A trip to the airport has never been on my top ten list of favorite things to do. Sure, you’re probably off to some exotic location or family-friendly venue for vacation, or you’re heading out to make the business deal of a lifetime—all good things. But getting to and through the airport with your sanity and your baggage intact can often times be quite a chore.
Here are a few tips for both travel veterans and newbies alike:
1. Give yourself plenty of time. The days of rushing the gate with 15 minutes to spare before boarding your flight are gone. Increased security, screening checkpoints, and the mere “process” of checking bags, getting boarding passes, and moving through an airport require extra time. How much is enough? Most advise arriving two hours before your flight. In some airports, that can be too much time, in others, not enough. Get to know the airport you’re about to depart from by checking out traveler reviews for a sense of how quickly or slowly a particular airport handles passengers.
2. If you travel more than once in a great while, enroll in a frequent flyer or rewards program. You’ll earn benefits that can lead to free flights for you or a loved one down the road, as well as little extras such as free drink coupons, free checked bags, etc., that can take a lot of the headache and hassle out of air travel. Consider enrolling in rewards programs for two different airlines to ensure you have rewards options with carriers for those hard to get to places.
3. Plan ahead. Does the airport offer curbside check-in of bags? If so, you might save yourself valuable minutes and frustration by dropping your bags with a skycap. Travelling heavy? Weight your bag (or bags) at home. Most airlines have a 50-pound limit. While some might fudge that limit a little bit, don’t count on it. It’s no fun to re-pack your bags under the watchful eyes of disgruntled fellow passengers awaiting their turn. And by all means, print your boarding passes before you get to the airport. Many hotels offer this as a free courtesy, or you can print at home. Better yet, save some paper by using the airline’s app on your smart phone to display your boarding pass.
4. To TSA or not TSA? Ever wonder what it feels like to be one of those people that get to cut way ahead in line at the security checkpoint? It’s not such a crazy notion. For less than $100 for a five-year period, you can get TSA pre-checked (provided, of course, you pass the security screening). Even if you fly just 3 or 4 times a year, it’s probably worth it if you value your time and your blood pressure. Most major airports have TSA offices in them, and the interview is relatively painless. Often, you get your TSA credentials within a week or so of the interview.
5. Be ready. Don’t be one of those people that slows the whole security line down because you’re not ready. You will have to show your license and your boarding pass. Have them out and ready, not stored in some rabbit-hole of a pocket in your carry-on. Don’t wear shoes that require 5 minutes to lace off and lace back on. If you’re not TSA pre-checked, you will have to remove them! Ditto for belts and jackets. Go light or don’t wear a belt or jacket at all. Have your 3 ounces or less of liquids easily accessible (i.e. a Ziploc!) so the screeners can inspect them as needed, and by all means don’t forget to remove your laptop from its bag. One way you can help ease your time through security is with Mobile Edge’s ScanFast™ Collection of checkpoint friendly laptop cases, designed especially to speed you through airport security checkpoints.
6. Don’t wait until the last minute to find your gate. First, determine which gate you’re departing from. Second, make sure that gate isn’t on the other side of the airport or in a different terminal altogether. Some airports are big—small city big—so moving from Gate A-5 to Gate C-22 might not be the leisurely 5 minute walk you’re expecting. It’s always a good rule of thumb to locate your gate and then look for dining and drink opportunities around your gate area as time allows. One way to make your way through the airport with ease and in style is with Mobile Edge’s new Professional Rolling Laptop Case and matching Professional Backpack, each of which was designed for busy travelers, corporate road warriors, and people on-the-go.
7. Board as directed, quickly, and orderly. Don’t try to cut the line, even if you have a seat assignment. You’ll not only anger fellow passengers, but you’ll likely slow down the boarding process. Believe it or not, most airlines do have a method to their madness! Once you’re on board, find an overhead bin before your seat or above it to stow your carry on—not after it. Don’t be frantic and rush, but also know that there are dozens of others who want to get on board, too. If you can, tote your carry-on down the aisle in front of you rather than wheeling it. Also, for your allowed “personal item,” truly have a bag that fits under the seat in front of you. And if you plan to listen to music or use your tablet or smartphone in-flight, have headphones out and place them in the back pocket of the seat in front of you to avoid wasted time searching for stuff in flight and disturbing others.
8. Overcome pre-boarding anxiety. Take the time to get an adult beverage (if so inclined), coffee, or some other drink, plus a snack or light meal before boarding. Getting some nosh and a drink with your carry-on in tow is a great way to settle down the pre-flight jitters and fill your belly and your mind with thoughts other than the flight ahead. Besides, airline food and snacks aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Peanuts, pretzels, anyone? And by all means, go to the bathroom before you board. You don’t want to suffer the misfortune of getting stuck in a ground delay while your bladder is bursting at the seams!