For many, the airport is the most stressful and chaotic part of traveling. The lines are long, the food is expensive, and the security agents vary wildly between helpfully cheerful and bitterly grouchy. However, there are plenty of ways to prepare that will ease your airport experience and save you some exhaustion.
- Check in before you get to the airport
There’s no need to wait in long lines or battle stubborn kiosks. Most airlines will send you an email twenty-four hours before your flight which will have links and instructions for checking in early. There’s even the option to send your boarding pass directly to your phone through text, email, or your airline’s app so that you don’t have to keep track of that in addition to everything else.
- Pack your carry-on strategically
Odds are you’re going to have to at least partially unpack your carry-on at the security checkpoint. All electronics larger than a phone must be removed from your bags and placed in a separate bin; that includes laptops, tablets, gaming systems, and e-readers. Liquids and gels—which must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces and which must all fit inside a one-quart zip-top bag—must also be removed. Have those items packed on top in your bag so that they can be removed and repacked quickly.
- Dress comfortably
You’re going to be sitting in cramped chairs or standing in long lines for the next several hours, and there’s no need to increase your discomfort with your clothes. Wear comfortable pants (skinny jeans may look great, but they’ll get tight and uncomfortable quickly). Layer your tops, especially if you’re traveling between different climates; a t-shirt or long-sleeve shirt under a light jacket or sweater is ideal. Wear slip-on shoes to make getting through security easier, and don’t forget your socks.
- Enroll in a Trusted Traveler Program
If you travel more than a few times a year, membership in one of the Trusted Traveler Programs is a wise investment. These programs grant you a quick trip through the security checkpoint—usually five minutes or less—and save you from having to remove liquids, electronics, shoes, belts, and jackets. There are different programs for traveling domestically or internationally, and the international programs will speed you through customs as well. Check out TSA PreCheck for domestic travel and NEXUS, Global Entry, and SENTRI for international travel.
- Arrive early
There’s nothing more stressful than waiting in line, watching the clock count down to your boarding time, and then running from security to your boarding gate with half-packed carry-ons because the final boarding call is being announced. Most airports recommend that you arrive two hours before your scheduled flight if you’re traveling within the U.S. and three hours if you’re traveling internationally.
—by Bekah Luthi