Running through an airport in attempt to catch your flight on time is the stuff of nightmares. And security these days? It can be brutal. If the entire process of getting through the airport stresses you out from start to finish, try these easy tips to make your next trip a breeze.
1. Download the airline app.
Do it before you arrive at the airport (ideally the day before so that you can check in). The app will alert you to any flight delays, cancellations, and gate changes; allow you to choose or change your seat; and will give you real-time flight information that may be essential to your travels. You can also use the app to access your mobile boarding pass. Some airlines have apps that also allow travellers to access entertainment through WiFi but only if you have the app before you're in the air.
2. Give yourself time.
Word to the wise: don't cut it close when it comes to air travel. There are too many things that can go wrong — traffic on the way to the airport, long queues at check-in or security, changes in gates, or other issues with the airline — to risk waiting until the very last minute to head to the airport. Give yourself time so that you don't have to panic that you're going to miss your flight. Running through the airport and barely making it your gate on time is no fun — trust me.
3. Take only hand luggage if you can.
Using only hand luggage means avoiding the queues for checking your bags and eliminates the possibility of your items getting lost or damaged. Skip the hassle, and take everything on board with you if your journey is short enoughh. It'll mean an overall less stressful airport experience, and if you're flying with a budget airline, can save you a lot of money. Just make sure you check the hand luggage rules carefully as they vary wildly. Thomson Airways, for example, will only allow one small hand luggage bag that weighs under 5 kilograms!
4. Pack smart.
You'd be surprised just how much better your airport experience can be if you know how to pack smart. If you're carrying your luggage instead of checking it, then going through airport security can be stressful unless you've organised your belongings in the most efficient way. Don't pack liquids that are more than 100ml ounces, pack your laptop, tablet, kindle and so on in a place that's easy to reach (since many airports require that you remove them when going through security) and have anything else that may need to be taken out (like your toiletries) easily accessible.
5. Be prepared to go through security.
"Digging through your bag while everyone glares at you is literally the worst feeling, so double, triple check to make sure that you don't have anything in your hand luggage that'll hold up the line. That includes that bottle of water you half-finished in the taxi to the airport. Start taking out the items that need to go into the bin and onto the conveyor belt before you actually get there," says iFly Luggage. Get through airport security faster by being prepared long before it's your turn.
6. Pack a water bottle and snacks.
You never know when hunger may hit you, and there's nothing worse than a growling stomach in a long queue, or worse, on a long flight. "Airports are stressful enough without hunger taking over and making those long lines an even bigger nightmare," says iFly. Make sure your snack game is on lock with goodies like cereal bars, fresh fruit (firmer is better), and crisps or popcorn. Pack a water bottle that you can empty before you go through security, then refill on the other side, in order to save you money. A lot of European flights no longer include a meal, so make sure you're well fed before you get on that plane.
7. Always have entertainment on hand.
Download your favourite films, TV shows, and games to your phone or tablet, and always have a physical book or magazine available as backup in case any of your devices die. You'll be glad you have something to keep your mind off airport queues, delayed flights, and frustrating fellow travellers. Even if you know your flight has entertainment, you can't guarantee those seatback TVs will work.
8. Be nice to airport staff!
This is a big one. "Airport employees work long, demanding hours. They deal with hundreds of people a day and they've got to work quickly and efficiently while under all kinds of pressure. Kindness is contagious, pass it on," says iFly. Being nice to airport staff (or flight attendants, for that matter) can go a long way, especially if there's an issue with your flight. You'll find that people are more willing to help out a smiling traveller than one who is on the defensive or angry.
– Additional reporting by Gemma Cartwright