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Cranky's Summer Travel Tips

Explorer C

Can you believe that Southwest actually asked me to guest post on the blog?  What is this world coming to?  I must admit that I got excited when Southwest asked me to put together some summer travel tips.  Every year, airlines come out with summer travel tips, and every year they say the same boring thing.  So this year, I thought I’d try to give a little, um, more variety.

First, what is so special about summer travel that it deserves its own set of travel tips?  You probably already know the answer.  This is the time of year when families take that big summer vacation, so planes are packed more often than not.  With that in mind, here are my summer travel tips.

Check-in Online – It’s a time-honored tradition to gather the family by the computer, sing songs, and head to to check-in exactly 24 hours prior to departure so that you get coveted “A” boarding passes.  (What, you guys don’t sing?)  Checking bags?  You can still check-in and drop your bags at the airport.  Not near a computer?  No biggie.  Check-in on your mobile phone at and print it out when you get to the airport.

“Patience” Isn’t Just a Guns N’ Roses Song – Combine full planes with summer thunderstorms and crowded airports and you won’t be surprised if delays happen.  Just remember to be patient and don’t take it out on the friendly Southwest employees.  It’s not their fault.  So find a quiet corner of the airport and take a few deep breaths.  They’ll get you where you need to go, even if it takes a little longer than you hoped.

Wake Up Early and Fly – Ever notice that those summer thunderstorms tend to happen more often in the afternoon?  Flying early in the morning means you have a better chance of arriving on time.

Don’t Stop – I don’t think we need to do the math here.  If you don’t stop, there’s less of a chance that you’ll be delayed.  Fortunately, Southwest flies nonstop to plenty of cities from every airport in their system.

Pack Light – I know you want to check those two huge (but underweight) bags (and Southwest is just about the only one airline that will let you do that without charge), but come on.  It’s warm.  Just throw a change of underwear into a backpack and head on your way.  Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but try to get everything into a carry-on and you’ll have less to worry about.

Middle Gets the Armrest – Southwest doesn’t fly any small jets.  In fact, every plane is a Boeing 737 with 3 seats on each side of the aisle.  Of course, with that configuration, someone is bound to be in the middle seat.  If you’re on the aisle or window, give the person in the middle a break and let that person have the armrests.  It’s the least you can do.

Keep Your Kids Busy – If you’re a parent, you know your kids need to be entertained.  Except for some aspiring singers/flight attendants and the view out the window, Southwest won’t provide you with entertainment so you need to bring something for the kids.  While you’re at it, might as well bring some for yourself as well.

Don’t Crowd the Aisle – When you get onboard, put your bag up and get out of the aisle quickly so people can get by and your flight can depart on time.  On the way out, let those in rows ahead of you exit first.  No cutting.

Spread the Drink Ticket Luv – If you’re a frequent flier and member of Rapid Rewards, you probably have plenty of those free drink tickets lying around.  Spend ‘em if you got ‘em.  Buy your seatmate a drink and make a new friend.

Don’t Line Up – It’s been a few months since Southwest introduced Bingo Boarding, but old habits die hard.  Just remember . . . you don’t have to line up at the gate anymore.  Sit back and relax and wait until they call your small group of 5 numbers.  If you start lining up, others will get nervous and then everyone has to stand for no good reason.  Do you really want that?

Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Drunk – If you’ve never seen Southwest’s starring role on A&E’s “Airline” television show, you may not realize that flying drunk means you have a very good chance of being denied boarding.  Oh yeah, no fighting either.  Don’t be that guy.

Wear a Suit and Tie – Yeah, right.  This is Southwest.  If the flight attendants wear polos and khakis, then you certainly can make yourself at home.

Bring Chocolate for the Crew – Could bribing with chocolate result in anything but a happier crew and better service?  I think not.

Bring Quarters for the Lavatory – Wait, this is still a joke right?  Ok, good.  Unless you want to honor Herb with a shot of Wild Turkey (or another alcoholic beverage or Monster energy drink), you won’t have to pay for anything onboard a Southwest flight.

Wear Closed-Toed Shoes and Socks – Seriously, I don’t want to see or smell your sweaty feet.  Besides, it’s safer that way anyway.

Take Public Transit to the Airport – This may be a challenge in some cities (I’m looking at you, Orange County), but you’ll save enough on gas and parking to be able to buy your family food in the airport.

Read My Blog, The Cranky Flier – If you like what you see here, come on over to my blog at  I write a new, helpful, and snarky post on the airlines every single weekday.

Happy (not Cranky) Flying!

Explorer A
Ha! these are awesome! & sooo true! When is season 2 and 3 of airline coming out on DVD? "Either think and act big and grow smaller, or think and act small and grow bigger."-Herb Kelleher
Adventurer C
Read you often Cranky. Great to see you here. Some advice for the experienced travelers (like me). Remember, lots of families travel in the summer and some travel very infrequently. Just 'cause they don't know the ropes quite as well as you doesn't make them worthy of scorn because of their inexperience. Advice for the inexperienced.....If you've got tons of family luggage, check it. Your on vacation and I've got one little carry on and headed to a business meeting. Time is money for me. Thanks.
Anyone who has the genuis to quote G&R is definately moving to the top of my list. You may have created a new fan Cranky.
Aviator C
CF, Welcome to our side of the blogosphere. Seriously folks, if you are at all interested in airlines and you don't read The Cranky Flyer blog you should. I'm just waitingg for him to start blogging on In and Out Burgers! Blog Boy
Explorer C
Public Transportation? I live at WN's homebase, well actually AA's over here in Ft Worth and let me tell you guys that dont live here, public transportation in DFW is a joke. Yes, there are a few places, like Plano that could easily get to DAL, but where most of us live, Frisco, Keller, Ft. Worth, etc...there is nothing. Too bad....I hate driving and traffic. I would much rather get a few extra chapters in on my reading prior to the flight. Its a good tip nonetheless, but Orange County isnt the only airport not feeling the LUV from the cities WN serves. (Cheesy, I know).
Explorer C
John - Good tips, thanks for chiming in. Whitney - Were I able to embed an MP3 of the whistle intro, I would have. Glad you liked the reference. Brian - Thanks. It's good to be here. I appreciate the offer to write some tips for you guys, and I'm very happy to see that they didn't even get edited. (I'm hoping this whole "Bingo Boarding" name catches on.) Xnuiem - You're right, there are plenty of cities that deserve the finger wag of doom for not doing a better job with public transit. Orange County was the first one that came to mind with just about no links outside of a bus system.
Explorer C
We traveled to Harlingen on 4 buddy passes on July the 3rd and i have to say we had the worst customer service from the staff at Houston Hobby Airport. That must be the worst Airport in the world to travel to. Their staff is not very helpfull and when your on stand by, could someone please let us know that their are no seats available( dont just walk off and say nothing) please have the common curtesy of saying something. And you know who I am talking about. Peaple come on Curtesy goes a long way. Clarksville Tn Thanks
Explorer C
Gray - I understand your concerns. Let me explain how I thought about this when they asked me. Knowing that this was going on Southwest's blog, I assumed that the readers would be primarily people flying Southwest. So, I created tips that would help those flying on Southwest, and yes, I tried to highlight their specific offerings. In most cases, it's not actually me endorsing the process one way or the other, but it's just a way of saying how people should deal with it. Yes, I point out positive things like no baggage fees, but I also talk about how Southwest has no inflight entertainment. The whole point is to make it easier for those people who are already going to be flying Southwest. If there's something in there in particular that you find objectionable, I'd like to hear what it is so I can get a better idea. If I did summer travel tips on my blog, you can be sure that it wouldn't be Southwest-specific in any way, but if someone like Delta asked me to write something on their blog, I would absolutely tailor it to their product as well. In the end, I'm hoping these are more helpful to people than if they didn't appear at all. And that's why I do it.
Explorer C
Dude, Gray, you need to lighten up. If you look the list, there isn't one item that is pimping something that isn't true about travelling generally or SW specifically. Cranky was having some fun with the SW passengers. He wasn't endorsing any aspect of their service that he hasn't mentioned repeatedly on his site already. Just because someone posts on a corporate site, does not a sell out make. Specifics: Check-in Online – check in early to get a good boarding pass. Gee that is really selling out to the man. “Patience” Isn’t Just a Guns N’ Roses Song – Be nice to ground staff because the problems aren't their fault, and that you'll likely get there regardless. Is this not true? Shouldn't all people be more patient with the ground staff? Wake Up Early and Fly – This is a good tip for those who don't know weather patterns. No direct SW pimping. Don’t Stop – OK, I guess since he said SW has lots of non-stop flights, you could be a total pain and say he is pimping for SW. But, the point is still true for SW fliers. If you want to go somewhere on SW, go direct -- don't connect. Pack Light – So, he mentions that SW "is just about the only one airline that will let you [check a bag] without charge." Again, is this not true? His point in this line is still the same -- don't check a bag! Middle Gets the Armrest – "Southwest doesn’t fly any small jets" -- That is true and the point about the middle seat is also a good one for SW fliers. Keep Your Kids Busy – Generic. Don’t Crowd the Aisle – Generic Spread the Drink Ticket Luv – Generic. Use your frequent flier goodies to make friends. Again, I'm missing the point. All frequent flier programs have perks, he is just telling you a fun way to use them. Don’t Line Up – Smart info on how to use their new system, not a judgement on the system itself. Friends Don’t Let Friends Fly Drunk – Generic Wear a Suit and Tie – Wow, he mentions they fly in "polos and khakis." Damn you for selling out Cranky! Bring Chocolate for the Crew – Funny and generic Bring Quarters for the Lavatory – Funny reference to SW history and true statement of the fact that you don't pay for anything. Is that really such a bad thing to say? Is he selling out his soul by saying this? Wear Closed-Toed Shoes and Socks – Generic Take Public Transit to the Airport – Generic
Explorer C
speaking of Public Transportation, here's a plug for my fave method of access to and from LAX when i travel to the los angeles area: the Fly-Away bus ( it's available to LAX from Westwood, Van Nuys (which has wonderful, ample, covered parking), as well as L.A. union station. when i stay in pasadena to visit my folks, i can take the Metro Gold Line from pasadena to L.A. union station for $1.25 and then $4 for the flyaway drops me right at the terminal (using the carpool lanes!). less than the price of a gallon of gas!
Explorer C
Thanks for the tips Cranky. I read CF every few weeks to stay in touch with the industry news. You even taught the frequent flier something. I didn't realize you could buy Monster energy drinks on WN! Sure beats airline coffee when I'm looking for a boost on the way to a meeting.
Explorer C
Thank you for the tips. I am not one that often voice an opinion. But I feel compelled to share my experience I had flying on Southwest this weekend. Had this only happened to me, I would have thought that it was an oversight on my part. But I noticed quite a few passengers were just as confused as I was. I had no idea when catching a "direct" flight (direct being the common air travel term) meant that there could be stops along the way. I had no idea that there was a difference between a "direct" and "non-stop" flight. I was told by the counter rep that a direct flight means that there could be stops but passengers did not leave the plane where as a non-stop flights do not have stops. I've always been a loyal Southwest customer and probably will continue to be, but I feel that Southwest should make it more apparent that on the Pricing and Restrictions web page that even though the flight is considered a "direct" flight that there can be multiple stops (without a change of plane) along the way. Granted we arrived at the time as scheduled, but I think as customers, we should not find out about these stops along the way. As for booking on, this is the information we as customers have: Depart Los Angeles (LAX) at 7:05 AM Arrive in Chicago (MDW) at 2:00 PM This was noted to have 1 stop along the way, but it was not made apparent on the screen.
Frequent Flyer B
Rich - I am so sorry that the difference between a nonstop and direct flight was unclear, and I appreciate your sharing your concern with us. We definitely don’t want our Customers to be surprised or disappointed when they make a scheduled stop, so we try to inform our Customers of the number of stops any given flight will make during the booking process. When booking flights on, you will see five columns: 1. Flight Number 2. Departure Time 3. Arrival Time 4. Stops 5. Travel Time A number in the "Stops" column indicates total number of stops on a same plane flight, or a “direct flight”. An airport code with a number indicates the city where the Customer must change planes and the number indicates the total number of stops the Customer will make en route to his/her final destination. Both of those points are included in the bullet section under the Flight option box, but I understand that it may still not have been clear. If you have any recommendations for how we can make the number of stops more clear during the booking process, please let me know and I will be happy to share your feedback with web design folks. Again, sorry for the confusion...I hope this information is helpful the next time you book a flight! Paula Berg Southwest Airlines