If cars could fly, you bet people across the nation would rent a car and take to the skies for their next travel adventure. Beyond America’s obvious love affair with cars, this is more due to people’s aversion to the chaotic airport complexes. After all, going through numerous checkpoints and dealing with pat downs during TSA screenings… not the best way to start a trip. Unfortunately, eventually, everyone will have to go through the Dante’s Inferno of travel.
But don’t fret! Let’s make traveling fun again. Here’s a breakdown of some smarter travel hacks to make your flight go as smooth a Cadillac XTS. Whether you travel for business, leisure or bleisure, these tips will help you survive your next airport trip.
After countless hours of researching and booking your dream vacation, you’re ready to relax and just get there. However, more planning is necessary before you arrive in paradise.
When it comes to traveling, Murphy’s law should always be taken as a very real precaution. Advance planning will go a long way towards making your trip as enjoyable as possible. To have the smoothest check-in possible, don’t leave packing until the last minute and follow these recommendations:
- Review your airline’s policies: It’s always good to be informed to avoid any surprises. Especially if you’re new to this airline or haven’t traveled with them in a while,
- Weigh your bags at home: There’s nothing worse than re-packing at the check-in counter in order to please those airline gatekeepers. Be sure to know your weight limit and pack accordingly. In case this happens, have extra space in your carry-on or be prepared to wear your extra luggage.
- Be careful with valuables: Never put expensive items like cameras or jewelry into your checked baggage.
- Customize your luggage: It’s surprising how almost every piece of luggage looks the same. Make sure yours is easy to identify or that it stands out during baggage claim by personalizing it. Use a bright-colored ribbon or luggage tag, or channel your inner Picasso and draw something that stands out.
- Include your flight number on your car-rental reservation: This is if you’re renting a car at your destination. It will let the rental agents know whether your flight is delayed or not and when to expect you.
Prepare Your Carry-On Items
On most airlines, you’re allowed to bring one carry-on bag and a personal item on board. That’s why it’s very important that you:
- Pack all liquids carefully: All liquids are considered a threat to national security. So be sure to place all liquids, gels and aerosol items into one quart-sized, clear zip-top bag. Please note that each item cannot exceed more than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) of liquid.
- Separate your medications: Since you must present your medication for inspection, it’s easier if you pack them together. Also, have a copy of your prescriptions in case the TSA feel like giving you problems.
- Pack a portable charger: This is especially useful for international flights. It can also be a lifesaver if you’re unable to find an unoccupied outlet at the airport.
- Bring a multi-plug adapter: In airports, power plugs are as valuable as gold, yet are often sparse and very spread out. Bringing one is especially useful when traveling in a group so that more people can plug in.
- Pack extra zip-top bags: You’d be surprised with how useful they can be. Use them for liquids when going through airport security, to stow snacks, better organize your stuff, etc.
- Organize tickets and travel documents: For domestic flights, you only need a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license. A passport is required for all international flights. Make sure your tickets and ID are easy to reach so you won’t have to fumble around for them.
- Prep your devices: All electronic devices need to be scanned separately. So be sure to pack your laptop or tablet in an easy-to-access bag.
- Prepare your jacket: Jackets not only keep you warm in the chilly airplane, but you can also use the pockets for storage. Once you get on board, simply store it in the overhead compartment or under your seat.
- Have an in-flight essentials bag: For the stuff that you plan to use during the flight, be sure to pack them separately in a small bag. This includes earbuds, e-reader/book, hand sanitizer, snacks, etc. That way, you can stick it in the seat back pocket and access it easily.
- Prepare for the worst: While it’s not likely to happen, be prepared in case the airline loses or misplaces your luggage. So be sure to pack your most important items and a back-up change of clothes.
Travel Day Tips
Before Leaving the House
The time is upon us. You’re just a few hours away from being at your dream destination. However, airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo. To make sure you have the smoothest day possible, prior to arriving at the airport, make sure that you:
- Bring an empty water bottle: You’ll likely pay a hefty price for bottled water at the airport. So simply take an empty bottle and fill it up once you get past security.
- Or freeze your drink of choice: If you prefer to drink something else, the TSA is OK with this as long as liquids are frozen solid.
- Pack a lunch or snack: To avoid high-cost airport food, pack dry snacks like nuts or candy bars in your carry-on bag. Airports are usually surrounded by fast food restaurants and gas stations that you can stop by if you are arriving by car.
- Check-in online: Unless you require a specific seat, you can check-in 24 hours before your flight and choose a free seat. This way, you can bypass the check-in line at the airport, which is great if you’re just traveling with carry-on luggage.
- Leave early: Sure, running through an airport with heavy luggage is a good workout. But that’s not an ideal way to kick off a trip. Plus, remember Murphy’s Law and anticipate the worst that can happen.
Traveling can be a very rewarding experience but getting to where you want to be can be quite the opposite. Especially when your friends and family can’t drive you there. Luckily, you have many options:
- Rent a car: Car rentals are especially convenient if your personal car isn’t big enough to carry your luggage. You also avoid the high costs of taxis or parking your car at the airport.
- Take your car: This is a good option if you’re only out-of-town for a few days and don’t mind paying additional fees to park your car in an airport garage. Take a photo of your parking spot, including the level, aisle, etc. so that you remember where you parked.
- Grab a taxi or Uber: This might be costly, but it’s the most used form of getting to the airport. Be sure to call in advance to avoid arriving late.
- Opt for a shuttle service: If you live close enough for public transportation, take a shuttle. Since these are not always 24 hours, look up operating hours and plan accordingly.
- Use public transportation: If you live in a big city and are traveling light, this is a viable option and less costly. However, it may be a long trip, so be familiar with the timetables and leave early.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the airport with enough time to spare! Now the real fun begins! If you’ve check-off the previously mentioned tips, then this part shouldn’t be as hard as you expect.
- Avoid paying for a luggage cart: One of the perks of arriving early means you have time to look for and use a free luggage cart left in the pickup area outside of the terminal.
- Use the airline kiosk: If you have to check your luggage, go to the airline kiosk to print your baggage tag (and boarding pass if you don’t already have an electronic copy). This could help you avoid the dreaded check-in queue.
- Take a picture of your luggage: Before relinquishing it to the check-in agent, be sure to snap a picture of your luggage. This is especially useful if the airline loses your luggage or if it comes back damaged.
- Take a shopping bag: If you’re a devious travel hacker and have more than your carry-on can handle, ask for a shopping bag at an airport store and put your extra stuff in it. Gate agents will think it’s just some things you purchased.
- Go to the left at security: Most people are biased toward their dominant hand, so since most people are right-handed, they are more likely to select the security lane on the right.
- Stow your stuff while waiting: While in the security queue, don’t wait until the last minute to empty your pockets. Move all contents from your pockets to your carry-on or jacket before reaching security to prevent delays. If you followed the previous steps, your devices and liquid bags should be easy to take out.
- Don’t rush to board: Where’s the fire? There’s something about boarding that always creates a stampede of anxious people that want to be the first to board. The plane won’t leave without you and you’re all going to end up in the same place regardless of when you board. So take it easy and let the crowd go first. In fact, being the last to board has its perks as you can potentially ask to sit in any of the empty seats if the stewardesses are in a good mood.
If Only Cars Could Fly
Understandably, you can see why some prefer to get in the driver’s seat when embarking on their next travel adventure. Why fly when you can rent a car and leisurely drive through blue skies and puffy clouds? Sadly, in spite of Sixt’s giant strides in shaping the future of mobility, renting flying cars are not quite on the agenda… At least not yet. Until then, use this guide to make sure you survive your next airport adventure. May the odds be ever in your favor!