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5 Travel Tips You Need to Know Before Going to the Airport

Making the best of your travels starts before you even reach the airport. Making the best of your travels starts before you even reach the airport.


Remember when “pulling an OJ” meant running through the airport, hurdling suitcases in an effort to make your flight on time? Today, heightened security measures and TSA grope-fests alone are enough to make you break a sweat. Add to that the inevitable long lines, lost luggage and unexpected layovers that face air travelers, and hopping on a plane can feel even more stressful—that is, if you let it. An ounce of prevention and a dash of preparedness can go a long way towards alleviating the frustration and headaches. Following these simple tips will get you where you want to go, all while being cool and looking cool. Just think to yourself: what would Don Draper do?


Beware that recent terror threats will affect your globetrotting, especially when traveling overseas. Sure, Mexican beaches are inviting this time of year, but are they safe? The State Department posts warnings on travel.state.gov indicating which countries aren’t so jazzed about seeing apple-pie-eating faces on their soil. Take this information seriously; it’s there to protect you. Be advised that these dangers extend to all Americans and consequently, embassy staff may have been pulled from the region—folks who normally would be there to save your butt.

Remember, too, that external forces beyond your control, such as traffic jams or one bad apple going through security, can cause a domino effect. Many real-time security checkpoint wait times are accessible via an airport’s website. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, for example, utilizes Trak-a-Line. By entering approximate flight departure time and an email address, your wait time is tracked. If the wait time suddenly lengthens or shortens, you’ll know right away via email.


Avoid the check-in counter by researching the many new conveniences via the Internet or smartphones. Most airlines allow check-in prior to airport arrival. Choose your seat from home and print your boarding pass, or save paper by sending it to your iPhone. Gate Maps by Aaron Miller, the 99-cent iPhone app, lists the gate and terminal locations of 38 U.S. and international airports. Looking for the terminal to your next flight? It not only displays that info, it also shows where to pick up the tram from one terminal to the next. T-Mobile recommends Trip Journal for both Android and iPhone users (available for download).


Newsflash: Last year, the TSA installed full-body image scanners  at many security checkpoints. The collective protests and whining of travelers was heard from Peoria to Fox News and back. Our advice: get over it. Simply packing and acting smart will help avoid the dreaded pat-down. Place your clothes at the bottom of your carry-on with oddly shaped items such as a hair dryer and shoes on top. This enables the screener a better fix on what you are (or aren’t) packin’. Carry nothing—and we mean nothing—on your person. No wallet, no keys, no gum, not a sticky note. Place your ID and boarding pass along with hats, sunglasses, etc., in the front of your bag and send it through the screener. Also, get in the habit of packing the night before your trip. This cuts down on the chance of stuffing random items in your pockets, ones with potential to set off metal detectors or get left behind. It also avoids the dreaded over-packing.


OK, you now know how to navigate your way through Checkpoint Charlie like a pro. Looking like one is another matter. Invest in classic items in dark or neutral colors. Cheap polyester and cotton blends don’t breathe. Shorts, sandals or warm-ups make you look, well, like a jackass. Delta flight attendant Lex Owens told Rosebud that dressing comfortably doesn’t mean showing up in your pajamas.

“I have what I call my travel outfit that I never leave home without,” said Owens, a 23-year industry veteran. “Depending on the season, it’s either a black cashmere or light cotton sweater, black trousers that fit me well, and a pair of comfortable black shoes or boots.” Trust us, no gate agent is going to randomly upgrade a passenger wearing flip-flops and a fanny pack to first class.


Finally, there are a few travel rules to which we always adhere, and smart investments that get us where we’re going with comfort and ease. Never check your bags unless you’re going on a two-week African safari. You’ve already waited around at check-in; don’t create even more opportunities to waste time. For long flights, invest in good headphones, like Sennheiser or Grado earbuds for obvious reasons. Lastly, don’t skimp on luggage. A piece from Hartmann, Tumi, or TravelPro will hopefully last a lifetime; a cheap one could fall apart on an unexpected layover in Toledo.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 25 September 2012 15:40

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