1. Know how to get through security faster
Have your hand luggage packed strategically: put anything you know you’ll need to get out on top. So, laptop, toiletries of the right size in the right kind of bag. Slip off shoes. Minimise belts, fancy earrings and anything else that will trip up the security scanner. Be polite to the staff.
If you see the time slipping away, be bold, ask nicely and try to head to the front of the queue. Explain why, say you’re sorry and rely on people’s good nature! At some other point in life, do the same for someone else…let them go ahead of you.
– Abi King, Inside the Travel Lab
First, I recommend downloading the airline’s app so that your phone will receive notifications of any last minute gate changes.
I also recommend applying for Global Entry which includes TSA pre-check. If you are flying within the U.S., TSA pre-check will shorten the amount of time you spend going through security. If you are flying internationally, Global Entry will significantly cut your time going through customs. Several credit cards, such as American Express Platinum, will reimburse the $100 Global Entry application fee.
– Tamala Prickett, Chic Family Travels
In my experience you can never under estimate the power of TSA pre-check. I can’t tell you how many times I perfectly planned everything, left in time, and still got to security only to look on in dismay at the line I would never make it through in time to board my flight. Thanks to TSA pre-check I’ve made it through in plenty of time, and without the hassle of removing shoes, laptops, coats and more.
– Amy West, Amy West Travel
Invest in TSA pre-check, it saves an incredible amount of time. There’s nothing worse when you’re already in a rush and you finish checking in at the desk, only to look up to see a sea full of people in a giant security line. TSA pre-check gets you in and out in the blink of an eye and if you’re already in a rush and have checked in online, it gives you a peace of mind knowing you’ll be able to skip the mess in the general security line.
– Nastasia Yakoub, Dame Traveler
TripAdvisor tip: While TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry are available only to U.S. citizens, many countries have similar programs that expedite security, immigration and customs. Take a few minutes to look into these before your trip – it may save you a lot of time later on!
2. Give yourself a lot of extra time.
In many years of travels, I have missed several flights. Sometimes they were connecting flights I missed because I didn’t give myself enough layover time. Other times I was simply too distracted and didn’t read the boarding time carefully, like the time in Argentina when I kept thinking my flight was at 7:00 pm and it was actually at 17:00 (or 5:00 pm). When I arrived at the airport at 4:45, the check-in desk was closed and the boarding completed. And what about the time in Spain, last June, when I did not realize that my connecting flight was leaving from a different terminal which was 3 km away from the one where my previous flight had landed (considerably late)?
In order to never miss my flight I now do my best to give myself enough time in between flights: I’d rather get bored at duty free and try as many lipsticks and face creams as my face can tolerate, than have to run with my backpack and sweat through security. I also print and read the flight information, and try to memorize departure times. And I warn my family – they are great at remembering, so they will remind me too!
– Claudia Tavani, My Adventures Across the World
Leave PLENTY of time. More than you need. Look into airport lounges or bring a book with you in case you do end up early. But that’s oh-so-much-better than missing a flight.
– Abi King, Inside the Travel Lab
3. Make use of the airport lounge.
I’m a luxury traveler so I insist that travel be relaxed and pleasurable. No rushing through airports or worrying about getting there on time for me. I’d advise taking the time to get your paperwork done for TSA Precheck and CLEAR and then make sure that it’s included with each ticket so that you clear security rapidly. I also plan to spend an hour in the airport lounge relaxing prior to getting on the plane. Sometimes a little more…
– Carmen Edelson, Carmen’s Luxury Travel
To ensure you never miss a flight sign up for Priority Pass. Nobody really looks forward to sitting around in an airport, which is why so many people leave with JUST enough time to make their flight. Not smart. Instead Priority Pass gives you discounted lounge access, which makes being at the airport enjoyable. I’ll get there and have a meal, some wine and do work, which allows me to not feel like I’m wasting time by getting there early.
– Jessica Festa, Jessie on a Journey
4. Stay focused on your departure.
There’ve been a couple of instances where I lost track of time and almost missed my boarding due to airport shopping! So I now make sure to do this: after I check in and the agent advises me of the boarding time, the very first thing I do is set an alarm with sound and vibration, to 15 minutes before that time. I then put my phone in my pocket. I also make sure to only shop in areas near my boarding gate, or where I feel it’s feasible to make a frenzied dash!
– Jean Carmela Lim, Holy Smithereens<
Pack your own food! One of the biggest time wasters (and money wasters) is buying food at the airport. I invariably get hungry while traveling, and so I come prepared with snacks in my own bag which enables me to head straight to the gate. It doesn’t hurt that your own snacks are cheaper and healthier too!
– Emi Rigby, Well Traveled Wife
5. Trust the wisdom of crowds.
TripAdvisor tip: Looking for more advice from frequent fliers who’ve been there and done that? Try the TripAdvisor Air Travel Forum for the latest up-to-date info. You can even get answers to questions about specific airports or routes. And if you need even more information, we’ve launched Airline Reviews to help you choose the carrier that’s best for you and get helpful info such as baggage fees and amenities.