Sometimes, it is good to have a refresher.
Here's how to simplify the entire experience, so being at the airport is a (slightly) more pleasure experience. Let's make that pre-departure experience stress-free as possible.
From loading all the essential documents on a phone to paying attention to the boarding time, there is something for everyone here, even if you are a seasoned pro running through the gate... or haven't stepped on a plane in 2 years?
Here is a quick review of the things that will just make everything easier.
Have medical documents ready.
In the end, it really doesn't matter if it is a domestic or international flight, it is best to be as completely prepared as possible.
In fact, take a picture or scan any essential documents you may need (like ID!), including medical records, and load it onto Dropbox or an electronic device like a phone. It’s not only great for travel, but for life!
Bring the original too, though keep it in a safe place. Better safe than sorry.
For those looking for vaccine certificates, a healthcare provider that provided the vaccine would be the best place to obtain a copy.
Sign up for TSA PreCheck and/or CLEAR.
PreCheck is the government expedited security option, CLEAR is the privately run option.
Though there are a few differences between TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, it certainly doesn’t hurt to join either. If you don’t have much time to complete the government process for PreCheck, CLEAR has the quickest process (almost millennial fast) and by far, may be the easiest option.
Even though CLEAR is typically more expensive that TSA PreCheck, the service is also offering 2 months free for new members using code 2FREE.
It is also possible to have both TSA PreCheck and CLEAR for the fastest, most upgraded, seamless security process possible. That’s super traveler status!
Place liquids in an exterior pocket.
It doesn’t matter even if you do have super traveler status.
Placing the liquids in an exterior pocket is just smart business. Security personnel are well within their right to inspect baggage at any given time.
If it's not possible to place liquids in an outside pocket, consider putting it in a place where they are easy to grab from the bag. The other option is to make sure that it is the last thing placed inside the suitcase on top of your clothes and other belongings.
This will make it easy to access if TSA staff need to see it, and save everyone behind you in line a mountain of headache.
Check in online beforehand.
The advantages of checking in online far, far outweigh any disadvantages.
By checking in online, passengers can see if there has been any issue with the flight, if an airplane swap has occured, do seat selection, receive an electronic boarding pass and see the boarding time.
It is always possible to speak to a live, real person if there issues afterwards.
There’s almost no reason not to do this.
By speaking to a gate agent, most people are effectively asking someone else to do what they could have done themselves (and it’s the same electronic system!).
(For what it’s worth, it’s also possible to *check out* of a reservation, for whatever reason.)
Know thy airline ticket number and confirmation.
If you booked through a third-party website, please be aware that the Booking.com/Expedia/Priceline confirmation is most likely NOT the same as the airline confirmation. The airline confirmation code is the one that you want.
Confirmation codes are used to look up ticket numbers, but it’s handy to keep both pieces of information on file.
If you are only tracking one number, the ticket number is the one that is the most important.
The ticket number is usually a 13-digit number—it is usually a long string of numbers—and is often preceded by a # sign in the emails. If not, it is sometimes displayed on the boarding pass or somewhere along the check-in process.
An example of an actual ticket number is #2792126123385.
By contrast, the confirmation code is usually 6 characters and a combination of letters and numbers. Sample confirmation codes are FLY123; SMIAHC.
Look at the boarding time.
Truly, this is the only time that matters.
The flight departure time is often misleading because the gate often closes 15 to 20 minutes before the departure time. Meaning, even if the airplane door closes, and the plane is still sitting on the tarmac, you can kiss that flight goodbye. 😘
By paying attention to the boarding time (and gate closing) time, you will have a better idea of how to time your arrival to the airport and how to manage the security process.