When it comes to getting through the airport, it can certainly be a headache. But why is that, and does it really have to be that way? The answer is, absolutely not. Getting through the airport isn’t rocket science and in this episode, Caroline and I lay out some of our tips on making sure you’re taking advantage of any opportunity to speed through the crowds and get to your airplane with ease.

Show Notes

Vlog of me being stranded at the Washington Dulles airport:

Check out some of our favorite bags for international travel.

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If you’re looking to cut the TSA line and you haven’t quite reached loyalty on an airline, then TSA Pre-check may be a good option to look into.

Caroline Lloyd: @caromanifesto
Ian Hoyt: @IanHoyt

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Show Transcript

Caroline Lloyd: I ran really fast between gates and people thought I was crazy, but I had a little, a movie moment, but I had a movie moment when the wind was blowing through my hair my heart was racing and we weren’t gonna make our flight and our whole international trip was just going to be debunked. Right. Them in there.

Ian Hoyt: Waiting for number to appear on the board. Anxieties killing us. We made it to Budapest.

Ian Hoyt: Hey there, fellow nomads. This is Ian

Caroline Lloyd: and Caroline

Ian Hoyt: and this is the Life Nomading podcast

Ian Hoyt: The first week in Bulgaria. Today we’re going to go wakeboarding.

Ian Hoyt: Hey there, fellow nomads. It’s Ian and Caroline and welcome back to another episode of the Life Nomading podcast.

Caroline Lloyd: Today we’re going to be talking about a real hassle to all travelers, whether domestically or internationally, and that is how to get through the airport quicker.

Ian Hoyt: Oh yeah. We all would like to get through the airport a little bit quicker and we got some tips

Caroline Lloyd: Ian, what’s your favorite airport moment?

Ian Hoyt: Oh, my favorite airport moment is the time that I spent the night in the airport. We were dating yet, but gone to Florida for a trade show air show event and I was on my way back and I was in DC. I was connecting through DC and the airplane had some type of issue, mechanical issue and long story short after the course of like boarding twice and getting de-planed and them saying it was different things every single time. Um, they eventually just couldn’t get it off the ground and we were stuck in DC for overnight.

Ian Hoyt: So it is now 2:30 AM… I’m in Washington, DC, still waiting on the airplane.

Ian Hoyt: So I spent the night in the airport. I’ll actually link to the video vlog that I made in the airport. I was one of the only ones in Washington Dulles and it was kinda fun. Exhausting.

Caroline Lloyd: Couldn’t you have stayed with your sister?

Ian Hoyt: Well, it was so late by the time that they finally just said no to when the first flight out was that it wasn’t enough time. A 2:00 AM to 6:00 AM or something like that. And there wasn’t, enough time and she lives in the city or you know, far away from DC is not very close proximity to Dulles. So yeah, that was a, that was my airport experience. Good Times. How about you Caroline? What was your favorite airport experience? I’m sure you have one.

Caroline Lloyd: You know, at the moment it wasn’t my favorite, but as I look back on it with rose colored glasses, it was pretty fun. We were in Istanbul and he’s laughing because it was actually one of the most miserable moments of my life at this point we had been awake for 23 hours.

Ian Hoyt: We’re stranded. We still have four hours until we depart, but they gave us water. This is your real, your first real like long flight layover.

Caroline Lloyd: You know, I could’ve gone my entire life with that, but now that I look back on it, it was a learning moment and kind of a fun little memory. But we had been awake for like 23 hours. This was our third stop on the journey.

Ian Hoyt: For reference we were using my award miles to get to Europe last year and we didn’t want to pay for the flight.

Caroline Lloyd: Not the best itinerary

Ian Hoyt: Wasn’t the best itinerary but we paid like $15 each.

Caroline Lloyd: Yeah, worth it and worth the memories. But I was exhausted. Severely dehydrated after being in the air for that long, you know, it was like the first moment where you’re like, your digestive system is kind of adjusting to traveling. You’re in a new place, a new time zone, exhausted. And I think we were taking turns napping in the Istanbul airport, which they don’t tell you which gate you’re at until again that 20, 30 minutes before your flight. So we’re just wandering the halls of this foreign airport

Ian Hoyt: And it was a massive airport. Huge. And I believe they opened that new one that’s even bigger. But that’s besides the point, there were huge international flights flying in and out every minute.

Caroline Lloyd: Yeah. Really big planes with like airline brands that I had never recognized rolling past the windows and we found like a empty gate in front of a big window so Ian could watch the planes and I, we took turns napping.

Ian Hoyt: And you napped, stayed awake.

Caroline Lloyd: He knows how to keep me happy. So after napping for a little bit, we decided to, you know, let’s get up and walk around and just try to make ourselves feel a little bit more human. And we went to get this Turkish ice cream.

Ian Hoyt: Alright. We are in Turkey, We just got sticky ice cream.

Caroline Lloyd: And it was like this very gooey chocolate ice cream and the guys serves it with like a flair and he has like a long scooper thing. Iron stake. Yeah. And he does like a little show for you. It’s just like tiny little booth in the airport and sticky, sticky ice cream.

Ian Hoyt: And it reminds me of the fudge sickle inside.

Caroline Lloyd: Yes. That’s what it, that’s all you can soft serve form. And we got the ice cream and they were like no tables around. So we literally went to like the duty free zone and sat down on the floor with all of our stuff exhausted and we ate this ice cream.

Ian Hoyt: That was like a quintessential moment. I don’t know if it, if it was for you, but especially a starting this trip that we had planned and this was, you know, a big part of us in our relationship as well and it was like, okay, like we’re eating the sticky ice cream in Istanbul and it was like, all right, like this is happening, this trip is going on and like we’re in the middle of Turkey right now and we’re doing this together.

Caroline Lloyd: Yeah. And I had like moments before we got the ice cream I was, we were both really tired and grumpy and it was the first moment when I had thought like, oh my gosh, what did I get myself into? And everyone’s going to have that moment when you’re traveling. And a lot of the times it’s going to be in the airport. So especially for someone who like, you know, I do get anxious in airports. That was like a really nervous moment for me, but some of those terrible quote unquote terrible moments turn into some of the best memories of traveling.

Caroline Lloyd: So before we start, I have to say that I am an anxious traveler and going on very large international trips was a struggle for me at first because I am the type of person that likes to get to the airport three, four hours in advance.

Caroline Lloyd: Some of my best memories in airports are when we have to run from gate to gate and things get really hectic and I have to push down my airport anxiety and just go with it because it’s pretty fun.

Ian Hoyt: Yes. We’ve had our fair share of running.

Caroline Lloyd: Literally running full speed from gate to gate we one time for d planed before we actually took off and then they ended up switching gates and I left our boarding passes our printed boarding passes on the plane and they wouldn’t let us get on the new flight because I didn’t have the boarding passes and I was very thankful that I was wearing tennis shoes because I ran really fast between gates and people thought I was crazy but I had a little. A movie moment are crazy, but they had a movie moment when the wind was blowing through my hair by heart was racing and we weren’t going to make our flight and our whole international trip was just going to be debunked right then in there

Ian Hoyt: more so like just delayed today

Caroline Lloyd: and we probably would have had less layovers struggle because of that. But you know, it was a great story. Great moment in the airport.

Ian Hoyt: I used to be the same way as well. I used to get. Well for context, if you’re listening and you don’t know I’m a pilot as well, so I have a little.

Caroline Lloyd: Had to throw that little detail in there.

Ian Hoyt: I have an affinity for being at airports, so I used to get to the airport around, you know, the recommended like two plus an hour just to watch airplanes. But as of the last few years I’ve become a frequent flyer status on United. And so airports are now a whole different ballgame for me. It’s all about getting through the airport quick.

Caroline Lloyd: For any lowly peasant budget traveler though who does not have status. Getting through the airport is a miserable, miserable struggle.

Ian Hoyt: And just for context, I am still a budget traveler, but if your budget travel enough in one year you get to level up a little bit. You get an extra leg room.

Ian Hoyt: So what we’re gonna do is we’re going to talk about some hacks you can do if you don’t fly very often in a year, let’s say you know a handful of times and also some additional notes if you are creeping into the whole status world, how to optimize it. Now it’s going to be different for different airlines, but we’ll just talk from our experience.

Caroline Lloyd: So how fast you’re moving through an airport can widely depend on what else you’re carrying with you in that airport. My whole entire life changed when I got my first suitcase with four wheels and that was a huge step for me because one, I was traveling more often where I didn’t need to actually check luggage and I could just take a backpack and a carry on, so luggage makes a really big difference and if you’re carrying more than just one rolling suitcase, I would suggest checking that luggage because the last thing that you want in the world is to be rolling. Two rolling suitcases through the airport at once. That’s just really gonna slow you down. Now. I never really checked luggage before because a lot of the times when I first started flying frequently it was to college and back and that was an expensive little trip to be made. I didn’t have a car, but there is this lovely little website called skiplagged and that allows you to book flights from one origin point to a that you’re not going to, but you would get off at the layover city. So that meant that I couldn’t check luggage. Now if you do have status or if you’re flying southwest and you get to the airport and the line to check your luggage at the front isn’t too long, you might as well check your bag because then you don’t have to worry about it along your route.

Ian Hoyt: Yeah, and for the paranoid traveler I can see how they would love to hold onto their bag, but sometimes it’s better to just get rid of it and board and you don’t have to worry about it. I, I get more anxiety trying to figure out if I can fit my bag in the overhead than I do whether I’m going to lose it or not.

Caroline Lloyd: It’s also just one more thing to go through Tsa,

Ian Hoyt: But I will say those lines to check bags can get extremely long and in that case, yeah, the whole carry on scenario makes a lot of sense. A lot of airlines will let you gate check by default so you can pretty much always get away with it because they’re always over sold and so they will definitely gate check your bags for you. So long story short, check your bags if the lines are short, when you enter the airport, if not, go straight to tsa and take your carry on.

Caroline Lloyd: So I want to talk about luggage brands. We have a whole lot of suitcases and our closet right now, mainly because both of us moved to New York, not with a car or a moving van, but with luggage.

Ian Hoyt: I had two suitcases when I moved here

Caroline Lloyd: I had two plus a carry on. Yeah.

Ian Hoyt: Now they’re all in our closet

Caroline Lloyd: and we never touched them.

Ian Hoyt: Barely ever. So my go to’s are two different depending on the scenario. My hard shell choice is a Chester bag, which it’s a new brand to come into the world. It’s awesome. Highly recommend it. Really high quality. And then my other bag which has been tried and true for years. You can’t go wrong with travel pros, they’ll last you a long time, but it just depends kind of if you want a hard shell or just a regular bag.

Caroline Lloyd: I would say that luggage is one place not to skimp. You want quality luggage. That’s gonna last you forever. I fell into the traps of buying crappy suitcases when I was 18 years old and they weren’t that much less expensive than a nice brand and they were on the side of the road within two years because they just couldn’t withstand that type of wear and tear.

Ian Hoyt: Absolutely. So we’ll link to all the different bags. We actually have a dedicated article about that in the show notes on this episode. If you want to check out what we recommend.

Caroline Lloyd: Speaking of TSA Lines, there’s a nice little line where people run right in front of me and it’s really annoying. I don’t know about that life, but it’s called precheck.

Ian Hoyt: We’re talking about TSA Precheck. Now people can sign up. I believe they may have already closed some of their precheck opportunities because so many people were signing up, but essentially you pay a fixed fee for five plus years to have a dedicated line where you don’t have to take your shoes off. You can just walk through a metal detector and you get to cut the long lines in the security lines at the airport. Now there’s so many people that have signed up that sometimes precheck is just as long as the regular line, uh, but it is definitely an opportunity to get through the airport quicker. Added again, if you have any type of credit card with an airline or if you fly enough where you’re starting to get that status. There will also be a preferred member line where you can actually not be a precheck member like myself. But I do have a preferred line that isn’t the regular line in most airports and that will get you through at least to the entrance of the security detectors quicker.

Caroline Lloyd: Every time I go home to visit my parents, my mom will not let me get on the plane unless I have a bag full of homemade baked goods and treats. And for context, I live in Atlanta, which is a very busy airport. And the security lines there get so freaking long. So I was going through the TSA line and they pull me out to search my baked goods bag. And because my mom makes homemade hot cocoa mix and apparently they didn’t like all the powder that in residue that was on it. And so I ended up missing my flight because they pulled me in, wiped my hands down, had to wait for that wipe to like pass some sort of exam or something. And because of that I missed my flight. It was the worst day in my life. It was terrible. It was terrible. But that happens all the time in Atlanta. And I think that’s why I’m so anxious all the time about missing my flight.

Ian Hoyt: Yeah, I don’t know what it is, but when we fly through Atlanta on there some extra security going on there. And I think it’s probably just because it’s the busiest airport. All right, so I’m excited to talk about this little hack. So conventional wisdom tells you to arrive at your airport two hours in advance for a domestic flight and international three hours. Now that’s the conventional wisdom that they’re telling every single person that is boarding your airplane to arrive in. So what does that mean? Basic Laws of economics, supply demand. If everyone’s going to go in there at that time, you’re going to have crowded lines trying to get to their flight, so what should you do? Well, we maybe suggests that you arrive maybe let’s say 30 minutes after that recommendation when everyone’s already there and the lines are already moving. You won’t have any of that downtime that you have typically at your gate when you’re waiting because you got there too early

Caroline Lloyd: and take this with a grain of sale. Because I will never arrive that late for a flight. I am an anxious bunny

Ian Hoyt: Oh really? I don’t think they could tell three or four episodes.

Caroline Lloyd: I like to get to the airport, grab a little Latte, read my book, maybe just sit on my computer for a little bit and have some real relaxation time because if I am in the security line 10 minutes before I’m supposed to board, I will have a meltdown.

Ian Hoyt: You’ll be fine. You’ll get to your airplane. Now I’m a punctual person and even I recommend that two to three hours is a little excessive to be there. Now if you’re at a busy airport like let’s say Atlanta, okay, sure. Maybe that makes sense, but if you’re at another airport, typically you’re fine coming 30 minutes later than that suggestion.

Caroline Lloyd: Maybe I don’t like getting there later than the recommended time because kind of an old fashioned traveler. I like to have a printed boarding pass. All of that. Very organized in my suitcase, but not everyone likes to travel that way. I have recently made the very large technological jump to mobile boarding passes.

Ian Hoyt: I’m rolling my eyes as we talk. You fly with me now. So

Caroline Lloyd: You know, I think it started as I like to have little mementos of my trips, little tickets, but then I started traveling so much that they were getting thrown away and useless and just sitting in my suitcases that are now sitting in my closet. So mobile boarding allows you to check in on your phone, use your phone for the boarding pass. Everything is right there. You scan it, you don’t have to think twice on, oh my gosh, where did I put my ticket? Is it on the coffee counter? Is it at the seat at the gate and I used to also lose that a lot.

Ian Hoyt: 2019 people. Mobile boarding is adopted everywhere, so use it

Caroline Lloyd: Except internationally. It’s not always the case for international airlines.

Ian Hoyt: That is true international as much different, but like she said, definitely adopt mobile boarding if you’re trying to get through the airport quicker because what can you do? You can check it online and go straight to the TSA if you are not checking your bag. Another piece of advice, if you’re trying to get from point a to point B as quickly as possible in the airport is kind of common sense. Research the airport, now I don’t think a lot of people do this. I’ve kind of noticed that I’m one of the few. I think that actually pulls up the map and kind of studies it a bit, but it can help a ton. Now. A lot of the airline apps actually have the airport’s map integrated into the APP, so you’re able to just pull it up when you land and that’s what I do.

Ian Hoyt: I pull up the map whenever I land and when I’m taxing from landing to the gate, I’ll kind of study, okay, I’m coming in at this gate, this is my connection gate or this is where I need to go and just have kind of a mental picture. So when I get out of the gate, because let’s be realistic. If you’re connecting, you’re probably on a very, very heavy time crunch, so you’re going to want to know, do I make a left or do I make her right when I get out of that gate? So study the maps

Caroline Lloyd: or follow the signs.

Ian Hoyt: I think it’s worth mentioning that when you’re getting in the TSA line that the biggest thing that can save you time is being prepared to go through security. I feel like I have this system down. It reminds me of Ryan Bingham in “Up in the Air” when he’s going through line and they choose which line to go and he just slips off his shoes and throws stuff in the bin and is going and that’s how I feel when I get there and everyone around me is shuffling through their backpacks

Caroline Lloyd: AKA me. I am shuffling through my backpack.

Ian Hoyt: And taking their belts off and they’re a hot mess. They don’t know what to do and it takes them excessive amounts of time to get through security because they’re just taking forever, so stay organized. If you can take all your watches, your belts, anything in your pockets, put it in your backpack or whatever carry on bag you have. Just throw it all in there and that way you don’t have to worry about taking it out, putting it in the bin, maybe losing it. I do that all before I even enter the TSA line, so really when I get to the front of the line where you put it through the scanner, all I’m doing is pulling my shoes off, putting my backpack down and I typically have my laptop already out and I throw that in a separate bin and we go through and I’m done.

Caroline Lloyd: And then he gets pulled aside because he has so much camera gear in his backpack that they always search his bag.

Ian Hoyt: That is true. Very true.

Caroline Lloyd: One thing that we learned traveling extensively through Europe is that they have very different Tsa. Well, it’s not Tsa. They have different security standards.

Ian Hoyt: Ie… Yep. You’re good.

Caroline Lloyd: It’s brilliant. The security and a lot of international airports is at the gate and this goes back to arrival time being different. The best time to arrive for an international flight in an international airport. Obviously researched this before taking my word on it because every airport is different, but most people don’t actually show up until 45 minutes before the flight because they don’t let you in and then as soon as your lead in your checking in for the flight and you go directly into security, that spits you out on basically on the plane. They don’t make you take your shoes off, you don’t have to take your belt off. You literally put your things on a bench tray thing and then you walk through and that’s it. It’s amazing.

Ian Hoyt: Yeah, so international rules do not apply to domestic here in the state.

Ian Hoyt: So that’s it guys. Those are some tips that we have for getting through the airport quicker. If you have some tips of your own, which I’m sure you do, be sure to send us a DM on instagram @lifemomading and we’ll definitely share that with our team. As always, you can find us on any major podcast platform from Spotify, which is one of my favorites. Overcast, iTunes, any of those we should be there.

Caroline Lloyd: On iTunes if you could leave us a review, that would mean so much to us.

Ian Hoyt: Oh, and while we’re here, we should mention something that’s going down.

Caroline Lloyd: We’re going to Bulgaria.

Ian Hoyt: Yeah. If you haven’t noticed in any of our blog articles or posts or things we talked about in previous podcasts, we’re going to have a little place called Bulgaria.

Caroline Lloyd: And we want you to come with us. We’re hosting a 10 day 9 night trip for a limited amount of people and we would love for you to be one of them.

Ian Hoyt: So if one of your goals is to travel more and maybe see a new part of the world, Eastern Europe and Bulgaria, it’s perfect for you. Again, we’re traveling in the summer and we want you to join. If you want more details, go to https://www.lifenomading.com/bulgaria. That’s where you can find more information about the trip itself and also see the different prices and payment options. So until next time I’m Ian

Caroline Lloyd: and I’m Caroline

Ian Hoyt: and go explore something new.

Caroline Lloyd: We’ll see you next week.

Author Ian Hoyt

Founder of Life Nomading, Ian Hoyt has devoted the better part of his adult life to exploring and sharing his travel experiences with others through the Life Nomading podcast, blog, and group trips. In his free time, he travels, and then travels some more, and then enjoys guilty pleasures like NYC Prince St. Pizza or local Harlem eats when at home base in New York City.

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