Some people love being at the airport, while others would rather have a root canal than deal with the hassle. While there are some things you can’t prevent, such as canceled flights, there are ways to make traveling easier. I use these airport hacks every time I travel and feel so much more comfortable now. I would almost say I enjoy the airport (almost)!
1. Book an early or late flight
Most flights start mid-morning and go until the early evening, so save yourself the hassle of being in huge lines by booking flights opposite of that. Early morning flights will allow you to breeze through the lines and still have time to enjoy your coffee. This is often my go-to airport travel hack that I use to decrease stress before I even step foot in the airport. It’s also rare for the first flight of the day to be delayed.
Red-eye flights aren’t for everyone, but they have many advantages as well. They will allow you to get to the airport later so you won’t be stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. Some people can even sleep on the plane, although I’m still working on that airplane hack myself. One plus of red-eye flights is you’ll be at your destination when you wake up. This means you won’t waste any time exploring your new destination! You can read more about tips for booking flights and other travel resources to help your trip.
2. Get to the airport early
I know you’ve heard this a million times, but it saves you so much stress to get there a few hours early. Even though I have TSA Precheck, I still get there two hours early. That way I get through airport security, find my gate, and then relax. I typically grab a coffee and find a table to get some work done.
I’ve only missed one flight in my life but know what a mess it can be. This is especially true if you don’t have a direct flight or are flying somewhere farther away. Get to the airport early and then plan on occupying yourself, whether it’s reading your Kindle or watching the sports game in the bar.
3. Dress practically
I’ve seen women at the airports in tight skirts and high heels, and if they’re actually comfortable in that, more power to them. You will never find me in that, however. I know I might have to walk far to get to my gate and will be sitting on a plane for hours. My typical outfit is sneakers, stretchy workout pants, a t-shirt, and a long hoodie.
No matter what you decide to wear, make sure it’s cozy enough to sit in and walk in for long periods of time. This also isn’t the time to try out new shoes. I did that before and not only had blisters from not wearing them in first, but my feet got swollen from all the travel. Dressing comfortably is one of those non-negotiate airport hacks in my opinion.
4. Check in online
One of the easiest airport hacks is to check in online. There’s no reason not to do this before you leave your home or hotel. Most airlines even have apps you can download and get your boarding pass on. Even if you have bags to check in, there are often expedited lines for people who have already checked in. Most airlines also have kiosks where you can check in once you get to the airport if you want to print a paper boarding pass or bag tag.
The exception to this is if you’ll be traveling internationally, as you’ll have to go to the counter to show them your passport. Make sure you have everything you need before stepping up to the counter. Some airlines require you to check in through their kiosk to get a boarding pass and then help you with the rest. I always check the airline’s website before I get to teh airport to see what their policy is.
5. Keep your documents together
I have a travel wallet that easily fits my passport, credit cards, cash, driver’s license, and boarding pass. When I need to go through security or get on the plane, I don’t have to be that person holding everyone up because I can’t find what I need. Put them all together before you leave for the airport so you’ll be organized.
You also have less of a chance of losing important documents when they’re all together. Before I had my wallet, I’d put my passport in one pocket and find my folded up boarding pass at the bottom of another pocket. I was a mess when I first started traveling until I found this airport travel hack.
6. Sign Up for TSA Precheck for USA Travel
I got TSA Precheck when it first came out and it’s completely changed how I travel. Now don’t need to get to the airport hours early because I know I’ll go through security much quicker. For only $85, you have access to the TSA Precheck line in all US airports that have it, and it lasts for five years.
This means I can leave my laptop, camera, and liquids in my bag, and don’t even have to take my shoes off. I’m often through security in less than five minutes and sitting at my gate enjoying my coffee. This is one of the easiest airport hacks that pays for itself. You do need to go in person to have an interview, but it’s painless and worth having TSA Precheck.
7. Use packing cubes
Buy small packing cubes to organize your carry on luggage. If you need to get something out for security or on the plane, you don’t want everything falling out as you dig through to get to the bottom. Organize your items by electronics, toiletries, snacks, and anything else you may have in there.
I started doing this last year and it’s made my life so much easier when I travel. I know exactly where my headphones are when I want them on the plane or where my protein bar is. It’s hard enough to sift through your bag with how little space there is on the airplane.
8. Prepare to travel with kids ahead of time
Traveling with kids can be fun but brings a whole new set of challenges. That means you’ll want to anticipate any issues you might have, as much as you can. One thing I noticed was difficult when my son started walking was that he wanted to do just that – walk anywhere and everywhere, including on his own at the airport.
Unfortunately, that slowed us down a ton and then we had to carry him when we got tired on top of lugging our suitcases with us. Luckily, the solution to this is Lugabug. You easily attach it to your suitcase and unzip it so your kid has a seat to sit on. My son absolutely loves sitting here and doesn’t want to get out!
9. Have a reusable water bottle
You’re bound to get dehydrated while you’re on the plane with that dry air, so bring a reusable water bottle with you that you can fill up at the airport. I always fill mine up as soon as I get past security and drink the entire thing before refilling it right before my plane boards. That way I’m already a step ahead on the hydration game.
10. Bring a portable charger
I’ve been to airports where either I can’t find any accessible outlets to charge my phone or they’re all full. That’s why I always bring my portable charger with me so I don’t have to worry about my phone dying. A good one will last you at least four to five full charges so you don’t have to charge it for several days.
11. Walk around
When I was coming home from Patagonia, I had six different flights to catch and over 40 hours of travel. I started to dread all the time I was sitting on planes, so as soon as I would reach my next destination I would start doing laps around the airport.
Walking helps stretches out your muscles and gives you energy. This is one of the airport hacks that’s simple and costs nothing. If you have long flights, it also helps to prevent blood clots by getting your blood flowing.
12. Take advantage of charging stations
While my favorite airline, Alaska Airlines, has both USB and outlet plugs on their planes to make sure you’re fully charged when you arrive, many airlines don’t. If you’re going to be sitting down waiting for your flight, you might as well sit at a charging station.
There’s nothing worse than being stuck on an airplane than being stuck in an airplane with dead electronics, so pay attention to one of the most crucial airport hacks. They’re often spread throughout the airport at different gates or sometimes by the windows.
13. Buy a lounge pass
I had never paid to go to an airport lounge before this year, but it’s a game-changer when you have a long layover. With all the traveling I do, I ended up getting Priority Pass, which allows you to visit hundreds of different lounges all over the world. I can’t recommend this airport tip enough, as there are many benefits to investing in a few hours in a lounge.
Lounges have stronger wi-fi than the public airport’s wi-fi, showers so you can feel refreshed, much better food, free alcohol, and you can even sleep for a few hours in ones with pods. I can’t tell you how much better I felt after traveling all day and using the lounge in Peru at 2 AM.
14. Bring extra Ziploc bags
How often have you been traveling when one of your small Ziploc bags for your liquids breaks? By the end of a trip, one of mine is always torn, so pack a few extra so you don’t have to worry about not having a bag for your liquids. This is one of those airport hacks I wish I learned years ago!
You can also invest in a reusable TSA-approved toiletry bag. These are much stronger so they won’t break, and you don’t have to feel bad about wasting plastic bags. I’ve been using this for over a year and won’t ever go back. In fact, my travel hack for this is to just leave all your small liquids in the bag for your next trip. This way you can just grab the bag when you’re packing and know you have everything you need. If you run out of something at the end of your trip, write it down so you’ll know to restock it.
15. Pack your own snacks
While airports are getting healthier, they’re not getting any cheaper. I know some people feel that their vacation starts the second they walk in the airport, but there will be plenty of delicious food once you get to your destination. Pack some protein bars and trail mix to snack on so you start your trip on a healthy note. You’ll not only feel better with this airport tip, but you’ll also save money.
16. Get Global Entry for International Travel
I visit Canada often throughout the year, so I decided to get NEXUS so I could drive through the border without waiting in a long line. That includes Global Entry, which I couldn’t believe I didn’t sign up for before. If you travel internationally often, you’ll want to get this.
When you return to the United States to go through customs, you get to skip the huge line and go to a kiosk to answer a few questions. You then give your slip to the customs officer, who rarely asks more than one or two questions, and you’re good to go! It costs $100 and lasts for 5 years, which is more than worth it for a few international trips.
The worst thing is coming back from an international trip when you’re completely exhausted and waiting forever in the customs lines. Having Global Entry lets you avoid this, so it’s an easy airport hack. If you don’t have either Global Entry or TSA Precheck, I recommend signing up for Global Entry. This will also include TSA Precheck (and saves you money).
Key Items to Bring to the Airport
Have these items in your carry on bag so you can easily grab them. I like to keep mine in two dedicated pockets so I’m not constantly searching through my bag. This is an easy airport tip you can do before your flight.
- Travel wallet (with passport/ID and boarding passes)
- Phone charger
- Water bottle
- Hand sanitizer