With fewer airline staff, tighter security, and more travelers than ever these days, flying can be a real hassle. If you’re a frequent traveler looking for a way to reduce the stress of your business trips, read on for tips on getting through the airport quicker and with less stress.
1. Sign Up for a Frequent Flier Program
Find a frequent flyer program that covers all your business travel so that you can make the most of your accrued miles and improve your frequent flier status. Remember that a higher status will mean more flying perks like better seats, free first-class upgrades, and free checked bags. Be sure to check the prices of flights to all the places you regularly travel beforehand.
Another smart way to ensure that your miles go toward your status is to include airline partners that share frequent flyer program miles. For example, if you usually fly United, don’t forget that miles accumulated from USAirways, Hawaiian Airlines, and others also go toward your MileagePlus frequent flyer status.
2. To Carry-On or not to Carry-On?
First of all, make sure your carry-on bag is actually the standard carry-on size. Your bag should be able to fit vertically in the overhead compartment. Sure, your large, oversized bag may be able to fit in sideways, but it’s taking up three bags’ worth of space. Be considerate.
Many travelers don’t pack their carry-on baggage effectively. Remember that you aren’t guaranteed to be reunited with your check-in luggage immediately after the flight. Perhaps your bags will make their way to your hotel a couple days after the flight or not at all. So keep any medications, cameras, keys, passports and other important documents with you on the flight.
While you’re at it, if you’ve packed the rest of your belongings in your checked luggage, be sure to pack a change of clothes, professional and casual, in your carry-on as well. If your checked bags don’t make it back to you, you’ll need that back-up.
3. Be Ahead of the Game
Understand that flights aren’t always on time and that you will inevitably experience some type of delay. A simple way to minimize flight delays is to book an early flight to your destination, especially if you have a connecting flight. Since delays accumulate and worsen as the day progresses, being on the first flight is the best way to ensure that you’ll have enough time between flights.
In addition, plan to arrive early at the airport. Your rule of thumb should be to arrive 1.5 hours early for a domestic flight if you are checking in luggage, one hour if you’re not, and 2-3 hours early for an international flight. What’s the worst that can happen if you’re a little early? You get some time to yourself at the gate before boarding.
4. Breeze through Security
Of course you’re aware of liquid regulations and of the fact that you need to remove your shoes and empty your pockets at security. So make sure your bottles of shampoo are appropriate, wear slip on shoes, and empty your pockets into your carry-on bag, except your ID and boarding pass. Not only will you speed through security, but everyone behind you in line will be grateful.
If you’re a frequent flyer, consider signing up for the TSA’s trusted traveler program. Eligible participants will be able to use the TSA PreCheck lanes at the airport for screen benefits such as not having to remove shoes, light jackets, belts or laptops from your bag. Imagine how much faster your airport experience would be if this was the case!
5. Keep Yourself Updated
Before you leave your home or hotel room, check your flight status and check-in online. This way you’ll save time and have a pre-printed boarding pass in hand. Make sure you check your flight status constantly, even after you reach the airport to keep yourself notified of any last-minute changes or delays. Most airlines now have mobile apps to help you check in, keep track of your flights, and notify you of any weather notifications or delays. So if you haven’t already, be sure to download the ones you’ll use most.
Follow these simple, but highly effective methods to get from your home or hotel to your seat on the flight as painlessly as possible. Not every flight needs to be stressful and tiring. With
some easy changes to the way you fly, you can drastically improve your airline experience.
Angie Picardo is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a financial literacy and travel site dedicated to taking the stress out of booking flights and understanding personal finance.