According to American Airlines I have flown from Chicago (ORD) to Philadelphia (PHL) over 30 times this year. The flight duration is exactly 1 hour and 51 minutes gate to gate according to travelmath.com. To catch the flight you have to arrive at least an hour before, and if they check your bag you can add 30 minutes on departure and arrival. Then what about the time it takes you to physically walk from entrance/exit to gate. That 1 hr and 51-minute flight just got a whole lot longer – more like 6 hrs.
That’s 6 hours that could have been used to work, exercise, or spend time with a loved one. Instead that time was used: Having an unintentional staring contest with a stranger, getting smelled by a dog, having your genitals exposed on an X-ray, having your bag searched, taking off half the clothes you put on this morning then putting them back on, talking to an Uber driver, and eating Auntie Anne’s cheddar stuffed pretzel nuggets with a sugar plum lemonade twister for only $16.99. I know this sounds great, but I promise that there is a better life out there. We came up with 5 ways to get through the airport quicker to free up time to do what you love.
Getting through the airport quickly and efficiently is a task that must be accomplished through one or two big changes and a combination of small marginal changes. After reading this post you will be plowing through the airport faster than Brock Lesner on PCP.
Sign-up for a Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler Program
I know many travelers are familiar with this, so I will not go into this for too long. TSA Pre-Check drastically reduces the amount of time you spend in the security line at the airport. With Pre-Check or Global Entry you get a designated security line that is shorter. The line also moves faster because you are not required to remove your laptop from your bag or take your shoes, belt, or light coat off. The added benefit of Global Entry is that it reduces your time when re-entering the USA from abroad. The CBP also offers different variants of global entry like Nexus – which grants quick access driving across the Canadian border, global entry kiosks, and pre-check lines at the airport.
TSA Pre-check costs $85 for 5 years, Global Entry is $100 for 5 years, but Nexus only costs $50 for 5 years which makes it the best deal. However, there are several ways to get pre-check or global entry for free (kind of). Several travel reward credit cards will reimburse you for the cost of the application (i.e. American Express Platinum, American Airlines Citi Card, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Citi Prestige). Most of the cards that offer this have a high annual fee – so your reimbursement is really more like a rebate. The other way, through frequent flyer programs, is starting to disappear as the TSA is making the rules more strict. The airlines used to offer guaranteed pre-check to their highest status and most loyal customers.
To gain approval for these programs you need to have a clean background, so if you were Pablo Escobar in a past life then it may not be worth the non-refundable application fee. If you signup for a CBP or TSA program you are guaranteed to get through the airport fast!
Get Luggage That Can Move Fast with You
To get through the airport faster you need to move quickly. Unfortunately, you can only go as fast as your bag can go. The fastest and easiest luggage to move through the airport is Spinner Luggage. Having a bag with only two wheels is slower and more difficult to maneuver. A spinner bag has 4 wheels and can not only roll quickly in any direction while parallel to the ground (Good when changing directions), but can also be tilted to move in one straight direction. If spinner luggage is a car it it’s a sports car, and your traditional two-wheeled bag is a sedan.
I personally like the Briggs & Riley TORQ Collection . These bags are expensive, very sexy, and have a Lifetime Guarantee. Paying several hundred dollars for a suitcase can sound a bit crazy, but considering it could be the last bag you ever buy in your life, it’s a great deal. I bought the International sized carry on spinner, because the next time they downsize the carry on size in the USA – I will be ready. It’s stylish, durable, and I know if it ever breaks all I have to do is take it to a nearby repair center to be fixed.
The most important thing is to get luggage that is easy to move, but also fits your needs. A spinner bag works well for me, because I like to pack light and move quick.
Show Up to the Airport at the Right Time, Not the Recommended Time.
Conventional wisdom tells you to show up 3 hours early for international flights, and 2 hours early for domestic flights. If you follow this procedure, you should never miss your flight, but you often find yourself sitting at the gate for longer than you really need to. If you want to save time while traveling it’s more important to show up at the right time – when the line is the shortest.
Arriving 30 minutes later might make your time tighter, but if the security line is shorter at 8:30 am than it is at 8:00 am then why should you wait longer in line.
For example, most security checkpoints open up in waves. There may be 3 security lines but only 1 is open from 6 am to 8 am while all 3 are open from 8 am to 12 pm. If you show up at 7:30 you are waiting 30 minutes in line, but if you show up at 8 am you may only wait 5 minutes.
There are a few ways to check the wait time at all airports (some airports have there own custom way): The TSA app, Flyontime.us, and MiFlight app. I would recommend using Flyontime or MiFlight, because who really trusts the government.
Also, our government has a bad track record with internet technology (Political opinions aside, Remember the Obamacare website launch?). Arrive at the right time and you will get through security much faster.
Check-in Online and Use a Mobile Boarding Pass
When you check in online and use a mobile boarding pass you save yourself the time at the airport by not having to stop at the counter.
You also don’t have to worry about which pocket your boarding pass is in – or if you lost it. Download the app offered by the airline you are flying on and take advantage of the mobile boarding pass. Most of the apps also offered added benefits like terminal maps, lounge locations, and the opportunity to change your seat up until a few hours before the flight (changing to a premium seat costs money or loyalty status is required). Using a mobile boarding pass gets us through the airport quicker, saves time and hassle.
Look at Terminal Maps Ahead of Time
If you look at the terminal maps ahead of time you can plan the fastest way to get to your gate in time. This saves a little bit of time but can really save you from having a bad day if you like to cut it close like me. I wake up at 4:45 am for my 5:45 am flight and catch it one minute before :).
The maps are available on the airport website or within most airline apps. Get online before you arrive to figure out which is the best security line to go through and to plan your route to the gate. I also highly recommend doing this for connecting flights because a reasonable layover can turn into a sprint for your life if the flight gets delayed.
Your time is important, so don’t let your travel time cut into your life in negative ways. Follow my steps to get through the airport faster, and free up time to do the things that really matter.