The true test of any traveler is the ability to survive the human-holding pen that is the airport. Pricey food, long queues and delayed flights can make your airport experience a tad miserable and overshadow your holiday excitement.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can hack your way to a better travel experience before you even set foot on the plane and minimize those inevitable airport stresses. From lounges, parking and comfy clothes here are my top airport hacks that will allow you to travel like a pro.
Treat yourself to the lounge life
Airport lounges aren’t just for the traveling elite, they can be surprisingly affordable if booked in advance. Lounges offer a little slice of serenity in a busy and crowded airport.
You can wait for your flight in a relaxing atmosphere while enjoying free Wi-Fi, drinks, snacks and newspapers. Some of the swankier lounges even offer showers, spa services and a la carte dining.
The lounge life doesn’t have to cost a small fortune, you can snap up great deals if you book ahead or buy a yearly membership. Also, be sure to check your credit card rewards, as some credit cards include complimentary access to lounges.
Bring your own food
Food in the airport is nearly always outrageously expensive, so why not beat the system by packing a selection of snacks to eat before you board?
Pack an eco-friendly lunch box full of delicious snacks and treats and you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save. Remember to pack dry snacks such as chips, nuts, cereal bars and chocolate, so that they make it through security.
A word of caution though, from experience, it can sometimes be tricky to find appropriate seating for snacking. Many food outlets understandably won’t let you use their tables for your own snacks. This, unfortunately, means you might find yourself having a picnic in your lap in departures.
Wear comfy clothes
If you aren’t attempting to snag a flight upgrade by dressing smart, ditch the airport fashionista look and opt for comfy clothes instead. Layers are your friend in an airport with overly aggressive air conditioning. You can add or remove, tops, jumpers, cardigans and coats while also saving on luggage space.
Don’t be afraid to pack a onesie in your hand luggage for when you need that extra bit of warmth. I’ve seen many shameless travelers wandering around with bleary eyes in their pj’s at 4 a.m. in the airport, so it’s clearly an accepted practice.
Be eco-friendly and bring a reusable water bottle
Save money and reduce your plastic waste by traveling with a reusable water bottle on your next trip. Many airports now have refill stations in departures, so you can save money on pricey bottled water. You’ll also be doing your part to reduce single-use plastics. Reward your eco-efforts immediately with a large slice of cake, you’ve earned it.
Are you off on a short break? Try and take just a cabin bag if you can, you’ll be able to whiz through the airport and avoid the long lines at the check-in desk. The key to great travel packing is to look stylish while not overpacking and saving space in your luggage. Make sure to also pick a lightweight case on wheels for optimal airport navigation. You’ll also be able to breeze around your new destination with ease.
Bringing a laptop? Make sure it’s in an easy-to-access place so you don’t have to rummage around your case in the security queue to retrieve it.
Book your airport parking in advance
Driving to the airport? Keep your car secure and safe while you are on your travels by booking airport parking. There is a large range of airport parking options and you should take the time to research the best one for you. A little forward planning can also save you time, money and stress. Choose from official airport car parks, meet and greet, park and ride and hotel parking.
The key to all of these options is to book well in advance. If you turn up to park on the day of your flight, you are going to get charged an eye-watering amount. Instead, book ahead of time and you could save up to 70% on airport parking. I would recommend checking out parking deals on price comparison sites to see what works best for you.
Another top tip is to take a picture of your parking spot and any identifying signage before rushing off to the terminal. This will save you so much time when you return and are able to locate your vehicle with ease.
Bring portable chargers
If you are an avid Instagrammer like me, having a portable charger for your devices can be a lifesaver when you are low on juice and there are no available power outlets at the airport. Keep all your devices charged when you are on the go by investing in a semi-decent portable charger. You can compare models and prices on tech sites to see which is the best option for you.
Carry your own wet wipes
Wet wipes are a multi-purpose godsend in an airport, especially right now. They can be used to freshen up, remove makeup and wipe down spaces in public areas. You can even buy travel-sized packs and save space in your hand luggage.
Have a pack of anti-bacterial wipes at close access and you can give water fountains, food trays and restroom handles a little wipe down before you use them and have extra peace of mind.
Get your travel documents in order
Always have your passport and boarding card in a safe and easy-to-access place in your hand luggage. This will save you from emptying out your bag on the floor or having a complete meltdown that you have left them at the airport bar.
Also, be sure to carry printed copies of any car rental confirmation, hotel reservations, resort transfer details in case your phone dies, or if you are asked to show these details to airport staff. If you have any visas or documentation for your trip, I recommend you organize it into an easily accessible travel wallet and keep it somewhere safe!
Take a photo of your suitcase
One of the simplest and most effective airport hacks is simply taking a snap of your suitcase.
Having a photo of your luggage on your phone will come in handy in the dreaded case of lost luggage. A further tip is to try and have a case that stands out or has easily identifiable features. This will reduce the chances of someone else accidentally taking your case home instead of theirs.
Travel journalist and host of the Travel Goals Podcast