Long lines, delays, partially disrobing for the sake of security – the airport can certainly be an unpleasant experience at times. However, there are ways to mitigate your travel woes, it just takes a little prep work and smart thinking. Here are some useful tips to make your next trip a little smoother.
- Packing: Avoid overpacking so your belongings don’t spill out if your bag is inspected. Remember, you’re allowed a carry-on (size parameters depend on the airline so check online) and a personal item (laptops, purses, small backpacks, briefcases, or camera cases). Put a label or card with your name and contact information on the inside of your luggage in case outside tags get ripped off.
- Weight limits: Most domestic weight limits are set at 50 pounds so if you’re concerned, weigh your bag at home. It’ll save you the hassle of paying the extra fee for overweight luggage or transferring items over to your carry-on.
- 3-1-1 rule: Put your liquids of 3 ounces or less in a quart-sized clear plastic bag.
- What to wear: Socks! Unless you enjoy the feeling of your bare feet on germ-ridden, cold floors when you go through security. Another practical tip is to wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Also, avoid wearing metal jewelry.
- What not to bring: This might seem like common sense but thousands of items are still confiscated each year so it’s better to be safe than sorry and check out this list of unapproved items.
- Online check-in: This will save you time if you’re not checking a bag so make sure to check if your airline offers it.
- Flight status: Especially during inclement weather, it’s important to remember to continuously verify if your flight is cancelled, delayed etc.
At The Airport
- Get to the airport early: If you’re checking a bag for a domestic flight, get there 90 minutes ahead of departure time. If you’re not checking a bag, get there at least an hour early. For international flights, arrive at the airports two hours ahead of time. This extra time give you a buffer in the case of unexpected delays, long lines, and other problems.
- Keep the essentials accessible: Make sure your ID, boarding pass (if applicable) and other necessities are in a place you can get to easily. This will make your check-in and security processes more efficient.
- Declutter your carry-on: Stow away everything but your ID and ticket.
- Make a plan: Do a mental inventory of things you need to take off, unzip, or take out for security scanning – empty pockets, take off your shoes, and take out your laptop case. Make a note of where you put important valuables like car keys.
- Keep moving: After you grab your things from security, take them slightly away from the security lines so you don’t cause or contribute to a human traffic jam. Many airports have a seating area where you can put on your jacket and shoes again.
General tips from travel pros:
“Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days for domestic and international travel—lines are shorter and fares are lower. Some airports have peculiar peak times: lines at Miami International Airport run out the door on Saturday mornings, when the cruise ships dump their passengers.” —George Hobica, president, Airfarewatchdog
“I bring sunglasses to block out bad fluorescent lighting and earplugs to block out terminal noise.” —Samantha Brown, Travel Channel television host