In Up in the Air (every road warrior’s favorite RedBox rental), some of George Clooney’s dialogue has all of the weariness and wisdom of a full-time flier. He knows exactly how to get through an airport without delays, hassles or even polite conversation – and there’s a lot to be said for that kind of efficiency. Whether you’re a 10-million miler like Clooney’s Ryan Bingham or you’re lucky if you’ll fly ten times, period, there are always ways to speed up the process of getting checked in, through security and into one of the uncomfortable seats at your departure gate. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Check in online, up to 24 hours before your flight. You know this already. But it’s an easy time-saver, whether you print your own boarding passes or put them on your phone (or your Apple Watch, you early adopter, you). Also, I’m a big fan of taking screenshots of your full itinerary, including your flight schedules and any other hotel or rental car confirmations you have. If you need that information – whether it’s your account number or a customer service line – you can easily access them without having to scroll through a dozen unread emails and the roughly 2,400 LinkedIn invitations you’ve ignored.
2. Don’t take anything but a carry on bag. Sure, it’ll save you $25, but it will also save you from having to wait in line to drop it off, which means that you can go straight from the parking lot (or wherever your Uber driver dumped you) to the security line. If you do have to pack a bag that’s bigger than the overhead bin, check to see if your departure airport has curbside check-in. It’s worth tipping the skycap (a buck a bag is standard) to save you from waiting in line behind the couple who somehow has eight suitcases, a set of golf clubs and a massive item that looks weirdly like a carousel horse.
3. Sign up for an airline credit card. In addition to all of the other benefits, many airlines have designated check-in lines for those with preferred status (and an signing up for a co-branded credit card is one of the easiest ways to get status). When you do check a bag, you’ll be in the shortest line when you need to see an agent.
4. Empty your pockets and organize your bag before you get to the security line. Even if you have TSA PreCheck, it’s still worth ensuring that all of your appropriately sized liquids are in one easy-to-grab Ziploc bag. When you get to the airport, take everything out of your pockets – loose change, car keys, your collection of Micro Machines – and put it in your carry-on (and before you pack your carry-on, double check to make sure you’re not carrying anything potentially problematic, like a can of soda or that tube of GoGurt that you somehow overlooked at lunch). Finally, keep your ID and boarding pass together, either in your hand or in one quickly accessed pocket.
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