According to a 2017 Statista survey of U.S. adults, more than 40% of Americans fly at least once every six months. In addition, 20% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 fly at least once every month.
Flying can be fun but also frustrating. It can be especially stressful to navigate the airport — getting through security, finding your gate, hunting down snacks. Whether you are a regular jet-setter heading off on another vacation or preparing for a business trip, avoiding certain common mistakes could help make it your best journey yet.
Not Applying For Pre-Check
Navigating through airport security checkpoints can be the most time-consuming and unpleasant part of a trip. If you are approved for a TSA Pre-Check membership, you could skip the long lines and keep your shoes on. Although it is $85 for a five-year membership, several credit cards and membership programs let you apply free of charge.
Not Downloading The Airline’s App
Not Checking In Online
When you arrive at the airport, you can check in for your flight with an airline representative or at a self-service kiosk. Or you can skip the lines and check in before you ever get to the airport. Most airlines allow ticketholders to check in on their websites or using their apps as early as 24 hours in advance.
Paying To Park
Not only is parking at the terminal pricey, it is stressful as well. You have to remember where you parked, find your way to the correct terminal and then plunk down a hefty chunk of change after you return from your trip.
Not Giving Yourself Enough Time
Waiting until the last minute to do something is rarely a good idea, and this is especially true when leaving to catch a flight. Check with the airport for recommendations on when to arrive and allow for unforeseen issues, such as traffic jams, car problems or going to the wrong gate. Make sure you have sufficient time between connecting flights, as well.
Not Printing Your Itinerary
Sure, it’s convenient to pull everything up on your phone. But what if your phone dies or you (gasp!) lose it? Having a hardcopy of your important details could save you a great deal of trouble and strife.
Forgetting Your Water Bottle
Carry an empty reusable water bottle in your carry-on or on your person. While you cannot bring a full bottle through security, you can fill up an empty bottle at any drinking fountain. Quench your thirst without paying airport prices — or use a little-known hack to legally carry a full bottle with you: Freeze them!
Not Packing Snacks
Wearing Stylish Shoes
While shoes can make a statement, stick with comfort and ease with footwear when flying. Unless you have TSA Pre-Check, you are going to have to remove them and get them back on again. For this reason, socks are also advisable so you don’t have to go barefoot on the airport floor. Plus, it’s simply nice to wear comfy shoes while traveling.
Wearing Uncomfortable Clothing
You probably won’t have to take off much more than your shoes, but it is still wise to dress comfortably when flying. As you could go from warm to chilly and back throughout your trip, layers are ideal. Loose-fitting clothes could help prevent loss of circulation. Choosing something with pockets will help you stow a cell phone or boarding pass between check-in and boarding the plane.
Checking Your Meds
If you take prescription medications, keeping them in your carry-on or purse is a good idea. If you experience a layover or your baggage is misplaced, you won’t have to worry about being without them. Even medically required liquids are allowed, although these will be subject to additional screening.
Bringing Wrapped Gifts
Having a thoughtful present at the ready when visiting family or friends is sweet. But don’t gift-wrap those items before heading to the airport. If your gift triggers an alarm, TSA officers will unwrap it. Tuck it into a gift bag or bring it unwrapped instead.
Not Checking Beverages
Toting a celebratory bottle of bubbly might seem like a fun way to greet those you are visiting. However, if you carry the bottle with you, you will have to kiss it goodbye as it will end up in the TSA trash bin. You can, however, tuck a bottle into your checked bag in original, unopened packaging.
Leaving Reading Materials At Home
Browsing the pages of a magazine or diving into a novel is a wonderful way to pass the time while traveling. Bring something to read with you rather than paying steep airport prices. It’s a great way to save your phone’s battery, as well, and to give you something to do if your plane doesn’t have WiFi.
Packing Everything In Your Checked Bags
While it is smart to pack things that can’t go through security, there are several items that you should keep in your carry-on. If your baggage ends up elsewhere or you have a layover, you will be thankful to have a change of clothing and some basic toiletries. Cash, hotel info and anything else you need to feel comfortable are also important.
Not Letting Kids Take Carry-Ons
Chances are good that everyone in your group is allowed to bring a carry-on bag, including your littlest travelers. Packing carry-ons for your kids with a change of clothing (or two), a light jacket, snacks and some form of entertainment will undoubtedly come in handy. Use a backpack kids can wear or a wheeled bag they can roll.
Not Weighing Your Bags
Getting to the airport only to find your luggage is overweight can really sour your trip. Find out the airline’s weight limits long before you leave and weigh your packed bags in advance. You can find affordable luggage scales online, purchase a bag with a built-in scale or even weigh bags on your bathroom scale.
Not Tagging Your Bags
Once you land, you likely want to grab your luggage and go. Make it easier by labeling your bags properly. Add a tag with your name, destination address and phone number where you can be reached; place a paper with the same info inside your bag on top of your belongings. Add some fluorescent stickers or a vivid piece of cloth tied to the handle to help you spot your baggage quickly.
If you are bringing your best jewelry to wear at a special event, you might think packing it in your checked luggage is safest. However, items such as cash, important documents, sentimental objects or fine jewelry could be lost, stolen or irreparably damaged. Carry precious items with you instead.
Forgetting Proof Of Onward Travel
If you are not sure when you will return or are hoping to find a last-minute deal, you might purchase one-way tickets for your flight. However, some countries require that you show proof of onward travel upon arrival to prevent people illegally staying in the country permanently.
Booking a return flight is the best way to do so; if you are uncertain of dates, purchase a refundable ticket. A travel agent could also help by providing an itinerary for you to offer.
Not Updating Your ID
If your passport is close to expiring, it might not be accepted. In addition, your current driver’s license might not be accepted as identification as of 2020. Making sure your ID is up to date could prevent a major airport mishap.
Forgetting A Travel Consent Letter
Traveling with kiddos can be challenging, but it could get downright difficult if you are not prepared. If you’re traveling outside of the United States with your child but without your child’s other parent, obtain a notarized letter giving permission to travel with the child before you leave. If there is no second, custodial parent, carry other documentation, such as custody order.
Not Asking For An Upgrade
Flying first-class might seem out of reach, but it could be more accessible than you think. Sometimes all it takes is asking airline personnel to consider you if a seat becomes available. Other times, you might strike a deal when a plane is full and the airline is asking if anyone would be willing to take a later flight. Loyalty programs could net you a first-class reward, as well.
Using Public Wi-Fi
Many airports offer free Wi-Fi, which can be tempting to use. You can pass the time scrolling through social media, checking emails or working on your vacation budget. However, as with any public Wi-Fi, it is imperative to be cautious. Avoid logging into sites that could give cybercriminals access to your personal or financial information. Using your mobile network might be a safer option.
Not Checking Your Batteries
There are regulations on the quantities and types of spare batteries that are allowed in carry-on and checked baggage. In addition, you might have limited access to electrical outlets to charge your phone or other devices. Making sure everything is fully charged before you head to the airport could ward off some major headaches.