Photo by Lumina/Stocksy. Design by Erik Mace for Yahoo Travel
Air travel is stressful. You’ve shelled out big bucks for a trip, fretted about the details, and now travel day has finally arrived. The decisions you make at the airport can make or break not only your day of travel but also possibly your entire trip. Here is Yahoo Travel’s list of the worst things you can do at the airport — now if you can just get everyone else there to avoid these bad decisions, life would be golden.
Shopping at the airport
This falls into the same category as drinking from the mini bar at a hotel — there to tempt you with convenience and forced boredom. Unless you really can’t make it through the flight without that purple neck pillow, keep your money in your wallet. That includes duty-free shops at international terminals. They may not come with import taxes, but the prices are not likely to be comparable to street prices to begin with. At least use your phone to do a quick search on Amazon for the going price before you buy.
Thinking the ticket agent can get you a free upgrade from your cheap seat
Smile all you like. Complain. Show the agent your cute little puppy peeking out of the carrier. It’s not going to work. In today’s upgrade world, it’s pay up or shut up. Upgrades for money or points are offered by some carriers at the check-in counter or at self-serve kiosks but often only to full-fare passengers or those with mileage status on the airline.
Losing your boarding pass
Not only is it your way through security and onto the plane, but it can be decoded to provide personal information about you that identity thieves can use. If you’re prone to misplacing it, a downloading your boarding pass onto your phone can be a good way to go.
Moving walkways in U.S. airports serve two purposes: (1) transporting people unable (or unwilling) to walk long distances between gates or terminals and (2) speeding along people who are late for flights. If you are in the first group, your job on a moving walkway is to stand to the right so people in the second group can speed walk past you on the left. Is this really that hard, people? And keep your carry-on luggage on the right too, please. This brilliant process also works on escalators.
Overdressing or underdressing
I am constantly amazed at the outfits people travel in. Wouldn’t your day be easier if you wore shoes that slip on and off easily? And maybe not wear so much metal jewelry? And then there are the flip-floppers. Bare feet in an airport security line? Eeewww!
Taking stinky airport food onto the plane
Waiting at the wrong gate
No matter how tempting it may be to find a quiet place away from your crowded gate to become engrossed in your phone or have a nap, it’s a bad idea. If you’re at your own gate, there is at least some hope you will snap back to reality or wake up from your nap at the noise of the boarding process.
Thinking you don’t qualify to get into a lounge
A better way to escape the noise, expensive food, and chaotic atmosphere of the airport altogether is by spending your preflight interlude in a lounge. Lounges are not the exclusive territory of first-class passengers or serious frequent flyers. For $50 you can secure a day pass to a host of airport lounges operated by airlines without belonging to any frequent-flyer program. Sometimes just having the right credit card in your wallet is enough to get you a free meal and drink, free Wi-Fi, and maybe even a quick shower between long-haul flights. At American Express Centurion Lounges, all you need is a Platinum card to wave the $50 day-use fee and enjoy a bit of the good life before your takeoff.
Assuming there will be affordable, tasty food
There are a few exceptions to the tasty part, but not always in smaller airports or even if every terminal of a bigger hub. Plus, better food usually comes with a hefty price. You’ll end up spending $10 to $12 for a fast food meal that would cost you $7.50 away from the terminal. You’ll pay even more for table service if it even exists near your particular gate, but a full-service restaurant often comes with the advantages of slightly more comfortable surroundings, drink refills, and possibly free Wi-Fi. When in doubt, BYO travel-friendly food.
Photo: Getty Images
Assuming you won’t get fed you on the flight
I recently watched as fellow American travelers scarfed down expensive airport sandwiches right before boarding a Lufthansa flight that served a very tasty lunch. We have become so used to the recent lack of no meal service on U.S. airlines that we assume it’s the standard. Check your flight details before you overpay for airport food thinking it’s your only option.
Blaming the ticket agent for long lines or delays
You already know this, but it’s really not his or her fault that the computer system has a glitch or that a few hundred people need to check bags at the same time. It was probably that guy in front of you refusing to check his oversize carry-on that held up everything.
Stowing your car keys inside your checked luggage
It always seems logical at the time. You exit your car knowing that you won’t need those keys for the duration of your trip and you are trying to scale down the weight of your carry-on. Plus, there’s the hassle of taking them out of your pockets at security. And they fit so nicely in that outer zipper pocket of your big suitcase, where you can easily retrieve them on your return. In 2014, U.S. airlines reported roughly 2.1 million mishandled checked bags according to the Department of Transportation. Need we say more?
Putting anything you can’t replace in your checked luggage
Let’s review. 2.1 million mishandled bags! Three out of every 1,000 passengers experiences a “mishandling” of their luggage. The rule of thumb is that if it cannot be replaced at your destination and it is an integral part of your journey, carry it on.
Neglecting to put identification on the outside of your luggage
This includes not only a method of contacting you if your luggage becomes a mishandling statistic but also an easy way for you to identify it on the carousel or in the overhead bin. Ribbons, straps, handle wraps, stickers, etc. are among the arsenal of marking tools at your disposal. When it comes to luggage identification, bolder can be better.
Forgetting to put identification inside your luggage
That 2.1 million statistic does not include the minor damage that happens to luggage on every trip — including mangling or accidental removal of your exterior identification tag. Never, ever travel without a contact phone number or email address placed prominently inside the bag.
Leaving with the wrong luggage
If you failed to follow the rule of clearly, gaudily marking your luggage, you are at risk of snagging the wrong bag. Check all luggage carefully before you walk away.
Thinking your luggage scale is the one that matters
How many times do you need to tell the ticket agent that your scale at home said 49.7 pounds? If the check-in scale your luggage is sitting on says it weighs 51.2 then redistribute between your bags or pay up.
Photo: Getty Images
Joking with security
We love it when an agent is jovial rather than grumpy, but don’t take that as an invitation to joke around about a bomb. Agents have a job to do — and that includes taking people seriously.
Arguing with security
Airport security has rules. There are procedures. You really think agents are going to break them because you are late for your flight? If flyers would just pay attention while standing in line instead of reading Facebook posts, they’d know what goes in bins, what goes on the conveyor, and whether or not to take off the belt sweater. That way there’s no argument needed when security tells you one electronic device per bin.
Getting drunk This is a no-brainer. If you want to fly, don’t drink to the point of inebriation. Everybody hates that guy — even the flight attendants. Don’t let it be you.
Leaving anything unattended
Another decision that should not require any thought but is something I see all the time. Don’t. Walk. Away. From. Your. Stuff.
Sitting for two hours while you wait for a flight
You’re about to be trapped in an uncomfortable seat for hours. Why would you spend your entire preflight time sitting? Use the time to walk and stretch. Even standing is better than more sitting.
Avoiding water because it will make you have to use the airplane bathroom
In case you missed the memo: Air travel dehydrates you. The air circulating inside a plane at 30,000 feet is desert dry at less than 20 percent humidity. We understand the desire to avoid the high-elevation Porta-Potty; there are few things nastier. But consuming water before a flight helps prepare your body for the drier environment, warding off a host of nasty things like dry sinuses (which allow germs in), thicker blood (that clots in your veins), and — nobody’s friend — constipation.
Not visiting the airport facilities before your flight
Not only will this potentially help you avoid the plane bathroom, but it gives you the opportunity to wash your hands. You rode in airport transfer buses. You have touched security bins. You have held handrails on moving walkways and escalators. You probably touched at least one armrest somewhere in the airport. All of these things are loaded with pathogens. Do yourself and everyone else a favor and wash your hands before you board.
Ignoring advice from airport workers
If you happen to be on a shuttle from a car rental, a hotel, or another terminal, when the driver speaks, you should listen. Something as simple as “watch your step” could make your day a bit smoother. They’re there every day. They know the deal better than you. I recently watched a bunch of impatient fellow travelers ignore a Turkish bus driver’s advice to use his cart for transport through the first round of security. They demanded to handle their own luggage. Guess what. The rest of us and our luggage were sped through via an express lane. If someone who knows has advice, take it.
Forgetting to have easy-to-access small bills in the right currency
If you use the services of a shuttle-bus driver, a taxi driver, or curbside baggage porters be prepared to tip them for the assistance. Use the appropriate currency and have small bills handy so that you don’t need to expose your entire wallet to retrieve them. It will save you embarrassment, aggravation, and, potentially, trouble.
Photo: Getty Images
Acting like you’re the only person in the gate area
Nobody else wants to listen to your favorite sitcom being streamed to your iPad, hear your phone conversations, or listen to your music.
Forgetting that asking a person for directions can be better than an app
No matter how many maps or apps you download, there will always be that moment when you stand in an unfamiliar airport with confusing signs wondering exactly where you need to go to catch the tram to Terminal 2. That’s the time to go old-school and just ask somebody. Kudos to airports that intuitively know where their points of confusion are and employ greeters to cheerfully point the way.
Joking with the passport-control people
You are tired. The end of your journey is in sight. There is only one thing blocking your path out of terminal hell — passport control. Mess this up and you may get an unexpected behind-the-scenes tour of the airport’s immigration offices. Shake off the flight fog and pay attention. Read the signs. Listen to the instructions. Have your passport and visas ready to hand over. Remove your hat and sunglasses and look the person behind the counter in the eye. The torture will end soon.
Forgetting where you left your car
You have been in travel brain for days now. Things like where you left the car and the keys that operate it may take a bit to recall. Was it in the north lot or the south lot? True conversation between me and hubs at the baggage carousel at 1 o’clock in the morning following a grueling 24-hour travel day:
“What’s the name of the hotel where we left the car so we can call them for a shuttle?”
“Not sure, but they gave us a card with the phone number on it. It’s with the keys.”
“Where are the keys?”
“I don’t recall seeing them during the trip.”
“Then they’re probably in the zipper pocket of the big suitcase. It’s the only logical place.”
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