With flights now requiring you to check in at the airport several hours prior to boarding, the experience has become one you would rather skip. However, short of time sharing an air taxi, really there is no way around it. However, here are a few things that can make this unpleasant experience less stressful.
- Take a positive attitude. Arrive with great anticipation of the surprises in store for you as you stride through the long walks meeting people intent on their destination. Breathe in their sense of purpose. Enjoy the incomprehensible incoherent and incongruent happenings around you. May they all bring a smile to your lips. If you start off ugly it will only get worse. Take a book so you can read if you get in long lines. Winding yourself up will definitely not help.
- Get all the information you need around your particular flight. This includes baggage limits, transfers, wait times in airports, local time and terminal numbers for departure and arrival as you might need to transfer to another one. The comfort of having the data will help you chill.
- If you can, check-in online. If you do, when you arrive in the airport, the long line will not dazzle you. In some airports, there is a separate counter for those who have checked in online. In this counter, there is often no long line up. Learn also to use the check-in kiosks. This really speeds things up. They are very easy and user friendly. Learn how to use the kiosk when you are not in a hurry and it is not busy. Learning under stress is the quick road to anger. Sometimes, there are attendants around and often they will help out if you are stuck.
- Have all the things you need for check in ready: passports, tickets, air miles card, pens, addresses at your destination (hotel or private address) as usually this is asked for when you fill up the immigration card. In many cases, you do this on the plane before you land but sometimes you clear customs/immigration at the very place you check in... so be ready.
- Pack accordingly. Pack only the allowed baggage allowance. Pack your computer on top so you can take out quickly at check-in. Make sure your pockets are clean of anything that will trigger the detector. A small piece of a metal foil wrapper from a mint can lead to a going over you will never forget your whole life through. For women, avoid wire supports in your undergarments. Pack your toiletries per security instruction, only the allowed limits in a transparent bag that you put on a tray provided at check in. Small toothpaste tubes, too. Remember, your jackets or coats and shoes may have to go on a tray so think through what you are going to wear to avoid gymnastics. No lace shoes if you can help it or you will be forever. Label your luggage with your destination address. Put your home address in one of the pockets not to confuse the handlers. Know where your port of entry is.....the place where you need to pick up your luggage for customs. It may be different than your destination if the country has limited Ports of Entry.
- Relax...but be attentive. This is especially true immediately after check in and after security check. This is when many forget the little valuable items and papers. After check in...stop...check...tickets, passport...all your boarding passes. After security, make sure you picked up everything you put in the tray. Don't hurry. There are often chairs close by where you can put your shoes on and other items back in your bags. Check every item you put back. Make sure you got everything. Don't let the hustle of the airport infect you with runway race syndrome!
Be there early both for check in and for departure. You can relax over a cup of coffee. And watch for the time. Sometimes, after check-in, you immediately go to the lounge, get a drink and relax. Then, the time escapes you until they call for your name. And there you are taking double steps half running and embarrassed as you maneuver the aisle with looks from your fellow passengers. Had you been early, you could already be enjoying your champagne. Remember, if you are among the last getting on the plane, the overhead racks may be full and you get to share the footwell with your carry on....not pleasant on a long flight.