Airports are monstrously huge these days and it helps to have a few “airport travel tips” to make the journey go a little bit smoother. Here are some of the most basic, but very useful, travel tips you can employ on your next trip through an airport:
1. If your airline charges to check your bag, you can take a carry-on size bag through security and leave the bag with the boarding gate if overhead bin space gets too full. Most of the time, they will check the bag for no charge. And, sometimes they even let you board early for agreeing to check your suitcase. A win-win! I’ve done this to avoid paying $25.00 each to check my smaller luggage.
2. It sometimes helps to familiarize yourself with the airport you’ll be flying out of to see if there are any long distances between gates. Many airports have domestic and international terminals. When changing planes, you can sometimes find yourself having to rush to get to your next gate for departure if you aren’t aware of the distance between them. A little research (using Airport Intel) will reveal some of the pitfalls you might encounter and speed you on your way.
3. Of course, if you can fly a lot on the same airline, you’ll earn perks and benefits that will make your travel a little easier – like early boarding, upgrades to business and first class, and increased mileage awards for all your flights. It pays to become an MVP, VIP or whatever your chosen airline calls their most loyal customers.
4. If the airport is a long distance from your home and you have an early flight, it sometimes pays to reserve a hotel room for the night before the trip so you can wake up near the airport and take their shuttle to the terminal. Many hotels have a “park and fly” program that lets you stay the night and park your car in their lot while you are away. Very convenient and a lot less stressful than getting up at 3 or 4 in the morning. Check with airport hotels to see if they offer such a service. You can earn hotel points to boot!
5. When you are traveling with small children, it sometimes pays to use one of the airline lounges, so you can get away from the noise and the crowds for awhile until you are ready to board your flight. Plan ahead and see if your airline has a lounge that you can use. You’ll be able to get snacks and drinks and have some comfortable places to sit. Airline lounges are geared toward the business traveler, but also cater to families. Check with you airline and see if they have availability. If you are not a member, you can inquire about paying for a one day use of the lounge. Enjoy something to eat, get washed up, use the restroom and generally have a relaxing break. Prior to a long flight, you may find that the extra time to get ready is just what you needed! And you should also especially consider doing this if you have hours to kill between flights as you change planes for your final destination.
6. The best days to fly are Tuesday and Wednesday. You’ll have to compete with fewer people at the airport, and the airlines post lower fares on those days to entice you to buy a seat on the slower days. So you can save money and be less stressed by the crowds.
7. Check to see if your airline has a smartphone app. If they do, spend a little time to get familiar in case you need to make changes to your itinerary. You might be able to make your changes immediately from your phone instead of standing in line to see an agent.
8. My wife has started bringing an empty water bottle when we travel. You can take the bottle through security and fill it when you get past security. Many airports are installing purified water refill stations in the terminals so you have clean water to drink. It sure beats paying $4.00 for bottled water.
9. I recently bought a new carry-on suitcase that has the four wheels on the bottom. It allows me to push the suitcase as I walk and is almost effortless. I love not having to pull my bag behind me all the time. I can set my backpack on top of it and roll my way to the gate!
10. Before going on a flight with any airline, look up and print their Rule 240, which gives you the knowledge and ammunition you will need in case there is a delay caused by weather, war or other events outside of the control of the airline. You have rights and you should know what they are. Many of the airline ticket agents won’t even have a good working knowledge of rule 240, so get ahead of the game and be ready to get everything you are entitled to. See this article for a good primer on the subject.
11. To speed things up a bit at security, and to prevent your laptop computer from being stolen, you can now get TSA approved laptop bags that allow you to send your computer through the x-ray machine without taking it out of the bag. Just unzip the case and lay it flat. This will make your trip through the security checkpoint just a little easier.
If you have airport travel tips that you’d like to share with AirportIntel.com readers, please email us here!