Travel is great. But often, the worst part of a trip is the time you spend at the airport. Long lines, high prices, scowling security staff and bad food can all add up to get your trip off to a bad start. It’s a shame that so many of our trips have to start and end like this, but that’s just the way it is.
However, I’ve learned a few tricks over the course of my travels to make the long wait at the airport a little more tolerable. Here are some airport hacks to make your trip a little smoother!
Bring A Water Bottle
Security requirements mean that you can no longer bring something to drink to the airport with you. Call me a cynic, but I can’t help feeling that the reason this rule is still in place has more than a little to do with the airport’s profit margins on their overpriced drinks. After all, it’s not as though liquids are banned entirely; you just can’t carry them in bottles over 100ml.
There’s no rule against bringing an empty bottle through security, though. And once you’re in the Promised Land on the other side, you’ll be able to find a bathroom where you can fill your bottle up again. Many airports even have dedicated drinking fountains that you can use. Flying is very dehydrating, so it’s important to keep up your fluid intake. This is a way you can do that without breaking the bank on $3 bottles of what amounts to tap water anyway.
As an aside, I have heard of people freezing their water bottles and bringing those through security. Since ice is a solid and not a liquid, this circumvents the ban on liquids. I’ve never tried this personally though. It seems like it would require some very precise timing. Plus, then you’d need to wait for the ice to melt on the other side. Still, if you want to give it a try, go for it. Let us know how that turns out.
Bring A Power Bar
Electronic devices are getting more and more power hungry. And we rely on them more than ever when we travel. If you’ve been to an airport lately, you may have noticed the huddle of people clustered around the wall outlets, tethered to their devices. Airports are getting better at providing charging stations, but power outlets are like socks: you can never have too many. Often, all the outlets will be in use.
This happened to me recently in Marseilles. As I approached an outlet, a kind passenger offered to unplug his laptop for me. But I had prepared. Instead, I plugged in a small multi-outlet that not only added another plug socket but also had a couple of USB ports. Both me and the stranger were able to charge our laptops while my wife charged her phone, and another passenger charged hers! Needless to say, I was an airport hero that day. Where’s my statue, Marseilles?
The Power Of Ziploc Bags
Lines at airport security are a fact of life. But there’s a lot you can do to speed things along. After all, most security agencies post their requirements online. Since I travel predominantly in Europe and North America, I usually find that the US TSA’s requirements are at least as stringent as everywhere else. Follow those, and you won’t go wrong.
Liquids must be kept in a transparent plastic bag. Ziploc bags are perfect for this. Prepack all your liquids and gels into a Ziploc, and you can just whip it out while you wait in line and be ready for the scanner. Plus, you get to look like a pro traveler.
Ziploc bags are actually a massively handy thing to have. They’re waterproof, sealable and weigh next to nothing. So I always make sure to carry a few extras in my luggage wherever I go.
Find A Quiet Gate
It always amazes me how one gate at the airport will be crowded and another completely empty. There’s no rule that says you have to sit at the gate you’ll be flying from. And even if there was, who would enforce it? Next time you’re waiting for a flight, take a look around. Often, you’ll be able to find a nice quiet gate where you can stretch out and relax until your own flight begins to board.
Keep Laptops And Tablets Handy
This is another common security rule. The security staff want to see those electronic devices outside of your case. So keep them in a separate pocket of your bag, or at the top of your luggage so that you can easily grab them when required. Even better, you can take them out while you wait in the line to pass through security. You’re waiting anyway; may as well be productive with your time.
This isn’t just a security thing, though. It will also help you once you get through the checkpoint and start waiting for the plane. No one wants to have to repack their luggage in public while they search for their devices. If you want to get some work done or entertain yourself, both on your flight and while you wait to board, you’re going to want to have your electronics handy.
Have A Grab Bag
Personally, I try to travel with only a carry-on wherever possible. This means that my luggage is full of my clothes, camera and other things I won’t need in-flight. But then there are those things I may want on the plane. Books, a notepad, my phone, headphones, Bluetooth keyboard, tablet, portable hard drive – what can I say? I love my gadgets. And as a digital nomad, I find that planes make great offices.
But you don’t want to be that person on the plane who takes forever to get settled and holds up everyone else trying to board behind you. Separate your luggage into things you will need on the plane and things you won’t. Keep what you want for the plane in its own bag inside your main bag so that you can grab it quickly. That way, when you find your seat on the plane, you can toss everything you don’t want into the overhead locker and forget about it for the rest of your flight. Easy!
Duty-Free: The Baggage Workaround
Some airlines, especially budget ones, are reducing what they will allow passengers to bring on board with them. I always recommend that you carefully check the rules of your chosen carrier before you pack for your trip to make sure you don’t fall foul of their rules.
But if you’re like me, you may have noticed that those stringent rules about how many bags a person can bring don’t apply to anything bought in the airport. If you’re running low on space, this can help you out. Ask for a bag at the duty-free store. Most of the time, you won’t have to buy anything. You can use this bag to hold snacks, a sweater or jacket you don’t want to wear or anything else you can’t quite find room for in your luggage. If nothing else, it works great as a grab bag for your in-flight entertainment.
These are a few of the tricks I’ve picked up on my journeys through the airports of the world. The ordeal at the airport has come to be something we tend to see as the price we have to pay for the miracle of flight. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do a few things to make it a little less unbearable. Happy flying!