Breeze Through the Airport Easily with These 13 Travel Tips

October 27, 2015

U. S. Airways, its merger with American Airlines nearly complete, took its last flight—ever—on Friday, 10/16. When airlines merge and transition, travelers will notice an extra layer of stress superimposed on the existing stress of air travel. Airline policies may change. Airline employees need training to get up to speed. And often the airline employees can hardly answer your questions because they’re still learning the ropes themselves. Whether you fly with a newly merged carrier or not, air travel is stressful. We’ve compiled a list of ways to reduce hassles at the airport, from before you leave the house to the time you board the plane.

1. Pack well ahead of time–not the night before your trip

This seems to be common sense, yet procrastination is often the order of the day. Imagine the anxiety you felt the last time you packed in the eleventh hour; that tangled mess in your luggage; the tap dance you had to do in security. Those images might be enough to motivate you to pack early and do it differently this time.

pack light

Use psychology to resist over packing

Not everyone is a minimalist, a globetrotting nomad, or a streamlined and savvy backpacker. If you don’t travel often, you might avoid making decisions and hoard into your luggage everything in sight. You wouldn’t want to forget something important, would you?

And although traveling light sounds good in theory, in reality, it can be quite another thing. Not all trips are equal, and traveling light can get complicated if you’re a less experienced traveler, if you’re traveling to an unpredictable climate, if you’re not sure what activities you’ll be doing and destinations you’ll visit (e.g., will you be dining out at fancy places and need a few dressy pieces? Going more casual?), among other variables.

Could learning what motivates you help you pack more strategically? Try a bit of psychology on yourself to find out.

Motivated by a challenge? You might enjoy the adventure of surviving on less—while maintaining panache. Pack clothing in neutral colors (navy, khaki, gray, gold, silver) that you can mix, match and (hopefully) launder at your destination. The absence of color—black and white—is always attractive. Pack accessories like scarves/ties with splashes of color.

Motivated by peace of mind? Imagine carrying on everything—eliminate anxiety about checked bags.

Motivated by saving money?  Remember the cash you’ll save on baggage fees when you travel with less stuff or eliminate checked bags altogether from the travel equation. Although the luggage weight allowed on flights to and from the United States tends to still be more than what you can bring on a plane elsewhere, just because you can max out doesn’t mean you should.

2. Wear slip-on shoes, skip flip-flops

This goes along with the above tips about packing to be streamlined and user-friendly. With slip-ons, you’ll look great and won’t be fumbling and holding up the line with tangled laces as you don and off your shoes.

Think twice about wearing flip-flops. With little to no arch support or shock absorption, for navigating the airport, this type of footwear is decidedly more flop than flip. Flip-flops are especially bad if you’re in a hurry to catch your flight and need to do your fair share of walking through the airport maze to get it…not to mention flip-flips expose your feet to falling baggage, rollover accidents with wheeled luggage, stampedes from hasty travelers, among other things. And when you remove flip-flops at security, you’ll expose your foot soles to risk: athlete’s foot fungus and plantar warts; in the latter condition, caused by a strain of the HPV virus, plantar warts can be painful and a devil to get rid of.  If you’re still bent on wearing flip-flops, at the very least, carry a pair of socks to put on at security.

flip flops

3. Buy and pack “disposable clothing” for lighter luggage on the flight home

Although you’ll probably want to pack a few dressier outfits for your trip, depending on your destination and activities, disposable clothing might make travel easier on you (at least on the way back). Visit a thrift store and buy cheap clothing (you might buy gently used sweaters, sweatshirts, long and short-sleeved T-shirts, tanks, etc.). Wear the disposable clothing on your trip. When you’re ready to check out of your hotel, leave the disposable clothing behind (place it in a bag labeled “recycle” or “free to good home”—a housekeeper just might find something to recycle; the rest can be donated). Then, for the trip home, you’ll have lighter luggage (or, if you just can’t resist souvenirs, you’ll have more room for them thanks to disposable clothing—and, all told, your luggage weight wise may end up an even Steven.

closet

4. Buy transparent sundries bags

Carry 3-ounce liquid bottles like a professional. Remove your watch and empty your loose change into these reusable sundries bags. The TSA agent can quickly eyeball the contents of your bag (which is made of clear vinyl), and you’ll zoom through checkpoints.

toiletry bag

Travel Smart by Conair Sundry Bag | Source: Amazon.com

5. Buy TSA-friendly laptop cases

The answer for travelers who don’t qualify for the security fast lane (see below), Checkpoint Friendly Laptop Bags help you take matters into your own hands to swiftly pass through security. Eliminate the need to remove your laptop from the laptop case with one of these.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer | Source: TomBihn.com

6. Buy a luggage scale

Don’t wait until you’re at the airport to find out your luggage is overweight.  If you hate surprises, buy a Jetsetter Digital Luggage Scale, and weigh your bags before you even leave the house.

Jetsetter Digital Luggage Scale

7. Get a TripIt account

Flight statuses can change by the minute. Don’t wait until you’re at the airport to learn your flight has been canceled. With a TripIt account, you can be alerted to flight statuses by text through your smartphone or online. So, check your flight status before you leave home. Check it again before letting your ride to the airport drive off–because you never know.

cellphone

8. Use the Airport Parking Reservations App

Although airport parking can be pricey, confusing and infuriating, it’s often a necessity. Book a parking spot in advance through your phone with The Airport Parking Reservations app, which can be used for airport parking in the US, Canada, and UK. Not only can you scout around for the best parking spot, but you can also book it at a discount (up to 70%). 

airport parking lot

9. Keep your cool and save any heat for social media

From a lack of civility to narcissistic entitlement to air rage, today’s air travel is worlds away from its glory days. Whining and complaining can escalate to verbal abuse and rage directed at airport personnel. This kind of scene rarely ends well and might even get you detained.

Travelers, turn to the modern version of the letter of complaint: social media. Vent your collective spleen to the airline via Facebook and Twitter. Airing your concerns (respectfully) on a public forum is a powerful way to get your message to the top. You might just get a 21st-century letter of apology (did someone say rewards points?)

10. Keep your luggage safe with TSA-Recognized locks

TSA officers have tools for opening and re-locking baggage with accepted and recognized locks. Buy a TSA-approved luggage lock with SearchAlert® to protect your luggage and reduce the chance of damage to your lock and bag if a security inspection is needed.

Tarriss TSA SearchAlert Luggage Scale

Tarriss SearchAlert TSA Luggage Locks

11. Carry prescription cards

To prevent problems in security, carry cards for all medications, including syringes. Keep medications in original packaging.

medications

12. Go hands-free and protect valuables when you travel with a money belt

A money belt and waist stash are ideal if you want to relax and keep your passport, money, credit cards and other valuables safe and out of view in crowded and unfamiliar areas. If you do use a money belt, be sure to take it off when you pass through security because a money belt can look ominous (like a hidden package or something) on the x-ray.

Tarriss RFID Money Belt

Tarriss RFID Money Belt

13. Get TSA clearance or enroll in a trusted traveler program and breeze through security

Want to zip through the fast lane of airport security? Sign up for the TSA PreCheck and get expedited status.

You may be eligible for the TSA PreCheck: if you’re a member of a frequent flier program and selected by the airlines OR if you’re enrolled in one of the trusted traveler programs of the U. S. government (such as Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS).

Once you’re vetted and accepted into the PreCheck program, you’ll get a Known Traveler Number (or a KTN), which will be indicated on your boarding pass. When you get to the airport, you’ll now be able to use the Precheck lane at security checkpoints.

With TSA PreCheck Status, you won’t have to remove your:

TSA PreCheck is now available at over 150 airports with the following 12 participating airlines:

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • JetBlue Airways
  • OneJet
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Sun Country
  • United Airlines
  • Virgin America
  • WestJet

You can apply here.

*TSA disclaimer: Members aren’t guaranteed access for every flight

Still not sure you can navigate the airport maze? Think of the grace and efficiency of the New York pizza rat who overcame the odds and carried a pizza twice his size onto a subway. Imagine his plight, and you may discover that airports–and even airlines in transition–seem a breeze in comparison.

Written by Katie Anton