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How to Speed Up Your Airport Experience

Busy Airport

With lengthy check-in lines and countless security points, boarding a plane can be a lengthy affair. In this month's How To guide, we are looking at ways to help you get your next holiday or business trip off to a quicker, less frustrating start. From those things you can do when packing your things to the obvious shortcuts at the airport.

  • Do

    1. USE MEET AND GREET PARKING. Off-site parking may offer you a cheaper alternative, but meet and greet (or valet) parking is unparalleled in convenience. A chauffeur will be waiting for you outside the terminal, ready to park your car for you at a secure location nearby. Absolutely Ideal for families, business travellers or those with excess luggage.

    2. KNOW YOUR AIRPORT. If you are flying out of a large international airport like Heathrow, make sure you know which terminal you need to be at, what time you need to be there and how long it will take to get there. Getting lost or delayed before you have even left for your holiday or business trip only puts unnecessary stress on you.

    3. DRESS TO CLEAR SECURITY. In the last few years airport security has become extremely tight. Full body scanners, pat downs, random spot checks - these words are thrown around quite freely when talking about new security measures. It is unfortunate that things have gone this far, but there is nothing you can do about it - except for dressing in a way that makes clearing security less time consuming. Here are a few ideas on how to do this:

      Wear slip-on shoes: this makes removing and putting them back on far easier.

      Avoid wearing metal items you will inevitably have to remove: wear a comfy pair of tracksuit pants or shorts that have a drawstring rather than jeans and a belt that has metal bits in it.

      Prepare yourself before going through the metal detector - if you have a belt, phone, watch, chain, or pair of hardy shoes, take them off while waiting in line.

    4. USE ONLINE CHECK-IN. Online check-in is a relatively new service offered by most leading airlines. This can be done way ahead of schedule, saving you from waiting in line at the airport. To print out your boarding pass, log onto your airline's website and have all your booking details ready - reference, passport and flight number.

      At the airport there will be a drop area for passengers who have checked in online and need to check their bags in. If you have no baggage, you can stroll over to security.

    5. PACK LIGHT TO AVOID CHECKING YOUR BAGS. Checking bags into the hold will cost you time (and money in some cases nowadays) at the airport. If possible, try to get your belongings into a carry-on bag - this may mean packing lightly and leaving a few luxury items behind.

      On the same note, pack your bag responsibly. If you can't get everything comfortably into a carry on case, bite the bullet and check a bag in. Over packing will be looked on suspiciously at security and may end up costing you time.

    6. BE SURE OF YOUR LUGGAGE. When packing, avoid bringing items that will bring unwanted attention to you. This includes scissors, liquids (other than those specified by airport security), strangely shaped pencils and anything security staff could mistake for a dangerous weapon. If you have any doubts about an item you want to put in your case, go online and check the airline's website for guidelines.

    7. BUY FOREIGN CURRENCY ONLINE. When possible, avoid buying your foreign currency at the airport - it's time consuming, more expensive than it needs to be and an extra thing to worry about when you have a flight to catch. Buying foreign currency online is easier, cheaper and requires only the slightest bit of planning. Selected vendors offer commission-free rates and door-to-door service, so you won't even have to leave the house.

    8. USE NEW SMART PHONE APPS. If you have a smart phone, go online and check out the wide range of airport applications that are available. From airport maps, to cab finders, flight information, wi-fi hot spots and phone check-in services, you can do just about anything at the airport through your phone.

    9. BE PUNCTUAL. Expect lengthy lines and slow progress during the final hour before your flight's check-in time. If you are not checking in online and have baggage to put into the hold, make sure you are there at least 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours before an international flight.

    10. BE PATIENT. As sticky as security can be in the UK, you won't find it any easier abroad. If you find yourself in a line that doesn't seem to be moving, try your level best to be patient. Getting hot and bothered will only make the wait seem longer.

Last Updated: February 2011

Clayton Truscott

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.