Airports can be very stressful, am I right? They are crowded, busy, fast-paced, and expensive. Travelers are running to catch flights, kids are screaming, and no one is watching where they are walking because they are looking for their gate. Travelers definitely need to know this list of airport hacks, especially the #1 top secret travel hack!
It seems like no one knows what they are doing or where they are going, walking in every direction. You often need to walk very far or even take a train to get to different terminals, and it can be loud and chaotic!
Even if you are a frequent traveler and know your way around airports, something about it is stressful! It is easy to make costly mistakes, ending up blowing your vacation budget before you even get there!
This is no way to start or end a vacation. You want to arrive at your destination feeling ready to explore and have some fun! A bad flying experience can really start your trip off on the wrong foot.
Additionally, you want to get home feeling stress-free, and reminiscing on your amazing vacation! You don’t want your airport experience to ruin all the good memories you had!
With these airport hacks, you will roam the airport stress-free!
You may also be interested in reading these airplane mistakes to avoid making. Continue reading for more on the best hacks airports don’t want you to know.
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1. Exchanging money without big fees!
Before we talk about the #1 top secret travel hack, we’ve got some other good ones for you! When going to a different country, you are likely to need to exchange money, unless you have an international credit card. But, still, probably a good idea to get some cash out, just in case!
You will see currency exchange stations throughout the airport- do not use these! Instead, exchange your money at the ATM using your debit card.
The exchange rate and fees will be much better than if exchanging at a station at the airport.
You often will only be able to take out a certain amount of cash per transaction, but you can make as many ATM transactions as needed. You will save yourself a ton of money this way, and avoid the airport exchange traps! Plus, lines at the ATM will be much shorter.
Make sure you let your bank know ahead of time that you are traveling to a different country, so your transactions don’t get flagged as spam. Or, take out cash ahead of time at your local bank, but be careful not to lose it!
Many people will debate with this one, saying that exchange rates at the ATM are in fact, higher. This might be true in some places, however, in our experience, we have found them to have some of the lowest rates around! It doesn’t hurt to shop around a bit to see if you can find better rates.
Don’t forget to get a money belt! You will need somewhere to keep all your cash and cards safe. Don’t get pickpocketed!
2. Discounted or FREE lounge access
Many bank credit cards or airplane loyalty cards sometimes offer free or discounted access to the airport lounges!
If you have never been in an airport lounge, it is amazing! You get free, unlimited alcoholic beverages, buffet-style meals for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and there are often showers and sofas you can use.
You won’t have to deal with the busy crowds running around through the airport, finding your own charger, or paying for overpriced mediocre meals at the food court.
Using the lounge can be much cheaper than getting a hotel for a night, so see what the hours are like at the airport you are at.
This is one of the best ways how to kill time during a long layover , so give it a try! We spend a 12-hour layover at an airport lounge once, and it was worth every penny to get some sleep (since we were also jet-lagged!)
Try getting a discount using your credit card, or check Groupon as they often have lounge deals and discounted prices!
3. How to eat gourmet at the airport!
I know you want to get to the secret travel hack, but were not there just yet!
If you decide not to use the lounge, try to avoid eating the airport food. It might smell tempting, but it never tastes as good as you think it will be.
The food at airports are getting increasingly more expensive, and less tasty. It is understandable if you need to buy something to eat, however, if you decide to do this, shop around!
Find restaurants with fresh food and with many people eating there. This will give you a good indication that the food is at least half-decent. Check customer’s faces too, to see if they are happy with their meal!
You can’t be too picky, however, if you must eat at the airport. Just having the mindset that it won’t be the best meal of your life is a good one to have!
You may also want to bring your own snacks! We like to use this portable and stackable snack organizer, as it is easy to pack in your carry on, and holds all your snacks in one spot! Here are some other top carry on items for long flights you should bring to the airport with you!
This will keep all your snacks together so you won’t find stray pretzels and stale chips in the bottom of your bag later on.
You can also buy food on the way to the restaurant, and eat it once you get there to save some extra money.
Additionally, if you didn’t have time to get food before heading to the airport, consider food delivery services! If you have time before your flight to hang out outside the terminal, you can order yourself a meal before going through security.
Read healthy meals to pack for the plane for ideas of what to eat on the airplane and at the airport!
4. FREE at the airport!?
There is no reason you should be spending $5 on a disposable water bottle at the airport. Plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, are a waste of money, and are overpriced at the airport anyway!
Bring your own water bottle, and fill it up at the water fountain after you get through the security line. There are many filtered water bottle stations in airports nowadays, so you won’t have to worry about the water being contaminated or dirty.
Drinking water on a plane is especially important for your health, as it is very easy to get dehydrated on an airplane. Make sure you fill up your water bottle to the brim before you board! Here are some more information on things to do before boarding your flight!
If you happen to be eating at a restaurant in the terminal, you might be offered some free tap water. You can also use this to fill up your water bottle before you leave!
I like this water bottle, as it folds up for easy packing. It will fit easily into your carry on bag, so it doesn’t take up too much space!
5. How to find discounted airport parking
This is one of the best hacks airports don’t want you to know. Parking at the airport can be extremely expensive. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars to park, book a night at a nearby hotel!
The hotel does not need to be anything fancy, especially if you are not actually staying overnight. However, if the airport you are flying from is far from your house or hotel, staying a night near the airport can be a great tip if you have an early morning flight!
Plus, they might have a pool or jacuzzi to enjoy the night before! Also, hit up the breakfast buffet (if available) before your flight, and put some fruit in your carry on bag for later!
Make sure the hotel has free parking, so you can leave it there for the remainder of your trip. Try to find a hotel that offers a free airport shuttle, so you can save on an Uber or taxi.
If you cannot find any good hotel deals nearby, you can still find discounted airport parking! Whatever you do, don’t park AT the airport unless you want to spend hundreds of dollars!
6. How NOT to lose your car at the airport
Wherever you decide to park, take a picture of where you parked. Sometimes the shuttle driver will give you a card with information on where you parked, but this can be easily lost. Take a picture of this too, just in case!
You will most likely forget where you parked, and you won’t want to be standing in a huge parking lot in the middle of the night when you get home, searching for your car!
Take a photo of the area around your car, the cars (and license plates) of cars next to you, and the row number. If your car has mysterious scratches, gets broken into, or has dents, you will at least have the information of nearby cars to reach out to.
You will inevitably forget where you parked at the end of your vacation, so this will save you from running around the parking lot on a wild goose chase!
Additionally, if something happened to your car while you were gone, you have the license plates of those around you, just in case!
Also, make sure to check nearby parking options, rather than at the airport itself. There are typically tons of parking options through different companies surrounding the airport that have discounted parking prices. They also have shuttles that will take you to the airport!
Keep reading for the top secret travel hack!
7. Finding cheap transportation from the airport
When you arrive at your destination, there may be employees running up to you asking if you need a ride.
Kindly reject the offer, and save yourself a ton of money! These offers are often extremely more expensive than other companies in the area. Workers know tourists getting off planes are looking for quick rides (especially in big cities), so they will try to get to you first.
Do your research, and find the best-reviewed driving service available. Check and see if your hotel has a free shuttle ride, or if all else fails, take an Uber.
You might also want to rent your own car to save some time and stress! You’ll be surprised by the amount of discounted car rentals that are available!
8. Save time at the airport
Most airlines nowadays allow travelers to check-in 24-48 hours in advance. Keep an eye on your email for an invite to check-in. Checking in online is super easy, and only takes a few minutes.
This will save you time when you get to the airport, as you will already have your boarding pass ready to go.
You will not need to fumble around with paper copies of your boarding pass, with the risk of losing them! Simply add them to your wallet on your iPhone. I also take a screenshot of the boarding pass, just in case the internet isn’t working, or maybe I’m just paranoid!
Additionally, checking in early gives you a better chance of getting good seats on the airplane with your whole party together, or as close as possible. Also, some airlines make you pay for paper copies of your boarding pass, so don’t run into needing to spend more unexpected money!
Check out our favorite way to book the cheapest flights out there!
9. How to check your bag for FREE!
This is one of the best hacks airports don’t want you to know. We personally suggest never checking a bag, as it can easily get lost or stolen. However, it is understandable why you might need to. There is only one carry on bag you will need. You can read it in my best flight bag review!
If you have a bag that is slightly larger than a typically allowed carry on bag, hold onto it until you get to the gate.
Most of the time, if your bag is too large, they will check it for free at the gate. Most of the time, especially if it is a busy flight, your bag will just be overlooked.
However, don’t do this if your bag is REALLY big, because then you will be stuck on the flight trying to stuff your bag in the overhead bin, and no one wants to deal with that.
Sometimes you will have to pay, but you would have had to pay anyway, so it is worth a try!
Here is a list of the top carry on items for long flights you should bring on the airplane with you!
10. Getting through airport security faster
Especially if you are in a hurry, you don’t want to be stuck in the airport security line! Even if you have time to kill, airport security is just a pain to go through, and you’ll want to get through it as soon as possible!
For whatever reason, most people tend to go right during airport security.
If you have the choice, choose security lanes to the left as they will often be less crowded and get you through the lines quicker!
Additionally, look for lines that have single passengers, or business people in them. These passengers typically know what they are doing, and won’t waste time in the security line.
On the contrary, avoid security lines that are full of families, children, and older passengers, These travelers tend to take longer to get through the security line, wasting more of your time! Take a quick scan of the lines, and you’ll be able to tell which travelers know what they are doing!
Read more information on tips to get to your airport gate quicker!
Your almost at the secret travel hack- keep reading!
11. Don't forget to bring THIS
If you are going through airport security multiple times during one trip, your liquids bag might break.
This happened to me once and it was a disaster getting all my belongings together again. Luckily, there are typically tables you can sort your belongings on, and trash cans to get rid of things that don’t fit. However, it is a hassle, and if you are in a hurry, you don’t have time to be messing around with this stuff!
Save the stress and embarrassment and have some extra bags handy just in case there is a mishap. Airport security often provides bags just in case yours breaks, but having your own will make things run a bit smoother.
If this happens to you, sort through your liquids, and prioritize what can be thrown out. Maybe something is almost empty anyway, and you can just buy more when you get there.
If you are on your way home, maybe just get rid of practically everything. You will be able to buy more at home anyway!
Remember, as long as you can get the zip loc bag to zipper completely, you are good to go!
I have been using this liquids bag and it has held up very well so far!
I recommend this portable charger all the time (you’ve probably seen it on our other posts!) because it truly is awesome and something every traveler needs.
This charger goes on sale all the time, but is super cheap even when it is full-priced! For the quality, the price is certainly a steal compared to other similar chargers.
Outlets at airports are often taken, as everyone wants their phone fully charged for a flight.
Get ahead of the game, and have your own charger! You can also use it on the plane if your phone dies, giving you some extra game or movie time!
We typically bring 2-3 of these chargers and keep one in my purse or our day bag when we go out sightseeing for the day. By taking pictures, using your GPS, and using your internet to get information, your phone is going to die pretty quickly!
Plus, playing that addicting game on your phone during the flight is only going to drain your battery even further. Don’t be caught without your phone on a long flight with nothing to do!
13. Where to find peace and quiet
If your gate is getting crowded and noisy, and there are no seats or outlets left, take a look around the terminal to find an empty gate.
Make sure you are close enough to your gate to hear important announcements.
You will have the whole gate mostly to yourself, giving you a sense of calm before the flight!
You can lay down on multiple seats, charge all your devices, and do some stretching without bumping into anyone.
This is a great place to do some stretching or exercising before a long flight, without worrying about people staring at you. Here are some ways to stretch on an airplane that you can also do at the airport!
Additionally, if you want to get a good power nap in, this is a much better place to sleep than a crowded gate! Here is an overnight sleeping guide at the gate guide so you can get some rest!
Also, if you have young children, this is a great place to allow them to run around and get their energy out before a long flight!
If you just cannot find a quiet space to hang out, get yourself a pair of these noise cancelling headphones to drown out the noise.
14. How to stay healthy at the airport
This is the last tip before we get to the secret travel hack!
Airports and airplanes are extremely dirty. You can read more here about spots to never touch on a plane! Think about the thousands of people coming in and out of the airport each day and all the germs and illnesses that come with that!.
Bring a pack of disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer so you don’t catch something before your vacation! Wipe down your seat at the airport, your tray table on the plane, and practically anything you touch in this germ-ridden place!
You can also get these tray table disposable covers so you don’t have to worry about cleaning anything! These are perfect for when the kids demand they eat their snack straight off the table!
The #1 Top Secret Travel Hack
The #1 secret travel hack is here! This is one of my favorite airport hacks because it makes packing so much easier. This tip is especially great when coming home from your vacation.
Sometimes you buy too much and run out of room in your suitcase. What should you do? Simple.
When going through airport security, you might have to wear some of your belongings if they don’t fit in your suitcase. This is ok- for now.
Afterwards, buy something at an airport store, and use that bag to store your extra stuff in!
Most of the time airport gate staff will think you just bought something and have no problem with you bringing it aboard, but you know the truth 😉
You can even do this with fast food bags if your extra items are small enough. Plus, you get a snack or meal out of the deal!
This is also a great tip if you are nervous you might have to pay for an extra bag (such as if you have more than one personal item). If your purse or personal item is small enough, just put it in the airport shopping bag!
Connect with the Tribe!
Thank you for reading the best hacks airports don’t want you to know! If you have any other tips you would like to share, please post them in the comments below- we would love to hear from you!
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