If you’ve done any amount of air travel outside of the United States, you’d be shocked at the differences in airport security. With that said, given the current state of affairs worldwide, security has been becoming more and more serious. Regardless, spending hours in airport after airport to get to your final destination can be a grueling experience. Here’s some advice to help make your journey a little less cumbersome.
1 – Don’t always fly from home.
Flights from smaller cities can be A LOT more expensive than if you book from a nearby larger city. So, when you are looking for the best flight deals, take a look at the airports around you – you may be able to find a much better price by booking a flight from an airport that is an hour or two away. Find a friend and pay for their gas to drive you out there and you’ve saved yourself a boatload of money and spent some quality time together. Mission accomplished. As far as booking your flights, Google Flights and Kayak are my favorite flight search engines. I love that Kayak lets you watch individual flights and track the price changes! Another way to save money is to book separate flights – one from your hometown to a major city, then a second from the major city to your final destination. Good luck!
2 – Travel lightly.
If at all possible, travel without any checked luggage. Not only will it make your trip easier and quicker because you don’t need to wait at baggage claim, but it will also be cheaper. Most airlines now charge for checked luggage, and it’s not cheap. If you absolutely have to check luggage, try to purchase it online ahead of time to save money – and be sure to double check the size and weight limits! Also – when you can manage to travel with only carry-on only, pack your regular carry-on and a small purse or tote bag. That way if the airline offers to check carry-on luggage because they are tight for room in the passenger cabin, you can check your carry-on at the gate for free! And then you don’t have to worry about lugging it on and off the plane – even better if you have connecting flights.
3 – Know what you can (and can’t) bring.
This is a matter of both customs regulations (as mentioned in International Travel Tips) and airport regulations. US airports limit the amount of liquid that you can bring on a plane. Be smart. Don’t try to bring that bottle of water through security with you. They will make you throw it away. But there is an easy solution – just plan to buy a bottle of water at a shop or café in the terminal. You can refill it at any water fountain in the airport and bring it on any connecting flights you have. You just can’t bring it through security. Also, make sure that you follow the TSA guidelines with your other liquids – make sure each bottle/container is no more than 3.4 oz and that they are all able to be sealed together into a 1-quart zipped plastic bag.
4 – Be prepared at security.
Bringing a laptop with you? Make sure it is NOT in your carry-on, but placed separately on the scanner belt at security. These are checked individually, so should not be mixed in with other objects when it gets scanned.
5 – Don’t hassle the officers.
Random security checks happen – don’t take it personally! Sometimes the security officer will ask you to step aside and look through your bag. This is their job. Don’t question them; don’t hassle them. Just be honest and polite. It’s not a time for jokes either. Sometimes you may be pulled for a secondary inspection because something looks like a weapon. While I understand it can be a bit nerve-racking, don’t give them a hard time! I’ve been stopped for various souvenirs and even a bracelet once. They are just doing their jobs to make sure everyone on that plane is safe.
6 – Pack your chargers in your carry-on.
If you’re like most travelers, you will use your phone and/or tablet a lot while in transit. So make sure you put your chargers in your carry-on! If you have a layover, that’s the perfect time to get comfy on the floor (or a chair if you’re lucky!) of the terminal next to an outlet. They go quickly, so if you need to recharge, look quickly once you’re off the plane.
7 – Eat & drink.
This particularly applies to those times when you get through security really quickly (congrats!) or you have a decent-length layover. Terminals today are FULL of restaurants, bars, and cafés; take advantage of this! Especially on a layover in a city you haven’t been to. Find a local brewery or restaurant that has a location inside the airport and have a drink and/or a bite to eat. You don’t need to wait until your destination to start enjoying your vacation.
8 – Relax!
You’re on vacation, traveling to somewhere that is bound to be great. Don’t stress! There are bound to be rude people you’ll encounter along the way, people who block the entire path of the moving sidewalks, and things that go wrong. It’s not the end of the world. Take a deep breathe and enjoy it!