3 Tips For Less Stressful Airport Arrivals

3 Tips For Less Stressful Airport Arrivals

Less Stressful Airport Arrivals

Now that more people are taking to the skies, depending upon whom you consult – gate agents, TSA officials, airline officials, airport spokespersons, and veteran travelers – you’ll receive a variety of responses as to when to arrive at the airport.

It would take an entire book to illuminate all valid inputs. 

For domestic flights, the consensus is to arrive two hours before departure time. Heather Lissner, a lead contact for the City of Phoenix Aviation Department, notes that two hours enables travelers to either park their cars or be dropped off, check any baggage, and pass through security. Three hours is the recommended lead time for international flights.

Experienced travelers might scoff at these lead times – they know the ins and outs of flying, and traversing the airport faster than the average passenger. So, depending on the time of the week and other particulars, they’re often okay with 90 minutes or so in advance for international flights, and 60 minutes for domestic flights.

Less experienced passengers need to adhere to the two-hour and three-hour standards so that they'll feel less stressed, less anxious, and more likely to arrive at the departure gate with some semblance of balance and equanimity.

When you’re traveling during a holiday season, or during a time when a major event is occurring in your departure city, give yourself even more slack. An extra 30 or 60 minutes is not out of the question.


1. Make Your Flight 

Unless you know exceedingly better, stick to the two-hour time for domestic flights and three-hour lead time for international flights, especially when traveling with kids or aging parents. Then, find something to do in the airport, whether it's walk with your rolling luggage, read at a seat, use your cell phone at a re-charging station, or dine at one of the airport eateries. 

When you have frequented the same airport on many occasions and know the place well; been on the same route more than a few times; and understand local travel times, traffic conditions, and other prevailing factors; then you can adjust your arrival time at the airport accordingly.

Your quest, presumably, is to arrive at your departure gate in a relatively calm and unhurried fashion. Arriving at the gate at least 30 minutes before boarding enables you to visit the restroom, rearrange your luggage if needed, check the monitors and overhead screens, consult with the gate agents if desired, position yourself in the airport lounge accordingly, check your cell phone for any messages, and handle other items.

In each case, your primary mission is to not miss your flight.    

2. Checking In For Your Flight

On the face of it, this seems pretty simple – follow the time instructions listed on your boarding pass. Once you’ve cleared security, however, it always makes sense to head directly to your departure gate. No matter how early you’ve arrived, it’s to your advantage to simply to scope out the scene. Recognize that no matter what it says on your boarding pass about check in, the actual procedure could start earlier, or later. You need to know, especially in the case that check in starts earlier.

What’s the Big Deal? – When the flight happens to be over-booked or irregularities prevail during check-in procedure, it’s to your benefit to be early. The last thing you want to do is be approaching the gate as people are already boarding, particularly people from the zone indicated on your ticket. The cardinal rule here is to minimize any unpleasant surprises by being present, informed, and ready to act.

These days, when airlines are stingy about what you can bring on board and how much overhead compartment room is available, you want to be first in the queue when your zone is called. This helps to ensure that any carry-on luggage that you are allowed to board with you will, indeed, find a home with an available overhead compartment. 

As your zone lines up after being called by the gate agent, if you’re in the last third of the line, you run the risk of encountering full overhead compartments near your seats. Perhaps more space is available further back down the aisle, but that means you’ll be departing the plane nearly last, as you wait for everyone else to scoot by.

When you have to check your bag, it becomes subject to a potentially wild ride in the hands of disgruntled baggage handlers who could care less about how much you paid for your luggage and its condition. This is not a favorable situation. 

3. Checking Your Bag at the Airport

Never if you can help it! ... and sometimes you can't. A CNN.com article titled, “Confessions of a Baggage Handler,” highlighted the potential horrors that your bag might face if you check it. This includes everything from theft, to rough treatment, to gross mishandling, to getting lost. To use the overworked, but suitable phrase, “You don’t want to go there.” Arrive at the gate early, board near the front of the line when your zone is called, place your bag in the overhead compartment, sit back, and relax to the degree that you can.

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Jeff Davidson

Work-Life Balance Expert

Jeff Davidson is "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" and the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com or call 919-932-1996 for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars.

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