Most vacations will begin with a trip to the airport. My hometown airport, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Airport, is one of the nation’s largest, moving record numbers of passengers each year. Terminals have been updated to offer more restaurants and shops, but, still, who wants to be stuck at the airport longer than necessary?
There are many things you can do to make your airport stay a better experience. All of these things involve thinking through the process in advance, and apply to most airports, not just DFW.
I’ve previously written about the advantages of TSA-pre and Global Entry. Qualifying and subscribing to these airport programs will help speed you through the metal detectors. I highly recommend doing this, but you need to plan in advance as you cannot enroll on the spot. “Clear” is another airport program that might be good for you. This allows a computer to recognize who you are without showing your government-issued ID. Again, it’s by subscription and you have to plan ahead to get it.
That brings me to the first thing to do before you get to the airport. Take out your ID and have it ready in your pocket along with your boarding pass. Put everything else normally in your pockets in your carry-on baggage.
Also, you might consider wearing slip-on shoes to the airport — especially if you don’t have TSA-pre or Global Entry — as you are likely to have to take your shoes off to go through security. Even if you have TSA-pre or Global Entry, the lines for these services are sometimes out of service and you will have to take your shoes and jackets off and segregate liquids. When you are in the air, your feet expand, so slip on shoes are also good on the plane because you can easily slip them off if your feet are hurting.
Many people have their cellphones set to connect to WiFi automatically. But be aware that the free airport WiFi offered is not secure. Do not transmit any personal information while connected to them. You also expose all the information on your cellphone to hacking if you connect to one of these free networks. I suggest that you don’t use the free WiFi at all unless you have a VPN program installed on your cellphone.
Don’t count on there being any food on the flight that you would want to eat. Frequently, there are snacks for sale, but they do run out. So, if you think you will be hungry, plan ahead and bring some snacks. I don’t recommend bringing fried or greasy foods on board as they smell and may offend your fellow passengers. If you have access to an airport lounge, check its hours and head that way for a more pleasant waiting experience.
At the boarding gate, if the gate agent offers to check your bag for free, you should do it. This takes planning ahead so you have the things from your bag that you might want to use during the flight segregated in a separate satchel. But it’s much more convenient to grab your bag as you debark the plane than to have to find space and lift it into and out of overhead storage on board.
Some preparation for flights should take place before you get to the airport. First, you should always check in online. This saves time waiting for a boarding pass at the airport. If you do this, you will have your boarding pass with your ID ready before you even arrive at the airport.
Second, you should download the cellphone app for the airline you are flying as many airlines deliver on-board entertainment only via their app. Since I don’t recommend using airport WiFi, doing this ahead of time on your own safe network is important. With the airline app, you can also check delays, view the flight progress and see arrival information.
With a little bit of planning ahead, you will make your airport experience much more palatable. Happy flying.