Nobody is oblivious or immune to airport stress. You may not be fully aware of it, but there are always people surrounding you who are stressed out and unprepared in the airport, causing delays all around them. There is no escaping them.
Travelling by air is already stressful enough, but your airport habits can also be adding to what I like to call ‘’airport anxiety’’, something that slows you down without your knowledge. In order to have a stress free airport experience, and to maximize the short space of time you have to do everything , planning ahead is key.
Here are some tips from our experience, to get through the airport in a less stressful, more efficient way.
Pack carefully and know your baggage allowance.
Packing can be a challenge, especially if you don't know what to take with you. Anticipating weather and social or work activities can make packing seem impossible at times. However, there are some things that you can do to make the most of your suitcase space, especially if it is limited. Anticipate as much as you can the items you will need, and pack accordingly.
If you have a special event or meeting and need to wear a formal outfit or a suit , take this on board with you in a hanging bag. There are hangers on every seat on your aircraft to place these.
If you are staying in a hotel or somewhere new , check if they offer dry cleaning/laundry services, or if there are any near by at a reasonable cost. This can allow you to pack minimally but also ensure you have clean clothes for the remainder of your trip.
If you are an over-packer, invest in some air-tight travel bags. This will free up any extra space you may have in your suitcase and ensure you can take as many clothes as you require (don't forget about the weight!). These can be purchased on Amazon or at your local Container Store and believe me, they are worth it.
Before arriving at the airport, be aware of your airline’s baggage allowances. Most airlines (except maybe United as of late) allow you to carry on one personal item along with a small cabin sized bag on board the aircraft, free of charge. The exact dimensions of the items can be confirmed with your airline on their website, and can change depending on the size of the aircraft you are traveling on.
Repacking at the check in or bag drop area can be really awkward and time consuming if your bag is over its allowance , and the excess baggage fees can be hefty, so always weigh your luggage before getting to the airport. It’s not worth it.
If you have any ‘’non-typical’’ items to check, like electronics or equipment, make sure you know both the airport and the airlines specifications on how to pack and store it, or if they allow you to travel with it (I’m not looking at you, Samsung) before you get to the airport. This kind of information can be found on most airline/airport websites, or by contacting their customer service. Trust me, it will save you time, and stress.
If you are not checking a bag and you feel like your carry-on bag is too heavy, check it at the gate. They will take it off your hands for free. Don’t forget to remove any items you need for the flight out of the bag.
Most airlines make an announcement regarding carry-on items before boarding begins, if the flight is full. This saves the boarding agent time by not delaying passengers during the boarding process, as it is their responsibility to ensure that every bag is the correct dimensions and weight for the flight, so check your bag before boarding begins. Weighing and tagging bags at the gate can be really time consuming- especially when there can be ‘’reluctant-to-do-so’’ passengers; don’t be one of those!
Anticipate traffic and parking delays
Airport traffic can be very unpredictable and very hard to get through at times. It is important that you estimate how long it will take you to get to the airport including how busy the traffic is and also anticipate that there may be parking and traffic delays.
If you are driving, allow yourself an extra 45 minutes at least, to park. Your parking area maybe quite some distance from the airport itself and may require you to take a train or a bus in order to get to the airport. Anticipating these extra travel times can make a world of difference and save you so much time.
Check in online
Many , if not most airlines offer the option to check in online. This can make your airport experience so much easier and save you so much time especially if you are not checking any bags or extra materials. However, there is a myth many people believe that by not checking in online if you have bags to check will not make any difference- this however is not true.
By checking in online, you can pick the best seats for you and whoever is traveling with you, and ensure your seat is confirmed. If you don’t check in online and arrive at the airport, for example, with your family, and you wish to be seated together, at the time you check-in the seats you require may not be available, causing an inconvenience for everyone.
Don’t waste time at the airport doing this- it’s not worth it and can be done at home hassle free. Checking in online also displays very valuable information , like flight number and time, your destination and airport code, and often the gate number.
If you have no bags to check, don't stand in line. It’s a waste of time. If you are checking a bag arrive to the airport at least two hours prior to your flight. This includes if you are travelling with children with car seats or a stroller or any other equipment that you need to check.
Check-in lines are famous for being notoriously long at times and if you are a person who likes to leave things until the last minute, this can make getting to your flight on time more stressful or even cause you to end up missing your flight, so plan wisely.
Know your flight and gate number, airport code and departure time.
This may sound surprising, but a lot of people show up to their airport with no idea where they are going or at what specific time. They get too caught up in their ‘’airport anxiety’’ , they forget the little things. Always check the information screens for the latest updates on your flight.
Check for the gate and time of departure , as well as the airport code and name of where you are flying to. Airport codes can be confusing to people who don't fly very often, you can learn more about them here. It is important to note that some destinations have more than one airport, so always check the specifics of where you are flying to.
Airport codes are often displayed in bold on information screens, and on boarding passes, which can confuse a lot of passengers. This can make it more difficult to find and locate the flight that you are on. Knowing the airport code , flight number and the exact time of departure in advance will ensure that you are at the correct gate at the correct time.
Be prepared for airport security
It is important before you travel to know the limitations on what you can take through airport security. Many people are unaware of the items they can’t take with them, or they don't pack their liquids properly. This can slow down lines at security and causes not only you, but the people behind you in line to get delayed and frustrated, wondering what the hold-up is. We’ve all been there. Pack your liquids into small containers and seal them in a plastic bag.
Be prepared for the body scanners. Limit the amount of jewellery and accessories you wear to the airport. If you are particularly glamorous, pack the jewelry you want to wear in an accessible bag and pack it away, so that as soon as you clear security you can easily put your glam on instead of taking five minutes of your valuable time to take them off while in line at security. This includes belts and cufflinks too.
Wear shoes that you can easily take on and off. Also, don’t forget to wear socks if you don’t want to be exposed to the most likely very gross airport floor where everyone and anyone walks barefoot (just a heads up).
If you are someone who travels frequently, or if you are part of a frequent flier program with your airline, make yourself aware of your options and bonuses. Many airlines offer speedier airport security options with their frequent flier programs.
Some airlines also offer TSA pre-check included or as an option with your airfare if you are traveling within the United States- a much faster and more efficient way of getting through those long security lines. These speedier options might be worth investing in if you haven’t already.
Familiarize yourself with the airport
If you are unfamiliar with the airport, look up a map online. Know where your check in/bag drop area is for the airline you are flying with, and don’t be afraid to ask the staff in the airport for directions.
Find out where you need to be, and ensure you are in the right place. If you have only carry-on items, go straight to security. Don’t queue up when you don’t need to.
And finally, don’t forget your passport/ID. No, really. Have it ready and available for inspection at all times, and whatever you do, don't put it in a checked bag in error. It happens more than you might think. After all, “airport anxiety” makes us do the strangest things. Time is limited , especially at the airport, so maximize it and be prepared.