Air travel can be an ordeal. Delayed flights, irate passengers, confiscated items, and the kid who kicks the back of your seat test your patience.
Navigating airports takes preparation and ingenuity to game the system.
While nothing can prevent you from getting seated next to the sick passenger or wailing baby, these tips can help make your next flight frictionless, so you can get where you’re going with little to no stress.
When you book
When flying with a travel companion, select the window and aisle seats to increase your chances of getting the row to yourselves. Because the middle seat is often considered the last resort, you might just get lucky and a little extra room to lounge.
When you pack
Airports are notorious for price gouging, so pack a reusable water bottle to avoid overpaying at a kiosk in the name of hydration. Carry extra quart-sized bags to keep your phone dry, hold a stash of snacks, or keep cords easily accessible and untangled.
Bring a small portable battery charger and avoid the chaos that surrounds airport charging stations to keep your gadgets fully juiced.
Even if you’re headed to a tropical destination, pack a scarf or a sweater for the chilly plane ride. Also, add a distinguishing element to your luggage like a ribbon, tag or sticker to prevent accidental mix-ups at the baggage claim.
On your way to the airport
Consult the FAA’s website for real-time information about delays, ground stops and conditions so you know what to expect and plan accordingly.
Also, get answers to your most pressing questions with the MyTSA App. Loaded with valuable information like what you can and cannot bring on a flight, real-time wait lines for your airport’s security line, and how busy the airport will be on your day and time of travel based on historical data.
Avoid airport traffic. If you’re getting dropped off, ask your ride to drop you off at arrivals rather than departures, so you can skip the kiss-and-wave traffic and just walk upstairs.
If you drove to the airport and will park your car, snap a picture of a permanent fixture to serve as a landmark to avoid wandering the lot when you return.
At the airport
Arriving at the airport early comes with its own set of perks that far extend beyond peace of mind and ease.
If you’re flying a popular route, ask the gate agent if you can go on standby for the flight preceding yours. It’s free of charge and your checked bag will also follow you.
Avoid being the ire of your fellow passengers when you’re in the TSA line. Instead of fumbling around with loose change, keys, belts, and intricately laced shoes, dress with expedience and efficiency in mind.
Consider wearing slip-on shoes; keep your laptop readily accessible, and move all contents from your pockets to your carry-on before hopping in line to prevent passenger gridlock.
If you’re a frequent traveler who can justify the expense, register with Global Entry and TSA PreCheck.
Good for five-year memberships, you get the perk of expedited security lines, walking through security with shoes, and not removing laptops or liquids from your bags. The Global Entry membership fee is $100 and TSA PreCheck is $85. Some travel credit cards also will reimburse you for this expense.
You’ll never see a faster line form than the one after a flight has been canceled. Instead of waiting your turn to speak with a gate agent, call the airline to rebook your flight. The airline representative and gate agent do the exact same thing, but the difference is that you can speak to one while sitting in an airport bar getting a bite or sipping a drink.
At your destination
After a flight, you’re probably eager to stretch your legs and relieve yourself. Skip the bathrooms closest to your gate because those are the most crowded and find the bathrooms where you won’t have to stand and wait for your turn.
Stephanie is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.