Making your airport trip less of a hassle is all about planning ahead. Usually, stress and snafus happen because we haven’t left ourselves enough time to make it through check-in, get past security, and find our gate.
We’ve all heard the basic recommendation that you should arrive at the airport about two hours early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights. However, the amount of time you actually need depends on what makes you most comfortable. This is a decision you should make long before you even pack for your trip.
If you plan every step of your airport journey, you can save yourself a lot of stress. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to get through any airport with minimal issues and get to the fun part: enjoying your vacation.
Know Your Airport
Every airport is a little different. Airports in small towns are often tiny, and it takes a lot less time to get through security. Some of these airports can fit inside a building no bigger than your average house. However, there are several airports that are so big, stepping into one feels like entering a small city.
There are over 5,000 public airports in operation in the United States. The Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), for example, is the busiest airport in the nation. In recent years, ATL has seen about 104 million travelers annually. This is one of those airports that is better to visit with a game plan at the ready.
Start by visiting the airport’s website, where you will be able to find a map of the terminal (or terminals). Figure out the route you’ll take to get to check-in, security, and your gate. Having a general idea of which side of the building you should be on will save you time and trouble.
It’s also smart to plan for any airport pitstops. If you want to hit a souvenir shop or bookstore before your flight, give yourself plenty of time to peruse the shops so you don’t have to rush.
Furthermore, if you have a layover and you think you’d like to sit down for a meal, decide which restaurant to visit before you even reach the airport. This way, you can figure out ahead of time which restaurants offer the best fare at the most reasonable prices. Nothing’s worse than rushing through a layover hungry, which inevitably leads to the last-minute purchase of a so-so snack that costs way too much money.
Eat and Drink Enough
Speaking of airport meals, you can avoid purchasing overpriced airport food altogether by eating ahead of time. If your trip requires you to spend the entire day in airports, you’ll probably have to plan for a snack at some point. But if you eat enough before a shorter trip, you won’t have to worry about buying food at all.
No matter what time your flight takes off, make sure you eat plenty in the hours leading up to it. Instead of wasting space in your carry-on with bags of snacks, eat something hearty and filling that will give you energy throughout your trip. Simply cook or purchase something delicious and nutritious ahead of time, and you won’t have to eat something subpar and expensive at the airport.
On the same note, hydration is super important when preparing for a flight. Research has shown that the artificial microclimate of an airplane cabin can cause the human body to adjust in surprising ways. Consider this along with the fact that airplanes require us to sit relatively still for prolonged periods of time, which causes our bodies to act differently. Typically, our bodies will feel dehydrated more quickly when we’re on airplanes due to these factors.
Thus, it’s important to drink plenty of water before your flight begins. Pay extra attention to your hydration in the days leading up to your flight. This gives you a little extra defense against dehydration-induced headaches, fatigue, dizziness, and dry skin.
Okay, this one may seem obvious, but how many times have you left packing your suitcase until the absolute last minute? For whatever reason, many of us like to self-sabotage in this way. For some folks, a trip to the airport isn’t really complete if there isn’t some sense of urgent desperation to make it on time.
Well, as someone who has done the last-minute pack one too many times, I can attest that the grass is greener on the side that thinks ahead.
If forcing yourself to pack sounds like a nightmare, try pulling your suitcase out a week in advance and throwing in clothes a little at a time. This will help the task feel more manageable, and as a bonus, you’ll have more time to decide what you really need to pack and what can stay behind. It’s always nice to have a little extra space in your suitcase for purchases you make along your journey.
There are two really important things to remember when it comes to packing. The first is that you should make sure you can easily zip up your suitcase long before you head out the door. You don’t want to be deciding which items to ditch because your bag is too full right as your Uber is about to leave for the airport.
The second important rule is to always have your essentials close to you. As you pack, make sure your phone and your ID are in a safe place. If they’re in the middle of your suitcase, that’s not ideal. Worse, you might accidentally leave them behind. All this planning will be for naught if you show up to the airport with no photo identification!
These tips are extremely easy to follow, but many travelers spend so much time planning for their trip that they forget to plan for the most important step: getting on the plane. Take your time prepping for that all-too-stressful airport experience, and you’ll be amazed at what a difference it makes.