Does the fear of unknown disruptions increase your travel anxiety and discourage you from traveling more? You know what I’m referring to, right? Disruptions like flight delays, time spent going through security, whether your bag is too heavy to check-in? You may even be concerned about things you need to do pre-airport. How much do I need to pack? Do I need a carry-on? All of these elements referenced here can aid in the anxiety and stress that traveling exudes. So much so that it detracts you from traveling altogether. As you read this article, I want you to think about the biggest frustration you face when at the airport.
While you ponder that, let me share a quote that’s going to help mitigate the anxiety before you travel…
Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.
-Alexander Graham Bell
Eliminate Unnecessary Luggage
Many people get into this habit of overpacking. For some reason, people tend to bring more clothes than they need. You want to bring the essentials with you. There’s no need to bring two suitcases when you only need one. (If you’re struggling on what type of suitcase to get, I recommend you check out this article from The Points Guy; a site I recommend you read.)
You need to get out of the mindset – “I may need/want this”. If you’re approaching packing with a “need/want” mentality, you’re already going to overpack. My goal when packing is to bring an outfit for each day of my travels – that’s it! I’m sure you’re probably thinking to yourself, “well, what if I plan on doing something at night and I want to dress up?” That’s fair. Well, your pants can be interchangeable. If you have a pair of black jeans, that’s one pair of jeans that can be used in conjunction with one or two of your nicer shirts that you’re bringing with you. A minimalist approach will leave you with less to lug around the airport and less travel anxiety. You can fit your bathroom items and clothes in one medium-sized suitcase. Not to mention, I’ve been able to fit an extra outfit in a medium-sized suitcase, if necessary.
Why a medium-sized suitcase and not a large one? Your goal is to avoid checking in bags and use the said bag as your carry-on. Large suitcases will no question have to be checked in because they’re too big to fit in the overhead bins. Another benefit I’ve noticed from traveling with medium-sized suitcases is when there’s not enough room in the overhead bin, they’ll check-in your bag at the gate. There won’t be any need to wait at the baggage claim either when your flight lands (unless they note otherwise). In many cases, they’ll have your bag waiting for you right when you get off the plane.
You know those long lines you see when travelers are checking in bags before going through security? You’ll now be able to by-pass this step at the airport. It’s one less thing you need to do and by doing so will eliminate the stress of wondering whether you have enough time to get through security and to your gate.
Eliminate Printed Tickets & Airport Check-In
No printed tickets? Are you crazy, Frank? I know you may be stuck in old habits and trying something new can be nerve-racking. Hey, we’ve all been there. However, if you’re serious about getting through the airport faster, then this is one thing you’ll want to eliminate.
Technology has made our lives a lot easier. While frustration can sometimes come along with it, we just have to get over the learning curve to realize its massive benefits. Our time is essential and if you’re not using an e-ticket on your mobile phone, you’re making a mistake.
Many airlines will provide you the convenience of online check-in, which is something you should always do. Usually, this will be available to do 24 hours before your scheduled flight. Online check-in eliminates so many barriers to entry so that you can get to your gate quickly. First, you don’t need to wait in line to speak to a ticketing agent. I know they have kiosks to self-check-in at the airport, but that’s adding a stopping point and impeding your progress to the gate. Plus, you don’t know if there’s going to be a line of people waiting to use those kiosks.
I know you still may be hesitant to do this. You’re wondering what if the e-ticket doesn’t scan? How will I get on the plane? To ease your potential travel anxiety, I’ve been using e-ticket’s for a while now and for the most part, it works great. With that being said, that doesn’t mean everything always runs smoothly. That’s why I always make sure I keep a copy of my itinerary in my email, which contains my confirmation number – this way I’m covered should any issues arise.
This one time my flight was delayed and I didn’t see it updated on my e-ticket. I contacted Delta via Twitter (you can call by phone to your airline as well) and they got back to me right away. They let me know that everything with my ticketing was in good standing. So even though the e-ticket wasn’t updating, I was confirmed which eased my worries. Everything went smooth sailing from there. Many airlines have their apps for both iPhone and Android. When you download them, you’ll be able to check-in right from the app instead of your computer if you prefer. I tend to fly with Delta the most and I use their app which lets me know about delays, gate information, and contains my e-ticket. It will also let me know where to pick up my luggage, but as I mentioned I always try to avoid checking in bags.
Arrive An 1.5 Hours Before Your Flight
This may seem obvious, but how many times have you overheard people at the airport stressing about this to one another? A lot. The reason: they didn’t give themselves enough time to prepare for unknown circumstances. You will not make this mistake.
Instead, you’re going to arrive at the airport an hour and a half before your departure time. Two hours would be even better. Think about this… it’s better to be early sitting around at the gate waiting to board than to be stressing if you’ll make it to the gate before your plane takes off. While I’ve let you know how to avoid the baggage check-in line, you can’t avoid security. This part of the process is always up in the air when it comes to the length of time.
Sometimes it’s an easy process, other times it feels like it’s going to take forever. That’s why having plenty of time available at security will ease that anxiety (even though it sucks waiting in line). If you’re okay with spending some extra money, you can get TSA PreCheck, which has the benefits of not having to take off your shoes or belt, for example. What I love about this is it dramatically makes the process of going through security even faster. I don’t have it myself and it does come with a caveat – you’re not guaranteed the PreCheck line every visit to the airport.
Arriving an hour and a half early will be an even smarter decision if you’re traveling in the morning, during the week. That’s when all of the business travelers are in full force and those lines will be long without fail.
A major factor in giving yourself plenty of time at the airport is not falling into the trap of running late. You’ll want to avoid last-minute packing or pre-planning at this point before heading to the airport.
You should have the planning mapped out before your travel day. By forgetting to do so can create a sense of panic and loss of focus. This can cause you to run late which only means less time to do what you need to do to get through the airport efficiently. Don’t get caught in this trap. I always plan what I need to do the night before. Whether that be setting up a car service, checking train times to the airport, or making sure everything I need is packed. If you keep this all in mind, you’ll thank yourself later for being on top of everything before your travel day arrives.
Be Ready Before Your Turn Through Security
Any security line I’ve stood in at the airport, I’ve never seen anyone “prepare” before it’s their turn. You know, you put all your stuff in one of those bins and slide it through the conveyer belt. Have you ever notice how incredibly long it can take for your fellow passengers to complete this menial task?
A few things happen at this stage of the airport process. You have the people who want to go through it quickly but have to go back and add something to the bin which they forgot they had on their person. You also have others who are filled with anxiety hoping they aren’t asked to stand the side by the TSA agent for extra screening.
To avoid both of these issues and to get through security quickly, it’s important you prepare for your turn. I see nobody doing this. What you should do is first make sure you have your license or passport (or both) and boarding pass out before you even get on the security line.
Not only by being prepared are you being courteous to your fellow passengers, but it’s less time for you to stop and get what you need. If you’re prepared beforehand, you won’t cause a delay for the other people waiting behind you.
Last, but certainly not least – and the most important – when you’re third from having to put your stuff in the bins, start taking your shoes off. Put your phone and wallet (and anything you’re wearing like a watch) in the soles of your shoes. Take your jacket and belt off and hold everything in your hands. Once it’s your turn, drop everything into the bins and move forward. So many people wait to do this until it’s their turn. By this point, you’re slowing down the people behind you and you’re delaying yourself. The goal here is to be efficient, yet quick.
Control What You Can Control
I believe this is the most important concept of the entire post. Too many people become frustrated while at the airport because they want to control everything. They want to move the security lines along, they just need to check in their one bag, why is this person asking questions to the front desk agent?
If you consider yourself someone who does this at the airport, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re focusing on external factors. Focus on what things you need to do to get through the airport faster. If you’re behaving in this manner, the key concepts mentioned before this will be all for naught.
This can still be difficult to overcome because at the end of the day human nature can sometimes take over. However, if you can make a slight tweak to removing a potentially bad habit, you’ll put yourself in a better frame of mind. You’ll find yourself worrying less about what you can’t control and you’ll focus on what you need to do, to get to your gate with time to spare.
Now It’s Your Turn
I know we ended on a strong note there, but I feel it’s necessary to help people overcome the stresses they get at the airport. While I love the airport and flying, this causes a lot of frustration for others. If you recall, at the beginning of this article, I asked you to share with me the biggest frustration you face at the airport. Please share that with me in the comments below.