Avoid Travel Stress With These Airport Navigation Tips
We’ve compiled our top tips to speed you through even the busiest airports!
Did you know that the most stressful airports in the United State are Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Los Angeles International (LAX), and John F. Kennedy International (JFK)?* For some people, the stress of navigating through the airport can be a real stumbling block to their desire to travel. With the busy holiday travel season coming up, we’ve compiled our top tips to speed you through even the most bustling airports!
1. Do Your Research. Before you book your flight, do some research on the airports available for departure, arrival, and layovers. You may not always have a choice, but if you do, there are important factors that could affect the success and stress level of your trip. Here are just a few examples of what we have learned from our travels:
- If you are flying through Chicago for a layover, check to see if you are connecting from O’Hare (ORD) to Midway (MDW) or vice versa. This is a common route and while there are plenty of transportation options (public transportation, taxis, and shuttles) between the two airports, you will need a lot more time than usual to make your connection. Rates vary for shuttles and taxis, but the Shared Ride program from O’Hare to Midway is $37 per person.
- Charlotte’s Douglas International Airport (CLT) airport is growing quickly, and in our experience, doesn’t seem to be keeping up—try to avoid it if you can. However, if you are flying American Airlines on the east coast, you will definitely have to fly through Charlotte, so if it is part of your travel itinerary, expect major delays and plan accordingly.
- Including a connection from New York’s JFK International (JFK) airport to LaGuardia (LGA) airport can help you find cheaper flights and increase your options. It is about a 45 minute cab ride between the airports, so gauge your time and compare the savings on your flights to the cost of a cab ride (prices vary, average around $50 per ride). Allow plenty of extra time to get between the airports and remember you will have to do the whole check in procedure again, including checking your bags at the airline’s counter and going through security.
- If you have a connecting flight at the same airport, find out ahead of time if you will need to leave security once you land to get to the terminal for your next flight. In the past, Los Angeles’ International Airport (LAX) airport was notorious for this issue, however, they have made changes recently to better connect terminals behind security lines. The changes do not encompass ALL terminals though, especially the international terminal, so be aware of this and plan accordingly.
2. Use technology! Download any relevant apps for your travel, such as for the airline or the airport, if available. Apps for airlines vary, but can contain information such as flight status, your mobile boarding pass, and information for customer service (see #5). Airport apps can help you find your way between terminals, find restaurants and shops, give you flight status and baggage claim information, and more.
Visit websites such as FlightAware.com and iFly.com give you real time updates on flight status. iFly.com also offers a wealth of information on airport parking, terminal maps, ground transportation, and even security wait times!
3. Early Check-in. Check in online 24 hours ahead and have your mobile boarding pass sent to your phone. If you get to the airport and haven’t checked in online, look around for check in kiosks. In our experience, the kiosks often stand empty, while everyone else stands in line. Many airlines use these kiosks now, and the software has become easier to use with less glitches. Once you are checked in at the kiosk, it will print your boarding pass, and then you just need to drop off your luggage with an agent. If you aren’t checking your luggage, proceed to your gate!
4. Getting Through Screening Checkpoints. Take advantage of expedited screening programs such as Global Entry, TSA Pre-check and Mobile Passport (check out last week's post to find out more). When packing, keep jewelry, watches, belts, sweaters and coats, and coins in your carry on until you are through security. Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, preferably with socks so your feet don’t get cold on the tile floor!
If traveling with a laptop, consider a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag, like this Targus bag, which opens up and lays flat on the screening belt to allow you to leave your laptop in the bag. One less thing to pull out and fumble with, or forget!
5. Cancellations & Delays. If something happens with your flight and it is delayed or cancelled, don’t follow the hordes of people to customer service. Have a seat right at your gate, and call customer service for the airline (which you will easily be able to access on the airline’s mobile app that you downloaded previously—see #2). You’ll get faster and better service from an agent on the phone than one at the airport counter facing a long line of angry customers.
All airports have their pros and cons, and their quirks. Searching “airport tips for AIRPORT NAME” will bring up a wealth of helpful information about any airport, domestically or internationally. The website wikihow.com offers step-by-step directions for navigating airports in general, as well as specific airports, such as this tutorial for JFK in New York.
Are you curious about how airports get their three letter designations, or airport codes? Check our past blog post, What’s Up With Those Wacky Airport Codes.
*Source: "Concur Study Reveals Most Stressful Airports in the U.S." 2012. (March 7, 2013) http://www.concur.com/blog/en-us/concur-study-reveals-most-stressful-airports-in-the-u-s