Many of us have been stuck at the airport for hours on end. Or worse yet, we’ve been running late and barely made it to the gate in time.
Either way there are some ways to survive – and even thrive – at the airport, especially during busy travel times.
“December is one of the busiest times to travel by air,” said Amy Moreno, travel manager for AAA Arizona. “It’s important to prepare for the what-ifs to make your travels smoother and less stressful.”
As a travel resource, AAA offers 10 tips that will help pave the way for smooth travels:
Keep your passport, tickets and visa requirements together: Ensure your passport has at least six months validity and extra blank pages. Many countries will refuse passports with less than six months left until expiration – so be safe and begin your renewal process once you get to year nine. E-tickets are all the rage, but as a safety precaution, print out your flight information and keep your documents in the same place so you know where they are. Well before you leave, check the visa requirements for any foreign countries you are entering. Some nations still require a visa to be acquired ahead of time.
Arrive at the airport two to three hours before your flight: When you arrive with lots of time to spare, it often means lines are light, and you’ll be able to ditch your checked bags and pass through security fairly quickly.
Pack properly: Be aware of what your airline will let you bring onto the plane. Each carrier has a different policy for baggage. Baggage limits are strictly enforced these days, with typically 50 pounds per checked bag. If you need to bring more, know how much that excess will cost you.
Prepare for security checkpoints: Before you reach the checkpoint put any coins, keys, watch, cell phone, PDA, belt, jewelry and anything else that can set off the scanner into your carry-on bag. With the current security restrictions, be aware of what you are permitted in your carry-on luggage. For example, some don’t permit computer power cables, laptops must be taken out of bags and the liquids rule still is enforced. The FAA recently banned the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 from flights; know the most current rules and restrictions.
Once in the departure area, find your boarding gate: Be aware that the boarding gate could be up to a mile from where you enter the departure area. A best practice is to first locate your gate, then have stress-free time to find a nearby cafe or shops.
Make it easy to get your essentials: On the plane, there will be people fiddling with their carry-on bags and blocking the gangway. Store what you need for the flight in a small plastic bag. Just before you board, pull out the bag, deposit your luggage above you and quickly slide into your seat.
Explore the airport: Check out what’s in the terminal before you go straight to the gate. Check out the shops, and the walk will get rid of some stress.
Keep kids happy: Keep kids entertained with games or shows on a tablet. You also can buy coloring books or a travel board game.
Visit the lounge: Many airlines have lounges that you can either buy into with frequent flyer programs or pay to enter. Many offer snacks, bars or even showers.
Eat it: Don’t settle for standard chain restaurant fare. Most airports offer local fare.