"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." --Fitzhugh Mullan
Doing my best to reinvent myself--for real--as the "travel enthusiast" I've claimed to be in bios around the Web, I'm editing some travel tips I wrote years ago. Really, now that I'm reviewing the material, I'm concluding, these seem almost too obvious to merit publication. Yet, while I worked at the Milwaukee airport (MKE), I noticed many travelers unknowingly missing out. So:
Checking weather, airports and flights before leaving for the airport is key--to proactive troubleshooting. Knowing the weather at the departure airport and all destinations will help with forming alternative plans and taking advantage of opportunity windows.
Check your flight and airport conditions at your departure city and all destinations before traveling to the airport!
Weather Underground provides weather information for worldwide locations, including current conditions, hourly forecasts, radar and satellite maps.
NOAA's National Weather Service
Local forecast by region or "City, St" search
WXnation: Weather Forecast, Radar, and Live Webcam Resource
Choose from more than 12,000 live weather radar and webcam images, plus get your local forecast, and check current conditions, traffic cams, and airport links in easy to navigate Web pages. WXnation.com is your weather and webcam resource.
Check flights, airports roads and TSA regulations ahead, too!
There are other services like this that probably work just as well, but I use this one, usually through its mobile app.
FAA's Flight Delay Information
Why not check this official Air Traffic Control System Command Center too?
AirlineTollFree.info - online directory for airline phone numbers and contacts
Browse by name, country or continent.
US DOT Federal Highway Administration - National Traffic & Road Closure Info
Each state has their own, too.
TSA.gov - listings of regulations, restrictions, and job openings
Read the official answers to your questions here, to do your best to avoid inevitable problems.
Newsflash: The electric signs in the airport may not show the latest information!
Tip: Arrive two hours early anyway...
"I had arrived at the airport one hour early so that, in accordance with airline procedures, I could stand around." --Dave Barry
While you're standing around, waiting out a flight delay or cancellation, you may grab a rare, fleeting rebooking or Plan B opportunity!
Tip: Lighten up...
You cannot pack lightly enough. Remember...On most trips, you will be able to buy any needed stuff as you go. Remember that trip when you didn't even open your tightly stuffed suitcase because you dreaded repacking all that stuff when you realized what you wanted to wear was underneath almost everything else?
For longer excursions, mail or ship your luggage ahead--or re-think "necessary" until you've lightened-up to the max. The airlines enforce weight limits because of high fuel costs, and oddball items there isn't yet an "official" answer for can slow your passage through the security checkpoint long enough to cause you to miss your flight (besides maybe losing the item). And no, they won't hold the plane.
Tip: Carry On!
According to a few ground handlers I used to work with, "There are three main types of checked airline luggage: Mis-routed (not really lost), damaged and destroyed (really lost)...!" I don't agree, however...[Update, 6/172014: Here, again, this stuff wasn't really lost!]
When I began working as an airport ramp agent, I stopped checking bags--ever. But, I noticed, suitcases were rarely lost or destroyed, and only occasionally severely damaged. Still, airlines all-too-often had to "expedite" luggage for certain flights (or so we termed it) due to weight and balance restrictions (often weather-related) that arose. That means leaving your bags aside and sending them on a later flight, even another carrier's, which leads to your stuff not arriving when and where you do, necessitating later delivery or pick-up.
Flexibility cultivated as a habit will help you stay calm and cool, the better to jump on alternative plans as opportunities arise. The new rules passed into law in 2010 limiting how long passengers can be kept aboard planes have prompted airlines to cancel more flights preemptively amid iffy-situations to avoid huge fines, instead of boarding passengers and awaiting windows of opportunity for take-offs while aircraft sit out on the tarmac.
Tip:Develop and get used to load plans for IDs, documents and carry-ons.
Travelers who aren't used to how they're carrying stuff frequently misplace, leave behind or lose items--or have everything at hand, yet, while panicking, can't put their hands on what's needed in the moment!
Shopping Tip: Laugh! Carry on your sense of humor & exercise your laugh-muscles as you fly! Reading a flight attendant's tales or a pre-9/11 true crime hijacking story might shift your perspectives on air travel troubles. But--caveat emptor--some Amazon reviewers found that flight attendant's sense of humor offensive and others found the hijacking story crime-glorifying.