Like anything, the more you do it, the better you become. Same goes for travel and navigating the airport–which can be nerve wracking if it’s your first time.
I have slowly learned, with each trip, how to better manage my time, pack my bag best and move through security as efficiently as possible.
With our last trip to Vegas, Marco and I were people watching in the airport. As he is someone who travels way more than me, he started joking about some of the top tips he would give to people. Obviously, I thought this would make a great blog post to help anyone who is new to flying as I wish there had been something like this for me!
So, with that, let’s jump into how you can your travel day at the airport smoother.
A WEEK BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Download all airline apps. This is oftentimes something you can’t do once you get on the plane, and many times the only way to watch movies provided by the aircraft. The apps are free and easy to use, just search the app store by airline name.
Get a book or download any movies to your tablet.
Heading down south? Check out my printable packing list here.
Long trip? I’ve got you covered with the 9 essentials you must bring.
THE DAY BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Check in online. Always. Set an alarm for 24 hours before your flight so you can get the chance to choose the best seats. Marco always does this for us, and it’s such a time saver. If you’re checking luggage (you will have to pay, usually $25 each way), pay for it in advance online so you can simply use the kiosk when you arrive at the airport and drop off your bag (versus standing in line to check in).
Check the type of aircraft you will be travelling on when you’re checking in online. Small, regional aircraft’s normally have seating that runs 2×1 (two seats, an aisle, and one seat) or 2×2 in the cabin. For your carry-on bag, bigger sizes will usually need to be “sky-checked”, which means you leave them at the doorway to the aircraft for the staff to load underneath the plane (with checked luggage, for free). This will also help you plan your carry-on luggage accordingly.
If you have a layover, consider how much time you have as that may be an indication of the potential delay of your checked luggage making your connection. Usually an hour or more is enough time, but do pack your carry-on with a change of clothes just in case. When we went to Italy, our luggage did not arrive for two days and how I wished I had packed some make-up and underwear with me! 😉
Pack your carry-on efficiently by ensuring all liquids are in bottles no bigger than 100mL and put them all into a large freezer ziplock bag. If you’re travelling through the USA, this will need to be pulled out and placed in the bin at security so they can see exactly what liquids you have. Sometimes they will make you compress it all into one of their provided airline plastic bags, which is about half the size, so keep that in mind.
No aerosol sprays nor alcohol are allowed, and no liquid/gels (think toothpaste, lotion, gel, drinks, etc.) over 100mL. If you’re bringing just a carry-on, I’ve never been stopped for having a shaving razor and tweezers.
Buy some snacks. I like to bring cheese, grapes, nuts, sandwiches, carrots and hummus, gum, beef jerky, protein/granola bars, etc. You can bring snacks with the exception of citrus. Sometimes meat is questionable, but typically you’re fine. I would also suggest throwing an empty water bottle into your bag, which you can fill up once you go through security to save some money on purchasing bottled water.
Keep in mind that you can bring one carry-on bag (small suitcase or duffel) plus one ‘personal item’, which can be your purse or a tote style bag.
Charge any electronics you’re bringing and wipe your SD card on your computer so it’s clear to take photos. All valuables should go in your carry-on (electronics, jewelry, designer handbag, etc.) and don’t forget to throw in a pen. There is nothing more annoying than having to borrow one from someone else at the last minute to fill out a customs form before landing.
THE DAY OF YOUR TRIP
Get excited! You’re going places (kid)!
Wear your heaviest shoes and avoid flip flops. I once read to never wear flip flops on a plane just in case. Not trying to alarm anyone, but in the event of an emergency, sturdy footwear is going to make a difference.
When you arrive at the airport, get your passport and boarding pass out as you will need both to pass through security. Since you already checked in online, you’re already ahead of the masses.
When loading your stuff into bins at security, you must remove all laptops and tablets from their sleeves/cases and put it in their own bin. Pull out your liquids–remember that handy ziplock you put them all in? Now’s the time to make it’s appearance so make sure you tucked it somewhere easy you can grab it. Remove your jacket, any jewelry (I wear minimal to avoid this part) and if others are removing their shoes, follow suit. Get in line and wait to be called through the metal detector.
Once on the other side, quickly gather your belongings off the conveyor belt and move along. The fastest person wins 😉
From this time, you can grab a bite to eat, fill your water bottle, charge your electronics, etc. If I’m travelling solo, I often walk the terminal for a bit to get some exercise in knowing I’ll be sitting for a while. When I’m with Marco, we usually just play on our phones. It’s ideal to sit at your gate because gates sometimes change so always keep an eye on the flight board (all around the airport) in case you need to move to another one (this happens and I was in line in front of a man who literally just missed his flight because he was sat at the original gate that changed 30 minutes before and didn’t realize it).
On your boarding pass, you will have a zone (one through five), which is the identifier for seating. The gate attendants will call passengers by zone to line up and start filling the plane. Wait for your zone to be called to get in line.
WHAT TO WEAR
If you haven’t been on a plane a ton, it can be confusing as to what to wear and how to pack to transition to the climate change you might experience upon landing.
I always start the base of any travel look with black leggings–they are comfortable and stylish, and easy to pair with cold and warm weather looks. From there I add a long top, if it doesn’t have sleeves I’ll throw a cardigan or sweater over it, plus a denim or leather jacket (depending how cold it is where you are and where you’re going). I always wear a tennis style sneaker, but a cute pair of boots is great as well. As for hats, I typically will pack them instead of wearing them with the exception of a beanie as seen here.
For my luggage, this carry on suitcase has been worth every penny. I snagged it two years ago and have used it so much–between airplane travel to quick weekend trips it’s the perfect size. Then I’ll carry either a tote page or one of my larger purses and fit a cross body bag inside + my laptop, snacks, some make-up, and eyemask (if it’s a red eye), tooth brush, an extra set of clothes etc. I’ll do a full post about my top things for your carry on.
TWO FINAL TIPS
If you’re travelling to one of the following airports, note that they often get over booked for terminals for connecting flights: Newark, Dulles, O’Hare, Miami, Dallas & Denver. This means your flight may circle a few times before landing, shortening your connecting time. When booking your flight, aim for an hour to an hour and a half for a layover.
Clean your house. This isn’t mandatory, but something we always do before we go because it is so much nicer to come home to a clean space. I find I’m always sad to have our trip end, so coming back to a tidy home is always positive and something to look forward to!
Finally, you got this & have a great trip!