Few of us have the luxury of living and working close together. Most people endure some sort of commute - travel between our home and place of work - on a regular, if not daily, basis. Some of us drive, or take public transit, or perhaps cycle. The truly lucky among us are close enough to walk. The one thing that most have in common is a dislike for that morning and afternoon commute - traffic is bad (rush hour, after all), transit is crowded, and the weather may not always cooperate with our walking or cycling plans.
Now imagine if your commute included the airport. Parking, check-in, security clearance and waiting in the terminal every day. Air commuters are more common than you might think...people living in areas with many islands (Japan, the Maritime provinces in Canada), consultants, salespeople, and many more. They have to travel by plane every day, or every few days. Think you could handle that? Stressful? Yes. But there are ways to make it better.
Airport Parking Pass
First of all, if you’re spending a few days a week at your local airport, get yourself a parking pass. Virtually every airport will offer something, and they come with a variety of perks: cheaper rates, priority parking lots/spots, discounts within the terminal, and so on. If nothing else, it eliminates the need to a) have small change on hand for parking meters and terminals, and b) the need to keep track of your parking slip. A parking pass typically does all that for you. Check with your home airport to see what’s available.
Research Frequent Flyer Programs
If you’re flying a lot for work, you might as well rack up some travel points. Credit cards and airlines offer loyalty cards that reward you with points that can be redeemed for travel or hotel, car rental, and other discounts. As a bonus, most offer priority check-in and sometimes even security clearance when you reach a certain level or tier. One word of caution, though. Confirm that using a reward program doesn’t violate or break any rules with your employer.
Buy Commuter Tickets or Passes
Some areas - like Japan and the Maritimes - offer commuter passes for air commuters. The Air Canada Commuter Flight Pass, for example, includes anywhere from 10 to 200 one-way “credits” between Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia. Buying and using a commuter pass removes the need to purchase airline tickets each time you need to fly. Save a bit of time and money and use these passes whenever available.
Travel light. There is nothing more irritating after a long (or short) flight than having to stand around and wait for your luggage at the bag carousel. Bring only a carry-on bag, and you walk off the plane and out of the airport. No waiting. Checking-in becomes easier, too, as many airlines now offer self-check in when you don’t have any additional luggage. Just be sure to know and adhere to the airline restrictions on carry-on bag dimensions and weight. If you can’t fit everything into one carry-on bag, and you frequently travel to the same destination and stay in the same hotel, consider travel caching. Many hotels would be happy to store a small bag or suitcase for you between visits. You simply leave everything you need for your trip at the hotel. Some will even launder your clothes (for a cost, of course), fold everything, and lock it away safely until you return. Include toiletries, work clothes, undergarments and casual wear for a few days.
Travel “Go Bag”
Your carry-on, or additional purse-sized bag (many airlines allow you to bring a carry-on AND a small purse or backpack) should include a few comfort items to make your flight more enjoyable. A small paperback book or e-reader, good quality headphones or ear buds, lip balm and moisturizer (the air is notoriously dry), a small bottle of water, snacks, and $10-20 dollars cash for miscellaneous purchases make the flight go by faster. You don’t have to wait for snack and beverage service (if you get it at all...many commuter flights have removed it altogether). Replenish your go bag as needed.
Flying frequently - when you don’t have a tropical vacation waiting for you when you land - can be exhausting. Follow these few simple tricks to make it better. It might not be ideal, but every little bit of saved time, money, and hassle makes it that much better.