The Top 12 Airport Tips You Need to Know Now

Why do the airport the same old way when you can do it better?

Photo by Rawpixel.com-Shutterstock
Photo by Rawpixel.com-Shutterstock

We fly more than ever these days; we wait in uncomfortably long security lines more than ever, too. But, waiting isn’t the only thing you want to avoid when navigating airports. There’s circling the parking lot a hundred times, having your flight delayed repeatedly, and exceeding the weight restrictions for luggage, among other annoying things. As Annie Lindseth, a professional airport planner, says, “By the time you choose a flight, some key aspects of your experience are set in stone. Make sure these choices are deliberate.”

With this in mind, we searched the online forum Quora.com to find travel experts who consider airports their second home. Here are their top pieces of advice.


1. Pick a favorite airline and stick to it

This will help gain you priority assistance when it comes to rescheduling a flight; access to free food, drinks, and showers in some airport lounges; and the best help from gate staff in dealing with cancellations due to things like the weather.


2. Sign up for the TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry

Mumbai Airport
Mumbai Airport

TSA PreCheck is a screening program run by the Transportation Security Administration. You have to pay $85  to sign up for five years, but by enrolling you allow TSA to verify that you are a low-risk traveler. By being low-risk, you’re able to get into special (faster) security lines at airports; you can keep your shoes on; and you can keep your laptop packed during screening.

Global Entry provides the same benefits, as well as faster Customs and Border Control screening when you’re traveling internationally. Another program that speeds you past lines at some airports is CLEAR. It costs $179 for the year, plus $50 for each additional family member.


3. Make sure your bags meet the weight and size requirements before you get to the airport

Who wants to stand around bickering with airport personnel about this? Some people have actually taken to wearing multiple layers of winter clothing, in order to avoid adding the weight onto their bags. For those of us who would rather not do that, it’s better to check the airline’s exact restrictions on their website before you pack, then leave some things at home.


4. Check FourSquare for free Wi-Fi passwords

Barajas Airport in Madrid. Photo by David Dennis-Flickr
Barajas Airport in Madrid. Photo by David Dennis-Flickr

 

Asiah Zia says that “Foursquare users not only post tips on the best meals, but often share Wi-fi passwords.”


5. Use the stairs when exiting international flights/immigration

Robert Fitt, who has visited more than 35 countries, suggests this interesting tip. He says:

Most people take the escalators or elevators. Most staircases are empty. I pick up my hand luggage and quickly move past 100 people slowing trundling down the escalator. This is especially useful when landing in a country that requires passport control – getting ahead of a full plane load of people makes a huge difference to wait times.

 


6. Get the airline app on your mobile phone

Tokyo-Narita Airport Terminal 2
Tokyo-Narita Airport Terminal 2

Mobile apps by airlines usually have more information about your flight–and they post changes to it faster–than the airport’s monitors do.


7. Bribe them with bagged candy

This is a funny idea, but according to Rachel Rofe it’s an age-old trick that works to sweeten up flight attendants and airport gate staff. She learned it from a friend who worked for an airline.


8. Head left in line

Traveler Raghavan Usha Giriraj doesn’t offer statistics about airport travel to back this up, but the concept is worth considering. He says, “90 percent people are right-handed and are known to turn right on impulse, so pick the security lane that’s on the left to avoid queue.”


9. Declare something at customs no matter what

Sounds counter-intuitive, right? According to Trisha Cupra it speeds things up. “Going international, the ‘goods to declare’ lines at Quarantine are often shorter than the ‘No goods to declare’ queues. We often declare a few chocolate bars and get through really quick.”


10. Park a little farther away to save time

San Francisco Airport at Night. Photo by Andrew Choy-Flickr
San Francisco Airport at Night. Photo by Andrew Choy-Flickr

Prashanth Rajendran, an “airlines junkie,” has this advice: “If you are renting a car, check prices in non-airport locations as they may not have airport concession charges. You are better off taking a cab to the rental car location than an endless wait for the shuttle.”


11. Take an empty water bottle through security

If you take a full one, they’ll make you dump out the water, which involves exiting the security line, going back into the main airport area, and then returning to the security line. Very inconvenient no matter how you look at it. If you take an empty bottle, you can fill it once you’ve made it past the security check.


12. Grab a cab at the depatures exit

Terminal Five Airport at Heathrow in London. Photo by Citizen59
Terminal Five Airport at Heathrow in London. Photo by Citizen59

 

As soon as flights land, people on it head for the arrivals exit of the airport. That’s also where most of them are searching for a taxi. Instead, says Adhavan Rajendran, “quickly turn around and head up to departures. There’s no competition for cabs in the departure zone; people are getting dropped off, and you can simply jump in as they’re jumping out.”


 

What are your favorite airport hacks? Share with readers by leaving a comment below!

4 COMMENTS

  1. In an airport with a tram take time to walk to the very furthest door to get on, when it arrives at the next terminal you likely be at in front of everyone else. It works in Vegas at least.

  2. I really like the idea of going to the departures area of the airport to find a taxi. I normally try to plan ahead and book a ride in advance so that I don’t have to wait. However, if I forget or don’t have time I will definitely be heading to the departure area once off the plane. Thanks for the great tip!

  3. I love the tip about declaring something at Customs. I’ve been doing that too for years – I’ve always got some sort of food or wooden item & they’re so strict coming back into Australia. Never have a problem – it’s quick for them to check and like you said, you usually end up getting through more quickly.

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