9 airport hacks: how to get to your gate as quickly as possible

Jan in Amsterdam
Sep 25, 2016 · 5 min read

Nobody likes waiting. Nobody likes airports. Flying is pretty boring as well, but I don’t want to whine about something so convenient.

This is a collection of airport hacks that can cut down the time from your arrival at an airport to reaching your gate.

If you fly low cost airlines and/or from small or medium size airports, this article is for you. If not, you can still read it — but they may not work as good.

1. Get To Know Your Airport

If you know you’ll be traveling from the same airport more than once, pay attention to everything. Remember how crowded it is. See how many flights by the same carrier are there an hour before yours and an hour afterwards. Pay attention to how late is the personnel at your gate and how many people are working at the security desks…

This can save you precious time. If you’re absolutely sure you’re able to show up an hour before your flight without missing it, why go there hours earlier?

2. Travel With A Cabin Bag Only

Yes, I mean it. Why do you even need the huge checked-in baggage? I’m able to pack enough stuff for a month abroad into a size S trolley bag! Of course, I always count on having a washing machine I can use.

Small bag means you need to prioritize. It also mrans you don’t have to wait for your suitcase after landing. It’s always with you and it helps you skip a queue or two!

3. Don’t Play With Liquids In Your Hand Luggage

Having more liquids in your cabin bag than allowed is one of the most common mistakes you can make. It’s also a reason to spend more time at the security control than you have planned.

Liquid containers need to be in transparent, resealable plastic bags. You can get them for free at any airport, but it saves time if you buy them in a drugstore and pack your liquids at home.

4. Do Your Homework

If there’s any paperwork that you can deal with in advance, don’t hesitate!

I was basically living on a plane in 2015, having two homes in two countries and not enough money to finalize the move. Since one of those countries was Serbia, which is not in the EU, I always had to report to customs.

When leaving Serbia, I need to present all the electronic devices I’m carrying to a customs officer. I need to fill a form with the data (maker, model, serial number) for each device. As a photographer, I always carry at least a camera and a couple of lenses. And noting them all down takes time!

I usually fill the forms in advance. I either download them from the internet or pick up more of them at the airport itself.

By not filling out the serial numbers right before the plane I save up to a half an hour!

5. Wear Sneakers

Sneakers are less likely to have metal parts. And that sometimes saves you from taking them off at security control. And that, also, saves time.

Besides, they’re more comfortable. You’re bound to wait, stand, or be in a overheated room at some point of your airport experience.

6. Buy A Cheap Knockoff Belt (Seriously!)

If you need to wear a belt, buy a belt with a plastic buckle! That way you don’t have to worry about your belt while walking through a metal detector.

You also don’t need to take your belt off and that saves you time and embarrassment. One time I needed to take off my belt at the security control and my pants fell down completely.

7. Wear Anything With Big Pockets (That’s Easy To Take Off)

A jacket, a large shirt, a waistpack… Ok, forget about the waistpack, nothing screams DORKY TOURIST more than that. A light jacket usually does the trick. Plus, it comes in handy in case of rain during your trip (even if you travel in the summer).

The hack is simple. As you’re approaching the security control, stash everything that can trigger the beeping of a metal detector into pockets of your jacket or shirt. Than just take it off and put it in the tray!

Check your pants for keys, spare change, wallet, phone — and don’t forget about your watch or jewelry!

8. Think About A Bag Within A Bag

If you’re traveling with a checked-in baggage you won’t need it. But if you’re traveling with hand luggage only, this could save you precious time.

At security control you’re usually asked to take all the electronic devices out of your bag and put them on a separate tray.

If you’re traveling with just a kindle or a phone you don’t have a problem. But my large cabin bag usually contains a camera with lenses, a laptop, a power bank, a kindle, a spare phone and all the cords and adapters you can think of.

So I put it all in a messenger bag which I pack in the bigger one.

If you pack your electronics in the suitcase, chances are you would have to hunt them through clothes and you’d probably miss something. Putting all your devices in a separate bag and packing it at the top of your suitcase can speed things up significantly.

That way you can also move more quickly towards your gate after security control. Gather your devices in the dedicated bag and go. You’ll put it back in the suitcase sometime before the boarding starts.

Not to mention how handy it is to have an extra bag with you while you travel!

9. Buy Your Gifts At A Duty-Free Shop

This sounds lame, but hear me out! That way you get them either in a sealed bag or after you’ve gone through security control (or both). That means more space, no hassle with the liquids, and less “suspicious” luggage in general!

From the Netherlands, I like to bring people stroopwafels or speculoos in tin boxes. Now, those are metal objects that can also make you lose time suspicious at a security desk. Yes, I once had my bag held and opened because of cookies!

This hack also let’s you avoid unnecessary stress when packing. Duty-free bags can usually be carried into planes for no extra charge. You’ll have more space in your suitcase for the stuff you actually need!

Do you have similar airport hacks you’d like to share? Do tell!

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