40 Airport Travel Hacks to Make Every Trip Enjoyable and Hassle-freeBy John P.
Airports are among the busiest places in the world. With travelers of all nationalities wanting to get to their destination in the most convenient way, there are bound to be some mishaps along the way. At any given time, there are people scrambling to deal with canceled flights, lost baggage, and that awful sinking feeling that hits when you realize your passport is nowhere to be found.
We can’t prevent such things from happening, but we can at least do something to make our airport experiences as smooth as possible. That’s why we’ve scoured the internet to bring you some tried and tested tips and tricks that should make your next trip memorable for all the right reasons.
Have a good pair of headphones
Listening to music can be a great way to reduce your boredom while waiting for your flight. We highly suggest bringing headphones to the airport for a variety of reasons. This move saves you money since not all airlines offer them for free to passengers who wish to watch in-flight movies.
While companies like American Airlines do offer free headphones, the sound quality isn’t always that great. So, it’s better to have a good set of noise-canceling headphones of your own that will allow you to enjoy the flight without any distractions.
Ask for upgrades
It may be a little embarrassing to ask, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Get into the habit of asking for a free seat upgrade, especially if you’re a frequent flyer or if you’re celebrating a special occasion.
Airlines such as United Airlines would be happy to make your experience memorable, so they will upgrade you if it’s at all possible. However, be sure to never take advantage of an airline’s generosity. It’s okay to ask; just make sure to also be aware that not all airlines are the same.
Go left when choosing a security line
Everyone hates standing in line for too long, right? But did you know that there’s actually a hack to make security checks go faster? All you have to do is to head over to the line on the far left instead of heading to the right.
Why? The logic is quite simple. Since most people are right-handed, they tend to head for the security checkpoints to their right. If you opt for the counters on the left instead, you most likely won’t encounter that many people.
A portable charger is a must!
We wouldn’t want our gadgets, especially our mobile phones on low battery, right?
While there are a lot of charging stations in the airport terminal, having your own portable charger is better. Aside from the fact that there aren’t always outlets available, you might also be putting your gadgets at risk of being hacked.
Moreover, if your phone runs out of battery, you can just take out your power bank and charge it up – no need to worry about finding the nearest charging station. Plus, putting it in airplane mode after takeoff will also help reduce battery consumption.
Include wet wipes and hand sanitizer in your hygiene kits
As planes are always crowded with different people, having your own hand sanitizer and wet wipes can come in handy. It’ll not only protect you from germs but will also minimize the risk of contracting a virus. Plus, you don’t want to catch bugs during your flight, right?
Another thing is that wet wipes can help you feel refreshed. Let’s face it: everyone tends to feel groggy, especially after a long-haul flight. In cases where you can’t afford to shower right away, wet wipes can be your go-to item.
Book an early flight
Not everybody likes getting up early for a morning flight, but if you struggle with turbulence, this tip might be helpful. We can’t completely prevent it from happening, but we can minimize the chances of experiencing it.
Flying early in the morning is the key if you want to avoid turbulence. Of course, we can’t guarantee that there won’t be any turbulence on your early morning flight, but you will have a better chance of avoiding it.
Extra Ziploc bags might come in handy
Most of us make use of Ziploc bags in our kitchen as they’re great for storing food. But have you ever thought about bringing a pack of Ziploc bags on your next trip? It can be a great idea to have some ready in your suitcase and carry-on luggage.
No matter how much you prepare, it’s common to realize that you’ve forgotten something when you arrive at the airport. Having a Ziploc ready might come in handy if you end up buying liquids at the last minute. Also, you can use it as a clear bag to protect your gadgets while on the beach.
Make use of the online check-in option
Before the rise of technology, you had to arrive at the airport far earlier than your flight to ensure you wouldn’t be late for check-in. Since everything has been modernized nowadays, you can make use of online check-in up to 24 hours before your flight.
Aside from not having to go there early, you also won’t have to stand in line for too long. Just print out your electronic boarding pass before you leave, and voila! You can present it at the counter, and you’re good to go.
Make a picture of your luggage
With thousands of people at the airport, there is always a chance of seeing someone with the same style of suitcase. You can always add something to make your luggage easy to identify, such as a unique luggage tag, a bright ribbon, or a lock on the zippers.
Still, it would be best to take a quick photo of your luggage before check-in. The photo will serve as your reference to ensure you’re getting the right one. It’s better to be prepared because losing your baggage is quite a hassle!
Try freezing your drink to get through security
It is common knowledge that you aren’t allowed to bring liquids on planes, and this includes a seemingly innocent bottle of water. They can only accept liquids that are in small containers. However, we have a cool tip that you can use to get your drinks through security.
Bring your bottled water frozen. Of course, there might be some downsides. First up, it can be a hassle to carry around something so cold. The second issue is that once it gets a little defrosted, technically, it won’t pass.
Choose the best seat when checking in
Not all airlines use the same planes, so each flight will have a different seat configuration. This can make it difficult to find out whether your assigned seat will be a comfortable one. What’s great about today’s technology is that you can now use websites such as SeatGuru.
Seatguru is a website that contains seat reviews for you to know if you’ve chosen the best seat or not. It’s believed to have helped various travelers to make their flight experience more comfortable. Just be sure to also leave a review to help more travelers get the best seat.
It’s better to fly at night
We know most of you would rather sleep in your comfy bed than on a plane. However, airports are so much more peaceful late at night. So, for those who hate crowded airports, taking the red-eye is the way to go.
You can watch in-flight movies, read your Kindle, or take a long nap. By the time you wake up, you’ll be welcomed with rays of sunshine at your destination. If you’re the type to prefer peace and quiet, then you should try booking a flight that leaves late at night instead.
Research restaurants and shops in advance
If you find it easier to eat at the airport while waiting for your flight, it’s better to look up the restaurants beforehand. More often than not, the choice of restaurants and shops inside the airport is limited.
If you just want a quick bite, fast-food restaurants will probably suffice. However, if you’re the type to prefer healthy meals, then looking up restaurants ahead of time is better. This will give you a chance to look at the menu in advance so that you can select the ideal meal.
Bring an empty reusable water bottle
When you have your own water tumbler, you aren’t just saving money on expensive bottled water at the airport. You’re also reducing the demand for plastic packaging, which helps the environment.
You can take an empty bottle with you and then fill it up after getting through security. This might sound like a simple hack, but trust us, investing in a good water tumbler is much better than having to buy bottled ones whenever you feel thirsty.
Check your flight status regularly
Most people try to get to the airport as early as possible to avoid running into any unexpected inconveniences. It always feels good when you have plenty of time to spare. Still, we don’t have any control over delays.
That’s why it’s best to check your flight status even before going to the airport. That way, if it turns out your flight will be delayed for hours, you won’t have to waste time waiting at the airport. Instead, you can take your time at home to prepare your luggage so that you won’t forget anything.
Hotel toiletries are yours to keep
Most hotels nowadays offer a comfortable space to stay in that includes high-quality amenities and tiny toiletries. If you feel like those little bottles would be handy to have with you on your flight, then go ahead – they’re free.
If you check in to a high-end hotel like the Hilton, you can be sure that they only use branded toiletries, so go and pack them inside your suitcase. This is a great alternative to buying travel-sized items whenever you take a trip.
Join a VIP lounge
This is one of the perks of being a frequent flyer. Some airlines offer VIP lounge memberships in exchange for their frequent flyer miles. You’ll not only enjoy seating comfortably but will also get to eat at their buffet while you wait for your flight.
You don’t have to worry if you don’t have enough frequent flyer miles – you can still sign up to be a member in some airports. You can purchase day passes for at least $50, depending on your location. It isn’t cheap, but if you prefer to take your experience to the next level, then it’s worth it.
Call the airline to ask to be rebooked instead
In cases where a flight has to be canceled, most people immediately go over to the reservation counter and ask to be rebooked. Indeed, everyone will soon start piling up there, hoping to get another flight.
Instead of joining the crowd, call the airlines and ask for someone to help you. Although they may not be working inside the airport, they can generally help you rebook your flights immediately. Problem solved, with no queuing involved!
A little “siesta time” at the airport
Getting your flight delayed can be irritating, right? It switches your mood from excited to frustrated in an instant. No matter how stressed we get, we can’t always fix the situation right away. But you know what? Taking a short nap is the best way to relieve your stress.
Some airports, like Heathrow Airport in London, have sleeping pods that you can rent out. For less than the price of a hotel room, you can take a nap in a private pod for hours. They also offer access to showers, lockets, toiletries, and fresh towels. This way, you can cool down your mind and freshen up a bit.
Keep your laptop safe but accessible
Most of us usually pack our laptops in our carry-on luggage only to struggle with it at every security check. That’s why we recommend getting a high-quality laptop case. Not only will it protect your laptop from bumps and scratches, but you’ll also save time in the security line.
You won’t have to rummage through your belongings just to get your laptop out. Moreover, you can get laptop cases for as low as $10 on Amazon. Laptop cases are worth buying, so long as you invest in high-quality ones.
Take a picture of your parking space
Finding an empty parking space is hard, but remembering where you parked can also be a struggle. Instead of trying to remember the slot number, just take a photo of it – no brain power needed!
Even if you feel like you’ll be able to find your way back, it’s better to be safe and sorry, right? There are times when your brain has your back and times when it drops the ball. Having a visual reference is your insurance policy against unexpected mental lapses.
Wear your bulkiest clothes
Instead of struggling to fit your bulky clothes inside your luggage, why not wear them instead? Aside from giving you extra space, you’ll also avoid excess baggage fees. If you can, just put on your bulky clothes and wear them at the airport.
If your bulky jacket or extra sweater is making you too hot, take it off and either hang it through a bag handle or stuff it in your carry-on once you’ve made it through check-in and security. Easy peasy!
Make your luggage unique
After spending hours on a long flight, all you want to do is get to your hotel and rest. Nobody wants to spend a long time waiting and struggling to find their baggage. However, if you own a suitcase that has a very common design, this could be your fate after every flight.
Here’s a little trick you can use to avoid this issue. Tie a brightly colored scarf or ribbon around the handle. That way, you can easily spot your luggage, even from miles away. Once again, this is no guarantee against baggage dramas, but it certainly will help.
Be on the lookout for free Wi-fi
Wi-fi is not a want but a need in these modern times. Most of us need perpetual connection, whether it be for work or our family or social lives. However, portable wi-fi options are still quite expensive. So, what’s a traveler to do?
If you just want to quickly go over your messages and emails, you can always ask if there is free wi-fi at the airport. Every airport is different, but most of the restaurants around the terminal will offer wi-fi. It’s usually not too hard to stay connected without spending money on data charges.
Flight deals are more common on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
If you’ve been wanting to travel but you’re on a tight budget, try looking for deals on these days. According to a study done by CheapAir, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the best days of the week to book air travel.
The study found that you can save at least $73 per ticket when you book your flights during the middle of the week. The cheapest days to travel, on the other hand, are Thursday and Friday. If you want to know the cheapest time of year to book, January and February tend to offer up the best deals.
Have a portable scale for your baggage
As mentioned, nobody wants to pay for extra baggage if they can avoid it. What’s more embarrassing is having to open your bag in the middle of the airport, desperately moving your belongings around in hopes of trying to lessen the weight.
Save yourself the trouble and get a portable scale for your luggage. This way, you can be sure that your luggage won’t exceed the limit. These devices are a smart purchase, especially for frequent travelers.
Be strategic with your carry-on luggage
Though it’s not a common occurrence, airlines do still lose luggage from time to time. That’s why you should always pack any valuables you need to bring inside your carry-on. Make sure that items such as your medications, travel documents, phone chargers, laptop, and other daily essentials are in your carry-on.
Finding lost luggage can take time and persistence. However, if you follow this tip, you’ll always have your essential belongings with you, even if the airline lets you down. People who are on daily medications should make this a non-negotiable travel rule.
Bring a power strip
If you aren’t a fan of portable chargers, then a power strip is a good alternative. Finding an outlet to charge all your gadgets at the airport is hard. However, a power strip will allow you to charge your phone, laptop, BlueTooth headphones, Kindle, tablet, and any other devices – all at the same time!
Moreover, you can share the extra outlets with your travel buddies or even the stranger sitting next to you (if you’re feeling generous). Since the power strip doesn’t have a battery, it can pass through the security with ease.
Consider investing in a laptop stand
For those workaholics who carry on with their duties at the airport and on the plane, having a good laptop stand is a must. If you’ve always wished you could recline your seat but still comfortably work on your laptop, the stand will be your new best friend.
With a cost ranging from $20-$30, laptop stands are readily available on Amazon. With these, you can sit comfortably and work from a reclined position. Just make sure to warn the person behind you before you push your seat back.
Rent your car online
Planning your trip involves more than just the flights and hotel. If you want to save money, renting a car can be a nice hack that helps you avoid taxi and bus fares. However, for this hack to really work, you need to book in advance online instead of waiting in line at the airport.
As an added benefit, you’ll get to choose your preferred vehicle and ensure it fits your budget instead of just settling on what’s available. You’ll improve your experience and save money as well since most companies offer discounts when you prepay.
Downloaded or print a copy of your boarding pass and airport map
If you opt to check-in online, aside from securing a digital copy, consider having your boarding pass printed. You’ll get to skip the long lines when you arrive at the airport, and you’ll have the chance of enjoying a better boarding position when you book early with Southwest Airlines.
If it’s your first time going to a bustling airport, having a printed copy of the map can be your savior. Airports such as LAX and ATL are infamous for confusing visitors. Indeed, TravelTrivia rates them as being among the most overwhelming airports in the world.
Use your glasses instead of contacts
Although contact lenses may feel more fashionable, glasses are more suitable for flying. This is because contacts tend to dry out easier and will likely irritate your eyes during a flight. Glasses are the safer and more comfortable option.
Flying 30,000 feet in the air will reduce the atmospheric pressure, oxygen, and humidity, and this is what makes your eyes dry out. Of course, if it’s not bothersome to reapply eye drops constantly, then you’re free to stick with your contacts. However, we highly recommend wearing your glasses instead.
Avoid flying on the eve of major holidays
Although this is already common knowledge, most people just can’t help but travel on busy dates. It is already given that airports are crowded in the lead up to major holidays such as Christmas, Easter, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving.
So, if you can, avoid traveling on the following dates: May 22, July 3, September 4, November 25, and December 23-26. If you’re only available on those dates and don’t mind the high ticket prices, then you may not have a choice. In that case, be prepared for chaos!
Boarding last can help you avoid stress (sometimes)
A travel hack guru named The Points Guy mentioned that being the last one to board a plane is actually okay. However, this only applies to airlines that offer assigned seating. If your airline doesn’t assign seats, then make sure you’re not the last one to board as you’ll end up with the least desirable seat!
If you have an assigned seat, however, boarding towards the end will save you from having to deal with lines and hold-ups as people struggle with their luggage. This is a plus for those who hate waiting since you can relax at the gate until the line has cleared and then enjoy a stress-free walk to your seat.
Bring your own snacks
Given that snacks are usually double the price at the airport, bringing your own is a good idea. As airports have higher operating costs, they have no choice but to hike up the prices of everything from chocolate to bottled water.
Smart travelers treat the airport like a movie theater and bring their own snacks and drinks. Stick to packaged options, and you won’t have to worry about the airport scanners since they are allowed in your carry-on. The only things you won’t be able to bring are drinks.
Bring gum for kids
Traveling with kids can be stressful as they tend to make a fuss during flights. The thing is, they have a good reason to do so. Children struggle more with ear clogging caused by landing and takeoff. Sure, it goes away after a while, but it can be troublesome for them and hard for them to understand the strange sensation.
As a solution, bring a packet of sugar-free gum or hard candy for the flight. You can give it to your child as the plane lands and takes off. Chewing gum will help reduce the ear pressure and will unclog their ears faster.
Avoid wearing belts
We all want a hassle-free experience at the airport as much as possible, right? If you really want to get through security faster, then make sure to avoid wearing a belt. This will save you time since you won’t have to remove it when you go through security.
The reason behind this is that buckles are banned by the TSA. Sure, you can try wearing the plastic ones as they won’t be detected. But since it is technically still a belt and it doesn’t look that different from a regular one, the TSA will still ask you to remove it.
Taxis for departures, not arrivals
According to the LA Times, at big airports such as JFK or LAX, the traffic is up to 80% faster on the departures side than on the arrivals side of the road. This is because most of the cabs are usually waiting for those arriving. So, if you’re trying to get out of the airport quickly, try heading to the departure level instead.
Aside from that, the cab lines often get congested outside of the arrivals area as they have to wait for people to deal with their luggage. Over at the departures area, cabs just drop people off, and then they’re ready to go. If you try this, make sure to be quick about hailing a cab.
Attach a FRAGILE sticker to your luggage
All luggage should be treated with care, but a FRAGILE sticker will ensure baggage handlers take extra care with your luggage. Of course, this is not the case all the time. Sometimes, the handlers don’t even notice the sticker.
Still, it’s worth giving it a try. You can ask for a sticker at the check-in counter. This also ensures that your luggage will be loaded last and taken off first. Thus, you might be able to get it quicker at baggage claim.
Have separate wallets for cash and credit cards
Your wallet contains so many important things. It has your ID, cash, debit cards, and credit cards. If it goes missing, you’re at risk of losing far too much in one go. If you’re traveling in an unfamiliar place, then it can be extra stressful.
That’s why having two separate wallets when traveling is the way to go. Of course, we all plan to avoid losing our wallets, but if the worst case scenario does happen, this hack ensures you won’t lose everything. If you want, you can hide your cash in different places inside your bag as well.