Standing between you and your holiday are several stresses including parking, misplacing documents and setting off the airport scanner with a rogue pound coin in your pocket.
There are actually many ways in which you can hack your way to a better travel experience before you even set foot on the plane.
As a travel writer, I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time in airports and over the years I’ve discovered that with a spot of forward planning and research, you can make your pre-flight time a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.
From lounges, parking, packed lunches and comfy clothes, here’s my top airport hacks that will help you to travel like a pro.
1. Treat yourself to the lounge life
Airport lounges aren’t just for the travelling elite, they can be surprisingly affordable if booked in advance. Lounges offer a little slice of serenity in a busy and crowded airport.
You can wait for your flight in a relaxing atmosphere and enjoy free Wi-Fi, drinks, snacks and newspapers.
Some of the swankier lounges even offer showers, spa services and a la carte dining.
The lounge life doesn’t have to cost a small fortune, you can snap up great deals if you book ahead. Some UK airport lounges cost just £20 per adult if booked well enough in advance.
Top tip: Some credit cards offer complimentary lounge access, so check if your credit card has this special airport perk.
2. Pack your own lunch
Food in the airport is nearly always outrageously expensive, so why not beat the system by packing a selection of snacks to eat before you board?
Pack an eco-friendly lunch box full of delicious snacks and treats and you’ll be amazed at how much money you can save. Remember to pack dry snacks such as crisps, nuts, cereal bars and chocolate, so that they make it through security.
A word of caution though, from experience, it can sometimes be tricky to find appropriate seating for snacking. Many food outlets, understandably, won’t let you use their tables for your own food.
This, unfortunately, means you might find yourself having a picnic in your lap in departures. I once had to board with the remnants of a chicken mayo sandwich all over my skirt.
3. Wear comfy clothes
If you aren’t attempting to blag a flight upgrade by dressing smart, ditch the airport fashionista look and opt for comfy clothes instead.
Layers are your friend in an airport with overly aggressive air conditioning. You can add or remove, tops, jumpers, cardigans and coats and also save on luggage space.
Don’t be afraid to pack a onesie in your hand luggage for when you need that extra bit of warmth. I’ve seen many a shameless traveller wandering around bleary eyes in their PJs at 4 am in the airport, so it’s clearly an accepted practice.
4. Be eco-friendly and bring a reusable water bottle
Save money and reduce your plastic waste by travelling with a reusable water bottle on your next trip.
Many airports now have water refill stations in departures, so you can save money on pricey bottled water. You’ll also be doing your bit to reduce single-use plastics. Reward your eco-efforts immediately with a large slice of cake, you’ve earned it.
5. Pack wisely
Are you off on a short break? Try and take just a cabin bag if you can, you’ll be able to whiz through the airport and avoid the long lines at the check-in desk.
The key to weekend-break packing is to look stylish while not overpacking and saving space in your luggage.
Make sure to pick a lightweight case on wheels for optimal airport navigation. You’ll also be able to breeze around your new destination with ease.
Bringing a laptop? Make sure it’s in an easy to access place so you don’t have to ferret around your smalls mid security scanner queue to retrieve it.
Read our ultimate guide to hand luggage restrictions
6. Book airport parking in advance
Driving to the airport? Keep your car safe and secure while you’re on your travels by booking airport parking.
There’s a large range of airport parking options and you should take the time to research the best one for you. A little forward planning can save you time, money and stress.
Choose from official airport car parks, meet and greet, park and ride, Car and Away and hotel and parking.
The key with all of these options is to book well in advance. If you turn up to park on the day of your flight, you’re going to get charged an eye-watering amount. Instead, book ahead of time and you could save up to 70%. I’d recommend checking out parking deals on price comparison sites to see what works for you.
Top tip: take a picture of your parking spot and any identifying signage before rushing off to the terminal. This will save you so much time when you return.
Get our essential tips for airport parking
7. Bring portable chargers
If you’re an avid Instagrammer like me, having a portable charger for your devices can be a lifesaver when you’re low on juice and there are no available power outlets at the airport. Keep all your devices charged when you’re on the go by investing in a portable charger.
8. Sample the Duty Free perfumes
Freshen up for your flight by having a cheeky spray of the perfume and aftershave samples at the Duty Free shops.
I normally try and approach this in a confident ‘I am definitely interested in buying this expensive Gucci perfume’ manner.
If you don’t feel comfortable having a covert spray you can always ask what the current offers on perfume and aftershaves are to see if you can grab yourself a bargain before you board.
9. Carry your own wet wipes
Wet wipes are a multi-purpose godsend in an airport. They can be used to freshen up, remove makeup and wipe down spaces in public areas.
You can buy travel-sized packs and save space in your hand luggage.
Have a pack of anti-bacterial wipes to hand and you can give water fountains, food trays and lavatory handles a little wipe down before you use them and have extra peace of mind.
10. Get your travel documents in order
Always have your passport and boarding card to hand to save on emptying out your bag on the floor or having a complete meltdown that you’ve left in on the table in Starbucks.
Also, be sure to carry printed copies of any car rental confirmation, hotel reservations, resort transfer details in case your phone dies, or if you’re asked to show these details to airport staff.
If you have any visas or documentation for your trip, I recommend you organise it into an easily accessible travel wallet.
I found this out the hard way when I misplaced my J-1 Visa when I went to work in America and was questioned by terrifyingly stern immigration officers in Miami Airport.
11. Unplug your headphones
While it’s tempting to zone out and listen to your carefully curated Spotify list at the gate, it’s a sure-fire way to miss your boarding call.
You need to be alert and listening out for boarding calls and possible gate changes, not rocking out to your favourite tunes.
Despite being sat in the gate, I’ve almost missed many a flight being completed spaced out listening to the Spin Doctors (arguably the coolest band of all time).
Save your playlists for the plane and read a book at the gate instead, you’ll be less likely to miss your boarding call.
12. Take a photo of your suitcase
One of the simplest and most effective airport hacks is simply taking a snap of your suitcase.
Having a photo of your luggage on your phone will definitely come in handy in the case of lost luggage.
A further tip is to try and have a case that stands out or has easily identifiable features. This will reduce the chance of someone else accidentally taking your case home instead of yours.
My most favourite example of this is the viral photo of a woman in an airport who had her own face printed on her luggage. Laugh it up but no one is accidentally taking Susan’s case home.