Ah, the airport. It’s crowded, uncomfortable, expensive, and sometimes icky. It’s one of those necessary evils of flight travel, and unless we’re Jay Z (we’re not) and can have the Bombardier Challenger 850 roll up to the back door, we’re going to have to be in these transport hubs for a while longer. But there’s light at the end of the runway – check out our 8 airport tips that will make your time in the airport just a little bit better … and a lot less icky.
1: Don’t buy the water.
Everything costs more at the airport. Instead of shelling out $7 for a paltry 16 ounces of H2O (not to mention adding another plastic bottle to the heap already in circulation), bring your own. Most major airports have refill stations with filtered water specifically for filling water bottles. Bring an empty water bottle and fill it there.
2: Bring your own snacks.
See airport tip #1 about the cost of airport everything. Buy what you need in the way of noshes before heading to the airport. This way, you have what you want (gorp, yes; yogurt-covered raisins, no) and you haven’t paid the better part of a Jackson for them. I mean, really, who wants to pay $4 for bag of M&Ms or $15 for a day-old, pre-packaged sandwich?
3: Get your own private flight board.
Sprawling arrival and departure boards? Not great if you’re in a hurry. (Source: Shutterstock / Song_about_summer)
We’re sure we’ve lost years of our lives wandering around the airport looking for the departures board. And once found, text scrolling on the board can make finding flight information a pain. Sort this out with the Flight Board app that shows departures and arrivals for any airport on your device of choice. Kick back and keep an eye on your flight from the comfort of wherever. And yo, it’s free!
4: Carry a phone battery charger.
This airport tip may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t think to do this. Rather than spend your time running circuits through the terminal looking for a free outlet, use your own. Though a bit of an investment at around $100, this is well worth the dough. Even if there is a delay in your flight, you’ll have enough juice to watch the last episode of “Stranger Things,” season three. Whew.
5: Personalize your suitcase.
Most people travel with some variation of the black roller suitcase. Not surprisingly, this can cause confusion at the baggage carousel when everyone reaches for a black bag, thinking that it’s theirs. Personalize your bag so that you can identify it quickly — and, importantly, so can everyone else.
While some would tell you that a piece of ribbon around the handle is sufficient, we beg to differ. Ribbon can come unwound or be cut off. We recommend duct tape (or a luggage tag); it’s durable and harder to remove. Pick a color that contrasts with black so it’s easily seen and, at a minimum, wrap it tightly around the handle. If you want to go all Warhol and slap a few pieces on the sides for even more visibility, go to town.
6: Left is right.
Security lines are tiresome at best and can be nerve-wracking when you’re trying to make a flight. When lines branch off into multiple directions, research suggests that most people tend to move right. This is your cue to move left. Fewer people, shorter waiting time. Try it. For more on airport security see our piece here.
7: Sleep when you can.
If you find yourself with a long airport layover, consider bedding down for a while. A nap is not only good for you, but it passes the time better than just about anything else. While we don’t recommend curling up in any old lounge chair (it’s typically uncomfortable and you can’t keep track of your valuables), we do think sleep pods can be a great solution.
Most major European airports offer some sort of onsite sleep solution, as do a handful of American gateways. You can often book ahead online or onsite as needed, though conditions often apply. Check the airport website or look it up by provider. They include GoSleep, YotelAir, NapCabs, and ZZZleepandGo. Prices are generally around $20 per hour, and typically include minimum and maximum stays (two to 12 hours, for example).
8: Use sanitary wipes.
Airports are germ dens, surpassed only by the planes themselves. Be smart and bring sanitary wipes for any surface you are likely to touch, or for your hands after you touch said surfaces. You’ll feel more comfortable knowing you are getting rid of at least some of the germs you’re sure to encounter.
Also: Do you have an airport tip you want to share? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we may add it to the list!