14 Ways to Improve Your Airport Experience
I. Love. Airports. For me, they represent the anticipation of a trip or the comfort of coming home. The languages written on the signs or the announcements on the loudspeaker, the restaurant chains available and the decorations offer the first glimpse into a new country and culture. The “fresh” air and the endless space comes as a relief after spending hours in a small tube in the air. There’s the familiar sights and sounds of your own home airport, the small rush of victory when you see your bags on the conveyor belt and the jolt in your stomach when you first spot that loved one waiting for you.
Then there’s the flip side the necessary evil of airports within a larger experience. I think many people fall into this camp. Airports are dull, busy, dirty, expensive and stressful, just to name a few. One view might be romanticized and the other dramatized, but I think that following a few standard guidelines can make airports much more pleasant for everyone involved.
1. Be prepared: This may sound obvious but you’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t if you’ve ever been to an airport, at how unprepared people are when they show up. In an environment where so much is out of our control, this is one thing you CAN control.
Show up with enough time. It might be inconvenient and annoying if you experience lines, but if you arrive with enough time in advance you at least won’t be stressed out about them.
Check in online beforehand, if possible, and follow the rules for weight and size restrictions of baggage. You don’t want to have to toss things or repack in the airport check in line.
Check your ticket. Then double check. Then triple check. Have I shown up to the airport on the wrong day before? I don’t want to talk about it. After you’ve gotten that part right, make sure you know your boarding group, your gate and your arrival airport. Sometimes knowing the city isn’t enough. Plenty of large cities have more than one airport that services them and especially if it’s a new destination with names that are in a foreign language it can be easily mixed up. It sounds obvious and simple but it’s the smallest details that are the easiest to mix up when under pressure.
2. Security lines: You’ve just spent so much time waiting in line, be ready when it’s your turn. Take out your computer, take off your belt and untie your shoes before you get up there. Is this really the best place to be repacking your suitcase? And pay attention. Put your bin going through for X-rays in the right direction. Listen to the TSA employee’s instructions and keep it moving. You should also be repacking and redressing on a bench away from where everyone else is waiting for their things to come through the other side. I am happy you got your things but get out of my way.
Pack your liquids separately and don’t bring your explosives or knives in your carry on.
3. Headphones: For the love of all things use headphones or don’t listen to or watch anything. That being said, even if you are using headphones don’t have it cranked on full volume. We can hear it.
4. Use standard traffic etiquette: Those who are standing on moving walkways and escalators stay to the right so those who are walking can get by. And that includes your luggage too.
5. Take up one seat at your boarding gate: Your carry-on doesn’t need a seat, your feet don’t need a seat and your food or garbage certainly do not need a seat. If you need to lay down and take up three seats you should do so on the floor or at a different empty gate.
6. Space at a designated charging station is precious: Once you’ve finished charging get out.
7. In flight fashion: Sometimes I find myself rolling my eyes at people dressed up for flights and I’ve heard people rant about people who dress down to fly. Ultimately, it’s none of our business what other people are wearing and why. Wear what makes you feel comfortable or confident. Or wear what you must because you couldn’t fit it into your luggage. As long as it doesn’t severely affect my wait time when behind you at security then you do you.
8. Children: Give people who are traveling with children a break. Traveling is tough for all of us. Add on being responsible for keeping small humans happy and comfortable while doing so and you’ve got yourself a pretty impossible task. We don’t know their story but suddenly have all this free time to sit around and judge them. I am speaking directly to myself here, as I have been very guilty of this in the past.
9. Lines: Lines are everywhere. Check-in, security, McDonald’s, the bathroom – everywhere. Just accept it. Some can be avoided – many times people stop in the first bathroom they see. The first bathroom after security, baggage claim, nearest a boarding flight or after arrival are usually packed – but just walk a little farther and you’ll almost certainly find one without a line. If not, take a deep breath because stressing out about it won’t make the line move any faster. And queueing to board a plane? You’re not only creating a line that doesn’t need to exist, but you’re essentially lining up to sit on the plane for longer.
10. Don’t shoot the messenger: It is most likely not the fault of the person you are talking to about whatever egregious inconvenience has been committed against you. From lost luggage to flight delays and everything in between try to keep in mind that it wasn’t done to personally offend you. Everyone wants you to have the best experience possible because it also makes their lives much easier when you’re happy.
11. Walk around: Moving walkways are the most fun things ever. Stretch your legs, explore a little. There are some pretty cool airports around the world with fun activities, decorations and some duty free shopping.
12. Treat yourself: Once you’ve gotten through security, you’ve earned it! Maybe the airport is the only place you’re allowed to indulge in a Cinnabon or a tabloid. So take advantage. And If you’ve got some foreign currency leftover, go nuts. Despite following all the aforementioned guidelines it can still be a stressful experience. It’s ok to buy a snack.
13. People watch: It’s very entertaining and it will pass the time.
14. Airport lounges: If you make one change in your life or in traveling, let this be it. Airport lounges offer a free and separating Wi-Fi network, unlimited food and beverage (including alcohol) and comfortable lounge chairs or tables to work from. They are generally pretty quiet and usually have their own bathrooms (sometimes with showers). I use my Chase Sapphire Reserve card but here is a more in depth look on How to Get Airport Lounge Access.
You’ll notice that many of these guidelines can also be carried over into the real world. Or rather, they should’ve probably been carried over from the real world but people can turn into a special brand of crazy or stressed when they travel.
Everyone has someone to be that’s important for varying reasons and we all just want to get there as quickly and safely as possible. By respecting our fellow travelers we can also keep ourselves sane in the process.