What You Should Know About Airports and Flying

Over winter break I spent a bit of time flying between Boston and Florida for a trip with four of my closest friends. This trip took me to four airports I had never been to in Boston, Atlanta, Tampa, and Orlando -- which meant I spent a lot of time observing and experiencing just how unpredictable flying and airports can be. In the process, I came up with a few tips for you:

 

1. Always check your flight status when you get up.

I had a 7 AM flight down to Atlanta, which meant I was up at 4:30. Turns out the flight had gotten delayed to 7:40, so I got to sleep more and leave for the airport later.

2. Leave extra time for security.

I know security usually isn’t bad, especially for domestic flights, but never underestimate their ability to be a pain in the butt. I’ve never needed to have my bag checked, but this time they had to pull all of the coins out of my wallet, while working with a trainee learning how to scan bags, so the process took quite a bit longer than I’m used to. It also happened to the friend I was travelling with. So just to play it safe, leave yourself some cushion room in terms of time.

3. Be prepared for delays.

Boston was supposed to have snow the afternoon I was flying out but Atlanta, where I was travelling to for my connecting flight, was having ice storms in the morning. This meant instead of leaving at 7 I has to leave at 10. Always be prepared for extra delays by having a book or a movie downloaded onto your computer, because you never know how long you’re going to have to wait.

4. Have a backup plan/plans for when you get off the plane.

Because we left 3 hours late, my friend and I missed our connecting flight. The airline was good and had people when we got off the plane to rebook our flights, but that may not always be the case. If you need to mention something to the flight attendant or if you have time before boarding, see if you can contact the airport you’re connecting from and have them transfer your ticket. They have to honor it since it’s not your fault you missed your connecting flight.

5. Look for a map and follow the signs.

Being that I had never been in any of these airports, I had no idea where I was going in terms of terminals, gates, or transportation, so following the signs is key. If you have questions don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t risk missing your flight. If your ticket says what terminal you’re leaving from, see if you can get a general idea of where it is from the airline or airport's website so you’re not totally lost.

6. Look at the rules and regulations (especially for baggage).

I’ve flown on a few different airlines and usually the rules are the same -- one carry on, one personal item, you can check bags for a fee, and keep your liquids under 3 ounces and in a single quart size bag. But sometimes the fees are different depending on where you’re flying to and sometimes you end up having to check a bag at the gate. And if you have something suspicious (like all the coins they dumped out of my wallet) in your carry-on, they’ll pull you aside and its overall just a big hassle.

7. Bring an empty water bottle and a snack.

You can’t bring a full bottle of water through security, but the water in the duty free shops is ridiculously expensive. So instead of wasting your money just bring an empty bottle and fill it before you get onto the plane. You can also bring snacks through security and that saves you from spending more money and suffering through the not-so-great pretzels and peanuts provided on the flight.

8. Know that things may get screwed up but it’ll all be fine.

My flight got delayed three hours, I missed my connecting flight, they lost my best friend's luggage, and we got to Florida three and a half hours later than we planned, but everything turned out fine. Flying and dealing with airports can make you crazy but it’ll all work out.

Flying can be a disaster between having to be up at 4 am, dealing with people who have prohibited items, finding out your bag is overweight, and having to de-board the plane, but travelling is always worth it. Here’s hoping your next flight goes a bit smoother than mine did, and have happy and safe travels!