June 19, 2024

Airports can be overwhelming

If you are a first-time flyer and you need to navigate the airport you will need a little help. They can be overwhelming and confusing. You may have to navigate to your terminal via a tram and that can be a bit much when you are new to an airport. Most people need help Navigating the Airport.

Most airports have the same basic design. I will give you the standard steps you need to take no matter which airport you are in.  You don’t need an airport map. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the airport.

How to find your way around an airport

Getting to the Right Terminal and General Gate Area  

There will be loads of great signage when you enter the airport. If you are going by Uber or other car service, they will be very familiar with the layout of the airport. Knowing your airline will tell the driver a lot as to where he should drop you. But don’t assume …check online beforehand and know which terminal is the one for YOUR flight.

It is recommended you arrive a couple of hours before your department for all domestic flights. Longer for the international flights.  I always give myself plenty of wiggle room in my schedule. I’m not the type to risk missing my flight. That trip is very important to me!

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Give Yourself Extra Time

Checking a bag will take a little time out of your routine so be prepared to wait in line and get your bag processed.  This could be done by a kiosk and then completed by a desk agent.  You will enter some information about your flight reservation to print boarding passes, check bags and select seats. From there, you’ll need to get in line for the luggage drop (desk agent). Managing the kiosk is confusing but there are agents standing by to help. Don’t hesitate to ask.

If you are not checking a bag, then go straight to the security line.  There are usually 2 options in the security area – General and Priority.  There will be an agent at the priority entrance to monitor and ensure that General passengers don’t get into that line.

Parking: I never leave my car at the airport but if you decided to park your car you will need to give yourself plenty of time to park and then take the shuttle to the terminals. There could be a bit of a wait so don’t cut it close.

Checking In

Airlines need to know you are going to be on the flight.  Check-in online or at the counter as soon as you can. This will ensure your seat is not given away to anyone standing by for a seat.

I always check in as soon as the window opens online. This will get me at the top of the list in my group. If you wait, you will be put in order you checked-in.  The main reason most people like to board early is due to the limited space in overhead bins. They know they have a seat but the space for luggage can run out and then you will need to check your bag.

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Boarding Passes

We are in the age where so many things are digital. There is a problem with that. Your phone could be dead when it comes time to board, or you cannot get connected to pull your boarding pass.  I always do two things. I take a picture of my boarding pass code and I also print out the pass. I’ve been caught too many times with my phone being dead just when I walk up to the agent to scan my pass.

Security

Once you’ve checked your luggage and gotten your boarding pass, you should go to the security checkpoint leading to the proper concourse for your flight. Concourses are usually marked by a letter and align with your gate designation (so Gate C33 would be in Concourse C).

In most airports you have one main entry before you see the specific signage for individual concourses. It may say “To All Gates”. Also, you could have different security check points depending on your gate. Don’t ever hesitate to ask someone, they really don’t mind helping you!

Do your research and understand what you can and cannot take on the flight. Many prohibited items should be obvious; you can’t bring weapons, flammables or other sharp objects in your carry-on. But there are some surprising items you cannot bring through airport security, too. A common one that gets people is that liquids are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces. You can’t bring through beverages, but it also means you can’t bring through foods like peanut butter jars or yogurt containers.

You can’t bring many toothpastes, lotions or shampoos unless they are in a small package.  I tend to not travel with all those liquids just to keep it simple and I enjoy shopping for them at my destination.

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A TSA agent will check your boarding pass and ID. Have both items out before you walk up to their podium to save time.  Once you get past the agents store them in a safe spot.

Walk up to the baggage screening line where you will see people taking off jackets and pulling out their electronics to place in bins. Follow their lead. Use as many bins as you need. Don’t walk away from your bin until it is up to the entry of the screening machine.

Your little bag of toiletries should be in a TSA approved bag and out of your luggage to be screened. I usually keep mine at the top of my bag so I can grab and drop it in the bin quickly.  

Put your electronics in a security bin. Do not stack them.

Next it is time to be x-rayed.  The agent will direct you to the scanner where you will stand on the printed footprints and raise your arms to be scanned.

Once you’re out of the machine, grab all of your bins and luggage. To avoid crowding and holding up the line, take your luggage and bins to the area that is designated for reorganizing your items. This will keep the line from getting clogged. Make sure you don’t forget anything. And always listen to the announcemtns.  They will call people back to the area if they find items that have been left behind. You may not even know you left something until you hear the message.

Gate

Now you have been vetted and are clear to get on the plane. Your boarding pass will give you the gate number and boarding time. These are the two things that are very important to know. But both of those can change so either have the app on your phone to be notified or check the departure panel to make certain you are in the right area.  If you are sitting in your gate area you will need to listen to the announcements since they may change your gate and they will call it out on the intercom.

Remember: Ask someone if you are lost or confused. Many people traveling understand how things can get confusing.

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Waiting Time

You will have time to sit and relax before you board if you apply the time rules above.  They will call boarding from the desk. I use this time to grab snacks and maybe a book. And of course, use the toilet one last time before I board.

I have been traveling for many years and I treat myself to lounge access.  It gives me a lot for my money. They offer food, drinks, soft chairs and a more quiet and civilized space to wait for my flight.

Boarding

You will be called to board based on the order on your boarding pass.  They will board the families, disabled and military first.  Then they go with the priority travelers. They board First Class and Business Class first in this group.  They pay for this privilege.  Remember: You have a seat so no need to rush it. And your bag will get to your destination with no issues.  

You are done using your boarding pass. You can discard it. Tuck into your seat and let the flight take off on time.

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Retrieve your luggage.

Upon arrival you will need to collect your luggage – if you have checked a bag. Follow the signs to Baggage Claim. Most of the time the flight attendants will call out the carousel number of where your luggage will be. It will also be shown on a screen above the carousel. It takes them time to get the luggage off the aircraft so be patient.

If you don’t see your bags after all the luggage from the flight has been unloaded, find the airline’s baggage office to report your missing items. They should be able to help you find them. If your luggage is missing, document your loss and collect the necessary paperwork such that you can file a claim with your travel insurance provider or credit card issuer (assuming it includes insurance coverage).

Exiting The Airport

Each airport has different rules about where to pick up rideshare services. You might need to figure out which level of the airport is designated for ground transportation — meaning buses, shuttles, and cars to catch a ride out of the airport. Sometimes, you might be able to take the metro right from the airport to the heart of the city. Follow the signs and ask for help. The hard part is now over – go and enjoy your time on your holiday!

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