Airports can be very intimidating places for those who have never traveled by airplane before. They can still be intimidating to those who are frequent travelers. So I shall provide you all with a basic survival guide for being in an airport, including the different stages that you will be in an airport (Initial Arrival, The Wait, Transfers, Layovers, Destination Arrival).
- ARRIVE AT THE AIRPORT EARLY. This cannot be stressed enough, you don’t want to show up at the airport 30 minutes before your flight starts boarding. It is best to arrive at least an hour before boarding begins. (I usually show up 2 hours in advance so that I have plenty of time.)
- Check your ticket to see which airport terminal you need to be in and enter that specific terminal. Don’t try to enter another terminal, as this can waste time and complicate things.
- When you arrive at your terminal, immediately check-in and drop off your luggage.
- If you have doubts about how much your luggage weighs, make sure to have a friend or family member nearby to take any excess. To avoid this, weigh your luggage before getting to the airport. It’s embarrassing to be that person holding up the line because you packed way too much. (For details on how to pack properly and avoid weight issues, see The Art of Packing).
- Get through security quickly by following this prep list:
- Pack things very organized into your carry-on.
- If you bring toiletries, pack them into a plastic Ziploc bag. This is a rule that is enforced with most airport securities.
- Make sure things like your laptop, cables, and other electronic devices in your carry-on are easily removable. A lot of airports require you to remove them when your carry-on goes through the X-ray machine.
- If you carry a lot of things in your pockets, put them in a coat or jacket when going through security. This makes things go much faster and helps keep you from having the buzzer sound off because you forgot some spare change in your pocket.
- Wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on quickly.
- Remove everything that could have a metallic piece to it (coat with pocket contents, belt, hat, shoes, etc.) quickly and load them into the security tubs.
- When you’re through the scanner, quickly gather all of your things and move on. Security doesn’t like it when a straggler takes too long getting their things.
- When you make it through security, check the flight-gate board and see if your ticket matches the board. Flights have been known to change gates since the time you bought your ticket.
- When you have confirmed your flight’s gate, go find it. Don’t do anything else until you know exactly where your gate is at. You don’t want to end up not knowing where your gate is at when your flight is boarding.
- If you have plenty of time before your flight leaves, go and get a quick meal. You will appreciate this food a lot more than your on-flight meal or snack. Also, go to the bathroom. The tiny bathroom on the plane is not exactly comfortable.
- DON’T buy souvenirs from the gift shops in the terminal. The prices are significantly higher than other stores outside of the airport.
- If you’re not used to flying or sometimes get motion sickness, you might consider buying some gum to chew or mints to suck on before your flight. These can help alleviate some of the uncomfortableness you may experience during take-off.
- When you are fully prepped and ready for your flight, go and hang out by your gate and wait for the boarding call. It’s best to sit next to where you will be lined up to board and try to get to the front of your line. The sooner you get on the plane, the easier time you will have when looking for overhead storage close to your seat. If you get on the plane last, finding storage is extremely difficult.
- As soon as you are able to get off the plane, do so. Try to get off quickly without being rude to the other passengers. (Pushing people out of the way is somewhat frowned upon.)
- When you get inside the airport, waste no time and check the flight-gate board. As stated earlier, they have a tendency to change gates at a moment’s notice.
- Check the airport map if you need help finding your next terminal/gate.
- Once you know your gate, get through security quickly and get to your gate. (Follow the steps mentioned above to get through security smoothly and quickly)
- If you have a short layover (later in the day flight), then you should just hang out in your terminal until it gets close to time for your flight to board.
- During your layover time, you should recharge yourself. Go eat at one of the restaurants in the terminal, go to the bathroom and splash some water on your face, do some stretches, etc. Whatever you need to feel 100% again, do it during this time.
- If you have a long layover (next day flight), then you can either sleep in your airport terminal (or flight lounge if you are a member) or get a room in a hotel/hostel near the airport. Some airports have hotels connected to the airport just for these cases.
- If you sleep in your terminal, be sure to keep yourself and your stuff safe. Consider getting a locker to put your stuff in (if available). It’s best to find a place that doesn’t have much of a chance for people to bother you while sleeping.
- When you arrive at your destination, immediately go and grab your luggage.
- Don’t freak out if you don’t immediately see your luggage, as it can take a few minutes for luggage to be unloaded off the plane and transferred.
- If you don’t see your luggage after a while, then be sure to let an airport staff member know. They will hopefully be able to help track down your luggage.
- Make sure to have your passport and appropriate documents ready to get through processing. This may take a little time if you are in a large airport that gets frequent travelers, as the lines may be long.
- Check with the visitor information desk if you need to know more about your location and transportation options available that leave from the airport (i.e. cabs, tram, etc.)
- If you are in a place that you have never been to, then you might consider grabbing a map on your way out of the airport.
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(If you have any extra tips that you think didn’t make it into this guide, please share in the comments!)