafe!

The cafe is a simple affair, but with terrific cocoa and treats.

— Celia Storey

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