Want to learn how to save time and have a stress-free experience at airports? Read on for airport tips on how to get through the airport hassle-free.
Many people love to travel but not everyone loves the “getting there” part. With cheap flights and promo fares, traveling by air had been affordable. That meant more people flying, longer queues and for some, more anxiety.
Here are some airport tips for a better airport experience, based on years of travel and hundreds of flights flown.
Choosing a flight
- If you can, take the first flight of the day. Delays tend to pile up as the day goes by.
- If you have a flexible timetable, schedule your travel during Tuesdays or Wednesdays. People usually take vacations on weekdays. While Monday mornings and Friday evenings are notorious for bad traffic. You definitely wouldn’t want to miss your flight because of heavy traffic on the way to the airport. Likewise, avoid flying the day before the start of Holidays or long weekends as much as possible. Avoid the rush to avoid the stress.
- Sign up for frequent flyer programs of airlines servicing your home airports and which operate flights to destinations you frequently visit or plan to visit in the future. Check its partner companies and other airlines to which they have alliances. Accumulate miles and enjoy perks by patronizing your airline and companies within that alliance. Moreover, check your credit cards for points that are convertible to miles.
Before the flight
- If flying internationally, check your transit country and final destination’s visa requirements for the passport you’re holding or your nationality. This item might sound like a no-brainer. Call me stupid, but it happened to me. Once during my early years of travel, it didn’t come to me that I needed a visa going to a fellow Asian country. That was not until 2 days before my confirmed flight. I ended up re-booking to one week later.
- Save a copy of your passport, your legal travel documents, plane tickets and hotel booking confirmation in your personal cloud storage folder such as Dropbox or Google Drive. The worst thing that could happen is to have your passport stolen. Having an electronic copy available will at least facilitate the processing of replacement.
- Check your plane tickets or your airline’s website for prohibited and restricted items to checked-in and carry-on bags. Avoid the pain of leaving behind important items you can’t anymore claim. Do your research before your flight.
On one instance, I was surprised when my carry-on bag was put on hold for further inspection after passing through the X-ray machine. To my knowledge, I did not stuff any restricted item inside my bag. The inspector informed me to take out the fork out of my bag. It was then that I realized I have a spoon and fork in one of the inside pockets. The last time I used my bag before then was when I went camping overnight on an island. A sad ending for my spoon who has lost its partner. Lesson learned: be sure to check the contents of all the pockets of your bag.
- Instead of getting paper maps (which most of the time end up as waste), download offline maps on your smartphone, tablet or pad. If your device has GPS service, you may use it with your offline map to help you navigate your way. I use Maps.Me or download areas I need from Google Maps.
- Activate your credit card for international access. This will prevent your bank from blocking your own credit card transactions abroad because of suspecting fraudulent activities.
- Confirm that your bags meet the allowable number, weight and dimensions. If you’re a frequent traveler, it pays to have a luggage scale and measuring tape available. If you have connecting flights with different airlines, carefully check as baggage allowances may be different.
- Instead of bringing books which can eat up space in your luggage, download e-books or podcasts and save on your mobile device. This will keep you busy while waiting for boarding or during a long flight. Be sure to fully charge your devices before leaving. The nearest charging station at the airport may be fully plugged.
- Check in online before the flight and save or print screen your boarding pass on your mobile device.
- Whenever I check-in online, I don’t usually print my boarding pass for domestic flights. However, I do print a hard copy for connecting flights especially for hot transfers.
- Pack your mobile device’s charger, as well as a universal adapter in your carry-on bag. Charging stations are available at the airport but the sockets might not match your power cord.
- Pack light. Take only the essentials. If you can take only a carry-on bag, do it! My essentials for a carry-on are normally toiletries (packed in small containers), mobile phone, mobile device charger(s), TRAVEL DOCUMENTS, extra shirt and underwear for a day (This is if I have a check-in bag. You’ll never know. Sometimes, shit happens and you might arrive without your check-in luggage).
- Bringing an empty water bottle will come in handy. You can fill this up with water at the airport’s drinking water fountain. You save on the expensive bottled water inside the airport and reduce solid waste, as well. Make your own list of essentials depending on what works for you.
- Separate your travel documents and your pen in one small bag which you can place in an easily accessible part of your carry-on. I also place my luggage keys in the same bag so I don’t have to lose time digging into my stuff just in case I need to open my luggage for inspection. Don’t forget the pen. You’ll need this in filling up immigration forms.
- This one’s something I hear my mother say since I was small. Don’t put all your money in one location. The logic is simple, don’t let the thieves be a winner-take-all.
- Nothing is more stressful than rushing your way to the airport praying fervently that you won’t miss your flight. Know the normal travel time and traffic situation on your way to the airport. Always give allowance for traffic on the way to the airport and traffic inside the airport’s security line.
- Don’t wear oversized pants when you have a flight. I’m not kidding. The security line may require you to take off your belt as you go through security check. Pulling up your pants while your belt is being conveyed under the X-ray machine is the last thing you want.
- If you have long transit times between airports, check whether the airport you’re transiting to or your airline offers free city tours and ensure you have enough time to get back to the airport in time for your flight. Check whether you are eligible for the free tour or whether you can go out on your own visa-free. Research applicable visa requirements to your transit country. If ever you need a visa to get out of the airport, it’s up to you to gauge if it’s worth it to be getting a visa on arrival or applying for visa before your travel date, whichever your circumstance is.
- Double check whether you have your complete travel documents with you.
- I know people who always want a window seat only to end up sleeping the entire flight time. This is okay for short flights but for long haul flights, the best seat for me is the aisle. The number one reason is because I don’t have to wake up or hop over somebody to get to the restroom.
- If you arrive too early for your flight, you may ask for upgrades while checking-in. I got a business class upgrade for free on my flight from Kathmandu to Kuala Lumpur because I was an early bird and I luckily got the worm.
- Take your toilet break before boarding. There’s more hassle doing this inside the airplane.
- Be at the boarding gate before the scheduled boarding time. This will give you the time to transfer in case a change in boarding gate has been announced. I’m also telling this based on my experience of missing the boarding period and the flight because I and my companion got busy chatting over a cup of coffee. We were just seated one gate away from our assigned gate. Our luggage arrived at our destination without us and waited for us 'til next day.
- Use your spare time productively. Read your downloaded e-books or listen to your podcasts. Why not entertain yourself while learning something useful? If you’re traveling for leisure, you can also use this time to research about your destination. If you’re a religious person, use this time for prayer. Up to you what productive means to you.
- It pays to make a good impression at the immigration. Dress properly. Be confident. Smile. Be polite. Prepare to show your travel documents, if requested.
- If arriving at a foreign country, exchange only a small amount of the local money at the airport, enough to get you by for a day. Rates at the airport are usually higher. Or better yet, use the ATM to get cash. Based on experience, the ATM is almost always the cheapest option for changing money abroad.
- Do not throw your boarding pass in the trash without shredding it into pieces. Boarding passes have the passenger’s personal data encrypted in it, so be careful where you place or dispose these of.
Also learn tips on How to Travel Green here.
Hope you get something useful from these airport tips. Do you have other airport tips to share? You are free to add them on the comments below.