Practical Tips for a Better Airport Experience This Thanksgiving

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Need help keeping up the Thanksgiving spirit during your holiday travels? You’ve come to the right place! You and your family can have an enjoyable, stress-free, even fun visit to the airport this Thanksgiving. It just takes a little preparation! I’ll show you how to have a better airport experience this Thanksgiving!

Get a Thanksgiving Travel Strategy!

Do you want to avoid the frenzied airport you experience every holiday season? By planning ahead, you can turn a dreaded airport experience into an enjoyable one. Here are ideas to get you on the right track.

Stay Comfortable

Staying comfortable and content is most important. Bring something to distract yourself from the madness, like a good book or a laptop (and charger!). And don’t forget headphones.

 Free Wi-Fi

Not interested in paying for airport Wi-Fi?  See if your airports have free Wi-Fi! You can also quickly find free airport Wi-Fi & passwords with WiFox and stay on top of your work. Or watch Netflix until it’s time to board.

Some credit cards, like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, will give you free unlimited BOINGO Wi-Fi, so you can skip the fee.

Or tether your laptop or tablet to your phone’s Wi-Fi.

 Wi-Fi Not Worth the Price?  Prepare for It

You can download podcasts, movies, TV shows, and videos to your computer or tablet, so you can watch even without an internet connection. You can even load fun books and games to make the airport visit easier for the kids.

 BYOB – Bring Your Own Battery

Outlets are a precious commodity at the airport. So it’s a good idea to carry an external charger!

Airport Lounges

Even better, if you have the right credit cards, you can get into lots of airport lounges for free! Airport lounges usually have extra facilities that the airport terminal does not. Like free snacks, light meals, alcohol, Wi-Fi, plenty of electronic outlets, and maybe some peace and quiet! 

Some Lounges Have Lots of Seats, a Large Alcohol Selection, Even Chefs!

Some Lounges Have Lots of Seats, a Large Alcohol Selection, Even Chefs!

Credit cards that come with free lounge access are:

  • AMEX Delta Reserve for access to Delta SkyClubs
  • AMEX Platinum personal, small business, and Mercedez-Benz card for access to Airspace Lounges, Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, and Delta SkyClubs (when you’re flying Delta that day)
  • Chase United Club for access to United Airlines Club Lounges
  • Chase Ritz-Carlton for access to Priority Pass Lounges
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve for access to Priority Pass Lounges
  • Citi AAdvantage Executive for access to American Airlines Admirals Club
  • Citi Prestige for access to Priority Pass Lounges and American Airlines Admirals Club Lounges (when you’re flying American Airlines the same day through July 23, 2017)

And most cards that offer free lounge access allow you to bring a companion or your immediate family for free. The snacks and drinks alone can be a huge boost to an otherwise hectic experience!

Note: You can also purchase day passes at most lounges, if there is space. If there’s a lounge you know has substantial food and free Wi-Fi (like an AMEX Centurion Lounge), it could be worth the money you’d spend paying for food and buying internet!

Not Planning to Try for a Lounge?

You can always bring your own comfort to the airport. Pack snacks, and you’ll save a lot of money (and time waiting in line) over buying food at the airport.

Some items you can bring through airport security are:

  • Chips & pretzels
  • Fruit
  • Pastries
  • Wrapped sandwiches

Unfortunately, you can’t bring liquids that are more than 3.4 ounces through TSA. But you can bring empty water bottles and fill them up once you’re through security.

If you think you still won’t be in the Thanksgiving spirit, you can pick up adult beverages in containers less than 3.4 ounces to consume responsibly in the airport.

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck expedites your experience in the airport security line, so you can reach your gate faster. You even get to keep your shoes and jacket on, and your laptop in your bag!

TSA PreCheck costs $85 and is valid for 5 years. You will need to be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident without a criminal record. The $85 fee is a nonrefundable application fee, so if the TSA deems you unworthy for PreCheck, you won’t get your money back.

It’s probably already too late to apply and be approved for TSA PreCheck this year before Thanksgiving, but it’s something to keep in mind for next year!

Some of these cards, like AMEX Platinum cards, Citi AAdvantage Executive, and Citi Prestige, will also reimburse you for a TSA PreCheck application (or Global Entry, which comes with TSA PreCheck).

Orbitz will also reimburse your TSA PreCheck fee when you book 12+ nights with them in a calendar year.

19 Airlines Currently Participate in TSA PreCheck

19 Airlines Currently Participate in TSA PreCheck

If you want to learn more about how to sign-up for TSA PreCheck, you can read about it here.

Priority Check-In and Boarding

If you don’t have elite status with airlines, you still may be able to buy some of the benefits.

Lots of airlines have “priority access” that’s available for purchase online and at airport kiosks. Purchasing priority access means you’ll have a faster check-in process. And you’ll have a dedicated lane for boarding the plane, meaning you won’t be stuck in a line that dwarfs a typical weekend at Space Mountain!

And some cards get you priority check-in and boarding, like the Citi American Airlines Platinum Select card, Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express, and Chase United Explorer card. That way you get faster access to overhead bin space!

Check-in at Home!

You can save time at the airport if you check-in at home, and either print your boarding pass, or bring it along on your phone. If you aren’t checking a bag, you won’t have to visit the ticket counter at all. And you can walk straight to security.

Even if you are checking a bag, online check-in will save you time. When you get to the airport, you can check your bags at the curb, baggage drop area, or ticket kiosk.

You can check-in for a flight up to 24 hours before you’re scheduled to depart.

 Stay Hands-Free

Visiting the restroom, standing in line for food, even moving from location to location can be a big hassle at the airport. That’s because folks usually have 2 bags to look out for! There’s an easier way.

 Check Your Luggage

If you cringe at the thought of lugging your bags through the airport obstacle course of fellow travelers, consider ditching them altogether! You can check your bags with the airline, and walk through the airport hands-free.

It’s Not Easy Fitting You and Your Belongings in a Bathroom Stall

It’s Not Easy Fitting You and Your Belongings in a Bathroom Stall

While Southwest lets you check a bag for free, other airlines charge a significant fee when you fly coach between the US, Canada, Mexico, and certain Caribbean islands. But if you have the right credit card, that fee will be waived!

Read my post on which cards to use for free checked baggage.

Avoid the Long Wait in Baggage Claim With Priority Baggage!

When you pay the airline for priority access (mentioned above), your boarding pass and luggage will be tagged as “priority.” Because of this, your luggage should arrive on the baggage claim carousel before all the passengers who do not have priority access. This could save 15+ minutes, easily!

Note: Checked bags do get lost sometimes, especially during the busy holiday season. Keep that in mind whenever you check bags!

Use Baggage Shipping Services

You can save even more time and effort by using baggage shipping services. But it’ll cost you extra!

Bags VIP Is the Usually the Cheapest Option for Shipping Bags to Your Destination – But Read Its Rules & Restrictions to Make Sure It’s Right for Your Situation

Bags VIP Is the Usually the Cheapest Option for Shipping Bags to Your Destination – But Read Its Rules & Restrictions to Make Sure It’s Right for Your Situation

Here are some baggage shipping services that will reduce the time you spend waiting at the airport.  Because you don’t have to wait around at baggage claim! Some popular companies are:

  • Bags VIP – Check your bags with a Bags VIP representative at the airport, and have your bags delivered to your destination (hotel, residence, etc.), up to 100 miles away from your arrival airport ($1 per mile surcharge after 40 miles).
  • Luggage Forward – Your bags will be picked up at your home and delivered to your destination (hotel, residence, etc.) But it can be worth it to skip the baggage claim, especially if you’re in a hurry!

Stay Updated

A key to relaxing in the airport is knowing you’re up-to-date on your travel details. Flights often get delayed, and departure gates change. But there are things you can do to stay one step ahead!

  • Track your flights in real-time with the FlightAware app (for Apple and Android), so you can monitor any changes to your plans.
  • You can keep track of your travel itinerary with the TripIt app (for Apple and Android). TripIt will show you a timeline of everything you’ve planned for your trip. And if you pay for the pro version of the app, you’ll be notified of changes to your flight.
  • Depending on how far you’re wandering for the holiday season, Google Translate (for Apple and Android) could come in handy! Type, speak, even take a picture of the language in question, and get a response from Google!
Even Activities Like Eating Can Be Complicated by a Language Barrier. Point Your Camera, and Google Translate Will (Usually) Give You the Answer

Even Activities Like Eating Can Be Complicated by a Language Barrier. Point Your Camera, and Google Translate Will (Usually) Give You the Answer

Bottom Line

You shouldn’t develop a new ulcer from every holiday visit to the airport. There are practical ways to make the experience easier, even enjoyable!

Make sure you stay comfortable by bringing distractions, like a book or a laptop. And an extra battery in case of delays. If you have certain credit cards, like the Citi Prestige or AMEX Platinum, you’ll even receive free access to lots of airport lounges!

And TSA PreCheck means a faster security experience.

Travel as hands-free as possible by checking your bags. Or use a baggage shipping service, like Bags VIP or Luggage Forward, so you don’t waste time waiting in airport lines. If you have a carry-on, get priority check-in and boarding to secure overhead bin space.

Stay updated on the many moving parts of your trip by downloading powerful travel apps, including FlightAware and TripIt.

Happy Thanksgiving travels!


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