Travel Hacking Tips

If you’ve traveled during the holidays, then you know that long, packed flights can be the worst. But they don’t HAVE to be. Here are a couple of tricks to help you get through:

1. Speak So Agents Will Listen

Let’s start right from the beginning of your travel experience. You have to think of counter agents and ticketing agents like the gatekeepers. Most people stomp right up to the counter, throw their bags at the agents and huff and puff when their flight is delayed. Your ticketing agent has nothing to do with your late flight, an oversold plane or a lost bag. However they have A LOT to do with free upgrades, rebooking seats and bag surcharges.

  • Use what I call the friendly three: use their name, ask how they are doing, thank them.
  • Set yourself apart from the crowd by engaging agents in a personal way. Try one of our killer conversation starters.
  • Bonus tip: Add a smile. As humans, we naturally mirror others’ facial expressions meaning that when we see an angry face, we make an angry face or when we see a smile, we smile too. Smiling at an agent upon approach will cause their facial muscles to react similarly and foster happiness– leading to a more pleasant interaction (and maybe even a flight upgrade or perk!)

travel hacking trips

2. Don’t Get Picked Out of Line at TSA

Do you want extra security checks? Do you want to be placed in the slower line? Do you want your bags to be searched? No! Be sure to make the TSA agents’ jobs easier. Here’s how: TSA agents are trained to look for terrorist behavior and this can get you pulled out of line for extra checking. Suspicious behavior is people who are looking down, have stiff upper body movement and make little eye contact with agents. You should do the opposite (luckily this is also friendly).

  • Look up and around when moving through the lines. Approach with your head up and with a smile. Make friendly eye contact as much as possible with agents.

travel hacking trips

3. Make Sure No One Cuts You in Line

There is a kind of dance that happens while waiting in lines for your boarding group or to get into the bathroom. The most important thing to remember is to use assertive body language. Wishy washy waiting just confuses people.

  • Never timidly approach a line or ‘half-wait’ along the side. That’s not waiting, that’s confusing people. Always claim your spot with 2 feet on the ground, with your body angled towards the end point and, if possible, place your bag next to you to claim horizontal space.
  • This type of assertive body language makes it less likely that you’ll be cut in line, jostled or pushed by other waiting passengers. Fight the urge to ‘get small’ (think rolled shoulders, narrow stance) and instead, keep your shoulders and stance wide.

travel hacking trips

4. Claim Your Seat Space

You have two precious space areas on a plane–your arm rest and your foot space. Three if you count baggage storage. But I want to focus on the body language cues of claiming your seat space. This is a multi-leveled approach.

  • Level 1: Sit with both of your feet on the floor so you can claim the foot area. Gently place your elbows on the arm rest–don’t be a hog. Take up the back or front. Don’t over-claim or you will get into an elbow war.
  • Level 2: If you have a hog, gently tap their arm with your elbow either in the front or back of the armrest. Not the middle. This is a signal to share. You can do the same with your knee if they are sprawling.
  • Level 3: Do NOT use your body if they are not sharing. Pressing your leg up against theirs or jabbing them with your elbow will not work. It will just make them claim harder. In level 3 remind them of their humanity. Simply say in the nicest possible voice, “Excuse me, may I have a turn on the armrest?” It works.

travel hacking trips

5. Make Friends Who Fly

The stewardesses are angels and can make your flight so much better. Plus they have a hard job so help them out. I always say hello to them with a smile and thank them when they serve me.

  • When you go to the bathroom, make chit chat and ask them if they have a long travel day. When they serve your drink or take your trash, say thank you! Sure, they might give you extra pretzels, but also this is just a kind way to fly during the holiday season.
  • Not sure what to say? Check out our guide on great conversations.

travel hacking tips

While holiday travel can be stressful, we hope that the above tips will give you a little more peace of mind. 

All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2015 Science of People, LLC
About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes.

More about Vanessa.

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