You arrive at the airport an hour and a half early to catch a flight for that awesome vacation you’ve had planned for months now, but when you arrive the security line is out the door and there’s no way you’re going to make your flight. What do you do? Airports can easily be one of the most stressful places in the world to navigate if you have little experience with travel or if you just have high anxiety! Let’s break down airports into several categories:
1. National travel within the US
- Give yourself at least 2 hours from the time you walk through the door to the airport to when your flight is scheduled to leave.
- At bigger airports such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. you may consider arriving closer to 2 ½ or 3 hours early.
- Make sure you have transportation to the airport worked out ahead of time. If someone is taking you make sure they know when to be at your location and when you need to be at the airport. If you are driving make sure you know the parking situation before you go.
- Check in online before your flight with your cell phone or laptop to cut down on time waiting.
- Pack all everything in a carry on so you don’t have to wait to check your bags.
- Know if you have status with the airline. Most airlines will have designated lines for those who have flight status and they’re much shorter than normal lines.
- Know the baggage weight limit to avoid having to rearrange your entire luggage.
- Apply for TSA Pre-check and avoid waiting in a long security line.
- Get to your gate 20 minutes before boarding starts, so that you will be aware of any delays or gate changes.
2. International travel to other countries from the US
- Arrive at least 2 ½ hours early for your flight since you are flying internationally and may need more time to negotiate lines and passport lanes.
- At bigger airports give yourself at least 3 hours before your flight leaves.
- If you are making connecting flights give yourself at least an hour and a half or more at your connection so that you don’t miss your international flight should your first flight have some delays.
- Have your passport and travel documents ready and accessible.
- Apply for global entry so that you can use shorter lines when leaving and entering countries with your passport.
- If you plan on getting food or beverages for your flight do so after going through security and always go to your gate first to make sure there haven’t been any gate changes or delays.
- Be ready to go at your gate 15-20 minutes before your flight starts boarding.
3. Traveling nationally while in a foreign country (You’ve been in Berlin but now you want to go to Hamburg for example)
- Give yourself at least 2 hours to navigate the airport since there may be language barriers.
- Arrange transportation to the airport before the day of your flight to prevent any mishaps.
- Have your passport accessible as well as any documents needed to travel within the country.
- If you’re traveling with an unfamiliar airline be sure to check their website the night before for any luggage restrictions, special requirements, or rules that you may not have been told.
- If you need help don’t be afraid to ask someone like a gate agent or security officer who may be more likely to speak English.
- Travel light so you don’t have to check a bag in an unfamiliar airport with possible language barriers.
- Make sure you know exactly what city you’re flying to because some places have airports and cities with similar names and different spellings.
4. Traveling internationally from a foreign country (You’ve been in Brazil but now you want to see Argentina for example)
- Give yourself between 2 and 2 ½ hours to navigate the airport.
- Arrange your transportation to the airport the night before.
- Make sure to have your passport, visa, and any other travel documents you may need to get through foreign security.
- Research your airline’s guidelines before you get there if you’ve never traveled with them.
- Be aware that some small airline companies may try to nickel and dime you for silly things like inflight meal service, checked luggage, and priority seating.
- Make sure to purchase any food or beverages after getting through security to avoid any issues in the security line.
Whether traveling near or far, navigating an airport can often be the most stressful part of the trip! Keep these helpful tips in mind wherever you go and alleviate some of the stresses of travel!