To be completely honest, air travel can be a pain. I love aviation (duh, I’m a pilot) but even I used to get extremely discouraged by all the necessary evils that come with commercial flight. Because I love air travel so much, I decided to compile a list of 16 beginner air travel hacks that will help you speed up your experience from leaving home to landing in a new place. Are you ready? Let’s start saving some time and hassle…
1. Use mobile boarding passes
There’s nothing worse than spending countless minutes in a long line waiting for the ticket counter to then hassle with all the silly computer prompts to print a boarding pass that you can have access to right on your smartphone.
I am a nostalgic when it comes to boarding passes, but there came a time in my life when I realized it saved me a good twenty minutes if I just sucked it up and did it the techie way and opened my passbook on my iPhone.
2. Catch the first bus you see
If you are like the majority of folks out there, you currently drive to the airport. If this is the case, you require transportation to and from your parked vehicle and that usually requires taking a little ride on the airport shuttle bus. These things can sometimes be a mystical creature. They are always visible when you are in your car looking for a parking spot, but suddenly they vanish when you are ready and out of your car. How do you beat the system? Follow them! Find the certain row of cars they are driving down, and beat them to the end of the row. Hustle and get your small travel luggage out quickly and boom, you are ready for the first shuttle.
3.Uber to Airport
Are you a high roller? Or perhaps just a normal middle class person that has no desire to spend time finding a spot and paying for parking? Just use Uber… DUH! It’s usually cheaper than a taxi and you get better service, better amenities, and no car to worry about leaving over night in a sometimes sketchy airport parking lot.
And hey, you should at least try it out! Download the Uber App and use my special promo code: 9ga2h to get your first Uber ride FREE (Up to $30)! That’s pretty crazy, I loved it when I first tried it out with my friend’s promo code. I’ve been addicted ever since.
4. Dress Well
I have a thing for dressing well. I do it for many reasons, and all of them will help you get some fun benefits out of your travels. If you dress well, I guarantee a perk will come your way in some way shape or form. For me, I put on a well tailored suit with a nice leather travel bag and it works for me. From my luggage being paid for to business deals being made on the airplane ride, if you dress well and most importantly you hold yourself to that standard you will ultimately save time because others will want to help you or at the very least feel like you deserve it.
Unsure of where to begin when it comes to dressing well? My friend Chino Hernandez is a great style consultant and I would highly recommend him to anyone. I love men’s fashion, but having someone to bounce ideas off of when it comes to outfits can always help. Take a second to check out his fashion blog to get a taste of his background.
5. Pack light, duh.
This is one that is often told, but rarely executed. So you want to get through lines quicker, and get in your seat ASAP? How about taking a real hard look at how you pack. Do you need five pairs of pants for a five day trip? Not at all. Take the number of days you are traveling and divide that in half. You can wear pants at least twice, if they are jeans all bets are off, wear those suckers for a month. Just kidding, but really.
6. Empty your pockets
Absolutely NO ONE likes waiting in-line for the TSA “security” screening. What people hate even more than waiting in line, is having to disrobe all of their stuff to walk through a metal detector. It’s sadly an annoyance that millions of travelers face every day. Luckily, if you set up before hand it won’t be as much of a pain as usual.
To be the speediest in-line, be sure to step aside before you even enter the line to empty all of your pockets. Put everything you would normally have in your pockets, into your carry on. This prevents you from having to take out all of your personal belongings and throwing them into an unmarked bin. Once you have all of those belongings in your bag, make sure your shoes are loose enough that you can slip them off without needing to bend down. Last but not least, know how your belt works. If it is a simple tug and pull then be ready to do so. If you feel like it could take a couple seconds, then take it off before you get to the bins.
Laptops are always required to be in their own bin, so if it is buried low in your carry on, stop that! Have it ready to slip out of your bag and into a bin.
If you use these tips you should be able to approach the metal detectors without stopping to put stuff in bins. It should be one fluid moving motion. Don’t worry, it takes a little practice.
7. Know where you’re headed
Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing your way around an airport. Coming from a pilot’s perspective, it is crucial to always know my way around airports. But for the normal traveler looking to speed up their home to gate time, simply study your airport’s terminal map. By doing this you wont waste extra time looking intensely at what gates are where after the TSA line. Instead, you will already have your path planned out in your head, and you will know exactly where to go once you are out of the TSA check-point.
8. Just keep moving
You know all of those moving stairs and walkways at airports? Those are your ticket to saving some time. Yes, it is easy to take a rest from the struggle of carrying a bag by resting on the moving walkways, but did you know you are allowed to walk on those!?
Yeah, for real you can walk on those. When you do so, you exert less energy than normal walking while getting from point A to B in almost half the time. Sounds like a fair trade-off to me.
9. Choose a seat closest to the gate
So you are walking towards your gate, and you begin to peer over the throngs of people sitting in the seats reserved for your designated gate. Of course, if you are late all of these will be taken. Even worse, there will be plenty available but they are taken by luggage or the unwritten rule of not sitting in the middle of two people.
If however you are the fortunate one to have the first pick, pick a seat for waiting closest to the gate. Depending on how your selected airline does boarding, this could help you out when it comes to the mass rush of people going towards the gate when they announce couch level passengers to begin boarding.
10. Be ready with ticket in hand
Nothing is more frustrating than having to fumble around at the ticket counter looking for your ticket while an onslaught of hungry seat goers are waiting to board the airplane behind you. Wearing a suit like I suggest? Put the ticket in the inside jacket pocket and have your right hand free to reach for it when the time comes. Even better, have it in hand when you approach the counter. If you were listening to me earlier, your right hand should instead have your smartphone ready with the ticket showing already for the gate agent to scan.
11. Know your seat number by heart
**Note** Never buy a middle seat ticket. Why would you put yourself through that horror?
12. Carry your bag in front of you
A critical portion of the entire air travel experience are the ten seconds you spend when you reach your seat number to when you actually sit down. Will you take forever to put your carry on in the overhead compartment? Will you fumble it around and hit multiple people with the wheels on accident? These scenarios happen on every flight when you are unprepared.
How do you fix this? Simple. Before you enter the aircraft, take your backpack off or your bag and walk while carrying it in front of you through the isle. Once you have reached your seat, make sure all other people in front of you have given proper space clearance and then gradually lift the bag with both hands into the compartment. Remember, I give you ten seconds to do this. This should be plenty of time, even when you are patiently and gingerly packing away your belongings overhead.
13. Did you go pee?
Hopefully you aren’t reading these hacks in order as you go through the airport… If so, whoops this should have been covered a bit earlier before you decided to buckle into the tin tube of travel. Anyway, make sure you go pee before the flight. Don’t waste energy on getting out of your seat to go pee during the flight (assuming you are flying domestic). If you are flying for a long time, then yeah nature calls. If this is the case, then please don’t wet the seat beside me and just go pee already.
14. Just stay seated
Nothing aggravates me more than those who think it makes sense to get out of their seat immediately upon arriving to the gate. One of the biggest wastes of energy during de-planing is thinking that you will be the first one off the aircraft. Are you in row 18? Okay, just stop wasting energy on getting out of your seat and halfway standing up. Just wait until the row in-front of you is leaving to get out of your seat.
15. Stand closest to the baggage carousel door
If you absolutely HAD to check a bag, that means you need to go to the luggage carousels of death. First, shame on you for checking a bag, secondly this can be a huge time killer. Assuming that they didn’t loose your bag during the flight, you want to head to the closest standing spot near the door where the luggage will feed out of.
Instead of waiting for the slow belt to travel a mile to where you stand, be right there as it comes out. Grab it and be on your way in the least amount of time possible.
16. Connect with class
Perhaps you are catching a connecting flight to your destination. The biggest thing here is to check before you board your first flight, where your second flight’s gate will be. Then, once you land from your first flight turn your phone on. Boot up your app and double check the gate number. Then quickly look at the terminal map and have a plan once leaving the jetway.
These are some of the quintessential tips I have learned throughout my air travels. Although most of these tips are small and simple, they all add up to really save you time and energy. If you are “beginner” traveler, these are all easy to implement on your next flight. For the more advanced and seasoned jet setter, I will be releasing a special article for that. You can get notified about that by joining my awesome nomading subscribers by signing up below.
What are some of your favorite time saving or energy saving air travel tips? Leave them in the comments below!