Between the long lines, the strict security rules and the congested check-in areas, air travel can be moderately inconvenient to severely stressful these days. Business travelers have learned to streamline the process for maximum efficiency, but they're mixed in with the family of six with the two-baby strollers that flies once a year for vacation. And even the most seasoned traveler has to deal with increased security and the inefficiencies of the airline industry, just like everyone else. Regardless of whether your next trip is for business or pleasure, check out these tips to keep you on time for arrival at your next destination.
The best way to avoid problems at the airport is to pack as light as you possibly can. The more suitcases you have, the more time and nuisance they're going to be. You'll have to carry each of those bags from the cab, train or parking lot into the airport, and each one has to be checked in, weighed, X-rayed and inspected. In short, every bag will serve to delay you ever so slightly no matter how efficient you think you are. For short business trips, there's no need for more than a carry-on bag. For longer vacations, try to plan out your outfits according to need and keep it to one checked bag. With the Internet, there's no need to pack that extra sweater "in case it gets chilly." You should be able to pack specifically for your destination and keep it at that.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the governing body that largely dictates how quickly you're able to get from the airport entrance to your departure gate. If your master plan for quicker travel includes a carry-on bag, then you need to know the rules the airline has in place for those bags. Trying to squeeze a larger bag into the overhead storage bin can delay things for you and everyone else. Ultimately, you may end up being forced to gate check the bag, which kind of defeats the time-saving carry on. There are also all kinds of rules the TSA has in place for what can and cannot come aboard the flight, from the size of your moisturizer to that Swiss Army Knife you carry everywhere you go. All airlines post these guidelines on their Web sites, so check them out before leaving your house.
This bit of advice is the singular most important piece that a traveler can heed -- leave for the airport early. Even if you're the most seasoned traveler, other people's actions have way too much impact on your time to leave it to chance. The best way to avoid being delayed as a result of others' lack of consideration or incompetence as travelers is to give yourself plenty of time. Most airports have a variety of ways to spend your time while waiting, from shops, restaurants and bars to complimentary Wi-Fi and charging stations for your laptop. Leave early and avoid the stress of dealing with long lines and slow airline employees.
Modern life has made checking in for your flight a whole lot easier. Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, you can now check in up to 24 hours beforehand and have all of your travel documents ready before you even get to the airport. Online check in typically involves logging in to the airline Web site and entering your reservation number and printing out your boarding documents. Or if you have a smartphone, many airlines have apps that allow you to check in on the go, without even the need for a printer. Simply hit a few buttons to check in and an electronic version of your boarding pass appears on your screen. If you heed our advice to travel light, then you can avoid the check-in process altogether and go straight through airport security and to your gate.
It's important to move quickly and efficiently through an airport once you're there, but during the packing process you need to slow down and make sure you have everything you need. Being in a rush when you're packing can lead to forgotten boarding passes, passports, driver's licenses and any other mandatory documentation you need for your trip. Make a checklist you can use every time you fly and follow it closely. If you're flying internationally, make sure you have your passport and an extra copy of your passport just in case. For domestic flights, you'll just need your driver's license. To help identify your baggage in case of loss, take pictures of your luggage and carry either electronic versions or hard copies. Having all of these things in place should make your next trip a breeze.
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- "8 Tips to Avoid Problems at the Airport and with the Airline." Moneydestiny.com. April 20, 2012. http://www.moneydestiny.com/151/8-tips-to-avoid-problems-at-the-airport-and-with-the-airline/
- "Avoid Airport Problems by Planning Ahead." Tesh.com. April 20, 2012. http://www.tesh.com/topics/vacation-and-travel-category/avoid-airport-problems-by-planning-ahead/cc/5/id/1630
- "Travel Assistant." Tsa.gov. April 20, 2012. http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/assistant/index.shtm