Flying is a great concept in traveling around the world. For the time you would save driving across a country (like my road trip across the U.S.A.), you can easily book a cheap flight, jump on a plane and be at your destination in a mere few hours.
But from time to time, we do tend to run into hassles at the airport. So the question brewing up in my mind is this: what can we do to lower the stress level and make our transit prior, during & after a flight more enjoyable?
Luckily with my several years of traveling around the world, I’ve come up with a few short, quick and to the point tips to get you by with a smile on your face.
In no particular order, here are my Top 10 Rules to the Airport Survival Guide that will help you have a much more enjoyable travel experience!
Getting a good experience at the airport
Leave Plenty of Time
As always, planning ahead is a great idea for just about anything you do; especially flying. Don’t be one of those “last minute” people. This may be okay for showing up to dinner or a party fashionably late, but when it comes to flying the earlier you are the better.
I always show up at least 90 minutes prior to my flight. It reduces the stress of checking in, going through security and walking to your gate allowing you plenty of time to hit up the cocktail bar before your flight.
Working in the hospitality industry, I can’t tell you how many times people either choose to ignore or just don’t care about packing a light bag. While traveling, I hardly ever carry more than what I can pack into my backpack and carry onto the plane. (Check out my backpacking/flashpacking gear list)
This tip will do multiple things for you:
- No checking in bags.
- No overweight baggage fees.
- No losing luggage.
- Less to worry about.
- Much, much more…
In short, by carrying an averaged sized backpack (like my Gregory Baltoro 65, for instance) you’ll save money and have no hassle of wondering where you’re bag is and whether or not you’ll see it when you finally arrive at your destination. This is an extreme stress saver especially when you travel internationally!
Have all your Documents Ready
Keep your documents close at hand while traveling. You’ll have to pull them out every time you check in for your flight, go through security and right before you jump on the plane. If you decide to get a cocktail to get rid of your pre-flight jitters, you’ll need your Identification Card or Passport.
I recommend carrying them on yourself, in a handbag or wallet like my Bellroy Travel Wallet. It’s small enough to fit into your front or back pocket to keep it concealed, but large enough to carry your passport, any sized currency, a small pen, sim cards and just about anything else you’d need while traveling.
Choose an “early bird” Flight
There are a quite a few reasons why you should always choose the early bird flight so I’ll just list them below:
- Cheaper flights (nobody wants to be at the airport at 5 am, therefore, cheaper tickets to attract customers)
- More likely to get a seat if you’re flying standby.
- Arrive at your destination early & do more activities.
- You’re flight is less likely to get overbooked.
- Lower lines through security.
- The plane is less likely behind schedule (typically planes on early flights landed the night before).
- If your flight gets canceled or delayed, you’ll most likely get on another flight since you were amongst the first ones there.
- Much more…
In short, there are a plethora of reasons to book an “early bird” or “red eye” flight.
Check-In 24 hours before your Flight
To avoid any hassles at the check-in counter and to save you time, always check-in at least 24 hours prior to your flight. You will…
- Save time by skipping the lines at the check-in counter.
- Gain faster access to go through security.
- Enjoy a better seat selection as you’ll be at your gate faster.
Of course, those who have only carry-on luggage enjoy the most fruitful advantages of checking in early. 😉
Follow your Airline/Airport on Social Medias
You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow their airline and/or airport on the social media platform of their choice. There is a really good reason to do this: to stay informed! When things go wrong at the airport and you have no other way to contact someone, then go online to Facebook, Twitter, Google + or anywhere else.
If there was an accident or some other major incident, you’ll most likely get notified instantly of the status on outgoing flights. Also, another reason to follow your airline on Facebook or Twitter is to keep notified of special giveaways or competitions. For instance, my friend recently used the hashtag #expediachat through Expedia’s Twitter page and won a $200 USD voucher for a flight!
Prepare for Security Lines
Before you get to the airport, make sure to prepare yourself for the intense walk through at the security gate. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Where easy access slip-on shoes.
- Avoid metallic clothing articles like metal belts and jewelry.
- Pack any carry-on liquids appropriately. Look up the standard acceptable sizes for flying and don’t try to get anything bigger! Now the norm is 3 ounces or less.
- Pack clothing in an organized manner that way if there is a problem, your bag is easy to look through.
- Avoid any illegal contraband. (Despite the recreational use of marijuana being legal in Colorado doesn’t mean it’s legal in Florida!)
And, as always, show up early to avoid being rushed. You don’t want to leave anything behind!
Have a plan should your flight be delayed or canceled
Worse case scenario is that your flight gets delayed or canceled. Big deal! Just be prepared for this and make sure you have the best travel insurance you can have to cover most of your travel-related funds…that’s why it’s insurance! As a backup, carry enough cash if just to get you by. Look up or keep a handy guide for nearby hotels, hot spots, nightclubs, and restaurants.
There’s plenty for you to do in just about any city, it all comes down to finding where the locals are and accepting this new twist to your travel plans. Go with the flow and have fun with it, just don’t get too drunk and miss your flight the following day!
Pack survival tools & pack appropriately
So what do I mean when I say pack survival tools? No, I’m not saying to carry a razor blade, string & an endless supply of paper clips you modern day Macgyver you! Carry a small supply of snacks, a sandwich or anything of the sort. Pack medication for headaches. Sunglasses, ear plugs & headphones are all great things to have along with a comfy pair of clothes (that you should be wearing!).
Also, you can’t get away with carrying a bottle of Whiskey on board but what they don’t tell you is that you can take a few of the single shot bottles on board and into the airport. That saves you money as you’re not paying $8 USD for a glass of Crown & Coke. It’s also a great way to lower your stress levels (if you have any at all from this point on)!
Relax…it’s just a flight!
Last but certainly not least is to remember to relax. Your transit in the sky should be a relatively fun experience. Use this opportunity to meet new friends, take a nap, read a book, work on your blog or anything else you fancy. As T.S. Eliot once said,
“The journey not the arrival matters.”
What are your tips for surviving at the airport?
I completely agree on the early flights! It’s always been cheaper for us, the planes always have way more space and it usually gives us more time in the destination anyhow!
I like the last one…. just relax! 🙂
That’s the key to life: relax & have fun!
Following airports/airlines on social media is something I’ve only started doing recently – it’s a great idea though and has saved us so much hassle trying to find information on delays etc.
Thanks Megan; I’ve recently just started following them too but it’s made a huge difference for me!
Great tips. I absolutely agree with packing lite. There are no overweight baggage fees, no losing luggage and NO STRESS! 🙂
Isn’t that the truth. I recently took my backpack onboard and it turned out there wasn’t enough room on the plane. As it turned out, there happened to be a small compartment towards the front of the plane where they stashed it. VIP checking without the fees or the hassle of losing anything! 😉
I always try to stay at a hotel close to the airport, preferably one with a shuttle service or public transport nearby. Am looking at options near Gimpo Airport/Seoul as we speak 🙂
Great advice Ron. Thanks for the reminder to follow airlines on social media, that’s a great tip! We’ll be doing a lot more flying now that our visa for New Zealand is about to expire. Back on the open road means more flying and more security lines to contend with!
That’s awesome, enjoy all of the trips. I’m looking forward to the adventures! 😉