You’ve heard people say flying isn’t fun anymore. It’s not the exciting event of several decades ago. Instead, when you arrive at the airport you likely to feel like the airline is testing your patience, trying to wear you down so you won’t argue with additional charges that seem to be cropping up anew every time you plan a flight. The fact is, flying isn’t going to get any easier, so it’s up to you to manage the experience as best you can. Here are some tips to help the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Plan ahead: Make sure you have all necessary documents before leaving home. That might include passports, flight information and phone numbers for the airline and anyone you might need to call enroute.
Arrive early: Recommendations are that you arrive at the airport 90 minutes prior to a domestic flight and two hours before an international flight. Allow extra time enroute for traffic or construction delays. Also consider the time to park your car and take a shuttle to the airport. If you’re returning a rental car, allow time to find a gas station and fill the car before returning it. Whatever time you think you’ll need, add at least half an hour.
Pack light: Schlepping a heavy suitcase is tiring, even if it has wheels. Add in a carryon bag, backpack, or large tote bag, and you’ve got a lot of weight to maneuver through the airport. Most people don’t use everything they bring on a trip anyway, so leave at least a fourth of what you first plan to take at home. Remember, if you take it, you should be able to handle it yourself, and that includes lifting bags into the storage bins in the plane.
Check in online: Most domestic flights allow you to check in and print your boarding pass online. You’ll still have to use the kiosk at the airport if you’re checking luggage, but the whole process will be much smoother if you have already checked in. You should receive an email reminding you to do this around 24 hours prior to your flight.
Be prepared for security: Finish that soda or bottle of water before getting in line. Pack your quart baggie with liquids in containers of three-ounce or less. Slip-on shoes, belts with plastic buckles, and computers you can access easily help the process go faster. Clear your pockets of change, even that tissue for blowing your nose, before reaching the scanning machines.
Or skip the long security line: You can apple for TSA pre-check or GOES (which also works for going through immigration on international flights). There’s a cost and interview process to get preferred clearance, but if you travel often, it’s definitely worth it. You go to a shorter line, can keep shoes, jacket, belt, and jewelry on, don't have to put 3 ounce items in a baggie or remove your computer from your bag--so much easier and faster.
Keep necessary items close at hand: Make sure you have items that make flying more comfortable for you at your seat . That could include reading material, glasses, disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer, paper, pencil, snacks, and medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that you’ll need inflight. For longer flights, you might include a pillow or blanket, eye mask, slippers, toothbrush, or bottled water. Keep these items in your under-seat bag, so you won’t have to rummage through luggage in the overhead compartment, possibly disturbing passengers nearby.
Sit back and enjoy the flight: Here’s hoping the passenger in front of you doesn’t recline his seat the entire trip, you aren’t sitting near the crying baby, and no one around is coughing and sneezing in your direction. Even if that happens, try not to get stressed out over things you can't change.