Throughout my life, I’ve taken more flights than I can count and have learned a few tricks along the way. Especially when I flew twice a week traveling for work, I learned a variety of tips and tricks that can help to improve your airport experience and hopefully reduce your travel anxiety.
There are numerous things to can do in preparation for your travels before and during your trip. I hope these tips improve your future travel days! Let’s get into it.
1. My number one tip – Remember that flights can be delayed or canceled
It happens ALL THE TIME. Weather, mechanical, previous flight delays that trickle down throughout the day, etc. are all a possibility when choosing to fly. The airline supply chain feels like organized chaos and somehow they manage to keep things running smoothly a majority of the time! When you pause and take a minute to appreciate the madness occurring daily, it’s pretty wild. So, instead of letting it put a damper on your trip, make the most of it and go to a restaurant or bar near your gate and make it a positive experience rather than a negative one!
2. Delayed Flight Benefits
If your flight is delayed typically 3+ hours domestically (6+ hours internationally) or canceled, know the benefits you are legally obligated to be compensated for if this happens to you! This varies domestic vs international, so knowing your benefits on what you are legally entitled to is huge! This also applies to your flight being changed by 3+ hours, where you are then allowed to change your flight time to hopefully a better time without paying any change fees or fare differences.
3. Packing tips: give everything a home
This means feeling at ease knowing where your stuff is! I personally love having bags with zippers so items are safe and secure, especially going through security and under the seat! Do you recall a time when you had a minor panic not knowing where your keys, phone, or passport were? Giving everything a home will help reduce this potential stress. I highly recommend using packing cubes to stay organized, I’ve used my for years!
4. Prep and duplicate your toiletry bag
You’ll want to duplicate everything you plan to travel within your toiletry bag to always have a toiletry bag packed and ready to go! I personally love this tolietry bag that also hangs and has numerous zippers to sort your items. I’ve left my toothbrush and various other items several times before I made this switch. When you set yourself up by duplicating all toiletry items you will always be packed and ready to go for your next step and not worried about forgetting anything. When you are packing for your trip, simply refill a few items and you’ll be ready to go. Looking for a travel-friendly and charger-free toothbrush? My personal favorite at the quip toothbrushes, click for $5 off your first purchase!
5. Get Priority Pass
Priority Pass is one of my favorite travel credit card benefits that come with many travel credit cards including the Capital One Venture X, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and the Amex. This means you’ll gain access to 1,200 lounges and restaurants across the globe, making long layovers and delays a much better experience. I often arrive at the airport early to enjoy a free meal and drink using my $28/person credit with Priority Pass at select locations. Note if you are traveling with a partner, you and your partner will get access to the lounge or a total of $56 at a restaurant.**
6. Airline Lounges
Don’t have Priority Pass? If you have status with an airline, an airline credit card, or want to pay for a day pass, you can relax and enjoy the food, beverages, nicer bathrooms, and more in an airline lounge (think United, Delta, American, etc.). The cost for each airline’s day pass is typically the following: United ($59), Delta ($39), and American ($50).
7. Airport Maps
Knowing your way around the airport by using the airport maps available on the airline apps or through a quick google. This is great if you like to know exactly where you are going and allows you to plan where to eat, go to the bathroom, find your gate, go to the lounge, and more.
8. Arrive Early
Arriving early to avoid unnecessary stress. This one is obvious, but with TSA lines continuing to increase in the summer and the extra confusion of traveling during a pandemic, always give yourself extra time at the airport to avoid any stress of missing your flight.
9. Understand the Airline Rules
Understand the airline rules, baggage, boarding time, etc. This includes understanding the type of ticket you bought, how much your bag can weigh, how early you board which can vary by airline and aircraft type, and the list goes on. Being a prepared and knowledgeable traveler will pay off by enjoying a seamless airport experience.
10. Fly a Familiar Airline
Fly an airline you are familiar with. You can know what to expect, you’ll fly in similar terminals at your home airport and airline hub airports, you’ll be comfortable with the app, the booking process, and overall know what to expect when traveling with a familiar airline. If you have TSA Precheck, you’ll only have to upload your TSA number once and not have issues across different airlines.
11. Download the Latest Airline App
Download the latest version of your airline app at home. Always update your travel apps prior to leaving your house for your trip. Most airlines offer inflight screening, often through their phone app with the latest version only. Make sure you are prepared to kick back and relax by watching a movie or show on your next flight.
12. Download Your Inflight Entertainment
Download all music and movies and any other entertainment at home as well. If you recently updated your phone, that can sometimes affect your downloads. Make sure to download your entertainment offline prior to leaving the house.
13. Pack the Night Before
Pack your suitcase the night before and sit it out ready to go for the next day. Do you have last-minute items to add? Create a checklist and put it on top of your suitcase to avoid forgetting the essentials!
14. Set Several Alarms
Have an early flight? Set plenty of alarms to wake up and leave for the airport in time!
15. Schedule Your Transport
Taking a Uber/Lyft to the airport? Schedule an Uber/Lyft/car service the night before and make sure to add buffer time to avoid any unnecessary stress and arrive early or on time at the airport. If you haven’t used Lyft before, use this link to get $15 off.
16. Pack Snacks
Pack extra snacks on hand to accommodate your dietary preferences, save your money, and avoid anyone being angry. Pack these the night before and have them ready to go! I personally love packing my travel snacks in Stasher bags. Here’s a link to get 20% off your first order! Additionally, here’s a list of 10 healthy travel-friendly snacks.
17. Refill your water bottle AFTER security
Avoid getting caught with your filled water bottle at security and having to go through security twice (I’ve been there) and stay hydrated while flying. I frequently use my Hydroflask, Swell, and collapsible water bottles when flying.
18. Prep for TSA Security
Going through security, you’ll want to prep your outfit and bag for an easy experience through security. Avoid belts, big shoes or shoes with metal in them, no liquids in water bottles, and take out items like candles or spices since they almost always get flagged due to their density and size.
19. TSA Pre-Check
Save time and have less to take off when going through the security line! TSA Pre-check is free with many travel credit cards, so please avoid paying for this. If you don’t have a travel credit card with this benefit, you can purchase it for $85, but I recommend spending $100 and getting Global Entry, both valid for 5 years.
20. Global Entry
This is also free with travel credit cards ($100 for both global and TSA precheck)! Global Entry provides a quick and easy customs experience coming back into the United States, essentially it’s a fast pass through customs.
21. Connecting Flights
If it’s a large airport such as LAX, Chicago O’Hare, Denver, or Atlanta, give yourself a minimum of a 90-minute layover! Ideally, give yourself 2 hours for international flights and connections. Review the airport map and become familiar with where you have to go if this makes you nervous. I highly recommend doing this for connections, especially when your flight might be delayed or you have a tight connection.
22. Seating Assignments
I personally love having peace of mind knowing where I’m sitting on the plane and that I have a spot. For this reason, I recommend avoiding booking the basic economy seats (oftentimes they assign your seat for you) or booking southwest tickets. That’s a personal preference, but I do find both of those options can create potential address stress to your travel day.
23. Purchase Luggage with 4 Wheels
My favorite carry-on and checked bags are linked here. I live by this tip because it makes it so easy to run through the airport to make a tight connection and easily roll your carry-on down the aisle when boarding your flight.
24. Packing Strategically
Pack the most important items you can’t live without on your person. This includes meds, contacts, anything of value or sentimental, your passport, wallet, ID, etc. In the case that your bag is checked at the gate, weighs too much, or you are checking a bag, keep your essentials in your personal item that will go on the plane with you. I love using my Eagle Creek packing cubes to stay organized throughout my trip.
25. Keep Your Chargers On Your Person
Always keep a phone and computer chargers in your carry-on bags! Bonus if you have a portable phone charger. This will help give you peace of mind knowing you’ll have charged devices throughout your flight. Bonus: I pack two charging cords in case one gets lost.
26. Use an Apple AirTag
Use an Apple air tag to track your checked bag. Here’s a link to purchase an Airtag! I recommend this hack all the time as it gives me a huge peace of mind knowing I can track my bag in case it does get lost when I check my bag.
27. Have an Emergency Travel Budget
Have an extra budget for any surprises that happen while you travel. You’ll want an “emergency fund” for your travels to give you peace of mind in case of any surprise fees or costs are incurred.
28. Save Documents to Google Drive
Save all your travel documents and itinerary in a google doc/folder and share them with friends or family for extra safety. I frequently do this for international trips and often share the location of a hotel via the share feature on google maps with my family.
29. Charge Your Electronics
Charge all your electronics the night before! While many airports and planes have plugs, it’s important to keep all of your electronics charged up, especially your phone as it’s frequently used for your boarding pass, priority pass, and more. Don’t forget to pack a portable phone charger like this one.
Remember that it’s a very normal thing and is just a change in wind patterns. Talk to the person next to you if you feel nervous or put on your favorite music to distract you from it happening. It typically passes quickly!
31. Things are Replaceable
Remember at the end of the day, most things are replaceable! I always say it’s important to keep a form of ID and payment on you in a worst-case scenario. While it might suck to lose something along the way, health and safety is the most important thing and most physical items can be replaced! A bonus tip here, keep a form of ID and payment separate from a backup just in case. Additionally, keep photocopies in your digital files for additional backup.
32. Mobile Boarding Pass
Use the mobile boarding pass on your phone using the airline app. I rarely ever print my boarding pass anymore for domestic flights because I use the airline app on my phone. No need to worry about losing that piece of paper when you have your mobile boarding pass! I do like to print my pass for international trips due to having limited Wi-Fi or service.
33. Become a Rewards Member
Become a rewards member for your frequently used travel companies (airlines, car rentals, hotels, etc.) and download their app, put it in a travel folder on your phone, and you’ll be ready to go when you get to the airport! Now you’ve already done the hard work upfront and can easily access your mobile boarding pass at the airport.
Congrats, you’ve read all 33 tips to help you improve your airport experience! I hope these travel tips help improve your next airport experience, reduce any potential stress, and create an enjoyable flying experience for your next big adventure!
4 thoughts on “33 Tips to Improve Your Airport Experience”
Awesome tips, Haley! I definitely need to upgrade my luggage to something with four wheels. I’ve literally been using my grandma’s old suitcase for years – not even kidding 😂. That little baby has been to Asia, Africa, etc. and has had part of it superglued back on at least once, haha. I also really need to get Global Entry. I’ve been putting that off for years too – whoops! I never thought about using AirTags – great idea. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! Xx Sara
Hi Sara, so great to hear! Sounds like you’ve been on some epic trips! So glad you found these tips useful! There are so many tips that make such a huge difference in the travel experience!
Happy and safe travels!
My three sisters and I are hoping to take a trip together in the fall, and we want the airport experience to go well. You made a good point about how it is smart to pick an airline you are familiar with so you will know what to expect. I’d also suggest booking your flights through a reputable airport to make sure it will be as stress-free as possible.