We all know airports can be major headaches. From security lines, to delays, lost luggage, and seating, it seems there is little we can do to get ahead. Or is there?

Actually, there are a few things you can do to make this whole process a little faster and less painful. Below, I outline over 10 travel tips that can help you get through lines faster and be prepared when things go wrong.

  1. When traveling, set your laptop’s screen password lock on. One of the most insecure times for your laptop is when you’re on the go. If you happen to set it down or it gets lost without the screen password enabled, someone can easily open the lid and have a full run of the mill.
  2. Make sure you save your airline’s reservations and customer service numbers in your phone. Even better, write them down in case your phone goes dead. When things start going wrong, these numbers can be a life saver.
  3. Sign up for TSA Pre at http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-pre✓™. TSA Pre allows you to go through a special security line. You can keep your laptop in your bag and your shoes on. Not all airports or airlines participate in this service yet, but by signing up now, you’ll be ready for those that do. (Note that it takes around six weeks to get approved.)
  4. Removing your laptop from your bag can be one of the most time-consuming transactions in the security line. Before entering the security line, take your laptop out of its case and put it near the top of your bag. This will make your move through security much simpler and faster.
  5. Also, before you enter the security line, take all items out of your pockets and put them in your bag, except your ID and boarding pass.
  6. Check-in online prior to your flight once the 24-hour window opens. For example, if your flight is at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, check-in just after 3 p.m. on Monday. If possible, print your boarding pass at this time rather than getting it at the airport.
  7. In fact, you should print two boarding passes before arriving at the airport. Keep one on you and another in your bag. Some airports will not print a boarding pass if you arrive after your flight’s boarding time (a half hour before departure), even if you have checked in online. (It is best to be at the gate an hour before boarding.)
  8. If you’d like a discounted upgrade, inquire about this at the check-in counter. If any are available, you can get good deals at this time, although you might be told to check with representatives at the gate.
  9. If you are using airport Wi-Fi, use secure protocols for email. If your email program is not logging into mail servers securely, it is best to leave it off while on airport WiFi. Otherwise, your email login info will be broadcast as plain text for anyone lurking and able to see. Beware—iPads automatically check email and their mail program can’t be turned off. If you use your iPad, put it in airplane mode to prevent it from trying to log into any mail server.
  10. Be sure your bag(s) have good identifying information secured to them. If they get lost and airport personnel find them, they will know who to contact.

A few additional tips for carry-on and checked bags will help you avoid further airport drama.

Carry-On Bags

  • If you must valet check your bag (it gets checked at the airplane door), especially on regional or full flights, be sure to remove your laptop. Your bag will go in the luggage hold with everything else, increasing the chance it will get damaged. Getting a smaller bag that works better for full flights and fits regional jets can help you avoid valet check-in.
  • Also, try to place your bag within viewing distance of your seat, allowing you to keep an eye on it as people deplane. This can help you avoid the unlikely event of someone accidentally taking your bag.

Checked Baggage

  • Put large, unique marks on your bag(s), making them easy to identify at a distance. When bags begin coming off the carousel, they can all look alike. If your bag stands out, you’ll see it from a distance and can go over and grab it, rather than waiting for it to come around. This also lessens the chance that someone will accidentally walk off with your bag.
  • Be sure there isn’t anything in your bag of value because there is a chance security will open it and go through your bag.
  • Consider shipping anything of value by carrier (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.) with insurance.

Airports aren’t fun but you can improve the experience by following these tips, which are simply meant to prepare you for various scenarios. Luggage can be lost, laptops can get damaged, and passwords can be stolen on airport Wi-Fi. Hopefully now you are a little more prepared to avoid (or worse, handle) those scenarios.

Here are some great tips to help you with your time management while you travel: Time Management and Travel: How to Make the Most of the Journey

Featured photo credit: airport outside the window scene,waiting for the flight via Shutterstock

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