Ready to become an airport expert? Here are 50 airport tips:
1. Arrive 1 to 1.5 hours early for domestic flights and 2 hours early for international flights.
Depending on the time and day of your flight, the lines can be outrageously long. You have to check-in your baggage, go through airport security and find your gate. Each airport is unique and some are much larger than others. Giving yourself enough time to get through the airport is important.
2. Drop your checked baggage at the curb.
To save time, many airports allow you to check-in your luggage at the entrance. There will be baggage handlers who will check-in your bags and take them to the same place that the handlers inside would. The only difference? You don’t have to stand in a long line.
3. Know your airport codes.
Knowing your airport codes helps to make sure that your luggage tag shows the correct airport for your destination. The last thing you want is your luggage to be sent half way across the world (especially if that’s not where you’re heading). Some airport codes make sense (St. Louis = STL) but others don’t look anywhere close to their airport name (Chicago = ORD).
4. Check-in online 24 hours in advanced.
Most airlines allow you to check-in online within 24 hours ahead of time. This allows you to skip standing in line to check-in at the airport. Most airlines also give you better seats the sooner you check-in.
5. Wear your heaviest outfit to the airport.
Sounds silly, but it saves money. Airports have strict weight limits when it comes to checked luggage. The less heavy things you have in your bags, the less you have to worry about going over the weight limit.
6. Check the weight of your luggage before heading to the airport.
You can buy your own luggage scale to check the weight of your suitcase. This way you know for sure that you won’t have to pay the fee for overweight bags. This fee can be as much as $100 to $200, depending on how much extra weight you’ve added.
7. Use spinner luggage.
Spinner luggage is luggage that has four wheels instead of two that allows the suitcase to move more freely. Carrying around a suitcase with only two wheels can be a pain in the ass, especially if you’re trying to quickly go around a crowd of people.
8. Use TSA approved locks on your luggage.
I’m a pretty paranoid person, so I make sure to lock up everything when I’m traveling. Using locks is against TSA rules, though. If you don’t use locks designed specifically for TSA, there’s a chance your lock will get destroyed because they have to open your bag to check what’s inside. TSA approved combination locks allows the TSA workers to open your lock while others can’t.
9. Check the list of restricted items before packing.
There are plenty of items that aren’t allowed in your luggage, both checked bags and carry ons. One of the most common things is that you can’t have any liquids in your carry on if the amount is over 3.4oz. You can check the list of items allowed in your luggage here.
10. Keep your electronics toward the top of your carry on.
When you’re going through airport security, you’ll have to take any electronics out of your bag and put them into a separate bin. If your electronics are buried down in your suitcase, it can hold up the line when you’re standing there for 10 minutes searching for all your things.
11. Don’t wear an excessive amount of jewelry.
You’re required to take jewelry off when going through airport security. The less jewelry you wear, the less time it will take to removed your jewelry and then put it back on.
12. Start removing items while standing in line for airport security.
I’m not saying to get naked but removing your shoes is a must. You’ll see people doing it before getting up to the front of the line to save time. Also be sure to remove anything from your pockets, remove jewelry and take off your belt. These are all things that will set the alarm off when going through airport security.
13. Avoid the security lines with kids in them.
Another way to save some time is to look ahead and see which line has less kids in them. No matter how much you love kids, you know that they’ll take more time to get through security than adults.
14. Wear easily removable shoes.
Like I said before, removing your shoes at airport security is a must. Therefore, be sure you’re not wearing 6 inch heels that took 20 minutes to get on this morning.
15. Store all loose items in your carry on before going through security.
This includes your phone, any papers, headphones and anything else that may be in your pocket. This saves you from needing to use an extra bin, which helps save you and the people behind you time.
16. Have a printed copy of your boarding pass.
I’ve had one case when using an electronic version of my boarding pass held the line up because the airport was having technology problems when it came to scanning phones. Having a paper copy on hand is always smart.
17. Add your boarding pass to your Apple Wallet.
Having a copy of your boarding pass on your phone is also smart. There have been multiple times when I’ve seen boarding passes laying around the airport because people have accidently lost them. Having an electronic version will keep that peace of mind knowing that you for sure have your boarding pass information.
18. Use the mobile passport app.
The Mobile Passport App is actually authorized by U.S. Custom and Borders themselves. The app helps speed you through customs at specific airports (and cruise ships!).
19. Apply for Global Entry.
Global Entry gives you TSA Pre-Check benefits plus it gives you quicker access through customs screenings for international air travelers when coming to the United States. It’s $100 for five years but is worth it if you’re a frequent traveler. Oh.. and you can get it FREE with special travel credit cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reward card!
20. Apply for a travel credit card.
Travel credit cards allow you access to more than just Global Entry for free. You can also get access to a bunch of lounges in over 1,000 different airports. These lounges offer free food, wifi and alcohol!
21. Bring your own snacks.
If you don’t have access to the free food at the lounges, expect to pay excessive prices anywhere else in the airport. This is why bringing your own snacks is smart. It saves you quite a bit of money.
Yup – you can bring alcohol into the airport (as long as it’s in 3.4oz bottles). Take travel sized alcohol in your carry on and then start drinking as soon as you’re through security… or as soon as you land at your destination!
23. Bring an empty water bottle.
You’re not allowed to take a full water bottle through security BUT you can take an empty one! Once you get through security, you can fill the bottle up with water to drink while you’re waiting (or on the flight) instead of paying high airport prices. To save room in your bag, I recommend a silicone water bottle for traveling.
24. Pack your most important items in your carry on.
This is my #1 rule whenever I have both a carry on and checked luggage. As much as we hate to think about it, it is possible for our checked luggage to get lost while traveling! Having your most important items in your carry on will let you know that you have them on you at all times.
25. Pack the small, heavy items in your carry on.
Your checked luggage is weighed but your carry on isn’t. So if you have a small, 20 pound rock that you’re trying to fly with… I suggest putting in it your carry on bag to avoid overweight luggage fees.
26. Wear socks.
When you take off your shoes at security, do you really want to have your bare feet on the airport’s floor? I mean, I wouldn’t.
27. Have all your information ready for immigration.
If you’re traveling to another country, you’re going to need more information than normal. This can include your passport, visa, hotel information, itinerary and more depending on the country you are entering. Check the country’s requirements before heading to the airport.
28. Make your luggage stand out.
When going to baggage check, there’s going to be a lot of luggage that looks the same. This can slow down the process because it will require you to look at the tag on each bag to see if it is yours or not. But if you have a brightly colored, unique suitcase, you won’t have to worry about checking to see if it’s yours or not. Some people do this by simply tying a bright colored ribbon on their suitcase or you can buy a luggage cover to REALLY make it stand out!
29. Take a photo of your checked luggage.
This helps when trying to claim lost luggage with your travel insurance. It also helps when showing the attendant at the claim counter to help them remember if they’ve seen it or not.
30. Take a photo of your parking spot.
If you’re leaving your car at the airport for awhile, you might forget where it’s at whenever you get back. Having a picture can help jog your memory. Remember, take pictures based on the airports aisle numbers, not based on the cars around it. The cars around it may be gone when you get back.
31. Research sleeping spots in the airports.
If you’re a budget traveler like me, you might find yourself with an overnight layover on the way to your destination. Most 24 hour airports have a designated spot for people to sleep. Check the airport’s map to find where this location is in the airport.
32. Continuously check your flight’s status.
Flights can change at any time. The time of the flight can change. The gate for the flight can change. The flight might get cancelled. Being updated on all of this is important if you plan on… ya know… getting on the plane. Checking the boards or your airline’s app can keep you updated.
33. Do NOT listen to music in the airport.
It may be tempting to listen to music while waiting awhile for your flight, but it’s common for people to miss their flight because of this. Often times the airlines will make an announcement with important information on the intercoms. If you’re blasting music in your ears, it’s easy to miss these announcements.
34. Set your phone’s alarm for boarding.
Some airports are actually pretty awesome (for example, Singapore’s airport has a pool!) so there can be times when you’re roaming around and lose track of time. Keeping an alarm can let you know exactly when to start heading back to your assigned gate.
35. If your flight is cancelled or overbooked, call the airline’s 800 number instead of standing in line.
The people on the other end of the airline’s 800 number can do the same thing as the attendants in the airport. Calling the number may get your flight fixed faster than standing in line. Or, you can be smart and call the number WHILE standing in line. That way if the line is faster, you can just hang up and proceed to fix your flight information at the airport.
36. Include your flight number on your car rental reservation so they can be updated if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
When reserving a car, you have to give an estimated time of arrival to pick up the car. If your flight is delayed for too long, they might assume you are not coming to pick up the car. Giving them your flight number can help them understand that you’re just running late and not ditching the car.
37. Join airline loyalty programs for possible upgrades.
Want bumped up to first class? You have more of a chance if you are part of your airline’s loyalty program. Being part of their loyalty program shows that you are more likely to fly with them in the future (even if you aren’t). Airlines love returning customers!
38. If you don’t like turbulence, book an early morning flight.
Turbulence is due to bad weather and you find most bad weather to happen in the afternoon or night.
39. Look up airport gates.
Knowing where your airport gate is before getting to the airport helps you know how much time you need to give yourself to get there. In larger airports, sometimes gates can be a 15-20 minute walk from the airport security point.
40. Don’t be afraid to ask for a free upgrade.
Maybe someone in first class had to cancel their flight and there’s an extra seat. Letting them know that you’re traveling solo or traveling for a special event may help you get that upgrade you want. The worst thing they can say is no.
41. Charge all electronics before getting on your flight.
I typically play games and listen to music on my phone while I’m on my flight, but long flights can kill my phone when I’m continuously on it the whole time. Plus, you want to be sure to have your phone available when the flight has landed to call a taxi or look at maps to leave the airport.
42. Bring a portable charger.
If the flight is really, really, really long, you might need a portable charger. Sometimes charging your electronics beforehand isn’t enough. Portable chargers are also great when traveling due to using your phone often for pictures, videos, etc.
43. Download apps/music/podcasts/books before you get on the plane.
Planes don’t have internet, so you want to be sure to have what you need on your phone, tablet or laptop before boarding the plane. Buying internet on a plane is pretty pricy and usually still has crappy signal.
44. Using the “Read and Return” program at the airport to buy books.
The bookstores in the airports are all owned by the same company called “Paradies Lagardère” which has a special program called “Read and Return.” You are able to buy a book from the store and then return it within 6 months and get half your money back for the book.
45. Use the Best Buy Kiosk to buy electronics.
Electronics can be extremely expensive in an airport but the difference between a normal store and the Best Buy Kiosk is that if you take the headphones up to a Best Buy store, they will refund you the difference between the airport price and the normal store price. Sounds like extra work, but every penny counts!
46. Ask lost or found before buying electronics.
It’s not uncommon to get to the airport and realize you forgot a charger… or the cube to your charger… or whatever else it is that you need. Most lost and found areas in an airport keep the items for about 90 days. Go to the lost and found and be honest. Tell them you’re looking for something because you forgot it at home. If they have one that’s been there for 90 days or more, they might let you use it or, even better, have it!
47. Use SeatGuru to see what seat is best on the plane.
SeatGuru is a website designed for travelers to give their opinion on the best seat on the plane. You can use their feedback to determine where you want to sit.
48. Keep airplane essentials close to you in your carry on.
The most common airplane essentials include a charger, headphones, snacks, portable charger, eye mask and more. You don’t want to be digging through your suitcase to find something while on a packed plane.
49. Carry a multi-plug for airport outlets.
I don’t personally do this but if you’re a business person who needs their electronics on them at all times, this can be important for you. There’s not always multiple outlets available, so having a multi plug will allow for you to use multiple outlets when there aren’t many available. You can also be nice and let others use it. Maybe you’ll make a new friend!
50. Be the last one to board.
This isn’t always an available choice but if you can wait to board, do it! It makes it where you don’t have to stand in line as long and it gives you more of a chance to get upgraded to available seats.
Do you feel like an airport expert yet?
Do you know more airport hacks? Let me know in the comments below so we can add it to the list to share with others!