Tips for a smooth airport experience


Airports can be stressful places, even when you’re going on an exciting trip. Travelers have to navigate these often unfamiliar spaces and get through several stages of ticketing and screening before boarding their flight. Even small, regional airports require you to jump through the same hoops to ensure security. The stress of getting to your gate and the worry of making your flight on time can mean that your trip doesn’t get off to a good start. Fortunately, there are ways to make the experience smoother so that you can begin your travels in a good mood. I should know, I’ve racked up a nearly half a million miles flying over the years. Try the following tips for a smooth airport experience.

Get TSA Pre-Check, Clear or Global Entry

TSA Pre-Check and other forms of pre-screening such as Clear and Global Entry enable you to have your background prescreened so that you have to go through less screening each time you fly. TSA Pre-Check is the most common and once you have been cleared, you will be able to go through the fast lanes at security checkpoints; won’t have to remove jackets, belts or shoes; and generally have a better overall experience through security. Clear is a private version available at limited airports and Global Entry is for international travelers to speed up customs. When you book your travel, make sure you provide your pre-check number, otherwise you will not be able to go through the fast lanes.

Some credit cards (Chase Sapphire Visa) will reimburse you up to one hundred dollars a year for the cost of your application for your TSA Pre-Check; so inquire with your credit card company before proceeding with the application.

Pack a Light Carry-on

Packing a carry-on bag helps you to ensure you have everything you need for the plane for comfort and function. In addition to your ID, money and ticket, you might also need something for entertainment, medication, snacks or perhaps some things for your kids, and a change of clothes, in case your checked luggage gets lost. However, you should try to pack light if you want to avoid any issues. Just watch one of my favorite comedian Sebastian Maniscalco’s routine on checking in at the airport.

Check that your bag is within the airline’s size and weight limits, so you don’t have to check it in unexpectedly. Not only will it make your check-in and security experience easier, but it will mean you have less weight to carry around too. I suggest adding some sanitizing wipes to clean armrests and tray tables, some sanitizer for your hands, a good set of headphones (wireless Bluetooth) for your device, a backup set of cheap earbuds to plug into the plane’s media options, and for long trips, some breath mints or face wipes to freshen up before a meeting.

Follow the Rules on Liquids

The rules on flying with liquids are important to follow. If you have anything you shouldn’t in your carry-on bag, it may be confiscated. You are allowed a quart-sized, clear, resealable bag, which you can use to carry liquid in containers of no more than 3.4 oz (100ml). You must take this bag out of your carry-on and put it separately in your tray at security unless you have pre-check. This means that you can easily take some essential items like chapstick, moisturizer, hand sanitizer and most travel-sized toiletries. There are exceptions for medications and for infant formula, juice and breast milk, but make sure you identify those and show them to security before going through the scanners.

When traveling internationally, you may find that there are more restrictions. Rather than being able to carry any number of items under 3.4 liquid ounces, the total amount of small liquid bottles may have to fit into a single clear plastic bag. It is important to look up the carry-on restrictions for the specific countries in which you are traveling.

Dress Well

Some people like to look good while traveling, but your priority should be to dress comfortably. You can still look smart and feel comfortable at the same time. When it comes to the security process, the best thing you can do is ensure you have minimal accessories and metal, even if you have pre-check. There are many things that could set off the metal detectors, and it’s better simply to not wear them than to have to take them all off and put them back on again. Avoid bulky jewelry, belts with large buckles, and anything too obscuring, like big jackets or hats.

Plan well for your airport experience and everything will go much more smoothly. You can check the rules before you fly, so it’s easy to be prepared when you are headed internationally, as different countries have different rules and requirements.