What to expect at the airport

While many people consider themselves frequent flyers, either for business or leisure, not everyone gets the opportunity to travel or fly like them.  This can lead to unnecessary anxiety before a trip because they are unsure of what it is that will happen when they set off on that first big trip.

Everyone knows someone who is fearful of that first big trip.  Perhaps it’s your parents, grandparents, or neighbors.  They remember flying 10 or 20 years ago, but haven’t taken a trip in quite some time.  Since 9/11, the process of flying anywhere has changed dramatically and what once was is no longer.

It’s time to unravel some of the mystery surrounding the airport so you can be prepared and start your trip off stress free.

  1. Check in online for your flight: Usually you can check in 24-hours in advance of your flight online.  When you purchase your tickets, you usually can choose your seats, but you’ll be able to verify and possibly change your seats, including upgrade, at check in.  Check with your airline for specifics.
  2. Have your paperwork, ID’s, 3-1-1 bag, etc. ready.  Be sure to situate all of your essentials into one bag before you leave your home, including your passport or ID, money, etc. so you don’t have any problems when you arrive.
  3. Decide how you’ll get to the airport.  If you’re lucky enough to get a friend or family member to drive you, then you’re all set.  But if not, you’ll have to decide if you should drive and park at the airport or an off airport parking area.  If you’d rather not, you might want to look into public transportation, a shuttle, or bus as possible options.  Find out the prices in advance, especially for parking, to avoid a huge bill upon your return.
  4. Grab your luggage and head inside the terminal.  While this may seem obvious, you should know a few things about checking in with your airline at the airport.  If you decide to drop your bags off curbside to avoid the lines inside, there are usually fees associated with this.  If you simply walk a few steps inside the terminal, you can walk up to the ticket agent and check your bags there for no additional fee.
  5. Present your ID to the ticket agent and boarding pass: If you’ve printed off your boarding pass during the online check in process, present it along with your ID to the ticket agent.  Some airlines have kiosks, like little ATM machines, where you can do check in yourself, but if that scares you, head to an agent for assistance.
  6. Go through Security: Now comes the fun part of going through Security with TSA.  You’ll enter a line and when it’s your turn, present your ID and boarding pass to the agent.  They will scribble something on it, hand it to you, and indicate which line to enter.  Grab a grey bin and place your 3-1-1 bag with liquids along with your shoes, belt, and laptop or iPad (these go in separate bins) inside the bin.
  7. Place your bin inside the X-ray machine: Do not walk away until your bin is inside the machine.
  8. Follow the TSA agent’s directions: They will require you to walk through an X-ray machine or similar machine.  Once through, they might need to use a wand to scan you again or they will motion you to pick up your items.
  9. Grab all of your items before leaving: Put your shoes on, grab all of your items, and then leave Security.
  10. Head to your gate: You now finished the most difficult part of the process and you can now relax until it’s time to leave.  Find a comfortable seat, grab a drink or a snack, and relax.
  11. Board the plane: On your boarding pass is information not only about which gate your flight will leave from, but also what seat you are in as well as what zone you are in for boarding.  Pay attention to the zone and only enter the line to board when your zone is called.  Getting in line or hovering around the area where the line is only slows things down and can delay boarding as well as the actual flight from leaving.  Present your boarding ticket to the gate agent who will scan it and allow you to enter the gangway toward the plane.

For the novice traveler, this may sound like it is far too many steps, but once you get the hang of it, I promise you’ll be hooked for life.

One thought on “What to expect at the airport

  • March 23, 2019 at 10:29 AM

    For those who don’t want to try and navigate public transportation or parking at off-site airport lots, you can also price out renting a car one-way to the airport. This works especially well if you live a good distance from the airport and you can drive the car right to the rental drop off area and be close to the airport terminals. Then you can do the same thing in reverse after your trip. This method saved me a significant amount of money on parking fees when I left for a three-week trip last year.

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