Here are 33 tips to help improve your experience at the airport along with a few general tips to make your travels easier.
People love to travel but I don’t know anyone that enjoys being at the airport. From the crowds, the TSA and the stress of making your fight it can be a horrible experience.
I have learned a few lessons while traveling, some the hard way. Over the years I have picked up a few pointers. If you have some others please leave them in the comments.
- If you park your car at the airport, take a photo of the parking lot location. It will be a lot easier to find your car after returning from a trip.
- If you don’t ask you will never know. Who doesn’t like a flight upgrade? There are times when you can get upgraded if it is a special occasion. Things such as your birthday, traveling to a special event such as family reunion or wedding, having an anniversary or honeymoon. Here is the thing, don’t broadcast it for everyone to hear. Just mention it to the ticketing agent and politely ask if you might be able to get an upgrade. If you are decently dressed and traveling alone your chances are better and the worst that can happen is they say no. It also helps if you are a member of their frequent flier club.
- Check in online. There are a few advantages to checking in online for your flight. First, if you didn’t select a seat when you booked the flight, you can do so when checking in. Most airlines have a checked bag drop off point at curbside for people who have checked in online. You can print your boarding pass or save it to your smartphone. All you have to do then is head to the security check lines.
- Realize that 80% of baggage is black so put some kind of identification on it. A ribbon or something so you can easily identify it among the hundreds when you land.
- If you want to cut down waiting time getting your bags when you land mark your check in baggage with the FRAGILE sticker. These are usually loaded onto the plane last and removed from the plane earliest.
- DO NOT put anything expensive in your checked bags. Locks do not stop anyone from getting into your bag if it has a zipper. They are easily popped open using an ink pen. Use checked bags for clothes and toiletries. Everything else, electronics, cameras, laptops, money, etc, take in your carry on or don’t take it at all.
- Remove your old luggage tags and stickers. You don’t want your bag rerouted someplace just because of an old baggage sticker.
- Use a name tag that is easily identifiable. It will help in locating your luggage. Better yet get a tag with a microchip. It will tell you where your bag is anywhere in the world.
- Use your phone and take photos of baggage claim tags and paper boarding passes just in case you lose them.
- Don’t pack anything you will need in your checked bags. All medicines should be in your carry on as well as a change of clothes.
- Look into shipping your bags. With the airlines charging for luggage these days it is easy to get hit with excess baggage fees or you might buy a ton of souvenirs and when it comes time to go home they don’t fit in the bag or they are really heavy. It is not always cheaper so you have to compare. Skyscanner has a great baggage chart.
- It is a good idea to take photos of your passport and any other important documents along with keeping a copy somewhere safe. You might lose them or worse get them stolen.
- I know you want to snap a selfie and post to social media but don’t publicize the bar code on your boarding pass. The bar code has a lot of your personal info and there are tools available for thieves to steal your data.
- Use plastic zip bags and take extra. Zip pouches are great for storing electronic items, toiletries and things you don’t want leaking, spilling or getting damp.
- Bring a pen, keep it on you. I know simple, but if you have ever traveled to a different country you know you will have to fill out immigration and declaration forms . They hand out forms on the flight and almost everyone is asking the flight attendants for a pen or rummaging around in the carry on for one.
- Know before hand what you can and cannot carry on a plane. Just refer to the TSA guidelines. Most countries adhere to similar guidelines although some countries have items you are not allowed to bring into the country. It is best to check before you leave.
- Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer and wet wipes. You don’t have to be a germaphobe not to want sticky dirty surfaces. In an airport, pretty much everything you touch has been handled by hundreds if not thousands of people before you.
- Bring a portable power bank for recharging your smartphone and tablet. Instead of plugging in your phone, recharge your power bank and use it on the plane to recharge your phone.
- If traveling internationally carry a small portable power adapter.
- Adhere to the TSA 3-1-1 rule. You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item, in 1 bag, 1 person.
- Remember the zip lock bags? Put any medication in a small bag so the don’t open while traveling, also take off all jewelry, metal objects, coins and loose items and place in a plastic bag, put it in your carry on before getting in the TSA line.
- Have nothing on you before getting into the security screening line except your passport/id and boarding pass. Everything else, belts, coats etc. should be in your carry on bags or ready to place into a bin. Laptops, cameras, smartphones should be readily accessible to put into a bin.
- If you travel more than once or twice a year consider investing in the TSA precheck program, you get to use the expedited pre check line and don’t need to remove your shoes, belt or light outerwear. You also don’t need to remove laptops, tablets or quart-sized plastic bags.
- If traveling internationally consider enrolling in the Global Entry Program. Once enrolled you can access the expedited customs lines. You access a kiosk, scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit. You also get expedited entry into some countries.
- Download your airlines app. It is easy to check gate changes, delays or cancellations. It also usually has your boarding pass on it.
- Bring snacks. Instead of paying $3 for a candy bar or granola bar at the airport shop, pack a couple in your carry on bag. Any kind of snack is good as long as it isn’t a liquid or semi liquid. No pudding cups, jello etc. Security will trash it.
- Bring ear plugs. They are a savior when that kid starts to cry or you just want to block out the noise and relax.
- Buy a water bottle and bring it empty through the security line. Once past the line you can fill it up at the water fountain Remember those $5 bottles of water?
- Drink plenty of fluids and not just the alcoholic type. I am talking water and juice. In fact you should limit the amount of alcohol since they have a greater effect in the air and many a passenger has been denied boarding by ticket agents because they smell of alcohol.
- Bring something to do offline. You may have delays so bring a book or something to do.
- Check out the airport lounge. If you are traveling first or business class you will probably get access to the airline lounge. What about the rest of us peasants? Many airports have a lounge where you can by a day pass. Usually in the range of around $60. If you are going to be there for awhile it can be your best bet. Most offer food, drinks, computer rooms, family rooms and some have shower facilities.
- Check out the airline staff canteen. I don’t know of any in the US but some airports like Changi Airport, Singapore and Dresden Germany airport are just a couple. The food is usually a lot better and much cheaper. Just ask someone if there is a staff canteen or café and if it is open to the public.
- Once you arrive at your destination get to the baggage arrival as quickly as possible and stand near where the baggage is coming out. Although rare, you don’t want someone grabbing your bag by mistake and walking off with it.
Even if you use just a few of the tips it might make your journey through the bowels of hell known as the airport just a little bit better.
What are you tips for improving your experience at the airport?