Last update 27 February, 2019
The definitive guide for Smart Travellers
If you’re looking for useful advice on how to avoid queues and long waits at the airport, the following article provides some useful information to help you avoid long, boring waits and reduce pre-trip stress.
At last, it’s time for the wonderful holiday you’ve been waiting for – and the last thing you were expecting was a long queue at the airport!
You never know what’s round the corner, but these simple tips on how to beat the queues could come in handy.
Read on for our invaluable “Top Tips for Smart Travellers”!
✈ Plane ticket and departure schedule
“Help! I can’t find my ticket!”
In the days leading up to your departure, it’s a good idea to print out your own boarding card or, if you prefer to have it on your smartphone, we recommend that you take a picture or a good-quality screenshot and save it on your phone. This avoids internet connection problems at the airport.
Always check your travel documents before your trip to find out how long you should allow for check-in. This will avoid any mad dashes! The boarding gate closure time is key to getting your timings right.
Plan the journey from your home to the airport carefully, working out the journey time and taking into account any possible stops and the traffic you might encounter. Allow time to say goodbye to friends and relatives who could prevent you taking off!
For an internal flight or a flight within the European Union, you usually need to check in at least an hour and a half before the departure time. In Italy check-in shuts 40 minutes prior to take-off.
For flights outside Europe, you need to allow at least 3 hours to get through all the pre-flight checks, so try to be there in plenty of time.
✈ Valid Documents
Check you have the right documents and that they’re still valid. This will save you the embarassment of being told you can’t travel.
What should I do if my documents have expired? Don’t panic! Here’s what you need to do to renew them.
Check the website of the passport issuing authority in your country for details of how to renew your passport and how long it is likely to take. If you’re short of time, it may be possible to opt for a fast-track process.
If your country requires you to have an Identity Card, consult the website of the issuing authority in your country. In some cases, your Identity Card can be renewed on the same day if you are able to attend in person, but make sure to consult the website and check requirements and opening hours to avoid a wasted visit.
Don’t forget that for certain countries (including China, Russia, India, Egypt, South Africa, Australia etc.) you will need a tourist visa. Check online to find out how to obtain this. Travel agencies can be a helpful source of advice, and may offer this service.
✈ The art of packing
Packing is an art, and good packing can help to avoid stress and long queues at the airport.
Find out more here: Guide to perfect packing.
Before you even open your wardrobe door, we recommend that you visit the website of the airline you’re travelling with to check their baggage size and weight restrictions. This will avoid extra charges, queuing and stress before you board.
There are two types of luggage: cabin bags, which you can take with you in the cabin, and hold luggage, which is loaded into the plane’s hold. The maximum size for cabin bags is usually 55 x 40 x 20cm, and the maximum weight is between 8 and 10kg.
We recommend that you check the maximum size and weight with the company you’re flying with well before your trip. For hold luggage, the maximum weight is usually 20 to 23kg, while the dimensions vary greatly according to which company you’re travelling with.
If you are travelling to the US, don’t forget that you will need TSA locks for your luggage. This is obligatory.
One last little thing: we recommend that you put any containers containing liquids in an easy-to-reach place, so that you can get them out quickly at the security checks.
✈ Check in online from the comfort of your own sofa
We recommend that you check in from the comfort of your own sofa to make your check-in easier and skip unnecessary queues on the day of departure.
Bear in mind that for many airline companies (such as Ryanair and EasyJet) you have to check in online to avoid additional costs.
When should you check in online? Usually, as soon as it is possible to check in you will receive an email from the airline company with all the necessary information.
All you have to do is visit the airline’s website and go to the online check-in page.
Here you will be asked to provide your personal details and booking number. For trips outside the EU you will also be asked for details from your passport or other identity document. Once you’ve done this, don’t forget to print your boarding card or, alternatively, download it on to your smartphone.
If hold luggage is included in the cost of your ticket, don’t forget to register it online so as to avoid queuing to do it at the airport.
✈ Airport checks: which queue?
Here are some tips to take the hassle out of security checks.
You’re likely to come across the biggest airport queues in the security check area, so come prepared.
During the security checks your hand baggage and personal belongings will be passed through a scanner. You will be asked to put the following items in one of the trays provided: your jacket, watch, jewellery, belt, high-heeled shoes, and any other metal objects, mobile devices, tablets or laptops.
To avoid wasting time (and having to strip in front of everyone) we recommend you dress as simply as possible, and avoid unnecessary accessories, especially metallic ones.
Have your liquid containers handy. As a reminder, you can carry up to a maximum of 1 litre of liquids in containers of up to 100ml, which must be in a transparent zip-lock style bag kept separate and ready for inspection. To save yourself the hassle of decanting and measuring out your toiletries, we recommend our special Travel Kit with liquid containers.
Remember that if you have other liquids with you, such as a bottle of water, you have two options before you enter the security check area: drink it on the spot or dispose of it in one of the bins at the entrance to the check area.
Passengers are not permitted to take drinks through security onto the plane, with the exception of products sold in the Duty Free shop.
The best piece of advice we can give you is to pay attention to the other passengers in the security check queue. Avoid queuing behind anyone who seems nervous or who is rummaging through their bag looking for something: instead, slot in behind someone who looks like a businessman or a seasoned traveller.
✈ Quick, easy payments
Buying an in-flight snack, souvenirs or Duty Free items? The quickest way to pay is with a credit card.
We recommend that you pay by credit card in the airport shops. Not only does it speed up the transaction, you may also receive points and discounts: many airlines have agreements and programmes with credit card schemes, with special benefits for holders.
✈ Boarding time: priority or non-priority?
Priority or Non-Priority: which queue should I join?
At the boarding gate you’ll find two queues – make sure you join the right one!
One queue will be for passengers eligible for “Priority” boarding, and the other (which will probably be the longer of the two) will be for non-priority travellers.
When buying your ticket, we recommend that you choose a Priority or Business ticket if you don’t like being the last to board and the last to disembark.
Don’t join the Priority boarding queue unless you have a Priority ticket: you risk being sent to the back of the queue with all eyes on you.
For non-priority passengers we suggest remaining seated until all the Priority passengers have boarded. That way you’ll avoid standing for nothing while you wait!