You’re stuck in traffic on the way to the airport. Your flight leaves in an hour and you’re still fifteen minutes out, haven’t checked your bags yet, forgot to check in online and you just know the security line is going to be crazy long. Even when your ride drops you off at Departures, the panic doesn’t let up. Your mind runs wild with thoughts of all the things you’ll have to do if you miss this flight. While not all travelers have experienced this exact situation, it’s fair to say that we’ve all lived through a similar airport nightmare. But what if you never have to feel that kind of heightened travel anxiety ever again? What if there were things you could do to all but guarantee shorter check-in lines, easier security screening, and a more seamless airport experience? The good news is that these things do actually exist; there are several ways you can minimize your time in lines and get to your gate with plenty of time to spare. Let’s check a few of these out.
Tip #1: Check in Online
While it’s, of course, still possible to check in for your flight at the airport, if you want to avoid having to wait in line for electronic check in for your flight, you can check in at home, usually within 24 hours of your scheduled departure. You can then either print out your boarding pass or use your phone to present the pass to the attendants. Either way, this will speed up your wait times at the airport.
Tip #2: Apply for Global Entry
This one’s specifically for international visitors to the United States. Between visas, passports, vaccinations and other entry requirements, there’s a lot of prep work that goes into visiting America. Not to mention waiting in line in the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Global Entry Program is designed to reduce this line for international travelers deemed low risk. Once you’re approved and have your Global Entry Card, you can just go straight to the Global Entry kiosks at the airport, scan your passport or U.S. permanent resident card, use the fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. You’ll get a transaction receipt and then you can simply head over to baggage claim and be on your way.
Tip #3: Download Travel Apps
Most major airlines will have their own travel apps. These apps make it easier to use mobile check in for your flight, select a new seat, and ultimately reduce wait times at the airport. When you download these apps, they’ll also send you real-time flight status updates including gate change information, baggage claim carousel location and more. Additionally, apps like MyTSA will tell you how long you can expect to wait in the security lines. While this can’t guarantee a short wait time in security, it can make it easier to time your arrival at the airport to the shorter wait times.
Tip #4: Get Ready for Electronic Bag Tags
Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines became the first airline in America to offer travelers electronic bag tags. Using just their mobile phone and an airline-specific electronic device available, Alaska Airlines passengers can now produce their own luggage tags from the comfort of their home. Baggage check couldn’t be easier. Now, electronic luggage tag technology may not be widely available within the U.S. yet, but it looks like travelers can expect to see other airlines offering a similar service.
Tip #5: Apply for TSA Precheck
The TSA’s Precheck program allows members to get through security faster because there are fewer requirements. For instance, members typically go through a metal detector rather than a body scanner, and they don’t need to remove belts, jackets, or shoes. Laptops also don’t need to be removed from their bags. According to the TSA, last month over 90% of precheck members made it through security in less than five minutes.
If there’s one thing travelers can count on it’s unpredictability, even at the airport. Every now and again you might still face the dreaded zigzagging security line, but if you use these tips, the whole airport check in procedure will go a lot faster. And remember, while we can’t guarantee your trip won’t hit a snag, we can guarantee that trip insurance from VisitorsCoverage will make it easier to deal when things don’t quite go your way.