Flying can be stressful, expensive, and exhausting — but it doesn’t have to be.
We’ve rounded up the best tricks to make your next trip through the airport a breeze.
1. Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
Sign up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. The US Customs and Border protection pre-approval is basically a pre-flight upgrade, and will get you through security and onto the plane faster.
2. Book red-eye flights for an emptier airport
Long lines, crowded commutes, and traffic can be avoided by picking off-peak flights, especially overnight ones.
3. Use the Airport Parking Reservations app
Airport parking can be a harrowing experience — it’s expensive and you may have to spend hours driving around to find a spot. The Airport Parking Reservations app, which is focused on airport parking in the US, Canada and UK, takes the stress out of the experience by allowing you to book a spot through your phone, choose the most convenient one, and book it at up to a 70% discount.
4. Check the My TSA app
Get ahead of the game by checking current wait times and delays on My TSA. It will also help you find the shortest security line.
5. Or, pick the security line that’s all the way to the left
Research has found that because most people are right handed, they gravitate towards the right, leaving security lines on the left with fewer people.
6. Avoid any security line with more than one TSA agent
If all the lines are equally long, choose the one with only one lone TSA agent staring at the computer. If there are two, chances are that one of them is being trained, and that pretty much every item will be stopped as it goes through the x-ray.
7. Bring Ziploc bags
Instead of awkwardly pulling shampoos and lotions out of your dopp kit, keep liquids in a separate Ziploc to easily pull out of your carry on. Bring an extra one to throw in your keys, jewellery and change at security as well, rather than grappling with loose change on the other side, barefoot, while the guy behind you tries to push by.
8. Pack extra densely to sneak on fluids
This might be risky, but the denser you pack your bag (lots of shoes, cables and electronics), the harder it is to see details on the x-ray, meaning that you might be able to sneak a bottle of wine onboard. However, you also risk losing it.
9. Get liquids through security by freezing them
Ice is a solid, of course, so as long as liquids are frozen (make sure they don’t melt by the time you get to the airport), they should be fine with the TSA.
10. Or, bring an empty bottle
Another way of bypassing the exorbitant cost of water at the airport is to simply bring an empty bottle. All airports have water fountains, and most even have water bottle filling stations.
11. Take a screenshot of your mobile boarding pass
Mobile boarding passes can be fickle. Sometimes the app signs you out, sometimes it crashes, sometimes you just don’t have service. Take a screenshot of your boarding pass for easy access and to bypass any app related issues.
12. Avoid luggage cart fees
Most airports no longer charge for luggage carts, but should you find yourself in one of the few airports that does, head to the pickup area to find a few strays that people have abandoned when getting picked up. Bonus: Smarte Carte will give you a quarter for returning carts.
13. Be loyal to one airline
Loyalty to an airline, as well as frequent flyer and reward programs, will get you perks like upgrades, lounge access, and priority boarding.
14. Get the GateGuru app
Basically an airport bible, this app tracks departure and arrival times, estimates TSA checkpoint wait times, features terminal maps with ATMs, bathrooms, lounges, shops and restaurants, as well as reviews, and even helps with discounted Avis car rental bookings. You can also choose to get push notifications for real-time updates to your itinerary (like gate changes, security wait time changes, delays or layover time adjustments). Another fun feature is that the app stores your travel stats, keeping track of the airports you’ve visited, miles you’ve flown and how you compare to other users.
15. Download the AirGrub app
Aeroplane food is notoriously bad, but recently airports have been stepping up their game with award-winning chefs and famous restaurant chains. AirGrub allows you to order food from your phone, pay for it through the app, and pick it up to eat on the plane. All you need to do is enter your flight number to see what meals are available near your gate.
16. Sit near a lounge for free wi-fi
Adam Berry/Getty Images
This might not always work, but often at lounges the wi-fi signal is strong enough to extend beyond its doors, so sitting right outside of it may get you free wi-fi.
17. Check FourSquare for free wi-fi
Foursquare users not only post tips on the best meals, but often share wi-fi passwords.
18. Try and get into the lounge for free
Most lounges allow members to bring in a non-member. If you’re friendly enough, you might be able to convince someone entering the lounge to sign you in as well.
19. Download the LoungeBuddy app
A handful of credit cards, like the Visa Black Card, Chase Ink Plus, Citi Prestige, and American Express Platinum, to name a few, either include free lounge access or a certain number of day passes a year. The LoungeBuddy app will not only help you figure out what lounges you can access by analysing your itinerary, credit cards and loyalty status, but also maps out what lounges are nearby, as well as traveller’s reviews of lounges around the world.
20. Or, treat yourself to a lounge pass
Most airport lounges sell day passes, and others aren’t affiliated with airlines at all. While these passes can be pricey (though buying them online in advance is usually a lot cheaper), if you have a lot of time to kill you might end up saving money, since access to the lounge includes wi-fi and food, both of which are notoriously expensive at airports.
21. Bring an outlet splitter
There are never ever enough outlets at airports, so bring your own outlet splitter and make some new friends.
22. Know where to get some shuteye
Airport chapels are a good place to find some peace and quiet, but if you’re looking to catch some zzzs, check Sleepinginairports.net for the best places to sleep at airports around the world.
23. Never wait in line to get rebooked
If your flight gets cancelled or there’s a really long delay, you’ll find yourself in a stampede heading towards the help desk. Instead of following the herd, get on the phone with your airline ASAP. Get even more of an edge by pre-programming their numbers into your phone, because when a flight with hundreds of people gets cancelled, every second counts. The person on the phone can do everything the gate agent can, and may even have more options for rebooking. Plus, you get to skip the line. That said, the line is often worth it for food and hotel vouchers, should they be giving those out.
24. Tweet airlines
Arguing with some poor, stressed out gate agent will never do you any good, but we’ve found that airlines are super responsive to social media, especially tweets. As long as you’re polite, tweeting at airlines might get you some extra perks.
25. Don’t be afraid to ask for things
Always ask for upgrades — the worst that can happen is a polite rebuffal.
26. Dress nicely
We’re not talking three-piece suit here, but ditching the sweats can help score upgrades. When AirFareWatchdog.com founder George Hobica asked a gate agent directly whether they’d be more likely to upgrade someone who was dressed well, the answer was, “Yes, the better dressed you are, the more likely you are to nab that seat. I am not going to put someone wearing flip-flops up front with our best customers.”