Does the thought of going through airport security fill you up with anxiety? Maybe it’s sitting through a 16-hour flight (or any hour flight) that gets you sweating? Or does the possibility of your baggage being lost over the course of you checking it in and landing to pick it up raise your blood pressure just a teensy bit?
I’ve been there.
But I’ve also picked up tips that have helped me reduce my travel anxiety over time and you’ll be able to read all about them here.
In this post, you’ll find 25 airport tips to check off before sitting down to enjoy the beautiful scenery you’ve been craving since you bought that plane ticket.
Airport Tips Before Leaving Your House
1. Choose Your Luggage
Depending on the length of your visit, you can pack a carry-on bag or check-in luggage. I personally have mastered traveling with a backpack for all lengths of trips so I carry on my bags every time.
You can read more about that here if that’s something you also aspire to do.
Carry-on bags can range from a backpack to a small rolling case; some would also consider this a weekend bag.
With a carry-on, you can bring them on board with you and place them under the seat in front of you or in the cabin space above, which will save you time when you land.
Check-in luggage is usually bigger in size and checked before you go through the security check. This is a great option if you are packing for a lengthy trip with larger liquids and items that can’t go through the security check.
2. Check (and Pack) Important Documents
Check, and double-check your passport (or identification document) before departure. If you are traveling internationally, your passport’s expiration date cannot be within 3 months of your travel date.
You will not be able to enter a country without it and you won’t be able to leave either. Make sure to not overstay your visa as well.
Check the dates and times of your flight. Keep in mind that all flights are listed for local time. This is important information if you have a layover, especially over a time difference (i.e flying from CA to FL with a layover in CO) as it can cause trouble with the timing.
Lastly, check the airports. In some cases, like Chicago, there may be more than one airport so you want to make sure that you’re headed to the right one.
3. Packing electronics
Laptops, tablets, smartphones, and all batteries (including portable ones) need to be packed in your personal bag or carry-on. Make sure they are all easily accessible as electronics will most likely need to be taken out and put in the bins.
How you pack will help speed up your time at the security checkpoint.
4. Packing Liquids
Bottom line, all liquids must be in 3oz. containers and packaged nicely into a quarter-sized ziplock bag.
For frequent travelers, pick up the refillable travel-sized bottles to save money. Local grocery stores also have ready-to-go bottles as well if you’d rather save time.
When it comes to make-up, scale down so your liquid makeup can also fit in the slowly shrinking quart-sized ziplock bag.
Side Story: While still living in China and on my trip through the London airport, the TSA lady claimed that my mascara was a liquid—which had never occurred to any other country before—so I had to throw out my lotion (China bought) and my conditioner (also China bought) so that I could keep my mascara (American bought).
Moral of the story: pack only what you need and will use.
5. Packing Food
If you have a very early morning flight or are catching a red-eye flight, restaurants and snack shops within the airport may not be open.
You can bring your own food through security, as long as it’s sealed. For domestic travel, fruit is fine in your carry-on.
It’s also important to mention medication. Pack your prescribed medication. Other medications include tums, digestives, laxatives, and painkillers.
You can decide how to pack your meds, but you don’t have to take the whole bottle with you.
I’ve noticed that activated charcoal helps with stomach issues, so I tend to pack a few of those too just in case I meet a meal of food poisoning eating street food (or something).
6. Packing Clothes
Do not overpack your luggage.
If you’re anything like me, you like to do a little shopping in your destination city. Some countries like those in Southeast Asia will have night markets with very affordable (and cute) clothing, accessories, and shoes. Save some space for local pieces.
So to pack lighter, mix and match your tops and bottoms. Estimate about 4-5 tops and 2-3 bottoms, possibly including a dress, and 1-2 pairs of shoes for about a week’s worth of travel. I like to call it a travel capsule wardrobe.
7. Check-In for Your Flight
These days, flights allow passengers to check in 24 hours before departure time. This means that you can check into your flight, pay for any check-in luggage you may have, and download your mobile ticket.
You can also print them off at home as well if you prefer a physical copy.
When you get to the airport, you can get in line to print out your baggage sticker or head straight to the security checkpoint.
Read next: How to Use Skyscanner to Find Cheap Flights
Airport Tips for Check-In and Baggage Drop
8. Flight Confirmation at the Kiosks
If you forget to check in the 24 hours before your flight, have no fear! You can also check-in at the ticketing area, usually at the kiosks or at the desks, depending on the airline. Make sure you have your confirmation number and ID ready to show.
9. Baggage Drop
If you see kiosks for your airline, you’ll need to get in that line and type in your confirmation number to print out your baggage tag. Once you stick this on your bag, you’re ready to head to the belt area and check the weight. Keep in mind that check-in baggage is limited to 50 pounds.
Airport Tips to Get Through Security Faster
10. Scan the Security Lines
Do a quick scan of the security lines. Head towards the left side of the lanes (as many tend to head right) and find individuals or couples to stand behind.
Usually, big groups or parents with small children will take a little longer to get through the security identification.
11. Have Your Identification Ready
Have your ticket and identification ready and in hand. If you are wearing glasses, take them off as you hand your information to the TSA agent.
As an international traveler, I prefer showing my passport but I think it’s important to have 2 forms of identification for domestic traveling as well. After showing your ID, tuck it and your ticket into an easily reachable pocket of your carry-on so you don’t lose it, but you can still reach it if they ask for it again.
12. Your Airport Outfit
Your airport outfit is 1/2 of what makes or breaks your time at the security area.
To get through quickly, wear slip-on slip-off shoes and low-maintenance clothes. Belts, things in pockets, and hats can slow down your walk through the metal detector if you forget to remove something.
My airport outfit is usually leggings, with one pocket, a zip-up hoodie for easy removal, a loose shirt, and my Bobs shoes. Before I arrive at the airport, I’ll make sure the only thing in my pocket is my phone.
I’ll remove my watch and stash my wallet in my carry-on.
13. What Goes in the Bins
How you pack your carry-on is the other 1/2 of what makes or breaks your time at the security area.
Airports are not all in sync when it comes to things in the bins. Some require shoes, and some don’t. Others want all your things in bins, while some say to just lay it on the belt. I’ve also encountered security checks where I didn’t even need to remove my liquids.
When you get past the identification check, make sure to grab at least 2 bins.
Pack your electronics in an easy-to-reach place so you can easily take them out for times such as this. For my backpack, I usually have my laptop in the electronics slot along the back.
All electronics bigger than a smartphone will be in their own bin. I usually take these out first.
Next, liquids are always on top of my bag–it should be the last thing you pack in your carry-on (besides your passport!). Sometimes, they’ll also ask you to remove any food items as well.
After that, remove the outer layers and shoes to be placed into the same bin. This whole process should take 2 minutes at the most and you will usually have time to push your items through the metal tunnel.
14. Smile and be Polite
Always be polite. And give grace.
Keep in mind that they are working with thousands of people every day. Your smile can make a difference and help you get through quicker too.
Airport Tips While Waiting at Your Gate
15. Where to Sit
When finding your gate, you can locate it on your plane ticket or on the computer monitors usually lining the hallways after security.
When you get to your gate, double-check the monitor to ensure that it’s the destination you’re looking for and the flight number matches your ticket. Sometimes gates change while you’re going through security.
Find a spot where you can easily see the monitors in case they change during your waiting time. I also like to find a seat with an outlet to get my last-minute charges (or if I have a long wait time).
16. Plan Your Bathroom Trips
I’m not too big on public bathrooms, but I would prefer the airport ones to the airplane ones. If you grab a coffee or water, make sure to use the bathroom before you board the plane, especially if you have a long flight.
If I do use the bathroom, I usually go about 5-10 minutes before boarding time, just to make sure I’m back in time before they make any important announcements.
17. Fill Up on Water and Snacks
After security, you will be able to fill up your water bottle or purchase one at the airport and bring it with you on the plane. You can also pick up a Starbucks blueberry scone or a bag of Cheetos too (at least those are my go-to’s).
18. Boarding Time
Airlines usually have a way they like to board people. Follow your boarding “zone” or “group.” And if you’re towards the end of boarding, be patient.
Waiting at or near your seat can decrease confusion during boarding time–all this said with grace as I’ve been one to jump up and wait by the lines when they start boarding time.
My tickets usually tell me I’m at the end of boarding.
Download your entertainment beforehand. Go to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, whichever platform you use, and get all the episodes you’ve been saving up for a nice, long plane ride.
After that, download all the music you like to listen to. My favorite is going on Spotify and finding curated playlists of all my favorite genres. This way I can still hear new music while in flight.
Then, for you bookworms download your top 2-5 books on your to-read list. I recommend digital books because it saves space in your carry-on. But I’ve known people to bring a book or two and some magazines to flip through as well.
Lastly, download some games you might play. My favorite go-to’s are Sudoku and Cube block.
I like to have a variety of things to do because it helps me rotate throughout the plane ride, especially if I’m on a long-haul flight.
If I’m not being entertained by all my gadgets and books, then I’ll be found sleeping. Personally, I can fall asleep anywhere anytime, and if it’s a moving vehicle I will be out very soon.
I know it may be harder for some to fall asleep on planes. Here are some things that have helped: a sleeping pillow, calm music, or small dosages of melatonin – research this for your unique situation.
Turbulence is a scary time when the plane comes into contact with some crazy wind, which then causes the plane to shake and make lots of noise.
However, do know that your pilot is not afraid of turbulence, even though it may cause anxiety in passengers. Don’t believe me? Read more about pilots and turbulence.
There are several steps you can take to combat your fear while in the air: taking deep breaths, listening to music, meditation, medication, and if anxiety is severe, therapy. Take care of your mind so you can beat anxiety in flight.
22. Touch Down
It takes about 30 minutes to touch down from when the captain makes his announcement. At this point—clean up, and use the bathroom if you need to, but settle into your seatbelt for the turbulence (if any) and the landing strip.
Hold on tight—if it’s your first ride, the jolt might give you a small surprise. But you’ll land, the plane will slow down, and you’ll reach your gate in no time.
Airport Tips at Your Destination Airport
23. Find Your Luggage
Usually, the flight attendants will give an upbeat talk about how great it is that you’re flying with them, tell you about the current time and temperature, and also mention the carousel number where you can find your checked-in baggage.
If that doesn’t happen, you can check your airline’s mobile app or the monitors on your way out of the deboarding area.
If your luggage is lost (fingers-crossed that this doesn’t happen!), then you’ll need to go to the airport baggage workers and file your claim immediately.
Don’t worry—it won’t be lost forever. You will get it back, even if it’s a day or more late. You can also ask if the airline will send someone out to deliver your luggage, too to your home address.
From here, follow the signs. Find the bathroom. If you’re hungry and you don’t know where you’re headed, now is the time to find some food.
If you rented a car, some airports will have a rental kiosk right by the baggage claim. Others will be a walk right outside the doors or have you ride a bus or shuttle to the rental area.
For Uber, Lyft, or taxis, there is usually a separate lane for pick-up cars. And public transport such as busses or trains will have their own directions as well.
Wherever you’re headed make sure your mode of transport is the most cost-effective and reliable.
Here are a few methods of transport:
- Friend (or friend of a friend): Yay! It’s good to know people in the area.
- Hotel/Hostel/AirBnb pick-up: check in with your accommodations. Sometimes, they’ll have their own special airport shuttle or better directions so you can get to your destination as efficiently and as straightforward as possible.
- Airport Shuttle: If the airport provides a shuttle for your hotel, take it. It might cost a few dollars, but it is reliable.
- Rental car: If you chose to rent a car, follow the signs to get to the rental car kiosks and pick up your car.
- Uber/Lyft: Uber and Lyft are now dependable car services. Download their apps and find a driver near you (or the equivalent in the place you’ve landed).
- Taxi: Taxis are usually my second to last resort. Mainly because the prices are super inflated, and your taxi driver may not be the most personable. In my experience, taxi drivers are also not the most reliable.
- Private car for hire: My last resort because of the high costs. It could be anywhere from $100-$200 to request a private car from the airport to take you to town.
Wrapping up Stress-Free Travel with 25 Airport Tips
These are some top tips for you to help make your travel as stress-free as possible. Whether it be a long-haul flight or just a quick trip across town, these 25 airport hacks will save the day and get you on your way with less hassle.
What are your favorite ways to stay calm while waiting in that inevitable line? Share them below!
More travel tips you might like:
- How to Travel with a Backpack and Still Have Everything You Need
- 10 Reasons to Hop on a Plane Today
- How to Use Skyscanner to Find Cheap Flights
- The Best Travel Credit Card
- 40 Essential Travel Safety Tips
- 101 Travel Quotes to Inspire Your Wanderlust
- 33 Travel Traditions to Start Today
Or product guides that can be helpful in knowing what to purchase for your next trip…
- 35 Awesome Travel Gift Ideas for Couples
- 37 Useful Road Trip Gift Ideas Travelers will Love
- 65+ Best Travel Gifts for Her
- 37 Amazing Travel Gift Ideas for Him
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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources
Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.
- Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
- Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
- Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
- Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
- Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
- Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
- What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.