The Airport is One of My Favorite Places.
This is clearly not the general consensus for everyone! So Airports Made Easy to the rescue.
Let me explain that to me however, the hustle and bustle of the airport is magical. There are so many unique people, and different nationalities with varying "styles," all traveling to some unknown destination. The airport allows me to do one of my favorite things: people watching.
Our differences is what makes up the beauty of this world. I love to watch everything, from how each person carries themselves, to how they interact with those around them. I like taking it all in: from the single mother traveling with her children, to the lone traveler curled up in the corner with a book; from the hippie asleep on the floor between layovers, with that giant backpack, to the business person dressed to the T, booking it to the next terminal to make their connecting flight. I find it all so aesthetically pleasing.
Again however, I am very aware not everyone enjoys the airport, such as FoxyRoxyK, for example, and it can be a daunting experience at times.
I have had many great, and equally not so great, experiences at the airport. With each I learn and become a bit more airport savvy. Through my travels I have learned a few tips and acquired a few products that are "must have" in my opinion, to make your airport adventures a tad less stressful, and a bit more fun.
Airports Made Easy Necessities
Entertainment (a book, electronics, etc.)
How You Pack Matters!
First things first lets start before you even get to the airport, with packing for ease. As long as the trip is not more than a week, I make a point to pack everything needed for my trip in my carry-on luggage. This consists of a backpack and a rolling suitcase, roughly 9in x 14in x 22in.
When packing your rolling suitcase pack the heavier items at the bottom to give your bag better balance while pulling it through the airport. I do not put anything of major importance into this bag, just clothes for the trip.
Using a duffel bag is also an option. For me though, one late connecting flight left me running across LAX with a duffel bag weighing what felt like half my body mass, was enough. Trust me when I say, you WANT the rolling suitcase.
Each airline will have their carry on regulations listed on their websites, so check that out when you buy your tickets. This saves you time and money. You no longer have to stop to check your bags, nor pay for checked luggage.
(I'm sure many of you are like ewww, I don't wanna drag that bag around for several hours. Here is a catch: many airlines will check your carry on for free once you get to the terminal to save on room in the overhead compartments. So feel free to rid yourself of it when you get to your terminal. Keep in mind though that luggage can get lost, so keep the important things on you.)
Here are some wonderful options for regulation sized suitcases:
Usually a second carry-on, or personal item, is allowed aside from the rolling suitcase. I personally use a travel backpack. I choose a backpack because it distributes the weight across my body evenly and frees up my hands. However, I have seen many people with messenger bags, or even purses, as their second carry on. Whatever works best for you.
In this bag I pack all of the important things; i.e. money, cards, ID, passport, electronics, the things that are not so easily replaced. This is also where I pack the other items that have to be removed when going through security, such as liquids and medications.
I also am sure to put the things I will want and need for personal use in the pack. This includes my phone, and charger, laptop, the headphones I mentioned, an empty water bottle or a collapsible one, and snacks...yes I said snacks. (There are lists online of foods you can actually take/not take with you through security to help save you on the cost of airport food).
I personally prefer a backpack with lots of compartments for easy organization to aid in getting through security quicker. A travel backpack is indeed different than a regular backpack. These packs tend to have a lot of pockets for organization, and are built with comfort in mind.
Here are a couple good packs:
As most of you know, it is important to show up to the airport about an hour and a half before your flight departs. Arrive sooner if you will be parking your car there. You need to have time to make it through security and get to your departure gate without having to rush or panic. The more time you allow yourself, trust when I say, the smoother it will go.
You can check in when you get to the airport, but what you may not know is that most airlines have an online check in that you can do up to 24 hours before your departure. Once you have done this, they send you an e-ticket! This makes it possible for you to skip the entire step of checking in and having your ticket printed. Do this at home and you can head straight to security when you arrive, saving you time.
For those of you who have traveled, you know that security is what can take the longest. You must present id and ticket, remove your shoes and unpack half of your bag. This is why I mentioned earlier packing the things you will need to pull out for security in your backpack. Keeping it all in one location will make this process easier for you.
Do not be that person holding up security because you have to open up your entire suitcase!! Do yourself and everyone else a favor by following these tips.
- Have your ID and ticket, or e-ticket ready
- Wear slip on shoes (you must take them off)
- Make sure water bottle is empty (they have dump stations)
- Liquids bag in an easily accessible location ( 3 oz shampoos, body wash, etc.)
- Electronics in an easily accessible location (phone, laptop, etc.)
This makes security go very smoothly. As soon as I have shown my ID and had my e-ticket scanned, I put my rolling suitcase up there with my shoes and open my backpack to return ID and remove liquids and electronics. Having everything in a specific location makes for no fumbling around and keeping the line going.
Once you are through though I honestly have no tips for getting everything back together quickly. I just try to get my shoes on quickly, grab everything and move to a bench to re-pack, so I'm no longer in the way of the security procession.
This is now the easy part. Feel free to take that sigh of relief.
Now that all of that is over I get "settled in." I get my headphones set up, fill up my water bottle, maybe stop in at the bathroom. I figure out where my gate is and get on my way with my adventure.
Once I have found my gate I sit and pull out one of my forms of entertainment I chose to bring. Or I may get out a snack and simply do what I love most, watch the people of the airport pass by.
I hope that these tips help you in your future trips! Keyauni
For the anxious or older folks- Airports Made Easy?
I do NOT like airports, at all! The huge crowds of anxious people are very difficult for me. I kind of feel their vibe, and burn so much energy staying centered and calm, that I end up drenched cold sweat. When I say drenched, I mean handful of liquid when you wipe your head drenched, look like you just walked out of the shower drenched. It is ungodly.
You say airports made easy to me, and I say fat chance!
If you have been with us since the beginning, you already know I have Pre-Flight Anxiety issues. I get airport stress too, but, I love to travel.. The rewards of experiencing the world far outweigh any anxiety issues I have before I depart, or stress I have, at the airport.
You probably also know, I am quite a bit older than Keyauni. Call me old school, or just old, but I do not quite trust technology as much. No, I am not a technology dinosaur. I am on a computer 10 hours a day, and I do all of the technical work for this entire site. But, I have seen first hand the havoc that a technology breakdown can have, a few times. I am not going to be the person who can't depart because my phone dies, or who has no funds after a disaster, because there is no electricity.
Likewise, my body also does not move as easily or quickly any more. In fact, something hurts almost all of the time. I am willing to take a little extra time, or spend a little extra money, if it makes my journey physically easier.
Because of these two differences, I have a few extra tricks, that I have learned along the way. My extra tips are by no means necessary for your trip. In fact, if you follow Keyauni's suggestions you will get through the airport in no time!
I do these things because they make me feel better, one way or another. If you need a little extra comfort, whether mentally, emotionally, or physically, these extra tricks may help you.
To Start with, Necessities Never Change
Young or old, nervous or not, this list of what you need to survive the airport, will always be the same.
Wireless headphones (okay, so I don't think they HAVE to be wireless.)
Entertainment (a book, electronics, etc.)
How You Pack Matters Even More.
A 20 inch carry on suitcase and a back pack should do the trick for almost any trip, unless you are seriously relocating. There is no need to carry more clothes than will fit in your carry on. You can do laundry everywhere but third world countries. If you are moving around, you will see different people all the time, so no one will be concerned that you have on the same outfit you did 5 days ago, as long as you don't smell. Don't burden yourself with a huge bag, or a bunch of bags, no matter how long your trip.
The travel back pack does make the perfect carry on regardless of age, with those wonderful, compartments. What we put in them may differ a little, but the need for organization is exactly the same. My laptop is a personal necessity when traveling, and a good backpack has the perfect laptop pocket.
For added comfort
- I check my carry on bag, because I do not want to drag it across the airport. I am slow enough as it is! Yes, this means plan an extra 20 minutes for both departure, and arrival. If the airlines has self check, I use the kiosk, to speed up the necessary pre-departure time.
- Because I check my bag, I plan to arrive at the airport two hours before my flight. That way if some mishap does occur, there is a little leeway.
- With the 20 inch bag checked, the back pack becomes the carry on. This allows me to keep my purse firmly in possession, cross strapped over my shoulder, as my personal item. I feel better with identification, credit cards, and money, right there.
- I also check in online, the day before my flight, but I print out the hard copy of my boarding pass at home. I feel better with the physical pass in my hand. Initially this goes into a folder, with all of my pre-purchased tickets, and any other needed paperwork, in the order they will be used on my trip. I keep this folder alongside my laptop in that nifty pocket, for easy access.
Airport Stress Peaks in the Security Line
Standing in that long security line is the most difficult part of the airport experience for me. I am not worried about getting through, or getting in trouble, at any time. It is just hard to breath, jammed into a small space with hundreds of people. And, standing stationary for that extended of period of time, starts to hurt after a while.
It is unfortunate that this thorough inspection must be done, but fortunate that it is. I know it keeps me safer in the long run, so I can endure. But I make it easier on myself when I can.
- Lines are shorter and faster at smaller airports, making it far less disconcerting. Whenever destination, time and money allow, go to the smallest airport possible. Believe me, it is a night and day difference. This reduces so much stress, that even if a connection is required, it is worth it. When you land in the large airport, you are already inside security, for domestic flights. This trick does not work for international flights in most cases, because a change of terminals in required.
- If you still end up in a huge airport and a long security line, and you have vibe issues like me, take a moment a zero in on yourself. Breath deeply and focus. Remind yourself how extremely blessed you are, and how much you have looked forward to this trip. Remind yourself that no matter what goes on around you, you are grateful for the adventure you are embarking upon.
- Knowing the rules lets you rest assured that you are 100% in compliance with all TSA regulations. We have linked to the TSA pages for food, liquids, medications and identification in Keyauni's section. If you want to know them all, try the TSA Security page, here: https://www.tsa.gov/travel.
- Dress appropriately! Not only will you have to take off your shoes, if you are wearing a belt or a jacket, you must take them all off as well. Ensure that you are not wearing something frivolous that will be awkward and time consuming when you take it off. You must also empty all of your pockets, so the last thing you want is a pocket full of change. You ALREADY KNOW you must remove these items, so do it as soon as a crate is available. Don't wait until one of the agents tells you to do so.
- Laptops, tablets, and other such electronic devices must be placed in a crate by themselves.
- **You CAN carry small hand-size items through the scanners. I feel better with my identification and boarding pass in my hand. I fold my boarding pass in half, and put it between the pages of my passport, and go through the scanner with this in my hand.
Consider TSA Pre-Check
If you fly frequently, and really suffer from airport stress, TSA Pre-check may be worth the effort and investment. This program requires an application and an interview, and has an $85 fee for 5 years. This fee covers a background check, and the fingerprint process, as well as the other administrative necessities of the program.
If accepted, you receive a Known Traveler Number. This number is entered at the time reservations are made for participating airlines (37) in participating airports (over 200.) This encodes your KTN into the bar code of your boarding pass, enabling you to skip those big security lines, and go to that tiny little pre-check line off to the side! This tiny line moves so fast because you are not required to remove your shoes, belt, or jackets, nor must you take your liquids or laptops out of your check on bag. If you take two trips a year, this is WELL worth the cost!!
Lastly- Be aware of your needs
Only you know how you work, whether it is emotionally, mentally, or physically. Knowing what aspects of the airport experience are difficult for you is what enables you to find your own tricks to ease the burden. When you start feeling stressed, stop and ask your self what it is in the immediate environment that is spurring your stress, and how could it be reduced.
Five years ago, I would have taken my bag as a carry on, like Keyauni does now. Today, doing so feels like a burden. It was only by paying attention to what the challenge was, that I was able to eliminate it. The truth is the airport will never be joyful for me, nor will it for many other people, but it can be less unpleasant.
The Adventure is Worth it!!- FoxyRoxyK
Maybe not Airports Made Easy for everyone, but Easier, for all.
We truly hope our tips help you, whether you enjoy the crowd, or get stressed by the crowd, whether you travel for business or pleasure, whether you are young or old.
Do you have tips or tricks we missed?? Share them in the comments to help all of our readers!