The past 3 weeks I have focused on the trusted traveler program, including ways to breeze through airport security, how to breeze through border crossings, information on passports and answering passport-related questions. This week I wanted to add one last article on tips for making your airport experience more streamlined. I know, I know! Airports are busier and less efficient than ever and it seems like airline employees and TSA agents wake up on the wrong side of the bed every morning. Many of my clients say that, as much as they love their vacations, the absolute worst part of the journey is simply surviving the airport experience. Here are 7 suggestions to eliminate hassles at the airport and keep that blood pressure at a safe level. Take notes and take action....and don't forget to pack your patience and sense of humor in that carry-on. They don't weigh anything!
1. Sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry! This is my favorite recommendation for people who travel more than once a year, especially if that travel is International. Being able to cruise through security at over 130 US airports is heaven, but I especially love the Global Entry kiosks in US Immigration that can save you tons of time when returning to the US. Have you seen the length of some of those passport control lines? Not me! I usually walk right up to the kiosk, scan my passport and breeze through to baggage claim.
2. Check your Flight Status! This is so obvious that I feel like I shouldn’t even have to remind you, but the truth is very few people actually take this step. A quick glance at your airline app or on the airline website can save you a lot of hassles. You can find out if the flight is still predicted to be “on time”, if there are any weather delays or warnings, if there has been a cancellation, and even check for last-minute seat-switching options in just a couple of minutes. If you have an app on your phone, it is smart to re-check it at the airport before you leave your car in the parking garage or with the valet. Most airlines will also text you flight status updates if you sign up on their websites. Load the toll-free numbers to your airline, travel insurance company and travel agent into your cell phone so that you can quickly reach someone if there is a flight delay/cancellation. While everyone else is waiting in line at the gate, you can have someone on the phone working on your behalf to fix the issue.
3. Check-In Online! Especially if you are NOT checking any bags, this can save you a heap of time. You can avoid the whole kiosk/counter zoo at the airport when you arrive. Just check the monitors to find out what gate your flight is using and proceed to the security line. Also, some airlines may take your reserved seat assignment away if you have not checked-in prior to the flight, especially on a highly overbooked flight. Don’t take that chance!
4. Prepare your Documents! Before you get in line to check-in at the airport, be sure you have in-hand all the items and documentation you will need. That includes your driver’s license or passport, your boarding pass from your online check-in (or confirmation code) and credit card if you are paying to check any luggage. And that is for EVERY MEMBER OF YOUR PARTY. The airline agent and the folks behind you in line will be grateful.
5. Weigh your Luggage! If you suspect that your bag might be overweight, find out BEFORE you reach the drop-off point. Many airports have installed scales in the check-in areas and I bet you have a scale in your bathroom at home that you can use. That way, you can leave a couple of things behind (you didn’t need them anyway), or shuffle heavy items between your checked bag and carry-on without incurring the wrath of the folks behind you in line at the airport. And avoid those ridiculously expensive overweight baggage fees at the same time.
6. Survive Security Screenings! Stow everything in your carry-on except for your ID and boarding pass…and that includes your phone (unless you are using it for an electronic boarding pass), your keys, wadded up cash, etc. When you hit those white bins, quickly remove your shoes, take your laptop and toiletry baggie out of your bag and place them in the bins. Place your carry-on directly on the belt…take a deep breath, smile and proceed. It will be over before you know it. Keeping a positive attitude is key here. Those TSA screeners don't enjoy it any more than you do.....
7. On The Other Side! Once through Security, double-check the departure monitors again to make sure your gate hasn’t changed. Walk directly to your gate to make sure everything is still accurate and on time. Then you can venture off a little bit to get something to eat/drink and visit the restroom. Stay within range of your gate as much as possible so you can hear any last-minute announcements like gate changes or delays. Most of all, keep your cool. You will be on that plane very soon winging above the clouds to your perfect vacation destination. See…wasn’t that easy???