We all know that airports can be a hassle these days but a little planning, preparation and common sense can make a big difference. Try these tips to help you breeze right through.
1. Arrive early. Beat stress and arrive at least 90 minutes before your flight departure, 2 hours early if traveling international. Airport check-in lines and security lines can easily eat up an hour and most airlines require you to be boarded 20 minutes before scheduled departure time in order to hold your seat reservation.
2. Allow extra time during holiday periods.
3. Bring state-issued identification, like a driver’s license or valid passport.
4. Bring a valid passport if you are traveling to an international destination. Yes, Mexico and Canada are international destinations.
5. Carry a photocopy of your driver’s license or your passport (the page with your name and photo on it) in your baggage. Wallets get lost or stolen, and a photocopy can come in handy if you need proof of identity to get ID replaced or just to get back into the airport to get home.
6. Be sure you’ve checked well ahead of time with your travel agent or airline to find out whether you need a visa to go to your international destination.
7. Use electronic ticketing whenever possible. You have no tickets to lose, misplace, or forget.
8. Check in online. You will need your reservation confirmation number. Print your boarding document at home so you can go right to the security line rather than stand in the check-in or kiosk line. This works for U.S. domestic destinations only.
9. Pack light. Then take things out and pack lighter. Checked baggage costs money these days and the size of allowable carry-on baggage is limited. Besides, why hurt yourself?
10. Don’t put urgently needed items in your checked baggage. Examples are tickets, passport, cash, medicine, glasses, contact lenses, the only copy of your novel. Lost baggage happens.
11. Don’t take valuable jewelry or large sums of money, particularly in your checked baggage. It’s best to leave your best jewelry home in a safe deposit box.
12. Put your name and phone number on the outside, and on the inside, of your baggage. Do this for both checked and carry-on baggage.
13. Be reasonable about your carry-on baggage. Most airlines allow one MEDIUM roller-bag and one SMALL bag like a purse, computer bag, or small backpack. If you have a roller-bag, a computer bag and a purse, you will have to be able to put the purse into one of your other bags. See Item #9. Pack light.
14. You will be allowed to bring 3.5 oz containers of liquids, lotions and gels through security, nothing larger, and the containers must be in a sealed quart-sized plastic baggie. The container must be 3.5 oz or less, whether or not the container is full is irrelevant. Don’t bring larger containers of liquids, lotions and gels unless you plan to put them in checked baggage.
15. Bring food. In general, airlines don’t feed you anymore and your food is most likely better anyway. Sandwiches and fruit* work, smelly food and foods with liquids don’t work. Food can be taken on the airplane in addition to your carryon baggage allowance. (*if traveling to or from California check if fruit is allowed).
16. Do not bring drinks. Buy water or other drinks at the airport, once you’re past Security screening (see item #14).
17. Bring a good book or something fun to do, just in case your plans are disrupted and you have to amuse yourself for while.
At the Airport
18. Pay attention. As you’re standing in line to check in, keep up with the people in front of you who are moving forward.
19. If you check baggage, keep your claim check in a safe place where you can find it. Lost baggage happens.
20. Don’t lock your checked baggage. If security personnel need to check your luggage enroute, they will either break the lock or refuse to allow your bag to go.
21. As you’re standing in line for Security, have your ID and your ticket ready and listen for airport personnel who screen for passengers trying to make soon-to-depart flights. You might get to speed ahead.
22. Wear shoes that are easy to take off and put on. This will help you get through the security line faster.
23. Don’t joke or make any comment about anything having to do with security, or explosives, or anything like that. Going to jail will cause you to miss your flight.
24. Smile. Relax. Attitude is everything, particularly when others around you are anxious or annoyed. Lines, and
especially security lines, make people anxious.
25. Wear shoes. Airlines require that you wear sandals at minimum in order to board.
26. Listen closely for announcements at the gate. It might be important stuff.
27. Stay with your carry-on bag.
28. If you see an unaccompanied bag sitting around, tell an airline employee or a security person.
29. Don’t joke or make any comment about anything having to do with security, or explosives, or anything like that at the gate either.
30. Stay out of the bar. Or, if you have hours to wait, limit yourself to one drink and have something to eat. Drunks can be refused boarding. Equally lame, you could sit in the bar and miss your flight departure.
31. If your airline offers departure screens at the gate, read them.
32. If you don’t have an actual seat assignment (like 27A), check in with the gate agent.
33. Stay at the gate and listen to the announcements. It could be something important, like an offer of money for getting off an oversold flight.
34. If your flight is oversold and you are flexible, in other words you don’t have to be somewhere at exactly the time you scheduled, it can be worth your while to volunteer to get off and take the next flight. The airline will give you money and/or a free ticket for future travel. Be sure they have space on a later flight that works for you before you commit.
35. Board when your row or zone is called.
36. If you wait until the last minute to board, the airline can give away your seat to a standby passenger.
37. Put your carryon on your seat and step in out of the aisle to let others pass if you can.
38. If you can’t step out of the aisle, stow your larger bag overhead as quickly as possible and step out of the
aisle so others can pass. Wait until you’re out of the aisle before taking off your coat and stowing your small bag under the seat.
39. Do not change seats without asking a Flight Attendant.
40. Sit down, buckle up and stay down. The pilot is not allowed to back the airplane out of the gate until everyone is seated.
41. Do not get up to take one more thing out of your stowed luggage until after takeoff.
42. Don’t put anything important in the seat pocket in front of you, like your ticket/boarding pass. It’s too easy to forget when you leave the airplane.
43. Put open-top carry-on bags under the seat in front of you with the open top facing you. Many a treasured item has been lost falling out of an open bag either in the overhead rack where you can’t see, or under the seats ahead on takeoff or landing. On second thought, don’t take open-top bags that don’t zip shut.
When Things Go Oh, So Wrong
44. Pay attention. If the gate agent says your flight is delayed, listen to her entire announcement. Possibly she will tell you whether it will be a short delay or whether it’s going to call for action. Maybe she’ll even call your name to give you information about your connection.
45. If your flight is cancelled, listen carefully to the announcement at the gate. If arrangements have been made for a new flight, the agent will say so.
46. If your flight is delayed or cancelled and there is a long line in front of the agent, call your airline’s reservation office either from your cell phone or from direct lines in the gate area if your airline provides them. Reservations personnel can tell you what new arrangements have been made for you.
47. Stay calm. Panic and hysteria won’t help. Something will work out.
48. It’s usually better not to go back through the Security checkpoint to talk to an agent at the front check-in counter.
49. In the case of a delay, stay in or near the gate area unless other specific arrangements have been made for you by the gate agent. Sometimes a delay is not so long as anticipated, and if the plane is suddenly ready and you’re not there, it may leave without you.
50. Know what you need, but be flexible. When you talk to the agent, offer suggestions if an alternate destination airport will work. Cooperation is often reciprocal.
51. Communicate your situation calmly and clearly. Perhaps you are meeting your unaccompanied 10-year-old child at the other end. Perhaps you are giving an important presentation tomorrow morning. Don’t lie or exaggerate. Sometimes excellent ideas and solutions come out of chaos when the real bottom line concern is known.
52. Smile. Relax. Travel is an Adventure.