This article is about how to travel smart when it comes to airports. It contains useful airport hacks on how to save time and nerves. It will guide you through the confusing labyrinth of airport facilities and take away some of the stress.
Airport hacks – how to travel like a pro
Over the past years I’ve became a “travel expert” due to the amount of time I spent at airports. There was hardly any week where I was not heading to the airport and boarding a plane. Either I was flying to work (commuting), flying for a living or I was going on a private trip. What sounds like a lot of fun can sometimes be stressful and nerve-wracking. Overcrowded airports, endless queuing and stressed people can dampen the fun. Luckily I developed an airport travel routine I follow. My routine for healthy vegan eating while traveling can be found here.
I divided this article into multiple categories to have an easier overview. If you still have some questions after reading this article please leave me a comment. And if you know some other airport hacks I did not mention, feel free to share. 🙂
First things first: whenever possible I travel with hand luggage only. As a general rule I would say, whenever the trip is shorter than one week and contains not more than one climate zone, I skip the checked in luggage. This saves me a lot of time. No queuing at the baggage drop-off counter and no waiting at the baggage belt with my fingers crossed hoping that my suitcase will make it this time. Of course I have all my liquids refilled in small travel-size containers of less than 100ml.
Tipp: Check the hand luggage policies with your airline, as size, amount and weight vary from carrier to carrier. Some airlines will charge you for too big or too heavy hand luggage, so better be safe than sorry. Also check for items prohibited in your carry-on, as these vary from airport to airport.
I always take advantage to check in online before going to the airport. I usually check in with my phone or at the computer and send the boarding pass to my mobile. Being checked in when arriving at the airport allows me to go straight to security control and skip the self-check-in machines. People who travel with me sometimes get nervous as I am not a “at least two hours before departure at the airport” type, especially when knowing the airport and its facilities by heart. As much as I love airports I am annoyed by crowds and overpriced food and drinks. That is why I usually don’t arrive more than an hour before departure.* I know my schedule seems a bit tight to others but to me it is still enough time.
*This applies for mostly of the flights within the EU or Schengen area. For flights with extended security procedures like Israel or the USA, I am of course a bit earlier at the airport.
Tipp: The iPhone application passbooks/wallet is a great way to organize your boarding passes. If you don’t have mobile data included in your mobile contract, I recommend to already download your boarding pass at home or at the hotel where there is WiFi.
When queuing at the security control I use the time wisely and prepare myself for the security check. Meaning: I remove my scarf, jacket, jewellery and shoes with a metal sole, get out my laptop and and put my liquids in a plastic bag if not done before. Even though some airports offer those bags for free, I always keep a spare one in my handbag. When flying a lot, I even keep my liquids in that bag. Not so sexy, but very efficient. 😉 As I almost missed a flight once due to some forgotten liquids in my bag (and stupidity to be honest) I always take a minute to double check.
In a perfect world I would arrive at the gate just in the middle of the boarding process, but usually I am there well ahead. While some people seem to queue already when arriving passengers are still disembarking and the airplane has to be cleaned yet, I prefer to take a seat in the vicinity of the departure gate, make some phone calls and board rather towards the end. If there is some time left, I treat myself with a green juice at VIE airport (my pre-flight ritual). As I usually travel with a weekender that fits under the seat in front of me I don’t need to rush in order to find space in the overhead compartments.
I am one of those people who don’t leave the house without a full water bottle. I finish the bottle before security control, but don’t throw it away as I refill it right after. In many countries we are privileged to have an amazing water quality and some airports even offer water dispenser (LHR for example). Therefore it is never wrong to carry an empty bottle with you. Plus, I don’t have to buy a bottle of water for a small fortune and I also don’t need to bother the flight attendants when boarding in order not to dehydrate until the service starts.
There are some items I always keep handy as I need them several times until I am at the plane. My passport, my boarding pass, my crew member certificate and my mobile phone. I keep my electronic boarding pass not only in my passbook app, but flag it in order to find it easily in my over floating mail account if requested.
GVA – Genève Aéroport bound for LHR – London Heathrow / August 5, 2016