I was recently chatting with a good friend of mine who lives in another country and will be visiting New York City for the very first time. Throughout our conversation, one of the questions she asked was “how early should I make it to the airport?”. She laughed when I told her that I leave my home about 45 minutes before my flight departs because my local airport is less than 10 minutes away from my house. So how do you get through the airport quick and easy?
OK, don’t get me wrong? This is not the norm when you’re traveling. For example, if I’m taking an international flight through Denver, there was no way I could leave my home with only 45 minutes to catch my airline. Denver International’s hub can get crazy, and unless you’ve invested in TSA Pre-Check or CLEAR, I would never recommend it. So what tips do I have for getting through airport security and making your flight on time?
HAVE YOUR PASSPORT OR ID ON HAND AND CLOSE BY
Whether you’ve done online check or need to check your luggage, make sure that you have your ID card or passport (for international travel) nearby. Digging around in your bag or wallet can take up valuable time, and you’re going to need it to get your boarding pass if you’re checking in at the airport, and once again to go through security.
CHECK YOUR INTERNATIONAL LUGGAGE
This only counts for international travel. International flights offer 1 free checked bag which helps so that you can pack your essentials and not have to worry about it until you land. Everything else can fit in your personal bag. This way you’re also not dragging luggage around through the airport, especially if you’re making stops at other airports. Personally, when traveling within the US, I prefer to take a carry-on so that I won’t have to pay for any checked luggage.
IF YOU DO NEED A CARRY-ON, PACK LIGHTLY
There’s nothing worse than overpacking your bags with items that you don’t really need and having to be told that you’re going to have to check your bags anyway, either because they’re too big and can’t fit in the overhead compartment, or that your luggage is not technically considered a carry-on. Pack lightly with the essentials. More than likely there may be a washer/dryer where you’re going, or you may even want to shop for new clothing while at your final destination. (This is something I do quite a lot)
CONSIDER ONLINE CHECK-IN
Most airlines now offer online check-in 24hrs before your flight departs. Checking in online eases you from having to go to the ticket counter, thus saving valuable time as the lines at the ticket counter can be astronomical. You can also pay for any checked luggage that you may be taking with you so you can do a bag drop off. Since everything is taken care of, all you need now is to complete the following step.
PRINT BOARDING PASSES, OR STORE ELECTRONICALLY
With new e-tickets, there really is no need to go to the desk to get a boarding pass, unless of course, you want an upgrade (which you can pay for online as well), or you want to check your bags, which can also be done at a kiosk. Printing your boarding pass, or storing them electronically on your phone bypasses all this. So now all you need to do is make your way directly to bag drop off (if you have checked luggage) or security with your carryon.
Most domestic flights require that you arrive at least an hour before your trip, while international flights are 2-3hrs. Getting there early ensures that you can get through security if an issue arises and still make your flight. I suggest getting to your gate at least 30-45 minutes before your plane departs, as most airlines close their gates 10-15 minutes before departure.
DRESS CASUAL (if weather permits)
Forget about the jackets, belts, sneakers, etc., and instead wear slides, slip-ons or flats (Birkenstocks and Tieks being two of my favorites for travel) so that you can go through the scanner as quickly as possible. Children under the age of 12 don’t need to remove their shoes, so the quicker you can take off/on your shoes, the faster you’ll get through security.
BE AWARE OF TSA GUIDELINES
With TSA always changing the regulations, you should be mindful of what is allowed and what isn’t if you’re taking a carryon bag with you. Remember that liquids and gels need to be less than 4oz and should be in a clear Ziploc bag. The only exception being medical liquids and baby formula.
KEEP BIGGER ELECTRONICS EASILY ACCESSIBLE
Small electronics such as your cell phones don’t need to be removed from your carry-on, but your bigger electronics such as your laptops, DSLR needs to be placed in a separate basket to be scanned at the security checkpoint. Having them easily accessible allows you to be quick without holding up the people behind you and in turn letting you go through quickly. Don’t be that guy having to dig through your bags.
So the next time you’re traveling and thinking of how can you get through those ridiculous lines without investing in CLEAR or TSA Pre-Check, my tips will be able to get you on your way quickly and easily. Have a safe flight!