8 Airport Secrets That Make Traveling Super Easy
Pro travelers know these hacks like the back of their hands... it's time you do, too.
When you've been to one airport, it can feel like you've been to them all. That's not true, unfortunately, even if it feels that way. Every airport is drastically different. From layouts to layovers, the airport can provide its own sets of unique issues for every flight.
Luckily, there are some handy tips to make sure you still have a good travel story–even before you leave the tarmac. Here are the top airport secrets that make any jet setting experience faster, easier, and more enjoyable. And next, don't miss the 10 COVID Testing Tips That Make Travel So Much Easier, Say Experts.
Use an ATM to convert cash to the local currency.
While your best option for converting cash before going abroad is to do so while still at home at your personal bank branch, there are options to get the proper currency without tons of fees. Head to an ATM and take some cash out in the correct currency. Why? Because ATMs charge flat fees, while currency exchanges ordinarily use commission and percentage rates. You will pay much less for your needed funds if you avoid a currency exchange.
If you feel you absolutely need to go to an exchange, just avoid the airport locations. Like other items at airports, the exchange rate and associated fees will be much higher than outside of the airport.
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Do price comparisons online before buying duty-free.
So, duty-free shops used to be all the rage because you could save money on taxes for your purchases. Now, however, they have lost a bit of their luster because quick internet searches can determine if shoppers are being swindled for that tax-free whiskey or are actually getting a good deal.
Take a bottle of 18-year-old Glenmorangie scotch whiskey, for example. At the Duty-Free shop at the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, it's $164. At Wine-Searcher.com, this same bottle starts at $120 ($130.05 with tax from NY, for example). Taking a quick look online before indulging in purchases to save on tax could save you significant money in the long run.
Know how much time you actually need.
The old standby for air travel is to arrive two hours early for domestic flights and three hours for international excursions. However, times have changed. Those timelines aren't really necessary anymore–especially with time-saving options like TSA PreCheck. So what's a good method for knowing how long you need to be at the airport?
TSA no longer gives a blanket stance on airport arrivals, but what's most important is knowing yourself. Do you like being in the airport longer? Are you a terminal adventurer? Or does being somewhere too early stress you out? Recognizing what kind of traveler you are will make your airport journey a much more pleasant experience. Planning ahead to have easy-off shoes, packing your bag in a manner easy to open at security, not checking a bag, and checking into your flight ahead of time will help save time as well. Don't feel pressured to sit around at the airport for hours unless that's something you don't mind doing.
Keep in mind that airlines say you must be checked in at least 30 minutes prior to departure (with varying times at different airports ranging from 40 to 60 minutes).
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Check your credit card perks.
People see the world using credit card hacks and hoarding points, though you don't have to be a credit card genius to access some really nice perks. The Capital One Venture card, for example, has excellent miles/dollar purchasing ratios, with a credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck that renews every four years. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card includes the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck perk, a $300 travel credit, Priority Pass access, Lyft membership, and other incredible options.
It's possible your existing card already has travel perks built in. Be sure to take advantage of those to have the best possible airport experience. (Especially if you have access to lounges. Pre-boarding mimosas, anyone?)
Pack a reusable water bottle.
Always pack a reusable water bottle. Not only will you be saving money by not buying bottled water, but you'll also be doing your part for the environment. Airports have water fountains or bottle filling stations scattered all over, so there's no reason you should have to pay for water.
Even if you toss that single-use bottle into a recycling can in the airport, the statistics say it's not likely to actually be recycled. Keep a water bottle in your travel bag at all times so you don't forget it.
Be on the rewards lists.
Even if you aren't loyal to one particular airline, points always add up. From upgrades to miles that can be exchanged for hotels, vacation packages, car rentals, or sometimes even cash, there's no reason not to join the free rewards programs. Many airlines, like American's AAdvantage program, even have options to gift miles or transfer them to someone else. If you're going to fly, you might as well be rewarded for it!
Save those club passes.
There are some credit cards, like the United Explorer card, that include yearly one-time use club passes. Your best option is to save those passes for a time when you're stuck at the airport. It's really nice to be able to relax in a lounge with free drinks and snacks if your flight is delayed. Just make sure they don't expire on you! Those are valuable little tickets.
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Always check in for your flight online if you can. Or, at the very least, use the self-help kiosks instead of waiting in line. Not only is this going to get you to your gate faster, but you won't have to wait in more lines before waiting in more lines. Airport journeys are always much more pleasant with fewer lines.
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