Working in Corporate America, where my job requires frequent out of town trips, and being an avid traveler in personal life as well, I am no stranger to airport life.
I can go on a four day work trip packing only a carry-on luggage, with a different outfit AND a different pair of shoes for each outfit (but about that in another post). During my tenure, I have also collected a list of items that make airport travel more bearable, a.k.a. stress free zone. Sure, I consider the obvious – check the status of the flight before you go; be familiar with the airport commute AND airport parking to allow yourself for ample time to board the flight; or consider the contents and weight of your suitcase before you get to the airport. However, there are a few items I would like to call out to my fellow travelers, regardless if you’re a frequent travel warrior, or a “fly once in a blue moon” traveler:
The smaller the airport, the bigger the hassle.
I have visited Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International airport; the world’s busiest airport, more times than I care to count. I can honestly say that I have never had a bad experience (aside from factors outside of human control). Security lines move swiftly, TSA agents are knowledgeable and professional, and airport amenities are decent.
I have also spent a decent amount of time at Sioux Falls’ Joe Foss Field Regional Airport, and can unequivocally say, they ain’t got nothin’ on ATL. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/), Sioux Falls processed under a million passengers in 2015, while Atlanta processed more than 101 million in the same year.
Yes, the reasons for this are obvious – bigger airports must operate at a superb efficiency if they want to process all of the passengers. But I don’t know why some of the efficient techniques that work in metropolitan areas cannot be implemented in regional airports. TSA agents at smaller airports act like their small city is the center of all terrorist activity and must therefore examine every nook, cranny, and crevice known to man (and woman. Um… usually if someone was going to touch me like you just did, Ms. TSA Agent, they at least buy me a drink first). Bottom line is; if you are travelling via smaller regional airports, allow yourself some extra time, and plan on having a drink once you cross the proverbial finish line that is the security checkpoint.
Technology is your friend… but also your enemy.
Majority of airlines and airports allow for paperless boarding passes. This is great in that it saves you the hassle of having to print a boarding pass and worry about it getting lost or crumpled, (or remembering to bring it with you to begin with). However, from experience I can tell you that network or Wi-Fi access is not always 100% reliable. There is hardly anything worse and more inconvenient than not being able to pull up your boarding pass while standing in front of the TSA agent, or worse waiting to board the plane with hurdles of angry passengers behind you wishing you ill will. For this reason, always save a screen shot of your boarding pass – this will allow for quick access regardless of network connection, as long as you ensure your phone has plenty of battery life left.
Invest in TSA Precheck and Global Entry.
I have forgotten what travel was like prior to current TSA procedures. Because of this, I don’t necessarily dread the security lines, but they are not my favorite either. One way to make the process easier for you is to invest in the TSA Precheck and Global Entry. If approved, this allows you faster security line process at over 180 airports with many major airline carriers. With so many people enrolling in Precheck, the dedicated lines are somewhat heavier in traffic than they were when the program was first introduced – over 3 million members are already taking advantage of the program, according to the TSA website (https://www.tsa.gov/precheck), but it’s still a better bet than going with the flow along with everyone else. According to TSA, 97% of all TSA Precheck passengers waited less than 5 minutes in July 2016. Additionally, you don’t have to remove your shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, or light jackets, even further speeding up the process. The cost for Precheck is $85-$100 if you want the Global Entry, and both are good for 5 years. Even if you are not a frequent flyer, it is money well spent.
Relax – there’s so many ways to do it!
Some may say that 9 AM is not an acceptable time to have a cocktail, but I don’t listen to those people. I don’t need that type of negativity in my life. Joking aside, one of my favorite things to do when I arrive at the airport, zip through security, and realize I have some time before boarding, is to settle at a bar near my gate and enjoy a glass of wine. For work related trips, I usually fly home the last day of the event (some people choose to spend an extra night at the hotel and travel in the morning; I prefer to sleep in my own bed); so typically my flights are later on in the day, and having a glass of wine is just what I need to start unwinding and relaxing. Of course, be mindful of your consumption and your activities following the flight – do you have to drive home once you arrive or is your transportation handled some other way? Never put yourself or others in dangerous situations. If libations are not your thing, I recommend having a meal at a sit down restaurant – you would be surprised at the service and quality of food at some (not all!) airport spots. Additionally, plenty of airports offer quick massages, neck rubs, shoe shine services – all of which can help you relax and wash down the day.
I also never understood people who get up from their seat once the plane has landed and seatbelt sign has been turned off. You are in seat 49F, there’s at least 200 people in front of you – why are you standing up, reaching for your luggage? You do understand that those 200 people I mentioned need to get off the flight before you do, right? Sit down, and try to relax until the plane has emptied enough it makes sense for you to get up and collect your belongings.
What are some of your tips and tricks for making airport life more bearable?
Author: Sanja H
Photo: © Bojan Bokic