You’ve made it into the airport, through security and you’re in the home stretch before your flight. Or so you think. Even if you have a confirmed seat, your airline could still “bump” you off the plane before you get to the gate.

Whether you’re traveling to a meeting or just want to get home after a vacation, being bumped from an overbooked flight is a headache. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, airlines are fully within their right to overbook a flight. They do this to account for passengers who cannot make their flight or miss a connection.

However, getting bumped off a flight can have its advantages. Travelers are usually rewarded with travel vouchers and may even be upgraded to the first-class cabin on their next flight. But, if your travel schedule is too tight to be bumped off your original flight, you can take steps to keep your seat.

More popular flights tend to be overbooked. These often include holiday flights, routes to popular destinations or weekly routes often used by business travelers. Avoid these flights if at all possible. As an added bonus, flying at off-peak times will be less expensive.

If you can’t avoid heavy travel times – Grandma probably won’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving in April, after all – here are six tips to make sure you get on your flight.

Do your research
Check out your airline before you purchase a ticket. The U.S. Department of Transportation keeps track of flight delays, overbooking, customer complaints and even lost luggage. Visit the department’s annual Air Travel Consumer Report online before booking your seat.

Fly nonstop
Avoid connections if at all possible. Each time you change planes, you have the chance to be delayed or bumped off your next flight.

Join the frequent flyer program
Even if you don’t plan to take advantage of the program or you aren’t a frequent flyer, sign up for the free rewards program. Airlines are less likely to bump their rewards members than other travelers.

Check in online as soon as possible
If your airline allows assigned seating, pick a seat when you check in. Be aware, this could mean paying a small fee to upgrade to economy seating. Usually, this fee will be in the $20 to $50 range, but it does vary by airline.

Get to the gate early
If you check in less than half an hour before boarding ends, your reservation may be forfeited. You’ll be the easiest person to bump off the flight, and the airline won’t be responsible for rebooking you.

Board when your row is called
Don’t give the gate agent or flight attendant any indication you may not be at the gate. If you’re traveling with little ones and want to let them run around a little longer before boarding, send your travel partner to stake out your seats. He or she can alert the flight attendant that you and the kids are burning off extra energy in the terminal; undoubtedly, the attendant will be grateful!

Have you been bumped off a flight or do you have tips to make sure you get on the plane? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter.