As any travel buff will attest, the airport becomes a kind of second home when you’re always on the go. It just comes with the territory. And so we must deal with it. But even though they can seem intimidating, airports are totally hackable places. And with the right set of tricks, you can make your travel experience as painless and simple as possible. Here are 12 life-changing airport hacks that anyone who loves to travel needs to know.
1. Know your flight’s gate and terminal information BEFORE leaving for the airport.
Did you know there is a mysterious, secret terminal at New York’s LaGuardia Airport? I found that out the hard way when I almost missed my flight because I had to take a shuttle to this random terminal. But I learned a valuable lesson: Before you leave your apartment, check and double-check where you are going at the airport. Save the spontaneity for when you get to your destination.
2. TSA PreCheck is everything.
TSA PreCheck is the best thing that’s ever happened to frequent travelers.
Why? You get to use a different, faster security line; you don’t have to remove your laptop or liquids from your bag; and you can keep on your belt, shoes and light jacket. It’s airport security without the hassle.
Here’s how you get it: Fill out the TSA PreCheck application online, pay an $85 fee and schedule a follow-up interview to confirm your identity and provide fingerprints. Once your approved, you’re good to go.
3. If you travel internationally, you NEED Global Entry.
Global Entry is a must-have for anyone who travels abroad.
Here’s why: After you’ve returned to the US, you get to skip the long lines and head straight to the customs checkpoint, where an officer will quickly double-check your credentials and send you on your merry way. As an added bonus, Global Entry approval also comes with TSA PreCheck, so you’re basically getting a two-for-one deal.
To apply, you simply fill out the online Global Entry application, pay a $100 fee and wait for conditional approval (usually around 3-4 weeks) before scheduling your follow-up interview.
4. Pack snacks.
Airports are notorious for jacking up the prices on everything, especially food. Avoid spending an arm and a leg by packing your own snacks. Go for protein bars that are high in fiber. In the event of delays or long layovers, you’ll be grateful you brought something to eat.
5. If you’re delayed, find an airport buddy.
Airports typically don’t offer free Wi-Fi, so in the event of a layover, canceled flight or overnight campout, finding someone to hang with is essential. Look around your gate. Try to locate someone who looks roughly your age. Head over and say something like, “Ugh. I can’t believe we have to sit here for six more hours. Have you ever been to Bangkok before?”
I’m sure you’ll have a friend in no time.
6. If you’re being picked up at the airport, meet your buddy at departures.
A trick of the trade: Tell whoever picks you up from the airport to meet you at departures instead of arrivals. It’s so much less hectic up there! All you have to do is run upstairs and hop in the car. Say goodbye to waiting in impossibly long lines of traffic.
7. Download your preferred airline’s app.
This way you can get push notifications for your flight, see your plane’s seat map and check for upgrades. It makes everything so much more convenient. After all, you want to know what’s happening before it affects your trip.
8. Always have an empty water bottle on hand.
FACT: Staying hydrated while flying is IMPORTANT. And while you could buy a bottle of water at the airport, you’re a regular travel junkie, so the last thing you want to do is waste money on anything other than experiences. To get around this problem, bring an empty or reusable water bottle with you. That way, you’ll never find yourself high (in the sky) and dry.
9. Kindness is key.
Kindness goes a long way at airports. And landing that complimentary upgrade could come down to the difference between a good attitude and a bad one. BIG SMILES. ALWAYS. Remember to be sweet to the flight attendants and the rest of the crew, and be respectful to other travelers. Apart from increasing your chances of landing in first class, it’s also just the right thing to do.
10. If you have too many outfit changes, overstuff a duffle bag.
I have a confession.
Even when I pack so much that my bag possibly exceeds the airline’s carry-on size restrictions, I bring it with me through security, anyway. I know. I’m so bad, but I’ve never been stopped!
But here’s the REAL trick (and where that good attitude we talked about before comes in handy): More times than not, the flight crew will check the bag through to my destination at the gate for free. See ya, checked bag fees!
11. Take advantage of duty-free shopping.
International travel means getting access to that duty-free store, my friends. Use the opportunity to stock up on all your favorite necessities — without having to fork over more of your hard-earned cash to the man!
12. Choose a go-to travel outfit.
You need an outfit you love to travel in, one that seamlessly blends comfort and functionality. That means you should wear comfortable yet chic clothing, and opt for an ensemble with high utility. My go-to travel wear includes a fitted jacket with six pockets that hits on every travel pain point: It keeps me warm during cold flights, has lots of extra space for my stuff and is super cozy.
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