How To Get Through The Airport Faster: Tips To Get Through The Airport Quickly
Airline Travel Hassles
I've been all over the world from China to Nigeria and despite taking hundreds of flights, still dislike traveling. Airline travel in particular, is a big pain! Security has gotten more and more intense, and though this is a good thing, it's annoying. And it seems like these days, there are more and more lines to go through at airports.
Fortunately, there are a few things that you can do to make your time at the airport go quickly and smoothly. After all of these years of travel, my husband and I have mastered the art of dealing with airports all over the world. We don't do anything radical or have special connections; we just use common sense. And with the following tips, your airport experience will hopefully be a better one, as well.
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Get Through Airport Security Efficiently
Airline Travel Tips
Here are my personal tips for getting through airports quickly and efficiently.
1. Don't overpack. My No. 1 tip is to ONLY bring a carry-on bag. Sounds impossible, right, especially if you're going on a long journey? Trust me, it's not. I just came back from a 10-day trip to Amsterdam and Nigeria. I had to pack for four long flights and two very different climates ... and I managed to get everything into my carry-on bag. If you only bring a carry-on, you can avoid lines, waiting for your stuff at baggage claim -- and money since you won't have to pay to check in your bag. You'll also get to the customs lines and taxis more quickly since everyone else is busy waiting for their bags to arrive. My cousin recently had to wait seven hours for his bag at JFK. Seven hours! Imagine how much time he would've saved had he just had a carry-on. For more information, check out my Hub on packing light (in the adjacent sidebar).
2. Make sure you have every document that you'll need. If you're traveling to a foreign country, make sure ahead of time that you have the correct passport, visa, shots, etc. You don't want to get stuck at the airport line without the necessary documentation. Also, look up the information at least two months in advance so you don't need to rush to get it. The more efficient you are, the more pleasant your airport experience will be.
3. Check in online. Almost every airline allows you to check in online 24 hours in advance. You can choose your seats and print out your boarding pass right at home. It's so worth it to do this, especially if the airport doesn't have self-service kiosks. We recently flew from Murtala Muhammed Airport in Nigeria and were strongly urged to do the online check-in because they don't have the kiosks there. We did and sure enough, when we got there, every line was long (plus it was really hot). By having our boarding passes and just carry-on luggage, we were able to skip two annoying steps in the boarding process.
4. Have your documents ready to go. Make sure that you don't forget anything! Put your passports and other papers in a place where you know you'll look so that you remember them. Once at the airport, put your documents and boarding pass in easy reach. I like to keep my passport in a neck wallet so they're just right there. People will be asking for your ID and documents multiple times, so don't throw them into the bottom of a bag where they'll be hard to find. Have them at the ready.
5. Find out ahead of time what security is like. Most security policies are similar in that you're only allowed a few small bottles of fluids, which you need to keep in a Ziploc bag. Many places also require that you remove your jewelry, belt buckles and shoes. If you know this ahead of time, you can be prepared. Wear shoes that slip on and off easily, like sneakers, not fancy sandals. While waiting on the security line, begin removing articles like watches, necklaces and shoes so that they'll be off by the time it's your turn to go through. Even better, wear minimal jewelry and wear items that don't have too many buttons so they're easy to remove. Have that Ziploc bag handy so you can take it out right away. Make sure that your laptop is TSA approved and follow the instructions about putting it through the X-ray machine. The trick is to breeze through and to not be fumbling around finding things.
6. Study the airport ahead of time. If you're aware of the airport's layout, it'll help you navigate. This is especially important if you have to make a connecting flight. It's always easier to get places if you know where you're going! Most flights will list on board the gates of that airline's connecting flights, but if yours is not listed, don't be afraid to ask. The more ahead of time that you know things, the better.
7. Fill out immigration and customs forms on board. All international flights will give you these cards before you land. Fill them out ahead of time and you'll save a few minutes. This makes all the difference when getting ahead on the line!
8. Be prepared to speedily answer questions at immigration and customs. You'll usually be asked why you're visiting that country, for how many days you'll be there and WHERE you'll be staying. That said, have your hotel's reservation or relative's address and phone number ready so you can just read it off.
9. Take an airport train whenever possible. If you're traveling to Europe, you'll see that almost every city has a train that goes right to the airport. Many other cities have this, as well. I've found that the trains are a lot more efficient than taxis because you're not dealing with traffic. This saves a lot of time just getting to and from the airport. But if using a taxi, take a reputable service. Usually the airport has a specific service that they use, that runs fairly well. Make sure you have the exact address and neighborhood of your destination at the ready.
10. Be prepared for surprises. You just never know what's going to happen at any airport, especially when you're in another country with different customs. Find out as much as you can beforehand so you're not blindsided as you make your way to your plane.