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    I've Taken Nearly 100 Flights In 5 Years — These Are The Tricks I Swear By To Make Air Travel As Easy As Possible

    When we can all fly safely again, these simple tricks will make your next trip as easy and low-stress as possible.

    Have you ever sat in an airport watching other travelers pass by? Some people make travel look easy, but the majority of travelers look frantic.

    Woman looks at departure screens with her suitcase
    Martin-dm / Getty Images

    As a travel writer, I've flown hundreds of times, and I've made enough silly mistakes — losing my boarding pass, missing my flight because I was in line for a sandwich, getting my moisturizer taken at security — to figure out the differences between people who glide through the airport and those who struggle.

    You don't have to fly often to travel like a pro. Here are the tricks and habits that make flying a whole lot easier for me.

    1. One day before your flight, download the app of the airline you're flying so you can check-in and get your boarding pass.

    An iPhone screen with two airline apps circled.
    Evie Carrick

    I'm not a fan of downloading a ton of apps, but it's worth it when you're flying. When you download an airline's app, you can check in from your phone, access your boarding pass (SO much easier than keeping track of a paper ticket), get flight updates, and, in some cases, stream in-flight movies and TV. 

    2. If you have to get a COVID-19 test for your flight, download whatever app the airline suggests, and upload your test results (and/or vaccination record).

    Screenshot of an American Airlines check-in email
    American Airlines

    COVID has really slowed things down at most airports. Getting everything done at home before you arrive at the airport will save you big time. Recently, I didn't download or upload my test results and vaccination record to the airline app, so I had to wait in a very long check-in line.

    At this point, every airline seems to have their own test and vaccine verifying service. American Airlines uses VeriFLY, United Airlines uses Travel-Ready Center, and many international airlines are currently testing the IATA Travel Pass. With these apps, you can see what documentation you need to fly and you can get it verified in advance.

    3. Pack light and pack smart (aka skip the bag-drop line).

    Woman at airport has her feet on her suitcase
    Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

    It doesn't matter if you're traveling for two weeks, a month, or a weekend. You can fit everything you need in a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. Remember, laundry exists all over the world, and when is the last time you ever wore everything you packed anyway?

    What you pack will vary based on where you're going of course, but my go-to is two pairs of shoes, a couple pairs of jeans, a couple dresses, a sweater or sweatshirt, five shirts, PJs, and five pairs of socks and underwear. Depending where you're traveling you may need extras (like a swimsuit, scarf, rain jacket, etc), but you get the idea.

    Oh, and there's no weight limit for carry-on bags. YAY!

    4. Put your clothing in a carry-on, but store everything you'll have to remove at security as a personal item (aka your purse, backpack, shoulder bag).

    Two people putting their items in bins for airport security
    Azmanjaka / Getty Images

    This move will save you so much time at the security line. If your carry-on suitcase is just full of clothes, you can throw it on the security belt while you focus on your personal item, which will have all the "questionable" items like  liquids, large electronics, and food. 

    Packing this way also ensures everything you'll need in-flight will be in your personal item (which should be stowed under the seat in front of you). That way, you won't need to get up and open the overhead bin to rummage through your suitcase mid-flight.

    5. If you're stressed about space in your carry-on suitcase, be strategic about what you wear to the airport.

    Man hands passport to gate agent at the airport
    Vm / Getty Images

    To save room in your carry-on bag, wear your bulkiest clothing on the plane (think: your biggest pair of shoes, jeans, a big sweatshirt, etc...).

    6. And keep in mind that what you wear also effects how quickly you get through airport security.

    Man at airport getting patted down by airport secuirty
    Simonkr / Getty Images

    When deciding what to wear to the airport, you'll want to keep airport security in mind. Skip the belt and chunky jewelry, wear a jacket you can easily take on or off, and opt for shoes you can slip off easily. I also always wear socks because no one wants to walk barefoot through security.

    Plus, since you will likely be checking your ticket a thousand times while you're at the airport, wear something with pockets so you can easily access your phone and passport.

    7. Strategically pack your personal item, keeping items you'll need to remove in the security line accessible.

    Group of people going through airport security
    Azmanjaka / Getty Images

    The TSA suggests packing in layers, which works well. Put things you won't need to touch at security or in-flight at the bottom of your personal item, and pack items you know you'll have to access at the top. These items might include large electronics (laptop, Kindle, iPad), food, liquids, gels, and aerosols.

    8. Take TSA's liquids rules seriously.

    Plastic bag of liquids
    Evie Carrick

    All airports have different procedures, and actually I've been through some airports that don't even make you pull out liquids. I think it depends on their screening equipment. That being said, you can avoid any holds-ups by following the "official" rules, which say all liquids, gels, and aerosols should be 3.4 ounces or less, and they should all fit in a single, quart-sized plastic bag. 

    9. Bring an empty water bottle that you can fill up once you get through security.

    Water fountain in an airport
    Jeff Greenberg / Jeff Greenberg/Universal Images Greoup via Getty Images

    A reusable water bottle is clutch for travel. The air in planes is dry, so you'll need to work extra hard to stay hydrated. That means means those tiny bottles of water you get on board won't cut it. If you're flying internationally, this is even more important because dehydration can actually worsen jet lag

    Bring a water bottle, fill it up once you get through security, and put it in your personal item so you can access it and drink plenty during the flight.

    10. You might also want to pack a few snacks in case you don't have time to grab food before your flight.

    Backpack with a water bottle, nuts, and fruit
    Evie Carrick

    I've quite literally missed a flight because I thought I had enough time to get lunch. These days I always pack a bag of nuts, an energy bar, and usually an apple or two in my personal item...just in case.

    Keep in mind that if you pack a liquid-y food like yogurt you'll have to pull it out at security.

    11. Put together an airplane kit containing headphones, eye drops, extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.

    Random items to bring on an airplane
    Evie Carrick

    There are a few essentials that will make your flight so much easier. Bring headphones so you can access the plane's in-flight entertainment (which may be on the seat-back OR on your phone) and a charging cord (because watching a movie on your own device can quickly drain the battery). 

    I always bring eye drops because my eyes get very dry on planes, as well as a few COVID-related items like an extra face mask or two, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes. 

    12. If you need to sleep on the flight, also pack a few sleep essentials.

    Sleep items for the airplane
    Evie Carrick

    If I know I want to sleep on a flight, I'll carry on earplugs, an eye mask, a blow-up neck pillow, and a little lavender essential oil (which helps me prep for sleep). If you have a hard time sleeping on planes and are on a long-haul flight, bring along some Tylenol PM, too.

    13. If you have a carry-on suitcase and the flight is full, make sure you board as early as possible.

    People waiting in line to board the plane
    Erlon Silva - Tri Digital / Getty Images

    In all honesty, I hate how people scramble to board planes, but if you're on a full flight and are trying to make a tight connection with a carry-on suitcase,  plan ahead. You'll want to line up early to ensure your bag fits in the overhead compartment. I've been on several flights where the plane has run out of overhead bin space and the staff started putting bags in the hold below. It's usually not a big deal, but it can be a nightmare when you have a tight connection.

    14. If it looks like overhead bins are already full, put your carry-on bag in the first available bin you pass located in front of your seat.

    Woman puts carry-on bag in the overhead bin
    Andriy Onufriyenko / Getty Images

    There is nothing worse than getting to your seat only to find that the overhead bin space around you is full. If this happens, you're basically suck with two unfortunate options: 1.) put your bag behind you, knowing that you'll have to wait for everyone to deplane before you get it, or 2.) move against the flow of people boarding the plane and find a bin closer to the front of the aircraft.

    I always make a game-time call as I'm boarding or I ask the welcoming flight attendant about the status of overhead bin space. If it looks full, I put my bag in a bin closer to the front of the plane on the way to my seat so it will be easy to grab as I deplane. Just make sure to remember the aisle number!

    15. If you have a tight connection, look up your landing gate and connection gate in the airline app. While you're at it, inform the flight attendant that you have a tight connection.

    Screenshot of connecting flight information
    American Airlines

    If you're worried about making a connection, there are a few things you can do to deplane and get to your connecting gate quickly. First, use the airline's app to figure out where you'll be landing and what gate you need to go to. Next, let a flight attendant know you have a tight connection. You might also want to inform your seat mate so you can get up quickly. 

    If you're lucky, the flight team will make an announcement asking people to stay seated so passengers with tight connections can deplane. 

    16. Pick your carry-on suitcase and personal item wisely.

    Image of a person's feet with a rolly carry-on suitcase
    Evie Carrick

    Running through an airport (especially with a mask on) is never fun, but sometimes it has to be done. This is when your choice of luggage actually matters. I recommend a four-wheel carry-on suitcase, which can be pushed or pulled alongside you and a backpack instead of a shoulder bag or purse.

    Do you have any great tips for flying that I either missed? Tell us in the comments below!

    Disclaimer: This article was written to provide travel recommendations or suggestions; however, it’s important to keep in mind your own health, community health, and exposure risk.

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