Hacks to make your travel experience a little bit better.
Let’s face it—airports have a bad reputation. Often a least-favorite location, airports are often only known as a place for delays, germs, and crowds. That considered, they don’t have to be stressful.
Here are 10 hacks to make your life easier while navigating airports and air travel, so you can arrive safely (and sanely) to your final destination.
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Use a Refillable Water Bottle
Before leaving the house, grab a refillable water bottle (sans water) and stow it in your carry-on bag. Vacuum-insulated stainless steel bottles like Hydro Flask work well, since they work to maintain water temperature for long periods of time.
As the fight to combat single-use plastics wages on, airports are meeting the challenge with refillable water bottle stations. Once through security, fill up your water bottle at one of the stations (often found on or around water fountains). By bringing your own bottle, you avoid paying for water in the airport and having to wait for in-flight service once in the air.
Pack Your Own Snacks
The price of airport food can make even the most seasoned traveler a little cranky. Take a few minutes before you even leave the house to pack snacks that satisfy a variety of cravings—a good rule of thumb is to cover your salty, sweet, and savory bases.
Dry or pre-packaged snacks work best and while fresh fruit or vegetables is tempting, it may also be confiscated by agriculture at security in places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Planning ahead means avoiding long lines at airport restaurants, overpriced snacks at newsstands, limited in-flight menu options and hunger-induced anger.
INSIDER TIPFor morning flights, pack dry cereal and request milk during the in-flight service for an instant breakfast option.
Organize With Reusable Bags
Having a sense of organization while traveling is essential in preventing unwanted stress. Make sure essential items like charge cords, battery packs, and medicine are easily accessible from your carry-on bag by utilizing reusable bags.
Organizing with Stasher Bags in your carry-on helps keep key items at-the-ready and can be used later in your trip for snacks, or separating dirty laundry in your suitcase.
INSIDER TIPIt’s easy to just throw some regular plastic bags into your carry-on or suitcase, but in some destinations like Kenya and Uganda, plastic bags are banned entirely. Play it safe and pack reusable.
Take a Photo of Your Suitcase
Snap a photo of your suitcase before you check it and hand it off to an airline representative. Though there are perks of being a carry-on only type of traveler, sometimes a checked bag cannot be avoided. Having a photo handy in your phone helps in the case of lost luggage, when everyone else also has a black roller bag with limited defining characteristics, and you are trying to file a claim with the airline.
INSIDER TIPHaving a photo of the luggage you are traveling with also helps in the unfortunate case of theft or loss once you’ve reached your destination.
Check Your Seat in Advance
Looking down the barrel of a long haul flight that is going to keep you in the same seat for hours on end? Take a peek at your seat assignment on SeatGuru ahead of time to make sure it is one you are comfortable sitting in for the duration.
SeatGuru allows passengers to type in the airline, date of travel and flight number to find the exact plane model of their flight. From there, a seat map populates with a color-coded key that details three levels of seating (Good, Be Aware and Bad), as well as commentary and photos from other passengers who have traveled on that flight or style of aircraft.
Ask About Lounge Access
If a long layover is in the cards, do not underestimate the power of a good meal and a couple hours of sleep. Check ahead of time for the airport where your layover will be for options like sleeping pods and lounges. Some travel-focused credit cards even offer memberships to companies like Priority Pass, which gives access to over 1,200 lounges across 143 countries.
Military members flying within the U.S. should also look up airport USO locations that can be accessed with valid military I.D. cards.
INSIDER TIPIf you’re new to accessing airport lounges, check out LoungeBuddy, a website that provides reviews of lounges around the world, that might help you pick a lounge to meet your needs (i.e. includes showers, has a quiet room, serves hot food, etc.)
Before leaving home, check out the MyTSA app, which will give you information on current delays, security wait times, and what items can or cannot be brought on the plane. You can even access how historically busy the airport tends to be on specific days of the year based on travel patterns and the weather at airports around the country.
If you have an item in question (think pre-packaged meals or a new souvenir), AskTSA on Twitter is another helpful resource. Tweet them a photo to double check the carry-on item in question ahead of time so you don’t hold up other passengers at the security checkpoint.
Bring a Portable Battery Charger
Invest in a portable battery charger for any type of traveling. Fellow travelers will naturally gravitate toward an open outlet in an airport and if you’re counting on a charge to use your mobile boarding pass, you might be out of luck.
Don’t forget to stash the portable battery charger in your bag and charge it back up once you get in-flight. Most commercial airplanes feature outlets just below seat-back pockets that are ideal for charging battery packs and phones.
INSIDER TIPAmazon is a great place to pick up a variety of portable battery chargers (long lasting, multiple ports, etc.) and often feature this item on Black Friday shopping specials.
All airports and airplanes share one common truth—there is no avoiding public spaces. From water fountains to airplane seats to food trays and lavatory handles, there are hundreds of surfaces that create safe havens for germs and sickness.
Come prepared with your own sanitizer and/or anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning your hands and wiping down surfaces, particularly those you may use to eat.
INSIDER TIPWhile planes are cleaned between flights, there isn’t enough time for every single surface to be wiped clean. As soon you get to your seat, take a couple extra minutes with an anti-bacterial wet wipe to wipe off headrests, armrests, seat buckles, tray tables, window shades and any buttons.
Not on a time crunch? Book a flight that leaves late at night to avoid typical airport crowds and annoyances. By booking a red-eye or off-peak flight, you might also save a few bucks since many travelers need to arrive within a specific time frame. Booking flights with stops or layovers also helps with overall cost.
For those looking to avoid crowds, try not to fly out of, or into, notoriously busy airports. A 2018 study by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found that the top-5 busiest U.S. airports were Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), and Denver International Airport (DEN).
INSIDER TIPWhile traveling through a smaller airport may be less crowded and more desirable, it can sometimes be more expensive. When booking, check the cost for all alternative airports.