Travel

7 Ways to Get Through the Airport Faster

With airports busier than ever, airline staffing reductions creating longer lines at check-in and airport security wait times that can be entirely unpredictable, the old airport “two-hour” rule often leaves just minutes to spare to buy a magazine, grab a snack or hustle your kids into the bathroom.

Check Flight Status

I feel like this tip is almost so obvious that I should not even include it, but I find that even in my own travels, I often fail to do this one simple but critical thing. Then this summer, I almost got burned. A very early morning flight for my son and me was canceled; luckily, I have a TripIt account, and found out about the cancellation before anyone else in the house was even awake. Had that not been the case, I am certain that in the rush to leave before dawn, I would not have checked flight status, and would have gotten a ride to the airport with all our stuff, waved goodbye, headed into the terminal, stood in line and only then discovered the cancellation. So—check flight status early and often.

Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their websites, and sites like FlightStats.com and TripIt.com will do the same by text, on the web and through smartphone apps.

Check in Online

Especially if you are not checking bags, this can save you a heap of time. I have found that when checking bags, having the preprinted boarding pass in your hand doesn’t help all that much, and check-in agents often end up reissuing another boarding pass when you check your bags—but it sure doesn’t hurt. Plus, it’s the best way to secure the seat you want onboard the plane. Learn more about online check-in.

Place Documents Easily Accessible Place

Before you leave for the airport, put your ID, credit card and boarding pass in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag. There are two reasons for this: one, by going through this exercise, you make sure that you don’t leave home without these crucial items. Two, you don’t waste your (and other people’s) time fumbling around for them at the moment you need them.

Pack Everything Else Out of Reach

Clutter is the enemy of smooth passage through the airport; pack out of reach and sight anything that you will not need between your front door and your airplane seat.

Prep Your Documents

Before you get in line to check in, or at least before you get to the front of the line, have in hand all the items and documentation you will need to check in. This makes everyone happy—you, airline agents and the people behind you in line who appreciate your efficiency.

Weigh Your Bags

Many airports are installing scales in front of the check-in areas; if you suspect your checked bag might be overweight, weigh it before you get in line, and do any swapping between your bags before you reach the check-in counter. This also avoids any scrutiny from the check-in agents about your carry-on bag starting to swell (another topic altogether, which I won’t go into here).

If you are really serious about baggage weight, you can even weigh bags at home—buying your own luggage scale is inexpensive and will prevent surprises at the airport.

Stow Documents in Your Carry-On

Stow everything except your ID and boarding pass in your carry-on bag. This way, when you get to the front of the security line, you are not finding stuff in random pockets, messing with your phone, dropping credit cards and keys, spilling crumpled cash all over the place and generally ticking off everyone behind you. By the time you get in the security line, you should be as close to ready to go through the actual security machine as possible.