Airports can be stressful. Especially for first-time travelers.
Even for seasoned veterans, fumbling through the airport is a negative experience for everyone. Break free of the stress and anxiety (and save some money) at the airport with these airport hacks.
For a seamless security screening – Get Global Entry and Clear
Global Entry is a Trusted Traveler Program that provides expedited screening benefits for domestic and international flights. It costs $100 for a 5 year membership. With Global Entry, you will also get TSA PreCheck upon the approval of your application. Some benefits you’ll receive are…
- Access to TSA PreCheck expedited line to TSA counter
- Keep on shoes during screening
- Electronics can remain in bag during screening
- & more!
These benefits mean you get through security faster. In fact, the official TSA PreCheck site reports that, in July 2021, 96% of their customers waited less than 5 minutes.
Clear is another registered traveler program that offers expedited screening benefits for its members. It costs $179 for a 1-year membership. Members use biometric authentication (fingerprint or iris scan) to verify their identity and. Some Clear benefits are…
- Access to Clear expedited line to TSA Counter
- Escort to TSA Counter
- No need to show ID. Only your boarding pass – no scanning it either
- (Sometimes) complimentary items like hand sanitizer or a mask
Both services expedite the security process at the airport. Global Entry provides the most benefits, but having both memberships is worth it! When I use Clear, it is by far the fastest and easiest way to get through airport security. When an airport doesn’t offer Clear (only available in select airports), I use my TSA PreCheck membership.
For affordable flying – Never pay for a seat
I repeat – Never pay for a seat! Nobody wants the dreaded middle seat, but don’t let fear influence your wallet. You can get a preferred seat without paying for it – just ask!
Once you arrive at the airport, go to the checked baggage agents (before security) or the gate agents (after security) and politely ask if there are any aisle/window seats available. Unless the flight is overbooked, they’re always happy to change my seat assignment.
You can also go into your airline account settings and change your seat preferences to either middle, isle, or window seat. Next time you check in for a flight, if you skip the seat selection screen, you’ll most likely automatically be assigned your preferred seat.
If all of these options fail, then pay for your preferred seat. But let payment be your last resort.
There are – almost – always more seats available than displayed. Airline employees can book seats that you may see as unavailable online.
The only occasions where you’ll need to pay for a preferred seat is flying business or first class or if you’d like to be seated in an exit row. With these hacks, I’ve flown in the middle seat less than two times and have paid for a seat once.
For worry-free traveling – Invest in a good luggage
Here are things to look for…
- Strong zipper
- Smooth, gliding wheels
- Dark color
Whether you check or carry-on your bags, good luggage makes all of the difference.
Your bag goes through a lot after you check it. I’ve had horror stories of damaged luggage, dirty luggage, lost luggage, and even the zipper busting open and losing over $2,000 worth of items! A durable luggage can save you from a headache in the future.
Purchase a tracking device to track the location of your luggage.
I use the Away Bigger Carry-On & highly recommend it! Other noteworthy brands are Tumi, Monos, and Samsonite.
For a pleasant flight – Bring the essentials
Flying is public transportation. With that being said – there are a lot of unpleasant things that can come along with public transportation. Five essentials I bring on every flight are:
- Extra headphones
Layers – The temperature fluctuates a lot from the airport, to the gate, to the breezeway, and on the plane. A worst case scenario is getting stuck on the tarmac for several hours with no A/C. Ensure you wear a comfortable outfit with light layers to avoid discomfort later.
Perfume – Unpleasant odors are common on public transportation & they become even worse thousands of feet in the air in a metal capsule. I always bring a roll-on perfume for myself and I apply it lightly to the outside of my mask as needed during my flight.
Medicine – For long haul flights, I bring NyQuil, Pepto Bismol, and any prescription medicine. You can purchase travel size OTC medicine in pill form.
iPad – Many airlines offer in-flight entertainment that you can access via a personal device. I bring my tablet to access this entertainment & pre-download movies on Netflix to enjoy during my flight.
Extra headphones – Flights can get noisy. If my Airpods are low on battery or Bluetooth isn’t working, I always have an alternative.
Bonus: For first class treatment on an economy flight – Bring treats for your flight attendants
It is not required or expected to bring anything for flight attendants, but it is appreciated. Bringing small chocolates, cookies, or other store-bought treats can elevate your flying experience greatly. Including extra snacks, preferred seating, or other in-flight benefits.
As always, give expecting nothing in return. Perks are not guaranteed.
Sit back, relax, & enjoy your flight!