As someone who’s been on a few thousand flights over the past 10 years, I’ve learned a few things about how to make the most annoying place on earth (aka the airport) as easy as possible when you need to get somewhere.
First and foremost – a very important thing to note – where at all possible, DO NOT BUY BLACK LUGGAGE. Everyone buys black luggage. If you want to identify yours when it’s coming down the conveyor belt, avoid the chance that random strangers will pull it off the belt thinking it’s their’s, or your luggage getting lost in general, don’t buy black luggage! Not to mention if your luggage does get lost the first thing they will ask you is “What does it look like?” If you say “Well it’s a black suitcase,” you’ll see the eyes roll. Everyone has black luggage.
As for the airport, here goes:
- Always check-in online. In this day and age where it costs for EVERYTHING, spending $50 for seat selection just seems like something I don’t want. But, here in Canada, you can check into your flights a full 24 hours early. And, if you’re one of the first people to check in, you’re assigned an aisle or window seat ahead of them assigning you a middle seat. So ALWAYS check-in online.
- Skip the jewelry when you’re getting dressed. (And belts) If it’s important to bring it, put it in a little baggy and slip it into your carry-on or suitcase. Then bring it out when the timing is right. By avoiding putting it on, you’ll avoid needing to take extra time in the security line taking it all off.
- Dress up to dress down. Combat boots are cute and all, but taking those bad-boys off to go through security to put back on immediately afterwards takes a considerable amount of time. Things like slip on shoes can, and will be, your best friend.
- Take a screenshot of your booking information/boarding pass. The screenshot on your phone will be a lot easier to access than trying to fumble through paperwork amidst everything else in your backpack/carry-on.
- Separate your electronics. This will make your time in the security line go much more smoothly and much faster.
- Figure out your liquids game before you get to the security line. Where at all possible, if you don’t have to bring liquids then don’t. But, if you must bring liquids, know the rules before you go. Don’t be that doh-head who needs their bag to get searched and have full-sized perfume and hand creams pulled out of it. I’ve seen a lot of times the TSA Agents be nice about this, but you can also get into a lot of trouble.
- Wear an item of clothing with a sports logo on it. This isn’t a certified fact, and I only do this in North American airports, but I have noticed on days when I am wearing certain jackets with sporting logos on them, the TSA agents will move me to the quicker line. Perhaps they like sports? Perhaps, they just think I’m some sort of coach and want to help me on my way. I’m not sure. But, when wearing the logo makes the security line shorter, I’m going to wear the logo.
- Bring an empty water bottle and fill it up inside of security. Buying water at the airport is no-bueno. I’ve paid upwards of $6.00 Canadian for a single bottle of water. Having a reusable water bottle with you can avoid a lot of unnecessary costs.
- Save your Starbucks rewards for the airport. It’s a well known fact of life that Starbucks costs 2-3 dollars more per drink when you’re at the airport. If you collect Starbucks rewards, save the free drinks for when you travel, for when you’re in the airport. And if you don’t collect Starbucks rewards, start collecting them. Seriously.
- When you’re travelling internationally add international data and roaming minutes to your cell phone plan. In the airport alone you can’t always rely on wi-fi in other parts of the world. If you’ve got the international data, you can still use your phone to help you get to where you need to be.
- Bring a phone charger. Always bring a phone charger. And, if you’re travelling internationally, bring a plug converter. You don’t want to find yourself in the Amsterdam airport, unable to speak the language, with a dead cell phone.
- Keep your money in your front pocket. Especially in busy airports, pickpocketing is a real issue. For guys that keep their wallets in their back pocket, put it in your front pocket while walking through the airport to avoid pickpocketing.
- Always arrive at your gate early. Why? Planes can leave early. I’s not a frequent occurrence, but they do leave early. You don’t want to be the doh-head that missed the flight because you were looking at overpriced magazines down the hall.
- Be kind. Don’t yell. Even when it’s frustrating. Even when someone pisses you off. You don’t want to find yourself in a foreign country where you cannot speak the language, with people unwilling to help you because you’ve been a tired, pissed off asshole. There was one instance in Frankfurt when the security guard was telling me to take off my shoe. I could not understand her because she was speaking German. Naturally, being Canadian, my response was “I’m sorry”. And then I said “English, English?” She called over the German police (at the time I was worried I was in trouble, but it turns out she was doing it because she knew they could speak English). The police officers were actually very kind to me. One of them told me I was very soft-spoken and told me thank you. Moral of the story – always be nice. Even when it’s annoying.
- Fly the flag. This is a big one, especially if you’re Canadian. Put a Canadian flag on your luggage, on your carry-on, on your backpack, etc… It’s a good conversation starter with strangers. There’s nothing cooler than striking up conversation with a badass human being half-way around the world and making your wait at the airport a little-less boring. And who knows, in this day of social media, perhaps you can stay in touch.