Today’s prompt of the Expat Blog Challenge begins, “I was at the airport, and…”.
I wish I had a funny or clever story to share. My airport experiences have all been very mundane. I think the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me was that the airline broke my suitcase once. The whole side was ripped off so I think it must have got caught in something. Thankfully nothing inside was lost or damaged and the airline immediately replaced my suitcase with a larger one. I was disappointed though because I no longer had a matching set. Oh, and Angelina Jolie travelled on the same flight as me once. I saw her – really saw her, really looked at her – and didn’t recognise her. She was sitting in first class with a scarf wrapped around her head and shoulders and wearing big sunglasses. The flight attendant confirmed it was her when a more astute passenger near me enquired
I consider the fact that my airport experiences have been largely uneventful to be a great success. I’ve never lost luggage. I’ve never been pulled aside by security. I’ve never missed a flight or had any items confiscated. So, I’ll take this opportunity to share some airport travel tips.
1. Do some homework before you go. Before you even arrive at the airport you should know a few things: How many pieces of luggage can you take? What’s the largest size allowed? What’s the maximum amount of weight allowed? What items can you pack in a carry-on, must check-in, and leave altogether? You might also want to check the flight status, maps of the airport so you know where to go, and investigate parking if necessary.
Think about your journey back. For example, if you’re packing 100 lbs on your way there, how much do you plan to pack on your return trip if you’ve made purchases?
2. Pack cautiously. Again, make sure you know what’s okay to pack in your carry-on, what has to be checked in, and what you can’t take with you. Don’t wrap gifts and if you use bubble wrap for fragile items, don’t tape it. When I travelled through a slow Vermont airport, the security agent took out, unwrapped, and examined every single souvenir. It’s best for your items to be visible. Clear plastic and see-through mesh bags are good options.
Include your contact information in case your bag goes missing. I include my first initial and last name, email, and phone numbers, as well as the dates and cities where I’ll be on tags that I attach to my suitcase and a piece of paper I leave inside it.
Unless you’re attached to specific brands, don’t pack items that you can easily obtain at your destination such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, etc. You can take travel containers, but be prepared for a security check. Liquids and gels are red flags for TSA. Weigh your bags at home before you go to the airport to avoid surprises.
3. Arrive at the airport early. Airlines say 60 minutes for domestic flights and 90 for international, but I always arrive about two hours early. Sometimes it means waiting around longer, but I’ve needed that extra time more than once due to long queues and terminal changes.
4. Avoid long check-in lines. Try checking in online, curbside, or at the self-service kiosks.
5. Prepare for security checks. Have your ID and airline ticket handy at all times. Wear slip-on shoes. Take off all your accessories; I usually pack these in my purse and put on my earrings, ring, and watch after I’ve passed through security. If possible, leave your sweater, scarf, and belt off too until after you get through security. Make sure your laptop is easily accessible. Carry a water bottle, but make sure it’s empty or it will be confiscated.
6. Have your wits about you. Try to keep a mental list of your items so you don’t leave anything behind. Don’t take your eyes off your purse and luggage. And be polite. I know the airport experience can be exasperating, but everyone’s exhausted and stressed, including the airline and security workers.
Yay, you made it! Now you can have a coffee, browse the bookstore, and chill out a bit before it’s time to board.
Have you got the art of travelling down? What are your tips for smooth sailing?