Having worked in the aviation business for 17 years, from starting at the check-in counter to becoming a senior cabin crew and now managing our personnel department, I have definitely seen my fair share of delays, long wait times and airport stress. So far this year I’ve traveled once a month, some for business, some for vacation, and of course I’ve noticed the difference not only in the travel logistics, but also in the travelers themselves. In the pre-pandemic era, most of us were used to jumping on a plane like a bus and not thinking about anything, but now we have to either remember processes, adapt to new requirements, or both.
All our colleagues at the stations and on the plane work tirelessly with great kindness and professionalism to extract as many negative experiences as possible. To further help relieve those stressful situations and save time, here are some helpful hacks every traveler should know.
Do your homework
Make sure before heading to the airport that you are aware of the latest passport, visa and vaccination requirements for the place you are traveling to. Chances are, things have changed since the last time you flew, and the last thing you want to do is get stuck at check-in just to be denied boarding.
Check entry requirements a few days before you travel
As restrictions and face mask rules are relaxed around the world, as we’ve learned before, things can change quickly, sometimes with minimal notice. So not only is it worth checking the country entry requirements a few weeks before you travel, you also need to check them again a few days before you travel, and even a day before your trip just to be sure.
Print your documents
It may seem easier to travel with e-tickets and certificates downloaded to your phone, but in this current climate, taking a hard copy of your documents is actually faster. When I travel now, I always have everything I need printed and stored in a transparent wallet. Whether it’s a check-in agent or an immigration officer, I can just hand them the wallet and everything is there, instead of going through different emails or files on my phone. With paper documents, especially if there is a delay, it also bypasses worrying about a dying phone battery.
Packs via bags
This is old advice, but if you’re traveling as a couple or as a family, avoid carrying single bags. By packing your things into two or more bags, it means that if you lose one bag, you still have at least some clothes to use until you are reunited.
Know your airline’s hand baggage allowance and actually stick to it
Many travelers don’t want to risk checking anything in the booking and just want to travel with hand luggage. It’s understandable given the online footage of piles of mishandled bags, but it’s also where people can get into trouble. Often someone buys a bag that is compatible with their airline’s hand baggage allowance but overfills it. If the bag ends up swollen, it doesn’t fit the sizing measures, and it needs to be taped. It’s easy to make a mistake, especially since there is no limit for hand luggage in the industry, and this is where a lot of travelers get busy too. Pack carefully and check your allowance to reduce that stress and frustration at the check-in desk and gate.
Pre-order liquids to be collected at the airport
If you’re only traveling with hand luggage, and worry about taking all three bottles at once and making them last for a week, then it’s worth knowing that Boots and World Duty-Free offer a click-and-take. So if you want that bulk shampoo or a specific skincare item, or even baby items, you can order them online and they’ll be delivered to the designated airside store the day you fly.
Wear the right clothes for the trip
When I travel, it’s still great to see people dress appropriately for the occasion, but elaborate clothing often means security delays – think lace-up shoes that take a long time to undo. Inevitably when they reach security, they get nervous, the people behind them get frustrated, and then this causes one of many unnecessary delays in security and the queue gets longer. Whenever I travel, I always wear comfortable slip-on shoes and have a layered outfit. In this way, it is not only easy to turn the safety on and off easily, but also to be comfortable depending on the temperature in the device, on the plane, and at the other end.
For more tips, see What to wear on a plane according to Condé Nast Traveler editors.
Be prepared for safety
Always assume that you will have to put everything in the tray safely and not wait until you reach the front of the line. While you wait, take off your shoes and belt, take your liquids and laptop out of your bag, and put anything in your pockets in your bag. An organized flight case with dedicated compartments speeds up this process even more.
Package for delay or cancellation
You may not need to wait, but if you do, having something that makes you happy is key. Pack a portable charger for your devices, a snack (it won’t be confiscated at security or customs if you forget it), a good book, and some headphones – to keep you entertained and perhaps also drown out those around you who prefer not to share your travel experience with.
It can be difficult when we are stressed, but it makes the travel experience so much better when we are cooperative and patient with our fellow travellers, and the people who are trying under tremendous pressure to keep us safe, comfortable and on schedule. Also try and remember to be kind to yourself, and don’t let a little delay or mistake spoil your overall experience.