Picture this: You arrive at the airport, bypass the check-in counter, whiz through security and arrive at your gate just as boarding begins. Sounds amazing, right? Unfortunately, with flight delays, long lines and all kinds of hassles to contend with, more often than not, you end up spending more time at the airport then you want to.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some tips to reduce the time it takes to get from your front door to the boarding gate.
What to look for in a flight itinerary
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If you’re contemplating a connecting flight, stay away from major hub airports, which generally report the longest and most frequent delays. Another way to avoid delays: Get yourself on a morning flight. The earlier in the day, the less chance that your flight will suffer from a domino effect of late planes.
Avoid the airport on Friday nights, when security lines tend to be the slowest. Saturday is, on average, the best day of the week to travel if you want to avoid long wait lines.
If you’re a frequent traveller to the U.S., make sure to sign up for a Nexus pass. Vetted fliers can go through TSA Pre-Check, where the self-serve kiosks (available at nine Canadian airports) let you zip through the customs process. Plus, you won’t have to remove your belt, shoes, jacket or liquid bag at security, meaning the line moves a lot faster.
The Day Before Travelling:
How to best prepare for your flight
Check in to your flight online. That way, you get an electronic boarding pass and can avoid the check-in counter altogether. You don’t even have to do a bag drop if you're only taking a carry on.
It takes a bit of planning, but fitting all your items into the two allowed carry-on bags will pay off in the long run. Go through every single item and ask yourself if you’ll actually use it. If you’re headed to the beach, do you really need a hair straightener? Or six pairs of shoes? Purge them from your bag. Photocopy or rip out pages from your guidebook. Roll, don’t fold, clothes. (Trust us, this works!) Not only is the check-in process faster when you don’t have to drop off luggage, but you eliminate the risk of lost baggage, which might just be the biggest time-waster of all at an airport.
If you must check a bag, make sure it meets the size and weight limits by using a scale at home. And attach luggage tags to your bag so that you’re not scrambling with paper tags at the check-in counter tomorrow.
Download your airline’s mobile app and install a flight tracking app on your phone. These apps, like FlightAware and FlightStats, will give you real-time info on any commercial flight. Other time-saving apps include GateGuru and iFly Airport Guide, which not only track flights, but also list airport amenities like restaurants, WiFi and ATMs.
Finally, don’t forget to charge your phone overnight. You don’t want it dying tomorrow when you’re about to be scanned at security. (By the way, it’s probably a good idea to pack your phone charger in your carry-on.)
On the Day of Travel:
How to prepare for the airport
Before heading to the airport, consult your mobile apps to check for flight delays or gate changes.
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Organize all your travel documents in one place, and make sure they’re within easy reach. This includes your passport (or other photo ID if you’re travelling in Canada), credit cards and any other cards you might need, such as your Nexus pass or your airline’s status card. If you’re commuting, make sure you have the correct fare or any transit passes or discount cards you might need.
Make sure you have your electronic boarding ticket handy, so you’re not wasting time scrolling through your emails or messages looking for it. iPhone users can use Apple Wallet, which stores all boarding passes in one place—particularly useful if you’re on a connecting flight.
Driving to the airport? Map out the route before you get in the car. And have a plan B, in case the airport lot is full: Make sure you know the location of the closest off-airport lot. Once you’ve turned the car off, place your parking ticket in your wallet, or in another spot where you won’t forget it. That way, when you’re back at the airport after your trip, you won’t need to open your bags and turn every pant pocket inside-out to find the ticket. Another time-saving tip: Use your phone to photograph the parking spot.
At the Airport:
How to breeze through the flight processes
Adobe StockDon’t get funneled into the security line that’s closest to your check-in counter: Ask an airport agent for directions to the fastest line. You might spend a bit more time walking, but at least you’re not stuck in a slow-moving backlog of passengers.
Before you get to security, remove any jewelry and empty your pockets. You don’t want to be fumbling with these items right before you go through the scanner. (Better yet, pack jewelry in your carry-on before you even get to the airport.)
Make the most of your pre-boarding time
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So you’ve made it through security and you’ve got some time to kill. Now what?
If you have more than an hour to spare, hit up one of the airport lounges. Unless you have elite status with an airline, you’ll have to pay an up-front fee, but it’s well worth it. Most lounges provide complimentary food and drinks, WiFi, newspapers, kids’ play areas and other perks.
Or why not use that extra time to squeeze in a workout? Some airports now have yoga and wellness rooms, designated walking tracks, and even gyms. Toronto Pearson International, for example, has a GoodLife Fitness gym in Terminal 1, complete with cardio and weight equipment, carry-on-sized lockers, and showers. You can even rent workout gear—one less thing to pack in your carry-on, score! (The gym is outside security, so keep an eye on the wall-mounted flight board.)
If you’d rather zone out than work out, retreat to a salon or spa. Absolute Spa has four locations at Vancouver International, all of which offer manicures, pedicures and anti-fatigue treatments. Unwinding with a relaxing foot or back massage is the perfect prep for a long flight or red-eye. You’ll be snoozing at 10,000 feet in no time.
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