Travel Tips: The Airport and Flight

This is a short series of posts with my tips for traveling. I’ll explore things from booking to packing to flying and many things in between.

You’ve planned your trip from start to finish. You’ve made lists, packed, loaded the car, and arrived at the airport. Now it’s time to deal with airline representatives, TSA agents, uncomfortable seats, delays, cancellations, crying babies, and turbulence.

Check-in, Check Luggage

Even when I’m checking luggage, I like to check-in online beforehand. While I’m not sure it matters, it at least signals to the airline that I intend to show up for the flight. It also gives me another chance to verify seats, times, and gates.

When you get to the airport, I highly suggest asking the ticket agent for better seats (if your pre-selected ones aren’t to your liking) and verifying your connections. Make sure you’re not carrying anything that TSA will frown upon.1.

Security

Dealing with security in the USA can be a nightmare. It seems every TSA agent was trained in a different way and enforces the rules differently. One thing I highly suggest is getting TSA PreCheck. It costs $85 for a 5 year period and allows you many conveniences2. Many credit cards3 offer free or discounted Precheck applications. The $85 covers one adult and any young children flying along.

If you’re the type that likes to be prepared for certain situations, Gerber makes a multi-tool specifically for carrying through airports. The Gerber Dime Travel has TSA approved scissors, screw drivers, and much more. Don’t try to sneak it past them, just put it in the little bin with your keys and coins.

The Gate

If everything went smoothly, you probably have some downtime at the gate before it’s time to board. Check your flight status on your phone4 in case there is a delay or cancellation. By staying ahead of others, you’ll be able to easily change flights if necessary.

Get our your Kindle and start that new book you downloaded.

The Plane

If you have a carry-on that won’t fit under the seat in front of you, board as early as you can and keep an eye out for overhead storage space. The more I fly, the harder it seems to find. Even if you’re keeping your bag under the seat in front of you, go ahead and get out anything you have to distract you from the long flight ahead.

Never pass up an opportunity to get a beverage from the flight attendant. You might not drink it all, but you never know when the next opportunity will present itself, if ever. Same goes for any snacks offered. Stash them if you don’t want that immediately. I’ve been on flights where taxiing delays after landing were just as long as the flight.

I’m a huge fan of listening to podcasts on flights. If you’re in search of one that’ll help you pass the time, there are none better than Hello Internet.

Baggage Claim

Baggage claim feels like a leftover relic from the middle ages. Everyone fights for a spot next to an endless carousel of other people’s belongings. When you finally see your luggage birthed from some unknown mechanical beast, you feel a sense of calm come over you. It didn’t get lost!

Check your awesome luggage tags and head out to your taxi, Uber, rental, bus, subway, or shared bike.

Vacation begins!


  1. You can stick a pocket knife in your checked luggage. 
  2. Shorter lines, liquids and computers stay in your bag, keep your shoes on, etc. 
  3. Such as certain American Express cards, the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa. 
  4. It will often receive updates before the screen at the gate. 
Matt Langford @Mtt

Copyright 2018 Matt Langford

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