A large part of my life is spent running to planes, and while every blue moon I miss a flight, for the most part, I am the king of last minute flight arrivals. It makes the people around me crazy, and often, when I am traveling with others, they lie to me about departure times just so they don’t get caught up in my madness. Prime example, my wife always builds in an hour cushion when we are traveling together, because she hates the anxiety of nearly missing a flight. For me, its some kind of weird high, because it makes me feel like I have just a little bit of control in a system that leaves so many helpless. Now I must say, it took years to come up with a system that has made me so confident, and I have learned many of these lessons the hard way. But my goal here, is to help you, so that going to the airport can be a much more enjoyable experience.
My wife, like a lot of folks believes in getting to the airport at least an hour to ninety minutes early. To me thats absolutely insane and the height of what I call TIME PIRACY. What is Time Piracy? Well according to the Kevin Frazier dictionary of travel terms, TP is any time of yours, that is wasted because of other peoples actions, silly rules, anxiety, or ineptness. Look, no matter how much money you have or how famous you become, the one thing you can never get more of, is TIME. So in my world TP is a capitol offense. Getting to the airport ninety minutes early is a great example of TP. Think about it, I took 6 flights last week. If I showed up ninety minutes before every one of those flights, thats 9 hours I would have spent chilling in the airport. Thats a full work day in airports… PLEASE!
So lets get down to business, here are my rules for saving time and always making your flight.
1. Get TSA PreCheck … Yesterday
I have written about this in the past and this to me is the Holy Grail, it changed my life. PreCheck makes security lines a thing of the past, especially if you are going to travel during the summer or holidays. No more taking off your shoes, no more taking out electronics, nothing comes out of your bags. You literally throw your stuff on the belt and walk through security. I look over at people all the time, basically unpacking and stripping down in those ridiculously long security lines, and I wonder “what in the hell were y’all thinking”. You enjoy the torture of those long lines? You want to give away a small portion of your life and your soul? Why, why, why?
PreCheck is easy to sign up for, and after and an easy breezy interview, you are good. And here’s the hidden GiGi (Gordon Gecko fans get that), when you sign up, make sure you apply for Global Entry, its the PreCheck for traveling abroad and will save your butt if you are trying to connect from an international flight to a domestic.
So let me be clear here, if you don’t get PreCheck and we are traveling together, then I will see you at the gate, because I will be at home while you are standing in those heinous security lines.
2. Never Ever Ever Check Luggage
This is one of my big pet peeves, under no circumstances are we checking luggage. EVER! First of all if you are checking bags, the cutoff with most airlines is 45 minutes before takeoff. That means that if you are flying on a busy day and need to check your bags you need to be at the airport, ugh, about ninety minutes before takeoff. Now Time Piracy is back in play, and so are these statistics. Almost 7 in every 1000 bags that are checked are either lost or delayed. You like those odds? They really are good, until it’s your bag that you are fighting with the airline to get back. Nothing ruins a vacation faster then arriving at your destination without any clothes or underwear, there is no joy in that moment. On average it takes almost two days to get a lost bag back in your hands, thats two days with no toiletries, clothes, and lord knows what else you felt compelled to pack. And here’s the scary stat, 1.3 million of those bags are lost forever. My stuff is too valuable to gamble with, and often when I land in a city, I have just minutes to change and get to work, once again checking bags is not an option.
But here’s the excuse I get the most from people when I ask why do they need to check a bag. “I have a lot of stuff, I need options, just in case”. Just in case what? is usually my reply, and then I get this beauty. “In case we go out, or go someplace nice”. You see this kind of logic leads to what I call “Bitch Packing” and both men and women are guilty of it. How many times have you gone on vacation and realized you only wore half of what you carried in that massive suitcase? Look at your itinerary, talk to your travel agent or the hotel, think about what your taking and ask yourself, “do I really need this or am I just Bitch Packing”. Make all the hard decisions before you leave the house so that you don’t have to spend time standing in line to check a bag, and then wait in line for it to arrive when you land.
Also keep in mind that in this day and age, with so many people using AirBnB or staying places where you have access to washing machines and dryers, that if there is a point where you can wash clothes then you can really travel light. My wife and I went to India for twelve days and I had our travel agent find out if there would be any place along the way where we could wash clothes. She pointed out that one of our stops had complimentary laundry services, boom. I will never understand people going to the beach and taking a bunch of stuff. How many bathing suits can you wear? And even if you go out, its a warm weather environment so you don’t need a ton of stuff.
Also you need to learn how to pack, how to roll your clothes and use packing systems to help condense your clothing. Think about it nobody ever really teaches us how to pack, how to really maximize our suitcase space. I use Flight 001’s SpacePaks to help me condense my stuff and organize my packing.
One of my colleagues recently went to Europe with his family for 5 weeks, everybody was allowed 1 carry on bag, and it was perfect. I have even trained my two youngest boys to travel with only a backpack and a carry-on.
My last point on this subject is, if you really need that much stuff, then ship it. By the time you pay the baggage fee’s and all the other extra costs associated with a large piece of luggage you could have just shipped it to the destination.
3. Check In Online
Electronic boarding passes are the norm now so you should have yours in the palm of your hand on your phone. When you walk into an airport there should be no reason to stop at any counter or talk to anybody from the airline. Before you leave your house everybody in your traveling party should have a boarding pass. If you don’t want to put them on your phone, then print them out. Don’t have a printer, do it at work or ask a friend to print your documents. Why is this so important, because I can not tell you how many times I have arrived at the airport less then thirty minutes before my flight is scheduled to depart. If I was not checked in then in most instances my seat would have been given away and I would have already been moved, by the airline, to a later flight. The airlines need to move bodies and while you may be a valued customer, if there is another valued customer looking for a seat and they have not heard from you, then you just extended your stay at the airport. Check in early and when you finally show up, sprinting towards TSA twenty minutes before your flight, it’s still all good. The less you are forced to interact with the airlines the better. The first person, from the airline, you should have to talk to is the person who scans your boarding pass at the gate.
4. Map Out Your Route In The Airport
Know where your going? I always marvel at the amount of people who get to the airport and try to figure out where they are going. It’s like a massive magical mystery tour of confused people. Go to the App store and download the App for the airport. Look at where you need to go, the easiest route, the quickest path, to get your butt in the seat on your plane.
At LAX I have it down to a science, where to park, where to enter, the shortest security line, its a routine. Same deal with JFK, and several other airports. Here’s an example, in Detroit if your running late, go to the security line at the Westin Hotel, it has saved my butt more than once when I was running late.
Also if you are traveling with kids, know where the bathrooms are and how to get snacks or anything else they may need so that you don’t have to go out of your way, which can cost you valuable time.
5. Never Let Anybody Tell You, Your Not Gonna Make Your Flight
Just the other day a driver told me that there was no way I would make my flight. It was 45 minutes before departure time and we were still 30 minutes away from the airport. I made my flight. People will tell you all the time that you can’t make your plane. Here’s the truth, if you have your TSA Pre-Check, if you have carry on luggage, if your already checked in, your good. As long as you get into the airport 30 minutes before departure time, “we gonna be alright”!
Another thing to keep in mind, flights get delayed. So you may not think your gonna make it, but is the plane on time. Certain airports like JFK, LAX, O’Hare and Dallas are notorious for late departures. So never give up on a flight unless you know it has left the gate.