Traveling through any airport conjures up visuals of long security lines, endless waiting and repeatedly losing baggage and time. How can we make this better on ourselves, simplify the process and arrive where we want to be with less to worry about?
When you travel a lot, you really start to find way to minimize time spent in lines. There seems to be lines of people everywhere. For the typical traveller, the day goes something like this. Arrive at the airport and wait in line to check a bag, talk to a person and get your ticket printed out. Once that is squared away, go to the security point and wait in another line. Many inexperienced people in one line lead to long periods of time spent explaining procedures to people who may not travel enough to know what to do at security. Once in the airport, yep another line to get on the plane.
So how is it, that I bypass every single one of these lines? It’s a combination of things.
Let me start where everyone else starts in the airport, checking in with the airline agent who issues you a ticket. Dealing with this part of the airport is usually pretty easy, but requires some planning ahead.
First off, don’t check a bag, just don’t. Checking in takes time, if your bag gets lost in transit you lose time and sometimes money if you have to buy clothes at your destination. Picking up your bag at the other end costs time. It all adds up to taking away time you could be enjoying yourself at your destination.
If you have a huge bag with tons of stuff in it, then stop, pull everything out and repack with only the essentials. If you’re going for a week, you don’t need 14 outfits. A little planning ahead makes this part of the trip so much easier.
Second, print your boarding pass at home. Better yet, use a mobile boarding pass at airports that support this. Combining a pre-printed boarding pass with a carry on bag means you completely bypass the check-in counter all together.
Next, how do we deal with security? This is another situation where being a frequent flyer comes in handy. I fly so much, that I know exactly what needs to be pulled out of my bag, what needs to be placed in separate containers and how to go through the millimeter wave body scanners. If you don’t know, make sure to familiarize yourself with the process. The TSA makes all of this well known on their website.
Also, keep in mind that when you get to the scanner, you can’t have any object on you. So before you even get to the line, be prepared and wear easy to remove shoes. While in line, prepare your bag to remove your laptop, and any liquids or gels. Before you enter the line take your keys and change out and put them in your bag. When you get to that conveyor belt your aim is to already have your pockets empty. Throw your bag on the belt, remove your shoes and place your shoes, laptop and liquids bag in a container. Should take you no more than a minute to get everything on the scanner belt if you set yourself up like this. Remember, you may not be able to speed people up, but if you are fast, you speed things up for yourself and the people behind you., and everyone appreciates a faster line.
There is one much easier way to go about this though, and my preferred option; TSA precheck. This may not be available to everyone, but there is a way to get it. Look into the options for Global Entry, it provides fast check through at border control points, and gives TSA precheck as a side effect. TSA Precheck gives you a much shorter line, and you can leave your shoes on, belt on, laptop and liquids in your bag. This saves a ton of time, precheck is a good day for everyone.
Getting on the Plane
This one isn’t one you can easily avoid, but it is avoidable on some level. I am an elite status passenger, so on all American and partner airlines, I get priority boarding. So I get on the plane first. Now most people don’t understand why I want to be on that plane any earlier than I need to, but it’s simple, less frustration with people rushing to board but most importantly, first dibs on overhead bins. With more and more people carrying on to avoid bag charges, the bins fill up fast. Getting on first always makes sure I have bin space for all of my stuff.
Having elite status is great for this perk, but it can be had other ways. Credit cards often offer this as a perk and if you want it really badly, you can buy it. Personally buying early boarding seems like a waste, but if it is that important to you, there is that option.
Just keep an eye on where you can save time at the airport, the boarding process doesn’t have to be as long and annoying as it usually is.
Rocket Scientist, Travel Junkie, and Ruler of the 4th Moon of Omicron Persei 8