For every touching reunion or tear-filled departure at an airport, there's someone yelling at a hapless gate attendant or asking to cut in front of the entire security line because they didn't plan ahead. While everyone has bad days, do your best to mitigate the effects by following these simple airport rules — especially if you find yourself in one of the busiest airports in the country.
Be Prepared for Security
Being a top-notch traveler — and decent human being — begins before you even reach the security line. Develop a go-to packing system that ensures any required items, including your laptop and bag of liquids, are conveniently located and easy to remove, so you won't have to dig to the bottom of your bag when it's your turn.
Use your time in line to check that your pockets are empty and that your boarding pass and ID are ready to go. Because you're being a responsible tourist and have brought your own water bottle, make sure it's empty before you reach the scanner. You can also consider removing jackets, belts, or any other items you know you're going to have to take off, in addition to unfastening your shoes if you haven't worn slip-ons.
One final security tip: when you reach the other side of the scanner, retrieve your luggage and then move away from the conveyor belt to reorganize it and put your shoes back on. This allows other people to reach their bags and prevents a bottleneck. You're also less likely to forget or misplace something if you're not feeling rushed and have the space to double check your items.
Eat Any Hot Food You Have and Forego the Coffee
For the sake of everyone else on the plane, do not bring hot food items on board. With the recirculated air in an enclosed space, any food smells become amplified, risking your seatmates becoming either envious or nauseous at your choice of fish fillet.
If you won't have time to eat your meal at the airport, stick with options like salads and cold sandwiches to bring on the plane. You'll also avoid the greasiness that accompanies many airport fast food choices, helping you stay healthier overall.
On another health-related note, put off your coffee fix until after you land. Not only will you lower the risk of having to climb over other passengers to reach the lavatory, but you'll also become less dehydrated in the plane's lower humidity. Without loading up on caffeine, you may even give your body the chance to get some rest in-flight.
Organize Your Items for the Flight
While you may have more bags in the airport than you're allowed on the plane — perhaps you picked up a shopping bag at duty-free or keep your purse outside of your backpack for the sake of convenience — you'll need to condense them into your allotted number before the flight, whether that's one carry-on bag and a personal item, or just a personal item for basic economy tickets.
Everyone knows how many items they're allowed to bring on board, so there's no reason an airline attendant should have to stop you at the gate for having too many. Combine them while you're in the waiting area in order to ensure a quicker boarding process for everyone.
You should also make sure any items you'll want in-flight, such as headphones, snacks, and books are easily accessible. Do this in the airport instead of in the aisle, to keep from blocking everyone else while you rummage through the overhead bin.
Ask Questions Before the Boarding Process Begins
If you're wondering about a potential cabin upgrade or changing seats to be beside family, ask the gate attendant while you're in the waiting area before the boarding process starts, not when your boarding pass is being scanned. Not only will the odds of them helping you be much higher if nobody is yet on the plane, but you won't incur dirty looks from the people behind you who just want to get to their seat already.
Also, be reasonable in acknowledging what gate attendants can and cannot do. If you booked tickets without seat selection, you may get lucky and find that they're both willing and able to seat your party together, but it isn't something to count on — nor is it their responsibility to do so.
Another thing to do before the boarding process begins? Know where your boarding pass is. If you're using an app, make sure your screen brightness is high enough for the code to be scanned and have it pulled up on your phone before you reach the gate. Likewise, have your passport readily available if you're flying internationally.
Be Mindful of Your Surroundings
This sounds elementary, and yet we've all seen — or even been — that clueless person, completely unaware that they're blocking an entire line of foot traffic or that they just swung their backpack into someone else's face. Whether due to jetlag or a 6 a.m. flight, there are plenty of reasons our brains may not be at our best while traveling, but we owe it to ourselves and others to do our best in remaining conscientious and considerate.
When you stop to read the departures board, look behind you and move to one side to check for your flight, instead of stopping directly in the middle of the walkway. The same applies when you need to take something out of, or put something into, your bag. Be sure you don't just halt abruptly in the flow of traffic to reorganize your luggage.
Similarly, if there are others waiting at the drinking fountain while you fill up your two-liter Nalgene, consider only filling it partway before you let them grab a three-second drink. Essentially, it all comes down to this: recognize that you are not the only person involved in the stressful act of traveling, and behave accordingly.
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