Nobody likes to wait in line, especially when they know they’ll have to spend the next several hours sitting on an airplane next to unfamiliar people. The close quarters and the dry air will make you uncomfortable enough—waiting in huge lines and finding your way through large crowds shouldn’t have to make the situation even more uncomfortable.
While we love the wonders of airborne transportation, we don’t necessarily love the process it takes to get to and from the aircraft. To streamline your next airline travel experience, follow the tips outlined below.
1. Arrange for transportation to and from the airport.
Most cities have taxi or transportation services that will drop you off and pick you up at the airport. Arranging transportation beforehand will ensure that you don’t sit at the airport feeling stranded or lost in an unfamiliar city. The drivers will know exactly how to get you to your destination, whether you want to go straight to a hotel or directly to an office.
However, if weather, maintenance, crew problems, or passenger problems delay your flight, you need to contact the transportation service to let them know about the change in your arrival time. Most companies will show you compassion and understanding in these circumstances.
2. Prepare all documents ahead of time.
For domestic flights, you’ll need your boarding pass and legal identification, such as a driver’s license. Cut down on the time you’ll spend waiting in line by printing your boarding pass at home. Most airline agencies allow you to check in online and print your ticket—this helps you avoid the line at the ticket counter so that you can go straight to the line for security.
If you travel internationally, make sure you have all passports and visas handy. You usually have to apply for these documents 3 or 4 months in advance. If you show up at the airport without them, not only will you not get on the flight, but you’ll wait in line for nothing.
3. Don’t check luggage.
If you check luggage, you’ll have to wait in line at the ticket counter, and you don’t want to have to wait in multiple lines (unfortunately, you can’t get out of going through security no matter what). You should opt for carry-on items instead. You can usually cram all your necessary luggage into a carry-on bag.
You’ll also leave the airport faster if you only have a carry-on. You won’t have to wait at the baggage claim to find your bag. You can just leave and catch the taxi waiting for you outside.
4. Wear strategic clothes for getting through security.
Waiting in the line at the security checkpoint takes more time than anything else when you go to the airport. Everyone has to remove jewellery, belts, hats, and shoes—and they often forget to wear the most convenient shoes or jewellery for the occasion.
Cut down on some of the time by wearing shoes that you can just slip on and off and by wearing an outfit that doesn’t need cumbersome accessories. Don’t wear jewellery, belts, or hats, and try to wear clothing that doesn’t have metal on it at all. This includes zippers, buttons, sequins, metallic decorations, beads, etc. You might look a little silly, but you can always change when you arrive at your destination.
5. Leave big electronics behind.
You probably can’t get through a vacation without your phone, MP3 player, or camera—but you can certainly get through a normal vacation without a laptop. You’ll already have to pull your small electronics out when you go through security, but you can put those back in your bag very easily.
If you pack a laptop, you’ll have to unpack and repack a goodly portion of your bag to get through security. Save yourself time and patience by leaving it behind.
However, if you need your laptop for a business trip, try to pack it on top of your bag. You can also stow it in a smaller bag you put on your lap. Many airline agencies allow you two carry-ons: one to go in the overhead bin and another to hold in your lap/stick under your seat.
6. Arrive early.
Want to know the best way to beat the crowds? Book an early flight time and arrive early for your flight. Most people feel stressed at airports because they arrive during rush hour with barely enough time to catch their flights, and then they have to push through large, frustrated crowds. Don’t let this happen to you. Schedule your flights for the very early morning, and make sure you arrive with enough time to address any potential problems (like misplaced tickets). You should arrive at least an hour before boarding for domestic flights, and you should arrive 2-3 hours early for international flights. Even if you don’t arrive before the crowds, you can carefully take your time waiting in line and finding your gate. With these tips, flying doesn’t have to cause you stress. As long as you plan in advance, you can get in and out of the airport very quickly. Just remember to assemble documents, arrange for transportation, and arrive early. Your next trip will be a breeze!