Tips for getting through the airport quickly

2012-08-24 15:57
It's safe to say that the airport (whichever, wherever) is no one's happy place. More often than not they inspire uncomfortable sensations such as knots in stomachs, frogs in throats and tears in eyes. 

Of course, this also means that these are hardly places you'd want to spend more time than absolutely necessary. 

So, we've come up with a few tips for getting through the airport faster... on both ends. While they may seem obvious to many, the truth is that more often than not travellers get caught up and flustered, forgetting to follow through on these simple principles. 

So, how about keeping calm and following them step by step next time round? 

Simple logistics

Avoid peak hours: Although it's often unavoidable, especially if you're travelling for business, try to avoid booking flights between 6:30 and 9:30 am and 3:30 - 7:30 pm. 

Before you leave home

Wear the correct gear: Wear slip-on-shoes and avoid clothes that have metal buckles or buttons. Don't wear clothes that are too bulky and may arouse suspicion. If you are wearing a coat or a jacket, rather remove it well before reaching the security checkpoint.

Pack smart: Be sure you know what you're allowed to take on the flight and what not. If you're heading out of the country, keep in mind that any LAGs (liquids, aerosols and gels) in your hand luggage may not exceed 100 millileters each. So, invest in tiny tubes of hand cream and vials of perfume before leaving, or decant your own, and pack them all in a transparent Ziploc bag. Check out ACSA's FAQs for more information on this.

Keep tabs on your flight status: You never know when a flight might get delayed, so before leaving home and heading to the airport just make sure that everything is still on track for your flight to avoid spending extra hours at the airport. Most airlines will notify you about any changes via SMS, but if you're the worrying type double check online, by calling or using an app like TripIt. 

Check in online: This works especially well if you aren't checking in any bags, as you'll be able to head straight to the check-in gate with your pre-printed boarding pass. If you do have big bags, you'll have to go through a check-in agent anyway, and they will probably print out a new boarding pass for you. 

Keep essentials close: Before leaving home, pack you ID, passport, wallet, and flight booking printout/boarding pass into an easily-accessible section of your bag. This way you'll be sure you've packed all the necessities, and they will also be close at hand when you need to start the check-in process, which will make things go faster. 

Map out your departure airport: If you're familiar with the airport you're departing from, you obviously wouldn't need to do this. However, if it is your first time flying from there, the chances are very good that you could get lost! In this case, be sure to check it's ins and outs online first... especially the parking. If you don't have a smart phone, print out a copy of the map to carry with you.

Map out your arrival airport: As with the departure airport, having a good idea of the inner workings of your destination's airport, could make your arrival so much easier. If someone is picking you up on the other side, you can make arrangements for a specific meeting point using the map prior to your departure. However, if you're going to be winging it alone, use the time on the flight to make a study of the map. 

At the airport: before check-in

Prep your documents: So, you packed them all neatly together before leaving home. Now, once you get the airport, fish them all out and keep them close at hand to spend minimal time at the check-in counter. Make the whole process easier by keeping them all together in an envelope, folder or pouch. 

Weigh your own luggage: Most airports have started installing public scales you can use before checking in. If you suspect your bags might be overweight, make use of these to check. If your suspicions are confirmed this gives you some time to swap items around and reorganize your luggage, without holding up the queue. 

At the airport: security

Check, check, check: If you are wearing something that may set off the metal detectors (belt, jewellery, watch, jacket), rather remove it first and be ready to put it through the scanner with your hand luggage. Also make a mental inventory of any electronic equipment you'd have to remove from your bag before putting it through the security scanner, so that you don't waffle to grab hold of everything when you get to the front. 

On the other side of security

Once you're on the other side of security there's precious little you can do to speed things up. However, if you want to set your mind at ease, head straight to your boarding gate for an update on flight times etc. If you have some time to kill, find the most comfortable spot you can and... RELAX!

At the destination airport 

If you took our advice to study a map of the new airport, you will probably be able to navigate it quite easily. If not, just follow the crowd and read the signs carefully. Once you've collected your luggage, fish out your folder of important documentation again and keep it close at hand. Also, repeat the mental inventory exercise for the security drill to keep that often traumatizing step as quick as possible.


Of course there will be those times when you WILL be stuck at the airport because of unexpected circumstances. That sucks, but fortunately we also have a few suggestions for layover boredom busters!

Also check out these 10 airports where layovers can actually be fun.

Read more on:    flights  |  travel tips  |  travel international

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