Five Tips to Help You Fly Through the Airport

TSA guy is singing 12 Days of Christmas, unaware that passengers, most of whom have been up since 5am, want to pelt him with our 3oz bottles
– a holiday tweet from @hollyburns

Insuring a quick and painless passage through the airport starts before you leave home. Here are my tips for a hassle-free check-in. Yes, one of the tips is over packed, just like the pet peeve, so called carry-on bag ahead of me in line.

Thinking through your departure plans can make the entire trip a better experience. Photo by Aleksandra Durdyn

Thinking through your departure plans can make the entire trip a better experience. Photo by Aleksandra Durdyn

Check-in and print your boarding pass at home.  This will save you time that you would spend at a kiosk or check-in counter. Early check-in might not be an option for international travel, but it is worth trying while you have the time.

If possible, limit luggage to one carry-on so that you do not need to check any bags. This will let you bypass another line at the front of the airport, and will also save you about $50 per person in baggage fees on a domestic roundtrip. But please be responsible about what you consider carry-on. The fact that you can carry it does not make it all carry-on luggage! One of the more annoying spectacles at an airport is a traveler with an over-packed bag (which could never fit into the airline size-checking devices) and three other totes slung over arms and shoulders. Having only carry-on luggage will also speed your exit from the airport once you arrive.

Arrive at the recommended time. If you are flying within the US you should have your feet inside the terminal at least 90 minutes before your flight. For international flights, you should arrive 2½ hours prior to take-off. This might sound like a lot but it is far, far better to have time to spare at the gate than to be running down the corridor hoping they have not closed the door to the jet way.

Wait for your refreshments. You will not be able to take any beverages through the checkpoint. Go directly to the checkpoint and plan to buy breakfast or your take-aboard meal once your are in the secure area. Really small airports might not have the same range of choices on “the inside.” In that case, buy only food before the checkpoint and get your drink near the gate.

A little planning goes a long way toward an easy security check. Photo by Noblige

A little planning goes a long way toward an easy security check. Photo by Noblige

Be prepared for the security check. Planning ahead can really pay off.

  • Dress in a low-metal outfit so you don’t have to disrobe to pass muster. (The only jewelry I ever wear on travel days is pearl studs and a plastic watch. My husband doesn’t wear a belt until he arrives at his destination.)
  • Shoes that are easy off and on make life easier. Loosen any laces as you stand in line waiting. Put your shoes directly on the conveyor belt rather than in a bin; this keeps your street sand away from the child’s blanket or cashmere jacket that might go in the bin next time.
  • Have your liquids in containers no larger than three ounces — not a six ounce toothpaste tube that’s almost empty. The TSA is not interested in the spirit of the rule, just the rule as it is written.
  • All those little containers go in a one quart size zip-lock bag. Pack the zip-lock so you can pull it out of your luggage in a flash to put it atop one of your x-ray ready bins.
  • If you are wearing a coat and a sport jacket, take them off together as one garment. One multi-layer folded garment in a bin is less likely to leak coins and car keys, and it goes back on as easily as it came off.
  • Put your laptop in a bin by itself. It is okay for it to be in a sleeve or computer-only briefcase. In the US small electronic devices such as pads, e-readers, and cell phones do not need to be separated out, but this might not be true internationally so listen for instructions in other countries.
  • Do not try to put yourself back together standing next to the conveyor belt. Collect all your things and move away to a bench or seat to reassemble yourself.
  • Remember who is in charge. Jokes about security matters are not welcome. Nor do the TSA staff (or the people behind you in line) want to listen to your explanations about why they should make an exception for your bag or its contents. They will let you go back to the front of the airport to check that special pair of scissors to your destination, and then you can get back in line again — but that will not be quick.
  • If you have questions ahead of time about what is or is not allowed in carry-on (Knitting needles? Yes.) check the TSA website.

If you have prepared responsibly you will breeze through all the lines.

I always feel a sense of relief and release when I have completed this obstacle course. From here on I can assume the mental age of 18, exercising just enough responsibility to be at the gate on time and otherwise just enjoying myself!  I’m going on a trip, after all. How can that not be fun?

Boundaries divide. Travel unites.

17 January 2013

About Travel Unites

A travel agent since 1994, I want people to get together for greater understanding across boundaries.
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