Check in online or check flight status before you leave
Some airlines allow you to check in online up to 28 days before departure. If you only have hand-luggage, this means you can go straight to security and breeze through to the gate. If you have checked bags, check in online and you can just drop your bag at the self-serve kiosk and you’re on your way.
Pack correctly and avoid bringing anything you have to declare
Always pack your suitcase yourself (obvious but necessary) and never overfill; there is nothing quick or dignified about having to open up your overweight bags on front of a check-in desk and trying to decide what to ditch and what to keep. Similarly, by leaving the samurai swords in the gift shop or prohibited food items like raw meat or vegetables at home, you can exit the airport quicker by avoiding questions at customs.
Getting through security first time is an art. The key to success is to avoid wearing anything that can set off a metal detector. That means no denim (metal zippers/buttons), no shoes with a thick sole (thongs are best), no belts, no jewellery or accessories and ladies, don’t forget your hair. I once set off the alarm with my beautiful (but steel) hair clip.
Eat before you leave
Let’s face it, airport food generally tastes awful, is overpriced, and finding a seat can be a nightmare. Save yourself time, money and energy by filling up on a sandwich or cereal before you leave the house.
Study the airport floor-plan online before you leave
My inner travel-geek always studies airport maps before going anywhere so I have an idea of where gates/shops/terminals are, particularly handy when I have a tight connecting flight. Most airports now allow you to download and print the floor layout or better yet, take a screenshot of it on your phone.
Avoid duty-free temptation by purchasing in advance
If, like me, you have to buy the obligatory bottle of Baileys and over-sized bar of Toblerone whenever you go through an airport, companies like SYD Airport Tax & Duty Free and F1RST Tax & Duty Free allow you to browse the perfume and booze catalog online and select items before you even get to the airport. Once through security, just walk up, present your boarding pass and collect your goods. No queues, no confusion and best of all, no last minute impulse buys.
If you are parking at the airport, book in advance as this guarantees you a space so you won’t be caught queuing to get into a full car-park. It also means you won’t have to fiddle about with spare change when you return which means less time spent in the airport.
Fill out forms and have copies of all necessary tickets, visas and paperwork
This applies when you are departing and arriving. Get a manila folder and print out the following: your tickets or flight itinerary (outbound AND return especially if with different airlines), a copy of your approved visa, hotel details of where you’re staying, travel insurance details (handy if there are delays), a copy of connecting airport maps (travel-geek alert) and proof of funds to show you can support yourself.
Have a bright piece of luggage
It’s easier to spot on the baggage carousel allowing a quick getaway upon arrival. You also won’t have anyone asking if you are sure it’s not theirs leading to an awkward (and time-consuming) opening of the luggage on the terminal floor.
If in doubt, ask an airport attendant/ flight attendant/ check-in staff/ random person
There is nothing worse than missing a flight because your gate got changed at the last minute or you didn’t understand the loudspeaker mumblings that was saying “Final boarding call for flight …”. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Often, airports employ people whose sole job it is to help lost travellers so if in doubt, ask! It’s quick, easy and could save you time AND a missed flight.