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Airports can be a nightmare. If you put in effort to prep beforehand, though, it can be much less stressful. Follow these simple tips for a hassle-free airport experience next time you travel. When booking a flight, always utilize the airline’s seat selection tool to choose a seat closest to the front of the plane. This allows you to board last and exit the plane first upon arrival.
Traveling alone and, especially, without children make for an overall easier airport experience, but preparation is crucial in any instance.
Try to pack everything into a carry-on and your allotted personal item, unless you can check a bag for free and are traveling for an extended period of time. Be careful not to overpack your carry-on, though–larger bags are more susceptible to gate-check, which defeats the purpose of packing in a carry-on. Label your bags ahead of time so that you don’t have to do so at the airport.
Pack and organize all essentials and medication in your personal item for easy access. A good suggestion is to keep chargers, cords, a pen and headphones in a small pouch and medicine, lotion, lip balm, gum and disinfecting wipes in another. Bring an empty water bottle with you to fill up after security at a water fountain in your terminal. It’s important to stay hydrated while traveling and this lets you avoid overpaying for water in the airport.
Arrange for transportation pick-up ahead of time, such as booking a car service or researching public transit options. This saves time once you land.
If you don’t have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry—which you should apply for—be sure that your laptop and liquids are readily accessible at security. Wear a comfortable, hassle-free outfit to speed up your security process as well.
Check-in to your flight and download your boarding pass to your smartphone, if possible, ahead of time–print your boarding pass if a digital option is not available. This allows you to see your boarding time before arriving to the airport and you can head straight to security once you get there. For domestic flights, try to arrive 60 minutes before boarding time, and 90 minutes for international flights.
If you’ve prepped beforehand, you should be able to walk straight to security at your terminal and go right through when you arrive at the airport. This should take around 20-30 minutes, depending on when you’re traveling, and under 10 if you’re enrolled in TSA precheck. The best benefit of this is that you don’t need to remove anything from your person or your bag. Global Entry allows the same but for international flights.
Head directly to your gate after security and note the closest bathroom and news shop or restaurant. Try to avoid buying anything at the airport, but if you’re in for a long flight and don’t want the in-flight meal, you should grab a bite to eat during this time. If all goes according to plan, you should have about 30 minutes until boarding. Use this time to go to the restroom, fill up your water bottle, possibly get some food and stretch.
If your flight is delayed, make sure you know your cancelation rights so you know if you can ask to be switched to another airline or compensated for meals and accommodation.
Try to board towards the end of the boarding process since you’re going to be on the airplane for a long time anyway. If it’s a shorter flight, though, overhead space may be limited so you’ll want to board sooner to avoid gate-checking your carry-on.
You should be able to exit the plane quickly at this point if you booked a seat towards the front and you can exit the airport right away since you packed in a carry-on. If you’re flying internationally, fill out the customs form on the plane, with that pen you packed in your personal item, and go straight to the customs line. Once you’re outside the airport, locate your pre-arranged transportation and begin your vacation!
Ashley Rossi, SmarterTravel.com | April 26, 2016