Seven steps to avoiding airport hassles this summer

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Waiting in line at the airport (Photo: Xavi Arnau/iStockpoto.com)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 15, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, baggage, government regulation, high season, Jessica Labrencis, security, summer.

The outlook for air travel this summer is already gloomy when you consider the environment of high fares, reduced capacity, and new fees. If past years are any indicator, you can also expect inclement weather to cause delays at airports around the country. Don't despair, however, because there are steps you can take to ensure your airport experience runs a little smoother.

1. The stress of flying begins as soon as you step inside the airport and encounter a long line at your airline's check-in counter. If you can, bypass the counter entirely by utilizing online check-in and bringing only a carry-on bag. With most airlines charging $25 for a second checked bag, you could potentially save time and money if you can manage to squeeze everything into a sizeable carry-on.

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2. If checked bags are a necessity, consider checking in at the curb. It might cost a dollar or two per bag, but the price may be worth it if the line is shorter.

3. Recently, more airports and airlines have begun to offer off-site baggage check-in, which allows you to print your boarding pass and check your bags before you leave for the airport. Remote check-in facilities include hotels, rental car agencies, and convention centers; fees cost anywhere from $2 to $20. Bags and Bags To Go provide the service in cities around the country.

4. SimpliFly is the Transportation Security Administration 's (TSA) answer to a stress-free security line experience. First, make sure your carry-on bag is well-organized, with a layer of clothes, followed by electronics, another layer of clothes, and finally heavy items. TSA officials can better take note of what is in your bag if it is organized in that order.

5. As you approach the security checkpoint, have your boarding pass and ID in hand, and remember that you can put your ID away once you've declared it at the initial checkpoint. Take off your shoes (even flip-flops) and jacket before you enter the metal detector, and remember to remove metal items, including keys and loose change, from your pockets.

6. Remember that the 3-1-1 rule for liquids and gels remains in effect. Each traveler is allowed a one-quart zip-top plastic bag, in which liquids and gels in three-ounce (or smaller) bottles must be contained. Exceptions to the rules include medications and breast milk.

7. If you're traveling with small children, keep in mind that strollers must be collapsed and sent through the x-ray machine, and you can carry your child with you through the metal detector. Some airports offer special security lanes based on expertise, which may come as a relief for parents worried about holding up other travelers.

Of course, some hassles and delays are out of your control. When contending with a long flight delay or other annoyance, remember that a hefty dose of patience is one of the most important things to bring with you to the airport these days.

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