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Heading to the Airport? Use This Checklist Before You Go

SmarterTravel

If you’ve booked an airline ticket for an upcoming trip, heading to the airport may be an anxiety-inducing experience. Whether you’re an avid flyer or an infrequent one, there are a slew of [% 2623262 | | fees %] to keep track of, plus security protocols that may seem overwhelming.

Fear not. This handy to-do list will help you get to the airport, through security, and to your gate with ease.

Before You Leave Your House

Before you even start to pack, consult this list to make sure you’re well prepared. Get additional expert packing tips by viewing our photo gallery.

  • Check in online to avoid a long wait at the airport. You can usually check in online up to 24 hours before your flight.
  • Find out if your carrier charges extra fees for baggage and/or an additional fee if you check your bags in person at the airport (Spirit, United, and US Airways currently have higher fees if you check bags in person versus online). Save yourself time and money and check your bags online at home before you go.
  • Verify what the airline’s weight limits are for baggage. To avoid extra fees, weigh your bags at home to make sure they’re not overweight. If they are overweight, remove or redistribute some items, or plan to pay extra.
  • Make sure you have all your travel documentation in one place (purse, carry-on, etc.) that’s easy to access. Include a copy of emergency and customer service numbers with these documents.
  • Make extra copies of important travel documents, ID/passports, key phone numbers, etc. It’s advised to have a copy for each [% 2517885 | | bag %].
  • If you’re traveling with a carry-on bag, make sure there are no full-size toiletries inside. All liquids and gels must adhere by the [% 2648210 | | 3-1-1 rule %], and be stored in a clear plastic quart-sized bag.
  • Ensure you’re not traveling with any prohibited items. If you were planning on bringing such items with you, ship them instead—otherwise they’ll be confiscated at the airport.

At the Check-in Gate

Once you’ve arrived at the airport, you may need to head to the check-in gate, depending on what you did online before you left your home.

  • If you’ve checked in online, drop off your baggage (if applicable), and head to the security line.
  • If you haven’t checked in online prior to arrival, check in at a kiosk or in person at a check-in desk.
  • After checking in by kiosk, drop off bags at the appropriate counter.
  • Add your baggage claim receipt to your collection of travel documents. If you have connecting flights, especially those on separate carriers, it’s especially important to keep your [% 2780312 | | baggage claim tag %] with you to avoid any delays or snafus.
  • Get your ID and boarding pass out for the security line.
  • Be sure to [% 2550029 | | throw away any bottles of water %], cups of coffee, or other liquids or gels that may be confiscated at security.

At Security

Take stock of the following steps before getting in the security line.

  • Have your ID and boarding pass out and ready for the TSA official.
  • Take off your shoes, belt, and any jewelry that may set off the metal detector. Make sure there is no loose change or other items in your pockets. Place all items in a bin on the conveyor belt.
  • If you have a clear-plastic bag of liquids or gels in your carry-on bag, take it out and place it in a bin next to your shoes, belt, etc.
  • Place your bags and coat on the conveyor belt.
  • If you are traveling with a laptop, take it out of its carrier case and onto the screening belt. If your laptop is in a checkpoint-friendly butterfly-, trifold-, or sleeve-style case, it does not need to be removed from its outer bag.
  • Wait until you are called to go through the metal detector. If asked, show the TSA official your ID and boarding pass. Acceptable forms of ID include passports, drivers’ licenses, military IDs, and permanent resident cards, among a few others.
  • Comply with any TSA official requests, such as an additional bag inspection, [% 2860867 | | body scan %], questioning, etc.
  • Reclaim your items and head toward the gate.

At the Gate

You’re almost done! Before you board the plane, check the following:

  • Make sure your carry-on fits the aircraft’s overhead dimensions. Usually there is a sample crate at your gate to determine if your bag will fit.
  • Check to see if there is meal or snack service on board your flight. If not, you may want to purchase food and drink from a concessionaire in your terminal or at a food court.
  • Wait for your clearance to board the plane, then make sure to get in line with your designated group (check your boarding pass to see what group you’re in). If you have small children or special needs, you may be able to get advanced boarding privileges. See the gate agent if you have any questions.

Do you have any expert tips for how to prep for a trip to the airport, as well as how to handle check-ins and security? Share your thoughts by submitting a comment below!

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