As a seasoned traveler, I feel ~somewhat~ *reasonably* able to provide advice on how to travel as smoothly as possible; thus, here are my 5 airport hacks to help you get through security faster and travel more smoothly!
Tip #1: Sign Up for TSA Pre.
This one is an absolute game changer! I was luckily able to expense the $85 fee through work, but it is good for 5 years! That’s an average of just $17 per year. If you fly just 3 times per year, it’s less than $6 per flight. If you fly as much as I do, it is well worth the cost. The process is pretty simple: you sign up online, then have to go get your fingerprints taken and answer some questions, either at an airport or another location you can find on the TSA Pre website. There are so many advantages, but my favorites are that you don’t have to wear shoes through security, and you don’t have to take your laptop out of your bag. This is a huge advantage when I’m traveling for business and always have my laptop! This is the most important of the airport hacks; it will save you so much time and stress! If I could recommend only one thing, this would be it.
Tip #2: Wear the Right Stuff.
The main concern here is shoes. Make sure they are easy to slip on, but also make sure you’re wearing socks. I absolutely hate wearing sandals or flip flops while flying, mostly because of the germs I could potentially acquire (airports are nasty), and also because my feet get freeeeezing once we are in the air. I’d prefer socks and real shoes simply so my feet don’t get frostbite and fall off. Plus, what if someone accidentally steps on your foot? Do you want it to be a bare foot, or covered in sock and shoe? I’d take the latter.
Also, dress for the climate where you are going to land – but make sure you layer up for the flight. If I’m leaving Michigan in January for the Caribbean, I’ll probably wear my only pair of jeans, a t shirt, and sweatshirt for the flight. I also tend to wear leggings a lot – especially on long flights.
Finally, this isn’t something I ‘wear’ but is worth noting: when I’m traveling abroad, especially to second and third world countries, I like to lock my luggage. It gives me peace of mind knowing that people aren’t going to be able to steal from my luggage when it’s out of my sight!
Tip #3: Pack Efficiently and Smartly.
So there’s a story behind this airport hack. One where (surprise!) I am a huge idiot. I arrived at the airport to fly to Spain to study abroad, and I was going to be gone for over 2 months. I purchased a bunch of full-size toiletry products to take with me (including shampoo, conditioner, face and body wash, lotion, sunscreen, etc.) When I went to check my huge bag, it was overweight by about 5 pounds. Like an absolute dumbass, I thought “oh! my toiletries are very heavy. I’ll just throw those in my carry-on.” DOH! I checked my bag and went on my merry way to security. Where, of course, they wouldn’t let me fly with all those huge liquid/cream products… so into the trash they went. I was very sad to be wasting perfectly good product, and so much money!
TLDR: don’t put liquids in your carry on! You will be forced to throw them away or check your bag. And this will make you sad.
Use appropriate luggage for your trip length! You can get away using a carry on only if you’re going on a trip for 4-5 days, but if you are someone who needs full size product, then you’ll have to check your bag. No need to bring a huge suitcase if a small one will do!
Also: going on a hiking trip? Check out my Machu Picchu packing list to see what I recommend bringing! 🙂
Tip #4: Take Advantage of Technology.
Do you know who prints boarding passes anymore? Old people and newbie travelers. Don’t be that guy. Download the app for the airline you’re flying and use that to choose your seats, download your boarding pass, etc. That way, you don’t have to stop at the airline’s counter or kiosk, and can head straight to security when you arrive at the airport. This one is the no-brainer of my airport hacks.
Also, make sure you get educated & up your game on credit card points! I was able to fly to both Hawaii and Peru for free in 2017… here’s how.
Tip #5: Know Where to Park.
This one only applies if you are driving yourself to the airport. At the Detroit airport, I have 3 options: off-site parking, long-term, and short-term. When I’m flying for vacation, I’ll park off-site if I can’t get someone to drop me off at the airport. This is the cheapest, and only a five-minute shuttle to my terminal. Long-term parking is good for when I travel for work and will expense parking, and i’ll be gone for at least 1 night. Short-term is SO awesome for trips where I am in and out the same day. The short-term parking lot is basically the closest parking area to the terminal, so you can be in your car about 10 minutes after deplaning. If you have planned out where to park ahead of time, it’ll save you time and stress on your departure date!
There you have it… my five airport hacks to help you travel quickly and smoothly. Tell me – what on the list will help you the most? Am I missing any airport hacks that you use? Let me know in the comments below!