10 Airport Secrets That Only Insiders Know
The experts have weighed in: They've got ways to make life easier while you go from where you are to where you want to be.
Buy Yourself a Disposable Placemat
The tray tables on airplanes don't get cleaned after every flight, says Sara Keagle
, a flight attendant and travel blogger. Worse, Keagle says she's seen passengers do "everything from diaper changes to clipping their nails on them." The adhesive, eco-friendly plastic mats usually marketed for kids (available at drugstores and on Amazon.com
) are the perfect size and stick right to the tray table.
Fly on Tuesday
Vacationers head to the airport on weekends, says Kevin Turner, spokesperson for travel site Kayak.com
, while business travelers prefer to fly on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. This leaves Tuesday and Wednesday for those in the know. The perks? Shorter lines and cheaper fares.
Make sure your new suitcase has four wheels instead of two, advises Kayak.com's
Turner. This allows you to spin the bag in a circle in tight places (like the center of the aisle) and push it in front
of you, which is much easier and a heck of a lot less time-consuming than dragging it behind you, where it inevitability catches on every corner.
Prep Your Phone
Most things you want to solve in an airport—checking your flight status, finding out about a gate change, requesting an upgrade—can now be solved on your smart phone, says Paco Underhill, who consults on airport design and human behavior, travels 150 days a year and has written such books as What Women Want
and Why We Buy
. Before flying, make sure you have the (free) app for your airline installed so that, should a problem arise, you can get typing while everybody else gets in line.
Grab the Absolut While You Can
Vodka is the number-one-selling drink on most airlines. If you quiet your flight jitters with a cocktail, plan ahead. Reserve a seat in the front of the airplane, where the attendants start rolling the cart down the aisle.
About a dozen airports, including Atlanta and Philadelphia, have clinics for travelers
(and employees) located right at the gate. If you have an hour between flights, get a flu shot, suggests travel writer Harriet Baskas
. In addition to boosting your immune system, it'll allow you to smile politely when a fellow passenger coughs all over your shoulder.
Airport stores don't have a reputation as savvy places to purchase stuff, due to high markups. But that's not necessarily true, says Baskas. Some municipalities (like Portland, Austin, Atlanta and Pittsburgh) have explicit rules that forbid on-site shops to charge more for the same goods than at nonairport locations. (Hint: Look for a posted sign.) Also, find out about the sales tax where you're changing planes. Oregon, for instance, has no sales tax. That means you could save up to 12 percent on your purchases, depending on the sales tax in your home state.
Leave the Pashmina at Home
If you're prone to getting cold, choose an aisle seat, says Keagle. "It makes a significant difference," she says. In the winter and at high altitudes, the cold outside air leaks through the window, which can lower temperatures in middle and window seats. Meanwhile, aisle seats also usually place you farther from the blowing overhead vents.
Pack a Water Bottle
For many of us, making a full lunch in the dark before a 7 a.m. flight is probably not going to happen. But you can—and should—tote along an empty water bottle. Fast food places will usually fill it for free, says Geraldine DeRuiter, the blogger behind The Everywhereist
. Try not to look too smug—or hydrated—when you see you fellow passengers dishing out $5 for an Evian 10 feet past the security checkpoint.
Say Thank You
Yes, you're exhausted, stressed and anxious, and your shoulder hurts from all the stuff you had to cram into your carry-on in order to avoid the fee for checking a second bag. Still, say thank you to every person who does anything for you at the airport, be it slapping an address sticker on your bags or processing your customs form—not because they might give you a free upgrade or the last can of Pringles on the cart but because no matter how long it takes to get from point A to point B, you'll feel better about yourself and your trip if you treat your fellow humans with a little humanity.
Next: The 8 things every budget traveler knows