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20 airport hacks that will improve your travel experience

Travel advice

21st January, 2019

Let’s face it, the airport is probably the least inspiring part of the holiday. It’s a place of tight rules, regulations and restrictions, which although provide some peace of mind for your safety and security, can be a bit of an ordeal.

Escaping the airport code of conduct is of course not possible, but there is a list of things you can do, to make your airport experience a more pleasant one. From tips on avoiding delays between check-in and take-off, to tricks on being more organised with your belongings, here is a list of practical airport hacks, that will improve your travel experience.

1. Check into a hotel before a red-eye flight

If you’re flying overnight, or during the very early hours of the morning, you may want to consider booking an airport hotel. This avoids having to get up and travel to the airport during the night, when you are tired.

2. Take a photo of your parking spot

If you have booked airport parking, take a photo of your parking spot or bay, so you can identify where your car is when you arrive back in the UK. Airport car parks are quite sizeable. Knowing where to get off your shuttle bus will save you the pain of wandering aimlessly around parking zones – more common that you think in the dark!

3. Check in online before you fly

Checking in online might mean a bit of administration beforehand, but it saves you from having to queue up to check in when you get to the airport. Some airlines just have a bag drop service for any luggage going in the hold.

4. Download and print your boarding pass

If you are flying with an airline that doesn’t send flight tickets, you can download and print your boarding pass during your online check-in process. Having this to hand when you go through security will save waiting in long lines to get your boarding pass.

5. Personalise your luggage

You may think you can recognise your luggage, but many a wrong case has been picked up at airports by people with similar cases. Unfortunately, this usually comes to light long after both parties have left the airport. Mark your luggage with something easily unidentifiable, such as brightly coloured ribbon. You can do this with your carry-on bag too.

6. Pre-pack your liquids in a clear bag

Whilst airports do provide clear plastic bags to put your liquids into, some charge £1 for these. It can also be a faff trying to find a surface to empty your washbag and repack your liquids. Some people try doing this on-the-go and end up dropping everything. If you have your liquids pre-packed in a clear bag in your hand luggage, you can just retrieve it and avoid delays.

7. Take an empty bottle

You can’t take bottled water through security, but you can bring an empty water bottle to fill up, once you are the other side of the security checkpoint. This saves you having to buy water at the airport.

8. Have any electronic devices within easy reach

Laptops and electronic devices need to be scanned separately when going through airport security. Make sure these are well-protected and are easily retrievable so you’re not scrambling around trying to find these. Ensure all devices are switched off.

9. Avoid wearing belts and heavy jewellery

Heavy metals, such as buckles, watches and bracelets will set off the detector when you walk through the scanner. This is time consuming for you and others in the queue. You can remove these items whilst you queue but putting them loosely in a tray can result in forgetting them the other side. It’s often easier just to pack them in your case and put them on at your destination.

10. Remove batteries from devices

If you are taking any battery-operated devices with you, such as toothbrushes, remove the batteries from them before you pack your case. Items can sometimes switch themselves on and cause a security alert. This goes for both hand luggage and checked in luggage. Airport security will not compromise safety just to ensure you don’t miss your flight.

11. Clearly mark your medicines

If you have a condition that requires you to take your medication with you, you will need to take this in your hand luggage and ensure it is clearly unidentifiable. Ensure you keep it in the dispenser or container it was prescribed in, to avoid any suspicion that could result in delays.

12. Take a portable charger

Many of us understand the annoyance of the short battery life of an Apple device. If you are planning on using a device at the airport or during your flight, you may wish to boost your device’s battery life by taking a portable charger that is ‘powered up’ ahead of your trip. Finding an outlet with a free table next to a plug socket is a gamble.

13. Use little bags to store important items

With the size restrictions on hand-luggage, carry on cases can sometimes be a little overpacked. This makes it difficult to retrieve travel documents, money and phones quickly. As suggested by Joanna Lumley on part four of her Silk Road adventure, you can use little bags to store important items in. These are much easier to spot.

14. Avoid listening to loud music

If you are listening to your headphones at the airport, ensure you can still hear important announcements such as boarding calls, flight delays or gate changes. Many a traveller has missed their flight by being completely zoned out!

15. Book an airport lounge

Airports are often a place of long lines of people, whether that be queues for the bar, queues for the duty free or queues for the bathrooms. Avoid all of this chaos by booking holiday extras such as an airport lounge, where you can get a guaranteed seat and enjoy food and drinks served at a relaxed pace.

16. Locate your gate and distance to it

We are all accustomed to the process of finding out which gate your flight leaves from and when it opens, but sometimes that gate can be further away than we anticipated. Some gates might be accessed via a shuttle, or several sets of escalators or lifts. Ask an airport official how long it will take to get to your gate. Book airport assistance if you have difficulties with mobility.

17. Don’t rush to board

If you have pre-booked your flight seats, there is no need to rush to get on the plane. Ultimately you all end up in the same place, so it’s better to sit back and relax until the queue goes down and then board the plane when most people have already taken their seats. If you do find there is limited space for your hand luggage, speak to the cabin crew who will usually have a shift around.

18. Pack snacks for your flight

Whilst refreshments are available on board, this is limited to specific times. Having your own snacks gives you control over your consumption should you feel peckish when the trolley is out of service or right up the other end of the aircraft. Snacks are really helpful on long haul flights, especially if you are eating at specific times to beat jetlag.

19. Layer up

The temperature on a flight can vary – it can be quite warm when you first board or when you land in a hot country, but it can also get quite chilly at high altitude, especially with the air-conditioning blowing through the cabin. Your flying attire should consist of layers which you can put on or take off accordingly. Cardigans and jumpers or coats can also double us as blankets.

20. Take a blow-up pillow

Planes are not the easiest places to sleep on. Seats do recline, and the head rests often fold in to give you a surface to lean against, but they are not brilliant and still allow your head to roll around. Take a lightweight inflatable pillow that you can easily pack into your hand luggage and inflate/deflate as required.

We hope you enjoy your flight!

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.