Top Travel Tips for At the Airport

The time that you spend at the airport can be the most stressful part of travelling. Once you have beaten traffic and made it to the airport, hopefully with time to spare, you have queues at check in or bag drop to contend with and the worry of your luggage being overweight. If you successfully make it past the ground crew at the desks unscathed, there are more queues facing you at airport security. There is no telling how long this part of your journey will take, once you get to the front of your queue, you then have to unpack and repack your hand luggage to get it through the scanners and there is the worry than even if your carry on case makes it through in one piece, you might not!

Cue the “free massage” as I was once sold it by a very friendly airport security officer as I set off the metal detector for what seemed like absolutely no reason whatsoever. If that’s not embarrassing enough, you’re probably also going to end up inside the human scanning machine with your legs spread and your arms up in the air knowing full well that somebody at a computer in another room is looking at you in all your glory! Once you get through security there’s the added stress of potential delays or cancellations.

Well, the airport doesn’t have to be a stressful experience if you follow these top tips!


1) Check In Online


Most airlines these days give you the option of checking in online before you leave your house. In some cases you can do this up to 30 days before you fly. (Check your airline’s policies regarding online check in). Fill in your API (advanced passenger information), check in and print your boarding passes as soon as the online check in is open to get the best available seats. Don’t miss the cut off point if you’re travelling budget or you’ll be faced with extra check in fees at the airport. If you are travelling with carry on luggage only, this will save you a lot of time once you arrive at the airport. If you have the option to check in at the airport or online and you have to check a bag, you will probably find that the queue for baggage drop will be a lot faster than the queue for check in so it will be advantageous to you to cut out the check in process at the airport if you can.


2) Weigh your Luggage Before you Leave for the Airport

There is nothing more annoying to a traveller than queuing for check in or baggage drop for half an hour, only to find several passengers in front of you unpacking their luggage at the check in desk because their luggage is too heavy. These people hold up the queues and you do not want to be one of these people! If you are checking luggage, weigh your bags at home and make sure that you are not going to be caught out at the airport. Overweight luggage means holding up irate passengers and you will most likely be charged outrageous fees for your extra weight!


3) Take a Photograph of Your Checked Luggage with your Smartphone

Why? Well, approximately 1 in every 200 checked bags get lost between the point at which you check it in and the time you reach your destination. If you have to report lost luggage, a photograph of what your bag looks like will help the airline identify your bag. Make sure you label your luggage with up to date contact details, including a phone number that you can be contacted on while you are abroad.


4) Ask Check In Staff to Label Your Luggage as Fragile

Tell airline attendants that there are breakables in your hold luggage. Your case will be labelled as ‘fragile’ which means your case will be handled with more care and more attention will be paid to the labelling making it more likely to arrive at your destination. More importantly, your case will be stacked on top of everybody else’s luggage and as a result, your case will be the first out on the conveyor belt at your destination airport saving you time!

5) Security and Passport Control Queues

Here are a couple of theories to think about when it comes to queuing which may help you get through a lot quicker. Firstly, avoid the queues containing a lot of children, follow the business travellers in suits instead. They will be more experienced travellers and will also want to get through the queues quickly. It statistically takes longer to do anything when you have children in tow, so try not to line up behind family travellers. Secondly, studies have found that right handed people tend to naturally follow a line to their right. Approximately 90% of the world’s population are right handed, suggesting that 90% of travellers will choose a line to their right. So break the mould and turn to the left instead; chances are you will get through security and passport control much faster!


6) Pack Your Carry on Luggage Logistically


Think ahead about what airport security are going to want to see as you make your way through to the departure lounge. You will need to show your bag of liquids and any large electrical equipment; anything that needs to be plugged in. This is not limited to laptops and tablets, the list includes hairdryers, straighteners, large speakers and large cameras. When you pack your carry on luggage, make sure that these items and your re-sealable plastic bag of permitted liquids and gels are easily accessible. Pack them last so that you can quickly unzip your case and lay out your items without having to unpack and repack your whole bag. As an extra tip, remember that you are going to need easy access to your passport and boarding pass too, so have somewhere convenient and safe to stash these items.


7) Think Ahead About Getting Yourself Through Security Quickly

You will be asked to remove heavy coats and cardigans, belts and anything of a metallic nature, such as watches and jewellery, before you step through the metal detector. Do this while you are queuing to save yourself and your fellow passengers time. Avoid wearing anything that might set the alarms off such as metallic clothing and heavy jewellery on the day you travel and remember to empty your pockets. You will most likely be asked to remove your shoes so make this easy for yourself; wear flip flops or slip on shoes. Sometimes these detectors appear to beep at you for no apparent reason. Stay calm and be friendly to the airport staff, they want to get you through as quickly as you do. Smile and let them do their job, as frustrating as it may be, they are only trying to keep you safe.

8) Take Advantage of Airport Shopping

Duty free has its perks so make sure you leave yourself enough time to stock up on the things that you need. Just remember that if you are travelling to your destination with hand luggage only, you will most likely be returning with hand luggage only, so save buying that new bottle of perfume or aftershave for your return journey or you won’t be able to get it through security coming home. While you’re waiting for your flight, consider stocking up on drinks and snacks on the ground as it will be a lot cheaper than paying for them on the plane.

9) Check Your Stopovers


If you are travelling with a short stopover time, download a map of your connecting airport before you leave your home turf. Some airports are huge, and knowing the layout of an airport can be an advantage. For example, Schiphol airport in Amsterdam is so big it can take up to half an hour to walk from one end of the terminal to the other. Don’t get caught out by unknown distances and risk missing your connection.


10) Don’t Pay Extra for Your Souvenirs


We all like to bring back memories from our travels or gifts for our friends and family. But if you’re planning on bringing back items in your hold luggage, there is potential for these souvenirs to cost you a lot more than you thought in excess luggage fees if you go over your weight allowance. Buy a compact and portable luggage scales to keep your weight in check for your return journey.


All there is left to worry about now is some light entertainment should your flight be delayed, extending your time in the departure lounge. Check out Ryan Eller’s fantastic to do list should you get caught out with time to kill and nothing to do!

Why not read some of our other Top Travel Tips?

Packing Tips - Part 1

Packing Tips - Part 2

Before you leave home

Flying

Fear of Flying

Jet Lag

Arriving at Your Destination

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