Holiday travel: what to do at the airport

(November 8, 2012) An airport full of cheery holiday travelers can be a festive scene, but check-in and security lines can often get long. Travel professionals have lots of advice for staying merry while dealing with airport crowds and delays, and the most important advice is to arrive early and have patience.

In general, arrive two hours before flight time for a domestic flight, and three hours ahead for an international flight. If you know your airport well, you may decide that you don’t need that much time – but, take care. Don’t run the risk of arriving too late to park, check in, check your bags, pass through security, and make it to your gate before the plane door closes.

If you didn’t check in and print your boarding pass at home or have it on your smartphone, use a self-service check-in kiosk at the airport. Then, have any luggage that you need to check weighed and tagged – or pack lightly enough that you can carry-on your bag with the understanding that you can often gate check it if those bins become full. Remember that most airlines limit passengers to one small carry-on bag and just one other carry-on item, such as a tote bag, purse or laptop computer case.

As you approach the security checkpoint, keep your boarding pass and identification handy. If you have a quart-size bag of toiletries in your carry-on, make sure it’s easy to reach and ready to place in a security tray. Put anything in your pockets or on your person that might set off a metal detector – cell phone, loose change, a belt with a metal buckle, a watch, etc., along with your laptop computer – in the security trays, too. In consideration of others around you, begin the process of having each of these items out of your bag as you approach security.

After you’re cleared by security, be sure to gather all of your belongings before you leave the area.

If you have time, sit down to enjoy a snack or purchase some food to take on your flight. Remember that most domestic flights now have a very limited selection of snacks on board.

Finally, call up reserves of patience when you need them. Children traveling by plane for the first time may be overexcited, passengers who aren’t familiar with security procedures may hold up the line, and busy servers may get your sandwich order wrong. Keep your sense of humor and remember that the reason you’re traveling is to enjoy the holidays. With a little patience, you’ll arrive in the right frame of mind for a joyous holiday celebration.

Robbert van Bloemendaal, Blue Ribbon News special contributor and world traveler

This travel column was written by special contributor Robbert van Bloemendaal, an experienced world traveler, native of Australia, an Ambassador with the Rowlett Chamber of Commerce, and president of  Travel Leaders of Rowlett.

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