Breeze Through the Airport Like a Pro

by | Nov 22, 2022 | FTM Travel Info

People are flying again! The Holidays are upon us, and airports will be even more crowded than usual.  While I can’t promise navigating the airport and boarding your flight will be a breeze, here are a few simple tips and guidelines to make your airport experience as hassle-free as possible over the holidays or any time you travel.  

Bring proper identification and documentation

You will need both your boarding pass and your identification.

  • You can print your boarding pass at home, print it at the airport, or save it on your phone.  You should, however, print at the airport only as a last resort – it’s far more efficient to bring it with you to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • You will also need identification – either a driver’s license or passport.  A passport is required for travel outside the USA, but your passport can be used for domestic travel as well.  
  • Beginning in May 2023, if not planning to use your passport to travel domestically, your driver’s license must have a REAL ID (also called a STAR ID) designation.  You obtain this designation at the driver’s license bureau by providing certain documentation to support your identity and residency.   You should consult your state’s driver’s license office to find out what documentation is required for the REAL ID designation.  
  • The requirements for a passport can be found at Passport Applications.  I always recommend applying for a passport immediately as soon as you begin considering a trip out of the country.  You don’t want to have to apply at the last minute!

Know the luggage rules

  • If you are checking your luggage, be aware that some airlines charge you per bag*.  
  • There are weight limits for checked bags.  For most airlines, the limit is 50 lbs per bag*.  Over that weight, you will be charged an extra amount.  Weigh your bag before you leave home and make adjustments as necessary.  You don’t want to be that person with bags open on the floor of the airport frantically trying to move your possessions between your bags to meet the weight limit.
  • Many airlines provide luggage tracking in their app on your phone.  However,  I prefer the additional security of placing a tracker in my luggage so I know where my luggage is when it is not in my possession.  Examples of these trackers are Tile and Apple Air Tag.
  • I am a huge fan of carrying-on my luggage rather than checking bags whenever possible. Why? Because nothing ruins a trip like lost luggage!  The best way to avoid lost luggage is to have your luggage with you at all times.
  • You are allowed to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onto the plane with you.  While guidelines may vary among airlines, as a general rule you are allowed to bring on a 22” rollaboard suitcase (which will go into the bin overhead) and a personal item (which will go under the seat in front of you).*  Examples of a personal item are:   a backpack, a purse, a briefcase or a tote.  Remember, ladies, that your purse does count as your one personal item.  If you are carrying  a backpack or tote as a personal item, plan to slip your purse inside that larger bag.

*You will need to check your airline’s specific guidelines for size limitations, charges, and weight limits.

Know the rules about liquids

There are strict rules regarding liquids carried through the security checkpoint.  There are no liquids limitations for checked luggage.

  • The Transportation Safety Administration (“TSA”) rules state that liquids must be in containers of 3.4 oz or less and all of your liquids containers must fit into a clear one-quart ziplock or equivalent bag.  
  • Gels and creams count as liquids.  So, toothpaste is a liquid, as are cream makeups, hand creams etc.
  • Medically necessary liquids and liquid infant formulas do not count toward your liquids allowance.  Let the TSA agent know you have them, and pack them where they are easily accessible in case theTSA agent wants to inspect them.
  • Take maximum advantage of your liquids allotment by buying travel sizes, creating your own travel size with small jars & bottles, or using solids whenever possible.  Solid anti-perspirant and bar soap are great ways to free up space for other liquids.  Small travel containers are available at many retail and online businesses. 

Taking food on an airplane

Many people prefer to bring their own food on a plane for health or taste reasons.  But before you take food on the plane, you must comply with the TSA requirements to get the food through the security checkpoint.  Here are a few tips:

  • Solid foods are allowed through security and on the plane.
  • Liquid foods and beverages are allowed but count toward your liquids allotment (see above). 
  • Bottled water is not allowed through the security checkpoint because it is more than the ¾ oz TSA limit.  However, once through security you can purchase bottled water to take on the plane.   Or bring your own water bottle empty and fill it in the fountain once you’re through security and carry it on the plane.

Sign up for services that expedite security screening on domestic flights

  • TSA Precheck is the most common way to ease your time in the security line.  You must fill out the application online and then go to a local application center for a brief interview.  You’ll then receive a Known Traveler Number which you give to the airline each time you book your tickets.  The “TSA Pre” designation will appear on your tickets, and it allows you to enter the shorter TSA Pre line at security.  Unlike going through the standard security line, you will not have to remove your liquids from your bags or take off your shoes.TSA Precheck costs $78 and is valid for 5 years.
  • Clear Service is available at a number of larger airports throughout the country.  Instead of showing your drivers license or passport, the kiosk uses retina scan or fingerprints.  Then scan your boarding pass and you will be escorted to the front of the regular security line or to the front of the TSA Precheck line (if you also have the TSA Precheck designation).  Clear is currently $189 for a year but many credit card services offer a substantial discount.
  • Global Entry is a program that also requires an application, and it allows for a faster, kiosk-based immigration process when a traveler is re-entering the United States from international travel. At participating airports, you proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present your machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.  The cost is $100 and it is valid for 5 years.  Application can be completed online, and you must undergo a brief interview.

Hopefully these tips and reminders will help you through your holiday travels and beyond!  Happy flying!