Peak season is almost upon us. Schools will close. Businesses shut down. And travelers flood like a swarm of angry bees into the airport in search of warmer weather, a holiday break, and picturesque locations to take a thousand selfies with.
If you’ve ever tried to fly anywhere during the holiday season, you know it’s absolute chaos. There’s just simply too many people, trying to go to too many places, all at once.
But we’ve got your back. There’s a few tricks to navigating the airport during the rush to make sure you make your flight, and have a stress-free trip.
Start your holiday before everyone else
If you’ve got the choice, you want to avoid travelling on days like December 26th or the weekend before Christmas. That’s when people are frantically trying to escape, and you’ll not only have to deal with the crush of people, but flights are going to be a lot more expensive. Often the best day to fly is Christmas itself, or book an early morning flight so you miss the traffic and the crowd at the airport.
Check in online before you leave home
There’s two great reasons to check in online. First, it gives you a better chance of being allocated a decent seat (often you’re able to select this yourself for a small fee). The second is that it lets you skip the check-in line when you get to the airport. Instead you can go straight to the baggage drop, which is a much shorter line. Or if you’ve only got carry on you can just print your boarding pass and head straight to the gate.
Get to the airport earlier than normal
The last thing you need when you’re about to go on holidays is a giant line with no end in sight. Just remember, everything will always be busier in peak season. Make sure you’ve got enough time to actually get to the airport, make it through check-in, security and immigration so you’re not rushing to meet your flight. We’ve all seen that one traveler frantically trying to cut every line as they plead, “Oh but I’m going to miss my flight.” Don’t be that guy.
Be prepared to be delayed
One of the best tactics you can use to survive the airport is to be prepared for delays. You will be stuck in lines, often for more than an hour or two. My advice is to ensure your phone is charged, you’ve got a portable battery pack to keep it going, and you’ve also thrown a few snacks into your carry on, along with a good book. That way, you won’t have any excuse to be bored, hangry or frustrated.
Get ready to breeze through security
This is an obvious one for frequent travelers, but it pays to be prepared as you go through the security lines. Get this wrong, and you may even be stopped for further investigations which can delay you even more. Remove your coat, watch, belt and shoes, and slip everything from your pockets into your bag. Take your laptop out of its case. Don’t bring any liquids larger than 100ml, and ensure those you’ve got are together in a clear, plastic bag for the officers to check. The more prepared you are, the faster you’ll get through.
Consider buying a pre-screening pass
Even if you only fly a few times a year, the money spent on the TSA PreCheck or Global Entry passes can help you skip the hassle of security lines altogether. Plus, they last for up to five years, which can greatly reduce the amount of time you’re stuck waiting in the security line. There are so many better things you could be doing with your time.
Don’t pre-wrap all your Christmas gifts
It’s not always going to happen, but if airport security wants to take a look at what’s inside all those beautifully wrapped gifts in your carry-on, you’re going to have to open them up. Which wastes time, and is frustrating as hell. Instead, simply put your gifts in gift bags. That way you can easily show anyone who wants to see, exactly what’s inside.
The real trick to avoiding the holiday rush at the airport is an easy one. Plan things out in advance, and give yourself enough time to manage the crowds of tourists who may be heading on their first overseas trip of the year. And don’t try to rush. Just smile, and get ready to enjoy your holidays.