America's Five Worst Airports: Survival Guide

Now, more than ever, we airline passengers need good, solid travel tips.

I was reminded of this after seeing a recent survey from Travel + Leisure magazine, listing the best and worst airports -- at least when it comes to flight delays. The top three in each category:

Best Airports: Salt Lake City, Portland, Ore., and San Diego/Oakland, Calif./Washington Reagan and Minneapolis-St. Paul (the latter all "tied" for third place).

Worst Airports: Chicago O'Hare, Newark, N.J., and Miami (closely followed by Dallas/Ft. Worth and New York's LaGuardia).

If you fly, you will get stuck. Unfortunately for many people, this is not an uncommon situation regardless of any airport's rating. We all get upset when our air travel plans are upended. That said, there are things you can do to make the best out of a bad airport situation.

For more air travel news and insights, visit Rick's blog at FareCompare.com

Don't Be a Jerk

Your flight has been delayed or canceled and you have to be there. Relax, we all have to be somewhere and we're all in this together.

Don't yell: There's plenty of anecdotal information that airline and security reps might give you some "special attention" if you let your temper get the better of you -- the personal pat-down, or maybe your name gets put at the bottom of the "next plane out" list. If you're faced with Dr. Heckle or Mr. Nice, who would you rather help?

Act Quickly: True, we are all in a bad situation together. But let's be clear: some will get front row concert seats and others the nose bleed. The bottom line is that those prepared for the inevitability of airport issues who act quickly end up with a better resolution -- every time.

Emergency Kit

In our daily lives, emergencies are covered by spares, jacks and three-digit phone numbers. For the most part, we are prepared.

I can't say the same for most air travelers. What do you really know about your next flight? Are you familiar with the airport layout and airlines at your next connecting airport? What other airlines fly around your departure times that might get you back on track?

Face it: we have become our own travel agents, like it or not. We buy our tickets online, print our boarding passes at home, cram inordinate amounts of clothing into free carry-ons and pack our liquids in quart-sized bags.

A few extra minutes to pull together a simple air travel emergency kit should be an essential part of any trip. Here is what you'll need:

A small overview airport map of all connecting and destination airports (your home airport as well, if you aren't very familiar).

Airline phone numbers in your cell contacts (I like to also have a note about the touch key sequence required to get a human).

List of flights around your departure times so you can help the rebooking agent help you.

Direct to desk of nearby airport hotel phone numbers on your cell. The local number is important because many chain hotel Web sites will say "no rooms" but the hotel has inventory for walk-in's.

Night Before Checklist

Packing: There are two kinds of bags: carry-on and expensive. Too much stuff for a carry-on? Ship some of your belongings (especially gifts). And always bring a coat with a lot of pockets (a raincoat will do in summer.) Those pockets can hold socks, t-shirts and more. No room for that bulky sweater you need? Wear it and carry the coat.

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