“Flying may not be all plain sailing, but the fun of it is worth the price” - Amelia Earhart
As nomads, we generally take a lot of flights, and I love airports, but I feel like most people don't. For me, airports represent the anticipation of a trip or the comfort of coming home. I absolutely love stepping off the plane and seeing the languages written on the signs, hearing the announcements on the loudspeaker, seeing the different restaurant chains available, the decorations, the tourism marketing, and just like your first glimpse into a new country and a new culture.
The “fresh air” and open space as a massive relief after spending hours and hours in a small tube in the air. The rush victory you get when you see your bag come down the conveyor belt, the familiar accents, sights, and sounds of your home airport, and the jolt in your stomach when you first spot that person who's waiting to pick you up.
My home airport is Chicago O'Hare, which is the same airport they run through in Home Alone. And so every time I come home it always makes me think of that movie, and I just get a little smile on my face. I know that's one of people's least favorite airports, but to me it's home.
I also know there's the flip side of that, all the necessary evils of airports. They are really dull. They're busy, they're dirty, they're expensive, they're stressful, and they might not even be stressful, but people just get stressed when they're traveling no matter what. There's just this like nervous energy at the airport that is stressful in and of itself, and all that's if you're on time, don't even get me started if you're running late.
But there are a few things you can do to improve your airport experience and to be a good passenger which make it a little bit better, a little bit easier, and a little bit more pleasant. Since airports are an inevitable part of the digital nomad lifestyle, might as well, right?
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1. Be prepared
This might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't if you've ever been to an airport, at how unprepared people are when they show up.
In an environment where so much is out of our control, the one thing that you can control is having all of your shit together.
Show up with enough time. I know that everybody hates lines, but if you arrive at enough time, then you at least don't have to be stressed out while you're standing in them. Put on a podcast or music and just hang out.
You can also check in online beforehand if possible, follow the rules for the weight and the size restrictions of your bag. Repacking at the airport is very stressful.
Check your ticket and then double check it, and then triple check it. Have I shown up at the airport on the wrong day before? I don't really wanna talk about it. I've never missed a flight before though, so that's good. Knock on wood. Check the time. Is it am or pm? Is there more than one airport in the city that you're departing from?
After you've gotten all that right, make sure that you know your boarding group, your gate, your arrival airport.
All of this sounds really obvious and really simple, but when you're so focused on other parts of travel, sometimes those really small details are easy to slip by us.
2. Be ready when its’s your turn at security
I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to me when you've spent all this time waiting in security and then by the time that you get there, the person in front of you doesn't have anything ready. They have to dig in their bag for their laptop, take off their belt at their own leisurely pace or finish their water. Why didn’t you do that already?
Don't bring guns or knives or razors or rockets. Pay attention. Push your bin before going through the x-rays. And listen to the very kind airport employees instructions and keep moving.
Also, if you could not repack and redress right where all the things are coming out at the other end of the conveyor belt. That would be excellent. Literally, everyone has to go there. Get out of the way! Go sit on a bench somewhere!
Can you tell this is a little triggering for me?
TSA precheck is a frigging game changer. You can bypass almost all of that nonsense.
3. Use headphones
For the love of all things, please use headphones or just don't listen to or watch anything.
Even if you are using headphones, you probably also don't need it cranked on full volume. We can hear that too.
4. Use standard traffic etiquette.
Those who are standing on the moving walkways and escalators stay to the right. And have your luggage on the right with you, so those who are walking can get by also.
P.S. Does anybody else love moving walkways? I, I think they're so fun.
5. Take up one seat at your boarding gate
If you’re there hours early, ok, but read the room once boarding time starts approaching. Your carry-on doesn't need a seat. Your feet don't need a seat, and your food and garbage certainly do not need a seat.
If you need to lay down, move to the floor or head to an empty gate.
6. Space at a designated charging station is precious.
Once you finish charging, get out.
7. RE: In-flight fashion
Sometimes I feel like I find myself rolling my eyes of people dressed up for flights, and I've also heard a lot of people rant about people who dress down to fly. I think ultimately it's none of our business what other people are wearing. Wear what makes you feel comfortable or confident or wear what you must because you couldn't fit it into your luggage.
As long as it doesn't severely affect my wait time when I'm behind you at security, then you do you.
8. Give people who are traveling with children a break
Traveling is so tough for all of us, and having to be responsible for keeping small humans happy and comfortable and entertained while doing so is a damn near impossible task.
We never know the full story behind anything or anyone, but at airports, we suddenly have all this free time to sit around and judge everyone. I'm speaking directly to myself in the past as I have been very guilty of this. But I can only imagine how hard it is to travel with kids and, they're already self-conscious about it, so just cut 'em a little slack.
9. Embrace the lines
Lines are everywhere. Check in security. McDonald's, the bathroom, the drinking fountain everywhere. So just accept it.
Some of them can actually be avoided.
The first bathrooms after security and baggage claim and a boarding flight are super packed. But if you walk to the end of the terminal or you walk a little bit farther down, there are other bathrooms available, and they usually don't have lines.
If that's not the case, then take a deep breath because stressing out about it isn't gonna make the line move any faster.
And I gotta say, I've never quite understood queuing to board a plane. You're not only creating a line that like doesn't need to exist, but you're essentially lining up to sit on the plane for longer. But again, you do you.
10. Don't shoot the messenger
It is most likely not the fault of the person you are talking to about whatever egregious inconvenience that has been committed against you- from lost luggage to flight delays and everything in between.
Try to keep in mind that it wasn't done to personally offend you. Everybody there wants you to have the best experience possible because it also makes their lives so much easier when you're happy.
So, be kind and patient, even though I know that sometimes it's really hard, especially after a long day of travel or just a lot of stress.
11. Walk around
Moving walkways are the most fun things. I know I already said that, but I just feel like you can never say it enough. Stretch your legs. Explore a little bit. . [00:08:00] There are some really cool airports around the world with like really fun activities and some decorations and lots of fun duty-free browsing to be done.
12. Treat yourself
Once you've gotten through security, you've earned it baby!
Maybe the airport is the only place you're allowed to indulge in a Cinnabon or in a tabloid or , whatever it may be. So take advantage of that, especially if you got some foreign currency leftover that you need to get rid of. Go nuts!
Even if you followed all of the previously mentioned tips, the airports can still be a stressful experience. So it's okay to buy a snack if you want.
13. People watch
It's really fun, and it'll pass the time.
14. Airport lounges
Airport lounges are a fricking game changer. I know I already said that about TSA precheck. They both are, I guess, but airport lounges are amazing.
They offer separate wifi which is much stronger, faster, and more secure than that of the airport wifi. They've got unlimited food and beverages, which often times includes alcohol. There are a ton of plugs and comfortable lounge chairs or tables to work from.
The one in Minsk actually had like big giant cushions to lay on!
Sometimes they've got their own bathrooms too.
I get access through my credit card. But depending on how long a layover is, it might be worth it for you to pay for access.
Now I can never go back to sitting with the commoners at the gate. I'm just kidding! But not really.
So they have it! You will notice that many of these guidelines can also be carried over into the real world. Or actually, they probably should have been carried over from the real world. But people can turn into a special brand of crazy or stressed out when they travel.
Everyone has somewhere to be for varying different reasons, and we all just wanna get there as quickly and as safely and as stress free as possible.
By respecting our fellow travelers and minding our own damn business we can also keep ourselves sane in the process. So whether you love airports or hate them, make sure to give these a try next time you fly and let me know how they work for you. You don't have to love them like I do, but actively not hating them does make one's life a whole lot easier.
If you wanna make your life even easier, then you're definitely gonna wanna check out my digital nomad planning services.
I'll find you accommodation options, a list of things to do and see suggestions on how long to stay and where to go next, all cater to you and your travel style.
Stop wasting your free time researching and actually get out there and experience. That's what you're here for, right?
If this resonates with you, I'd love to hear about it! Head to @roamingrootscollective on Instagram and shoot me a message!
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