Airports can be stressful and are often the worst part about traveling. There’s nothing quite like a line of 80 people at check-in followed by hundreds more in the security line to buzz kill your excitement prior to a bomb ass vacation. Let’s face it, while there are plenty of beautiful, modern, and awesome airports in the world like Changi Airport in Singapore, for the most part… waiting around in airports is not what you’re looking forward to. Some things are going to be out of your control and that’s fine. However, there are so many simple and super easy things you can do when traveling that can save you so much time and help you avoid many potential headaches.
Here are five simple travel tips to make navigating in and out of airports quicker:
ONE: Pack a light carry-on
This is a must for me as I personally haven’t voluntarily checked a bag in years. I prefer to travel with a carry-on for many reasons but when it comes to being able to quickly navigate in and out of airports, the carry-on is especially key. Have you ever gotten to the airport and noticed how long the bag drop check-in counter is vs. the self-check-in kiosks? This is something I see almost every time I fly. When you have to check a bag, it’s best you arrive at the airport earlier due to the extra time it takes to check your bag in. Removing this step speeds up the process via kiosk check-in, or even better, checking in online the night before and going straight to security when you arrive.
Packing a carry-on saves time on the front end at check-in, but also on the backend after you’ve arrived. In the past when I had no choice but to check a bag, there were times I waited over 45 minutes to receive my belongings at baggage claim. This is a major pain when you’re arriving home after a long trip and you just want to go home and crash. It’s equally annoying when you touch down in a new location you’re excited to explore but can’t right away due to wasting time in an airport terminal. Pack light. Be mobile. Save time.
TWO: Opt for a mobile boarding pass when available
As mentioned above, when you check-in online and receive your boarding pass on your phone, you can walk straight to security the second you arrive at the airport. This saves me so much time! Now that I no longer scrapbook my tickets and passes, this is my preferred system. This also tends to make security and immigration checks a bit more swift since you’re won’t have to flip through a bunch of paper documents in your handbag. Mobile boarding passes aren’t offered on all airlines and routes, unfortunately. However, when available, simply check-in online, download your mobile boarding pass, and screenshot or save to your wallet!
THREE: Keep your toiletries and large electronics easily accessible
Come on, guys! Pay attention to the rules and restrictions on liquids and the allowed sizes for carry-on luggage. It wastes not only your time but also slows down the entire line when a bag has to be inspected or sent back through the scanner. Make sure your clear bag of toiletries is in an easy to grab location inside your carry-on. I prefer to keep mine at the very top of my backpack or in a front pocket. This way I don’t have to dig through all of my clothes. I don’t recommend putting toiletries and laptops inside of your rolling luggage. It’s much easier to quickly pull them from a small backpack or tote instead of fully unzipping a rolling bag to grab them.
FOUR: Always keep a pen in your personal item
Whether your personal item is a purse, satchel, briefcase, or camera case: KEEP A PEN INSIDE! This is important, particularly on international flights. Many countries require visitors to fill out some sort of landing card for immigration and/or customs clearance. Flight attendants normally hand these out to passengers in-flight but in some cases, they are located in the terminal after landing right before the immigration line begins. There are either no pens available or there is a very limited number available which cannot accommodate everyone. I HATE getting stuck in long immigration lines so I always keep a pen on me and fill my card out on the plane before I land. Once I land, I can casually walk to immigration with my card ready to go bypassing hundreds of others frantically asking strangers for a spare pen. The better prepared you are the quicker you can be! Spending five seconds adding a pen to your bag can save you an hour after you arrive at your destination!
FIVE: Download and use Mobile Passport (U.S. Citizens & Canadian visitors to the U.S.)
If you are a US citizen returning to the United States or a Canadian visiting the United States, you can download the Mobile Passport Control app and submit your passport and CBP (Customs Border Protection) information in just a few clicks. Mobile Passport isn’t available at all US airports, however, it is available at 28 locations. You can use Mobile Passport to expedite your entry into the United States at many of the country’s major airports including JFK, EWR, LAX, ATL, MIA, and DFW, to name a few. While the basic app is free, there is now a premium version with additional features offered for a fee. Although Mobile Passport has been around for a while, many people still don’t take advantage of this option which means the lines are always practically empty. This has saved me over an hour of wait time after arriving home on multiple occasions. I’m so pleased with Mobile Passport, I decided to forgo finishing the LENGTHY Global Entry application process. There was no need! Mobile Passport always comes through for me.
Do you have other tips you recommend to keep your airport visits short and sweet? Comment below! Would love to hear them!