a view of the wing of an airplane

There’s so much to learn in the travel world. Much like the final play of a football game, or the last act of a great play – all knowledge is put to the test, every time you step into an airport, onto a plane, into a hotel or even well before- when booking travel. Here are five things frequent travelers never do at any step of the process…

a crowd of people in a terminalUse The General Security Lane…

There are so many ways to bypass the general security lane, even when flying economy. Frequent flyers do not stand in this agonizing line- ever. If you want to be a smart traveler, like the world’s best frequent flyers look into programs like: CLEAR, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. Of course, if you fly enough with one single airline, you’ll earn the right to use the priority lane for free.

a row of seats in an airplaneForget To Select An Airline Seat…

There’s a long standing myth that not selecting a seat is the best way to get an upgrade. That’s false. Not selecting a seat will get you the worst seat, in economy. Frequent flyers don’t do that. Frequent flyers always carefully select a seat and look to improve their seat assignment by using tools like ExpertFlyer to see when better ones become available. THEN they hope for upgrades.

a black wallet with a blue and black designPay For Travel Using A Debit Card…

It goes without saying that frequent travelers earn a lot of miles for their flying, but the best ones also earn a ton of credit card points, which they can convert into frequent flyer miles. Paying with a debit card? Yeah, frequent flyers don’t do that. With a debit card you miss out on the up to 5X points per dollar spent that some credit cards offer, in addition to the airline miles you actually earn.

a room with a table and chairsStand In The Wrong Boarding Zone…

Frequent travelers hate crowded boarding areas. For that reason, they never, ever stand around the boarding gate when it’s not their turn. If you want to make friends with frequent flyers, you shouldn’t either. Frequent flyers generally board first, or board last– staying out of sight until it’s their turn. Gotta keep things orderly, in a chaotic world.

a pool with lounge chairs and a building with water in the backgroundBook With Travel Sites Versus Direct With Airline Or Hotel…

Whenever possible, frequent travelers never book using online booking sites. They know that when things go wrong– it’s much easier to deal directly with the airline or hotel you booked with. They also know that things like upgrades and perks are far more common when booking direct. Be smart like frequent travelers and book direct, assuming you can get the same price.

a close-up of a couple of suitcasesCheck A Bag…

Ok- never might be strong, but again, whenever possible frequent flyers do not check bags. Instead, frequent flyers become expert packers, buy sophisticated luggage and save countless hours checking and waiting for bags at each juncture. They can also assure their underwear will make it to their destination, which is not guaranteed for anyone else.

a cell phone on a tableMake A Reservation Without Monitoring It…

Most travelers pay for their hotel or airline ticket and then carry on living their lives. Frequent travelers don’t do that. Frequent travelers use apps and planning tools to stay on top of reservations. After all, schedule changes, hotel cancellations, aircraft changes and other crazy things happen all the time. Frequent travelers know before everyone else and they fix it.

a glass of champagne on a tableOrder A Special Meal In Economy…

Dietary restrictions aside- frequent travelers never order special meals while seated in economy. Why? Because they can guarantee they won’t receive an upgrade. Special meals move virtually any frequent flyer from the front of the upgrade list to the back. Knowing this, the best travelers eat before or after their flight, or bring snacks along to self cater. You can do that…

How many do you do?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Regarding your comment on special meal, does this apply to System Wide Upgrade requests as well? Flying international and have requested vegetarian meals. Thanks!

  2. Not a bad post, maybe Yahoo or Huffpost will link to it.

    I would add:
    Frequent Travelers don’t treat flight crews or gate agents badly. Those folks control our world.
    Frequent Travelers don’t sit in the general gate area when ever possible. Lounge access is much nicer, although far from perfect.
    Frequent Travelers never check in at the airport (unless they have to). It’s much better to check in through an app or online.
    And then there is stuff that Frequent Travelers are guilty of but shouldn’t ever do like say slam hotel doors.

    1. You make some really good points, the first of which resonates most strongly with me.

      As a former bartender, I have a lot of empathy of people in the service industry, and as a frequent traveler, understand all too well that the flight attendants & gate agents hold the keys to the kingdom.

      Even if you’re upset – don’t take it out on them. Take it up with the airline after you’ve had time to cool off and think without being negatively impacted by your emotional state at the time.

  3. FF – always carry a hard copy of their boarding pass when traveling abroad. Many security checks and immigration booths refuse anything electronic

    FF – tacking on to checking a bag. Not checking one also allows for same day standby (depending on airline and status) as well as less complicated voluntary bumps

  4. As someone who flies about 100k miles per year (currently based in India, but originally from Houston), the only one I do on this list is check bags… almost every single time I fly.

    I think the last time I didn’t check a bag was back in 2012 when I had a day flight to London for a meeting (I lived in Aberdeen at the time.)

    It’s a necessity living as an expat particularly since many airlines have limited carry on space, which I prioritize for my camera gear. Clothes are cheap. $3500 DSLR plus lenses not so much. Plus, checked bags gives me a lot more flexibility when packing on both sides of a trip – what I bring with … and what I can bring back. Status & an airline credit card guarantee the checked bags are free with priority, so wait times are generally minimized, although it does slow down entry into the US (and India) since we have to collect bags & recheck them after clearing customs… going AND coming.

    The rest of your list I 100% agree with.

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