If you follow my blog, you might know that I used to move around airports like a track and field athlete. I strongly disliked waiting at airports and would always end up having to rush through security and to the gate. Yes, I was that person literally running to catch flights.
And it wasn’t uncommon for me to miss flights (and act all salty because sometimes the plane would still be at the gate with the boarding gate closed — the worst!).
This was my norm, but I’ve learned some hacks to travel seamlessly, and without having to slide into home plate at airport gates (lol). Here they are:
Hack 1: Early Check-in
Most airlines allow you to check-in to your flight within 24 hours in advance of the flight. This is a simple online confirmation process that generally should take less than 1-2 minutes, and you typically get access to your boarding pass to either download onto your mobile device or print at home.
Note: Some airlines require you to download or print your boarding pass in advance. Otherwise, they charge a fee to print your boarding pass at the airport. I experienced this especially with certain airlines abroad (outside of the US).
Early check-in is a simple process that can be a huge time-saver when you arrive at the airport. For one, if you don’t have luggage to check, you can head straight to the security gate. If you do have luggage, you can normally go straight to the “baggage drop-off” lane.
Early check-in normally allows you to avoid the general check-in line altogether!
Another major benefit of early check-in is that some airlines will provide a checklist of sorts to make sure you have the necessary documents to travel to your specific destination. For example, some countries require certain verifications (e.g., of immunizations) or documentation, such as evidence of a return ticket. The early check-in process can increase the opportunity for such information to be flagged for you, so that there are no surprises when you arrive at the airport that could potentially cause you to miss your flight.
Hack 2: TSA PreCheck
TSA PreCheck is a must if you are a frequent traveler. I was initially wary to go through the process, feeling like I had to give up too much personal information, but then I realized it’s more or less confirming information that’s already known. Ha, but in real life. And it’s all good.
TSA PreCheck allows you to skip the general security line and go through a designated fast track TSA PreCheck lane. In addition, the TSA PreCheck security process is less strenuous — no need to remove your laptop, liquids or shoes. These perks sometimes save a whole heap of time!
To take advantage of your TSA PreCheck, it must show on your mobile or printed boarding pass. Therefore, you need to add your assigned TSA PreCheck number (called your Known Traveller Number) in the designated area when you book your flight reservation. See below example.
If you miss this step, you can call the airline and ask them to add your Known Traveler Number / TSA PreCheck to the reservation; and print/download your boarding pass after you’ve done so.
Note again: The key step is to have the language “TSA PreCheck” on your boarding pass (see below examples).
Example 1: Printed Boarding Pass w/ TSA PreCheck ✅
Example 2: Mobile Boarding Pass w/ TSA PreCheck ✅
Always double-check your boarding pass to make sure your TSA PreCheck designation is added. Otherwise, the TSA security agents will normally make you go through the regular security line.
If you do not add your Known Traveler Number to your boarding documents prior to arriving at the airport, you’ll have to provide your Known Traveler Number to the check-in agent and have them (re)print your boarding pass. In either case, it’s best to keep your Known Traveler Number handy.
BONUS: Several credit cards now include TSA PreCheck (and Global Entry) as a part of their travel perks. So check with your card to see whether your application fees are covered! Or you might consider choosing a travel card that includes this perk.
Here’s the simple 3-step TSA PreCheck application process from TSA.gov:
“1. Apply Online
Select an enrollment provider with enrollment locations near you. Submit your TSA PreCheck application online in as little as 5 minutes.
2. Visit an Enrollment Location
Attend a 10 minute appointment at your chosen provider that includes fingerprinting, document and photo capture, and payment.
3. Get Your TSA PreCheck Number
Once approved, get your Known Traveler Number (KTN), add it to your airline reservations and start saving time in screening.”
Ready to sign up for TSA PreCheck? I suggest to first check whether any credit cards you have or intend to get cover the cost of TSA Pre-Check. If not, click here to access the online application.
Hack 3: Airport Lounges
Airport lounges are clutch! They can be especially useful on long layovers (for example, if you need to rest/shower or desire a beverage / some refreshments), and certain lounge access also includes access to other airport amenities, such as spas, gaming centers, restaurants, shops and more!
For example, in 2020, I had an especially long and overnight layover in Kiev, Ukraine. I considered going out for a night on the town to explore Kiev but was completely tired and needed to reset. Not a problem. I had access to several airport lounges in Kiev, including one that was 24 hours and had showers.
Photos taken at Boryspil International Airport - Kiev, Ukraine
I’ve now made it a habit to check for lounge access when I travel. Sometimes, even a 10 minute stop in for a beverage or snack is nice, especially if you’re flying with a “nickel-and-dime" carrier. Better yet, a quick complimentary manicure or chair/foot massage is definitely always in order.
And just know that Hacks 1 & 2 will give you more time to enjoy all the comforts of airport lounges (Hack 3) and other complimentary amenities! #TravelLux
Wanna learn more about airport lounges, check out "Travel Tip: Level Up Your Travel Game with Airport Lounges."
These three travel hacks have made my travels so much easier and more enjoyable. Hopefully, using one or all three will help you travel more seamlessly too!
See Yaa, Airport Gliders (not runners!) & Luxe Travelers! 💎 #Levels