Let’s be real: Often, the worst part about traveling is dealing with the airport. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, long lines, extra baggage fees, delayed flights — trying to survive the airport can take the joy out of traveling.
If you want to save time and money the next time you go to the airport, it pays to know insider secrets.
Click through to discover how to fly nearly for free every time — and get more helpful insider tips.
1. Get a Rewards Credit Card
If you like flying with a particular airline, it might make sense to research getting the best possible airline rewards credit card. These airline-based cards typically have generous sign-up bonuses and offer perks like discounted travel, early boarding and access to airport lounges.
“If you have great credit and do not have any spending problems, you can sign up for credit cards to earn hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles, so your upcoming trips are all free or heavily discounted,” said Eric Rosenberg, travel hacker and founder of Personal Profitability.
2. Sign Up for Airline Rewards Programs
Even if you don’t fly often, you could benefit from signing up for an airline rewards program. After just a few flights, you might earn enough miles or points to score free or low-cost travel perks.
“You can often fly on partner airlines using your airline’s miles,” said frequent traveler Lee Huffman, founder of Bald Thoughts, a travel website. “In some cases, using Airline A’s miles to fly on partner Airline B requires fewer miles than if you used Airline B’s miles for the same flight.”
3. Take Advantage of Airport Lounges
Airport lounges aren’t just for the rich and famous. If you know how to work your perks, you can enjoy these other airport attractions.
“Many credit cards and airline loyalty programs provide free or discounted access to airport lounges,” said Huffman.
Not only do these lounges allow you to escape the hustle and bustle of the airport to relax before your flight, but you can also enjoy complimentary beverages and snacks. Call your credit card company ahead of time to see if you’re eligible for entrance.
4. Fly During the Offseason for the Best Deals
Many people enjoy taking summer vacations, but airport insiders know that one of the best ways to save on trips is to travel during the offseason.
Typically, traveling to your intended destination at off-peak times — for example, during the rainy season — can save you money. Do your research to discover your destination’s “low season.”
5. Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday for the Best Deals
The weekend is prime travel time for many people, which can mean higher prices and larger crowds. For the best travel deals, know how to plan and book your trips. Fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday for a chance to save more, and you should consider booking a flight that leaves at a non-peak time, such as early in the morning or late at night.
6. Clear Your Cookies Before You Book a Flight
If you’ve ever searched online for a flight and then waited an hour or so to purchase, you might have seen the price increase. The culprit could be your cookies. Internet browsers track your activity online, and some booking sites might increase the price depending on demand.
To avoid this situation, travel pros suggest clearing your cookies or using a private browser when booking a flight. You might just be able to score a lower rate on your next trip.
7. Mix and Match Flights
To get the best deals on flights, consider nixing the round-trip ticket in favor of two one-way tickets. One airline might have the cheapest departing option, while another might offer the most affordable return. You can purchase two one-way tickets on different airlines to save cash for souvenirs at your destination.
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8. Get Social
One of the best travel tips for saving money is to get social. Follow various airlines, airports and airline booking sites on social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook, to score promo codes, discounts and more insider tips.
9. Download Your Airline’s App
One easy travel tip that can make air travel easier: Download your airline’s app. In most cases, you can enjoy paperless boarding and get real-time updates on any flight delays, changes or updates. As an added bonus, having a mobile boarding pass can help you save time — and some trees.
10. Check In Ahead of Time
One travel tip that can limit the amount of time you spend waiting in line at the airport is to check in ahead of time. Many airlines allow travelers to check in early and print their own boarding passes. If you only bring a carry-on, you can head straight to security.
11. Use the MyTSA App
Using the MyTSA app, you can get answers to your most pressing travel questions and assess what items you can and can’t bring on flights. Additionally, you can get updates on delays, find out about cancellations and check wait times in the security line.
12. Check Your Flight Status Online
Before heading to the airport, check your flight status online. Delays happen, and instead of waiting at the terminal for hours, you can get real-time updates before leaving the house.
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13. Know Your Airport Code
Before arriving at the airport, learn your airport code or the three letters that refer to your destination, such as LAX for Los Angeles International Airport. After all, some cities have multiple airports, and your luggage tags can get mixed up if you’re not sure where you’re headed.
14. Choose the Path of Least Resistance
The amount of traffic in arrivals and departures can vary, depending on the day. If there are too many travelers in the departures lane, consider changing it up and getting dropped off at arrivals.
15. Pack Only What You Need
Frequent fliers know that one of the best airport tips is to travel light — it can save you time and money. While it’s wise to pack a few extra socks for your trip, stop and ask yourself if all the items in your suitcase are truly necessary.
“When packing, think about (in) exactly what situation you’ll want a certain item of clothing,” said Gillian Morris, founder of Hitlist, a travel app that helps users find the best travel deals.
16. Don’t Check Your Bags
One way to make sure your stuff arrives safely is to pack like a pro and take only carry-on bags when you travel. Typically, airlines allow for one carry-on bag and another small item, such as a purse or laptop. Still, checking your bags can mean waiting in long lines, and there’s a risk of your luggage getting lost or even stolen.
Instead, use carry-on bags to save time and ensure your stuff arrives when and where you do. If you must check your bags, make sure you know your airline’s baggage fees.
17. Wear Your Luggage
If you truly want to avoid baggage fees, consider wearing your luggage. Some clever travelers have stuffed their jackets with items to save money. Companies like Bagket and Jaktogo are going a step further, however, by creating wearable luggage.
For example, Jaktogo sells a jacket that converts to a bag, so you can wear it through security and save money.
18. Don’t Wrap Your Gifts
If you’re going home for the holidays, think twice about wrapping your gifts ahead of time. After all, airport security might decide to unwrap your items to get a look inside. Save yourself the hassle by putting your family’s presents in gift bags.
19. Make Your Luggage Unique
At baggage claim, the sea of bags can look eerily similar. One of the best travel tricks is to make your luggage unique by tying a ribbon or tag to the handle. Not only does differentiating your bag from the rest save you time, but it also ensures someone else won’t walk off with your belongings.
20. Four Wheels Are Better Than Two
The luggage you travel with matters, and having four wheels can be better than two. This way, you can avoid dragging your bag and push it in front of you instead.
Additionally, bags with four wheels allow you to navigate tight spaces and maintain better control over your luggage. The end result is that you can get through the airport faster. But if you have to buy a new suitcase to achieve this, just know when it’s the best time to buy luggage so you don’t lose money.
21. Use Global Entry and TSA PreCheck
While many travelers are enduring long waits to get through security these days, insiders are taking advantage of Global Entry ($100) and TSA PreCheck ($85), which offer five-year memberships for faster screening.
“Global Entry is a must for anyone who travels internationally,” said Huffman. “Because you are what’s known as a Trusted Traveler, you can skip security lines at the airport and don’t have to take off your shoes or remove your 3-1-1 liquids bag.”
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22. Avoid Wearing Jewelry
Security lines can be a pain, but you can make life easier by leaving the jewelry at home. In some cases, you can keep your jewelry on while going through security, but it might set off the metal detector. So, you might have to put your bling in the bin or get a pat-down from security.
For best results, avoid wearing jewelry altogether and pack it in your bag instead.
23. Wear Slip-On Shoes
If you dread taking off your shoes in the security line, make your life a little easier and wear slip-on shoes. This simple travel hack can keep the line moving and make getting through security a little less painful.
24. Keep Your Laptop Easily Accessible
When you go through security, you typically have to take out your laptop for screening. To move through the line quickly, keep your laptop in an easily accessible location, so you’re not digging for it while in line.
25. Bring Travel-Sized Toiletries
To ensure your toiletries aren’t thrown in the trash, make sure all liquids are stored in containers measuring no more than 3.4 ounces. Most people don’t have products of that size at home, so bring shampoo samples that you’ve received on other trips. Some stores also sell travel-sized shampoo, toothpaste and other items for your convenience. Or better yet, double check if your hotel or other lodging will be providing you with toiletries.
26. Bring a Spare Plastic Bag for Toiletries
Your toiletries should be stored in a separate bag for screening. Still, those bags can break or get dirty during your travels. Bring a spare resealable plastic bag for toiletries for your next flight.
27. Pack an Empty Water Bottle
The best airport travel tips save you both money and time. Instead of having your water bottle thrown out by the TSA, or having to stop and buy a $5 water bottle at the food court, pack an empty bottle to stay hydrated. Airports have water fountains where you can fill up before your journey.
28. Freeze Your Liquids
Did you know this airport hack to getting your drink on the plane? If you freeze your drink before arriving at the airport, you can get it through security — as long as the liquid stays frozen solid when you’re going through screening. If your drink seems partially melted or slushy, you’ll have to meet the 3-1-1 liquids requirement.
29. Spend Money to Save Money
While airport shops have a reputation for jacking up prices, travelers can occasionally score good deals. Some states have no sales tax. If you’re thinking of shopping at the airport, compare prices online and check state tax laws before you travel.
30. But Skip the Starbucks Line
While Starbucks might be calling your name on those early flights, skip the cup of joe and the line to save money.
Instead, you can score free coffee on your flight. If you’re flying Alaska Airlines or Delta, you can enjoy Starbucks coffee as part of the complimentary beverage service.
31. Check for Free WiFi
If you have time to kill at the airport, you might start browsing on your phone to stay busy. Instead of eating up all your data, check the airport website ahead of time to see if it offers free WiFi. If not, you might be able to browse for free while visiting one of the airport restaurants or bars.
32. Bring a Portable Phone Charger
Your smartphone could be your No. 1 travel tool. After all, it lets you access directions, view your mobile boarding pass, answer emails and communicate with others before and after your flight.
While most airports have charging stations, they can often be crowded. Instead of fighting the crowd, bring your own portable phone charger so you’re never out of juice.
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33. Volunteer to Give Up Your Seat
If you’re not in a rush to get to your destination, consider volunteering to get bumped off a crowded flight. Many airlines offer vouchers to people who give up their seats. In some cases, these offers are worth more than the original flight costs.
34. Pick an Aisle Seat
Planes can be cold, and the temperature tends to drop even lower by the window. In fact, cold air can leak right through the window glass at high altitudes. Opt for an aisle seat to stay warm on your next flight. As a bonus, you won’t have to climb over anyone to go to the bathroom.
35. Always Have an Extra Jacket
Picking the aisle seat might not be enough to keep you warm on your trip. For best results, wear several layers, including a jacket, so you’re prepared to handle temperature fluctuations. Along with helping you deal with the cold, donning a coat gives you more pockets for small items that you want to keep handy on your journey.
36. Bring Your Own Headphones
Many airlines offer free in-flight entertainment, but not all of them provide headphones for free on every flight. In order to save money and keep yourself entertained during a long flight, pack your own headphones. As a bonus, you’ll look busy and avoid any unwanted conversations with people in your row.
37. Pack Your Own Food
Airline food has a bad reputation. Instead of eating substandard food on the plane, or picking up overpriced snacks in the airport, pack your own items ahead of time. Sandwiches, fruit, crackers and granola bars are all smart snack choices, but be sure to check with the TSA to make sure your menu follows security guidelines.
38. Bring the Sanitizer
Airplanes can be hotbeds for germs. Be sure to bring hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to avoid illness when you fly. One area not to miss is your tray table. Take time to sanitize that tray before you eat your snack off it.
39. Make Copies of Important Paperwork
Travelers need to keep track of various documents, including airline tickets, passports, itineraries, hotel reservations and driving directions. It’s easy for important items to get lost in the shuffle, so make copies of the most important pieces of paperwork, and keep them in your luggage.
40. Plan Ahead
Frequent travelers plan ahead to make their lives easier and ensure they arrive at the airport on time. Pack the night before, look up driving or public transportation directions, check the weather and traffic and print out important documents ahead of time.
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