Traveling can be really stressful, especially when you have to worry about dealing with the airport. Checking in can take forever, going through security is such a pain, and remembering a few simple things can turn your trip from a nightmare into a relaxing vacation.
1. Empty your bags before packing.
Airport security has some strict guidelines to keep passengers and crew safe. Make sure to empty out all bags you are bringing with you before you pack for your trip. It would be very unfortunate if a pair of scissors or liquid got you in trouble when going through security. Extra checks (especially if security finds any weapons or liquids) can make you late for your flight, or even get the police involved depending on the item. It's much better to make sure everything against airport regulations are out of your bags beforehand.
2. Pack light.
Don't "check" a bag if you don't have to. This requires getting to the airport sooner, standing in a line, and giving them your bag(s) to be under the plane. After your flight, you claim your baggage, but you have to wait for it to be unloaded. If you can fit all of your stuff into a personal item like a backpack and a bag to be stowed overhead in the plane, like a duffle bag, you will save a lot of time! If you don't check a bag, it is very easy to print your boarding pass at home or use a kiosk machine at the airport to avoid spending time in a long line.
3. Invest in a neck pillow.
They may look silly, but they are amazing. Especially for those long flights, neck pillows are the best for airplanes when you just can't seem to get comfortable. Airports sell them, but it's always cheaper to buy one somewhere else beforehand. They are also easy to bring because it isn't necessary to fit it into your bag (even though you could, since they are small). These pillows can be worn around the neck, or attached to a bag, so why not let it tag along?
4. Bring gum.
A lot of people have difficulty popping their ears on the plane. Gum can really help by making sure you don't have that issue. This is usually a great idea if you're bringing kids on the plane, too, because it can be a form of entertainment -- a way to get some quiet time! Speaking of...
5. Bring entertainment.
The airport can be really boring, and so can planes. You'll be waiting around for most of this time, so be prepared to entertain yourself. Bringing electronics, chargers, homework, books, and other forms of entertainment is a really good idea. And don't forget your headphones! It can be expensive to buy these items at the airport, so come prepared.
6. Food and water are a must.
You can bring snacks to the airport in your bag. Security doesn't care about food items (as long as it is solid). You can also bring a bottle to fill with water once through security (there just can't be any liquid in it beforehand). Food and drinks at the airport can be expensive, so by bringing your own, you'll save money and ensure that you have something you like.
7. Don't forget your ID.
You will need your ID to check in and to get through security. You may also need it if you are 21+ for alcoholic beverages in the airport or on the plane. It's a good idea to make sure you have it before getting to the airport and make sure it's kept somewhere accessible to avoid holding up a line or making yourself late.
8. Weigh your bag ahead of time.
All airlines have a specific weight limit for the bag you are checking to go beneath the plane. Check beforehand to determine that weight limit by weighing your bag on a scale before heading to the airport. It's a frantic struggle to repack and reorganize your luggage at the front of the line with people waiting behind you, so it's a good idea to do this before you leave home.
9. Familiarize yourself with the security process.
If you want to bring anything liquid on a plane, you have to have it checked properly, no matter how small it is. All liquids brought on the plane have to be 3.5 ounces or less, and they have to be put specifically into a quart-sized plastic bag. This bag of liquids has to be taken out of your bag during security and be put into a plastic bin to be scanned. When I go to the airport, I use three bins: one for my laptop, one for my jacket and shoes, and one for my liquids. Laptops have to go alone in a bin. Knowing this and reading the signs going through security is a good way to know what you're doing and speed up the process for everyone. P.S. Remember to take your belt off and everything out of your pockets (it might be easier to wear leggings to the airport!).
10. Arrive early.
It can be hard to be on time, especially when you're dealing with family getting you to the airport. It's important to arrive early to avoid missing your flight due to getting stuck in a line. Getting to the airport an hour before boarding can reduce any unnecessary stress caused by rushing to your flight. Get there even earlier close to holidays when the airport will be frantic. You might end up waiting around at the gate, but that's just more time to go to the restroom and get some food and a drink for your flight!
It may feel like there are a lot of rules for flying, but it's all for the safety of everyone. The rules and regulations for specific airlines can be found on each airline's website if you're unsure about anything. Flying can be fun if you're prepared and not stressed!