General Question

RayaHope's avatar

What are the best and most affordable ways to book a flight?

Asked by RayaHope (5118points) 1 month ago

I may need a flight from Virginia to Florida and I have never done anything like that before. How do I pick an airline and what do I need to do? How costly are flights? How do I get from the airport to my destination? Do they strip search people in the terminal? Do I need a passport?

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33 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Passport – - No but you’ll need a photo ID with you name matching your ticket.

Strip search – - – no but be prepared for TSA body scan, clothes on .

Get to final destination – - That is up to you, airport shuttle to hotel, if you don’t rent a car!

Cost of flight – - Flights can be $100 to $400 depends on destination.

JLeslie's avatar

I would book directly with the airline. You can use Expedia to or some other we site to search multiple airlines, but then go to the airline website. If you feel confortable telling us which airports you are going to we can help you search.

It’s usually cheapest to fly Tuesday and Wednesday. Some airlines you can easily see the different prices give or take a day if you have flexibility, so you can choose a different day if you want to save money. Some airlines round trip is much cheaper than one way, so it’s best to book the entire round trip at once. Some airlines it doesn’t matter. Booking 3 weeks or more ahead is cheapest. 2 weeks ok, 1 week still ok, but the price is going up. Anything less than a week you will pay very high prices.

You do not need a passport to fly from state to state, but you can use it as ID if you have one. If not you can use a driver’s license or some other government ID. If you don’t have a driver’s license then your state probably issued an ID card.

To get to the airport you can use a taxi, Uber, an airport shuttle, or maybe a city bus, depending where you live and where you are going. Airport shuttles sometimes make multiple stops, some go directly from one point to another and then you take some other transportation from there.

No strip search, but they might frisk you, they call it a pat down. Very rare that happens unless you ask for it in lieu of the scan. Wear clothing that you will be confortable if they go to the top of the inside of your leg. If you have on a skirt they will basically be on your underwear, so wear heavy yoga pants, slacks, jeans, or long shorts, etc. It will be fine by a woman, in public, unless you ask for private. I recommend out in public. Most likely you will just go through the scan and no pat down.

Just watch what everyone else does through security and you won’t have a problem. You’ll take off your shoes (if you don’t like to be barefoot wear socks) and in the machine you raise your hands and it takes a few seconds. If you are nervous about it, we can probably find you a YouTube so you know what to expect.

Other things to know:

some airlines include a checked bag in the price, some charge you more.

Most airlines 24 hours before your flight you can check in on the website or phone app and get your boarding pass.

At the airport if you are Che king a bag, you check it before you go through security.

When you line up at security they will ask to see your boarding pass and ID.

When you board the plane you will only need your boarding pass.

RayaHope's avatar

@Tropical_Willie thank you that makes me feel a bit better :)
@JLeslie Oh I was gonna ask if a man or woman would “pat me down” I’m so glad a woman would do that. There is a lot to this but you have helped a lot! I don’t know for sure which days I’ll b going yet, but I will be going to Miami, Florida. I’m unsure about giving my exact location here just Virginia for now. I’m sorry if that doesn’t help much but this gives me a good idea of what I will need to do. I did look at a few websites but they tend to get complicated. I do have a driver’s license got it last year :)

JLeslie's avatar

That’s fine. Miami is helpful. American Airlines has a huge hub in Miami, so American should have a lot of flights. American most likely won’t be the cheapest though. Many airlines will have some non-stop to Miami if you are coming from a big airport like Dulles, Reagan, Richmond, Norfolk. Some cities have smaller airports along with the major international airports so make sure you have the call letters for the correct airport.

Watch for nonstop so you don’t have to connect in another airport. Connecting adds a lot of time to the flying time.

Is it your first time ever flying? Or, first time booking a flight?

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie Both, I am clueless about all this. I’m naturally afraid of heights so this may be a bit overwhelming for my first time flying. I was told to bring and chew some gum, would that help?

JLeslie's avatar

When the plane starts to descend for landing your ears might block up and chewing gum helps open them up again.

Here’s how it goes:

Once through security you go wait by your gate. About 30 minutes before your flight airline employees will come to that gate and eventually start announcements to board the plane. When you get your tickets we can tell you what boarding is like for that airline.

Eventually you board your plane and find your seat. Always wear your seat belt while sitting in your seat.

Once everyone is seated and it’s time to leave, the plane will pull back from the gate. A flight attendant will tell everyone over the load speaker where all of the emergency exits are. They are very obvious and easy to find.

The plane will line up for take off. The pilot usually lets the cabin know when you are “one for take off.”

That’s when you will pick up speed and then slowly lift into the air. Once you are at cruising altitude it’s usually very smooth, you won’t even know you are flying.

Once at cruising altitude the flight attendants will come through the cabin to take drink orders. They have all types of sodas and some fruit juices. They are free. Eventually they come through to take the trash.

About 20 minutes before landing you will start to descend, it’s very slow, very gradual, it barely feels like you are going down if at all. Usually, it sounds like the engines are slowing down and that’s when your ears are most likely to block up.

Tips: Only while the plane is at cruising altitude will you be allowed to unbuckle your seatbelt and go to the bathroom if you need to. If the air is rough (very rare) they won’t let you unbuckle even at cruising altitude, so make sure you go to the bathroom before you get on the plane. If you feel like you might need to go while flying, go before the plane begins to descend.

Rough air, also called turbulence, the pilot usually can go around rough air, it’s unusual to have a bumpy flight. Most flights are very smooth. Don’t be afraid if there is a bump, the pilot will move to smoother air.

Most likely the people sitting next to you have flown before. If you are unsure of something you can be honest and say it’s your first time flying and need help or have a question. I’m sure they will be happy to help you.

Most people who have a fear of heights do ok flying. My husband hates being near the edge of a cliff, or high up in a building on a terrace, but no problem flying.

VA to Miami is a relatively short flight. Maybe two hours in the air.

I prefer sitting in the aisle seat. Easy to get up if you need to.

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie Oh yes this helps a bunch!! You drew a fantastic picture of what I have to expect. Your husband sounds a bit like me if I’m close to the edge of a cliff or even in one of those glass elevators OMG I get nauseous and dizzy. If I’m in a building even just a few floors up and look out the window, yikes!

JLeslie's avatar

There are YouTube’s “first time flying” or “first time at an airport.”

Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to rush. Get to the airport two or two and a half hours before the flight so you have plenty of time to find the gate, have a snack if you want, use the bathroom, etc. Just consider it part of the vacation adventure. Some airports have great shopping and good restaurants, some not so much.

You can look up your airport website or app and see the restaurants just like looking at a mall map. Miami’s call letters are MIA. When I used to fly to Detroit, I would get to the airport early and buy a bunch of my university t-shirts and sweatshirts there. I never had time while visiting friends in Michigan to shop.

Miami airport can be very cold, lots of AC. Actually, your plane can be very cold. Bring a light hoodie so you can put it on if you are cold and take it off if you are warm.

smudges's avatar

Do you not live with your parents? You’re a junior in high school, right? Not snooping, just curious about your situation based on what you’ve told us. Or maybe you told us something and I’ve forgotten. If there’s an adult where you live they could be very helpful with this.

My fear of heights is like yours – ladders, glass elevators, watching a tv show where someone is standing on a roof looking down omg get back! get back!, looking out those windows in a building that are really the wall and you’re right there!

Anyway, I mention that because I’m not afraid of heights in an airplane; in fact, I love the window seat and have some spectacular pictures of clouds. ¯\(ツ)/¯ Dunno why, but maybe it won’t bother you, either.

Brian1946's avatar

@RayaHope “I may need a flight from Virginia to Florida….” Is this because you might have an obligation to visit a Floridian beach? ;)

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie I can tell that you have a lot of experience with flying and I hang on to every word. Very valuable and I would have never thought of Miami (airport) as being cold. A hoodie sounds like a perfect idea.
@smudges I live with my mom and she has never been on an airplane. My dad still has visitation and I do get along with him better now. Oh yes, there have been some videos that caught me off guard, they cut to some drone shot or something where the view suddenly goes over a ledge or bridge or something and I get shocked and have to look away. I hate that.
@Brian1946 If I can you know it! ;) I hear they have some of the nicest beaches and who would go all the way down to Florida and NOT hit the beach?! lol

Smashley's avatar

A couple helpful tips:

familiarize yourself with TSA rules for carry on and checked luggage, before you bring something you shouldn’t.
Bring an empty bottle for water, you can fill it after you get through security.
Don’t over pack your carry on, or it won’t fit in the overhead bins and you’ll be the person who screws up the flow of boarding.
Announcement from attendants at the gate can be important. Be sure you are listening.
Sometimes your gate will change unexpectedly. There will be screens around listing departures by city. These will have updated times and gates.
Everything at the airport is expensive and usually bad. Planning for what you will need saves money. I always bring my own food, though your flight won’t be too long.
You can close the window if you’re right by one, or even ask if someone wouldn’t mind closing theirs. I find this can be helpful with flight anxiety.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Regarding the window shade, usually it has to be open during take-off and landing. It’s a safety precaution.

RayaHope's avatar

^Thanks I will try to look up the TSA rules and pack as light as I can. I’ll be ever vigilant when in the terminal especially since it will be my first time.
Taking off and landing are probably my biggest fears. Do the wings really bounce up and down? Someone told me that and that sounds scary as heck.

JLeslie's avatar

I always try to sit in an aisle seat. I rarely look out. You won’t be able to see the wing from every seat, even if you are in a window seat. I don’t remember it bouncing around. You can see the flaps go up and down.

Here is take-off and landing right over the wing. At the end when they land you will see the flaps go up. https://youtu.be/UJiOG8Agvqs

When you fly up into the clouds (if there are clouds) you won’t be able to see anything, but then you get way above the clouds and it’s sunny and blue (during the day) and you can see clouds below you.

JLeslie's avatar

You’ll hear a bunch of noises under the plane. Like as soon as you lift into the air the pilot will bring the wheels back up. Right before landing you will hear the wheels go down.

Some planes while you sit in your seat before take-off you will hear a mechanical noise below, and it’s the plane balancing the weight in the cargo part of the plane, but most planes you won’t hear that. You’ll hear the luggage people close the door under the plane.

As you pick up speed on the runway (it doesn’t feel crazy fast) and first start going up you might hear some rattling, but that’s inside the plane, like drink carts and other little things that are secured, but there is mini bits of space that you might hear some rattling, it has nothing to do with the integrity of the plane.

There are dings/bells used to cue the flight attendants. At 10,000 feet you will hear a ding and that’s when flight attendants are allowed to stand up and start getting the drink service ready. Passengers will still have to stay in their seats and seatbelt buckled. Always keep your seatbelt on when you are in your seat.

A double ding is usually one flight attendant wanting to speak to another.

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie With your excellent description and that video, I’m kinda excited to fly now. I didn’t get dizzy at all watching that like I thought I would. I almost can’t wait now to go :)

JLeslie's avatar

Someone said above to listen to the announcements when you are waiting at the gate. That’s very important. Do NOT have music playing in your ears, don’t be on the phone talking to someone, you need to be paying attention.

Also, when you get to the airport you’ll want to check the screens that show departures and check what gate to go to and if your flight is on time. Sometimes there are gate changes. When you get to the gate if you are very very early it might say the wrong city, because it’s one flight before yours. Usually, an hour before or less it will say the correct city. You should start boarding 20–30 minutes before flight time, so you need to be at the gate for boarding time.

RocketGuy's avatar

@RayaHope – during takeoff you might feel disoriented. The plane will accelerate from 0 to over 100 mph in just a few seconds. Most people don’t experience that much acceleration regularly. Then at the right speed the plane will tip up and rise, which will add an upward acceleration. If you are sensitive to motion (like me), you should look forward and tighten your stomach. It will only be a minute before your inner ear tells you everything is back to normal. Your ears will pop as air pressure changes. No big deal unless you have a cold. Then you can enjoy the rest of the flight.

Landing is much nicer. Your ears pop on the way down. The plane is set to descend at a gentle rate. When the wheels touch the ground the plane decelerates strongly, but for some reason it is not disorienting.

JLeslie's avatar

^^That’s interesting. I never feel like the plane is going very fast nor do I feel disoriented at all when the plane is accelerating for take-off.

The only time take-off feels a little odd to me during take off is when we are already in the air and the pilot needs to turn while still fairly low in the sky to go in a different direction. If I can anticipate it, if I know we are taking off north and need to go south, then I’m more comfortable when it happens.

JLeslie's avatar

^^Too late to edit. Sorry for the bad wording.

RayaHope's avatar

^ I know I will have to pay attention at the airport. I’ll have to watch my phone usage and try to be mindful of my surroundings. I have to admit I’ll probably be wearier of the people, I don’t want any unwanted attention. So I won’t dress too nice to keep any (unsavory types) stalking me. I’ll stay in well-lit areas with lots of other people whenever possible.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Do you have a credit card to pay for stuff like the shuttle to hotel ? Food in airport ?

JLeslie's avatar

There will be a lot of people around by the gates, as long as you don’t take a very early or very late flight (very early would be like a 7am flight, late would be 10pm flight). You don’t have to be worried about feeling isolated, you will always be able to be near other people. The bathrooms down by the gates will be the busiest, especially when a plane first lands, people deplane and go to the first bathroom if you want to make sure you aren’t alone in a bathroom. Usually, by 8:00am planes are already starting to land at major airports.

If you get there very early and your gate has no one around, you can always sit for a while at a busier gate and then move if that makes you more comfortable. You can sit in a restaurant or at the food court if there is one.

RayaHope's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I do have a debit card of my own but I don’t have a lot of money in my bank. My mom will give me her credit card for stuff that I may need like uber or food and stuff. The flight and hotel should be taken care of before I even leave. I was thinking of hiding a little money on me if there is anything I need to pay in cash.
@JLeslie All this is kinda scary, but I am looking forward to this. I want to show my friends and family that I am a big girl and can handle myself and do things just like grownups do. So going off to college should be NO problem :)

Tropical_Willie's avatar

You may need matching ID to Credit card, your ID will not be your mother’s name.

If you are staying in a hotel / motel; your ID and credit card must match.

RayaHope's avatar

@Tropical_Willie I never knew that. I may have some more homework to do then :(

JLeslie's avatar

@RayaHope Are you visiting someone in Miami? Or, just going on your own on vacation? If you are on your own I’d wait until you are 18. I don’t know if you can get a hotel room if you are under 18. You can’t rent a car. If you are visiting a relative in Miami then you should be fine flying alone.

RayaHope's avatar

@JLeslie I’m having a medical procedure done and the only medical facility that does this (in this country) is in Miami. It is a one-day minor surgery thing and I should be able to go home the next day. If I feel good enough I would like to see the beach since I’ll be right there so close. My mom might have to go with me but she can’t afford to take time off from work.

Brian1946's avatar

@RayaHope

”...I should be able to go home the next day.”

Is this according to the specific advice of the doctor who will be performing the surgery?

RayaHope's avatar

@Brian1946 Yes, that is what I was told anyway.

RocketGuy's avatar

@RayaHope – good luck. I hope all goes well.

RayaHope's avatar

@RocketGuy Oh thank you so much I have my fingers crossed :)

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