Guest Post by Melissa da Silva, President of Contiki US
As the President of Contiki Vacations, I am no stranger to travel. Through my career, I’ve traveled as much as 40 weeks out of the year. Presently, I travel (on average) 25 times a year. As a very frequent traveler, both for work and fun, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time trapped in airports. Let’s face it – as much as any of us love to visit new and exotic places, getting there is not always part of the fun. But, I’ve learned a few airport hacks to make the journey as painless as possible.
Arrive early to the airport
Always arrive early to the airport. I make sure I’m at the airport at least 1 hour in advance for domestic flights and 2 for international, but if I know I need to navigate a crazy check in counter, like Tom Bradley International at LAX, I’ll give myself up to an additional hour. Not that I enjoy spending unnecessary time there, but I’d much rather be a tad early than late and stressed out that either myself or my bag won’t make it onto the plane.
Sign up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck
If you travel much, sign up for Global Entry, it’s valid for 5 year and is hands down the best $100 you’ll ever spend. Once you’re approved you not only fly through customs and immigration (you get to use the self-serve kiosks, no waiting in long lines or talking to grumpy officers) but you automatically receive TSA PreCheck. So even when traveling domestically, you get to use a shorter security line, keep your shoes on and you don’t even need to take your laptop out of your bag. Soooo worth it! Just remember to add your ‘Known Traveler’ number into your reservation ahead of time.
Carry a refillable (empty) water bottle with you. You can’t take liquids through security, but there are no rules against bottles. Fill up at a water fountain for free and stay hydrated on those long, dry flights.
Bring snacks with you from home, like cereal bars, sandwiches or fruit (have mercy on your fellow travelers and go for the non-smelly foods.) Then make sure to eat a decent meal before you board your flight. If you’re traveling within the US you won’t get fed at all and internationally you’ll likely only get one meal, which may not do the trick on a long flight. Note: if you’re traveling internationally, make sure you eat everything you bring, or leave it on the plane when you land. You can’t normally take food into foreign countries, it’s a customs no-no.
Provide Your Own Movies and Books
Load up your tablet with movies or books. You never know what they’ll be showing on the plane, or if you’ll have to pay (especially on domestic flights) so come prepared. Plus, did you know on flights originating in the US you no longer need to power off your small electronic devices? This means non-stop entertainment from gate to gate. But forget about streaming, even on flights with wifi – you’ll need to download that latest episode ahead of time if you want to watch it.
Bring a Toothbrush
Keep your toothbrush, toothpaste (smaller than 3 oz), your make-up bag, contact lens solution, and any necessary medicines with you in your carry-on. Trust me, if your luggage is lost or delayed, you will thank me when you don’t need to rush a prescription or buy new mascara. Plus it’s nice on long flights to brush your teeth, makes you feel like a new person before landing in a new country.
Same goes for your phone and tablet charger, keep them with you at all times when traveling. You never know if your flight might be delayed and you’ll need extra juice.
Don’t wear your shoes on long flights – no matter how comfortable they are, by the time you get off your feet will be hurting. I always keep a warm pair of hiking socks in my carry-on and swap them for my shoes before we take off. Even if I’m going someplace warm and the shoes I’m swapping are flip flops… it gets cold on the plane!