My last travel post was a wishlist of places I’d love to visit in Paris one day. I always thought that we’d do it as a couple when the kids were older but I’m itching to go right now. Ever since my brother-in-law left for London last week, hubby and I have been talking about a Eurotrip non-stop. He’s on an adventure watching Premier League and Europa matches (soccer fans yeah!) and I’m getting serious FOMO seeing his pics and vids. He’s touring museums and stadiums and he might have already popped into a few makeup stores to be our mule.
But then I stop and think about what happens before a trip. Being at the airport. It’s not supposed to be a scary thing but I have only myself to blame. Growing up, we’d travel frequently from OR Tambo International Airport to exotic destinations such as Mauritius, Bali and Singapore to name a few. One such time, I must have been 4 or 5 years old, while we were waiting for our flight, I got bored and wandered off. My parents panicked when they noticed I was missing and spent more than an hour looking for me. Apparently, they even announced it on the speakers, which was allowed back then, and thought I had been kidnapped. Luckily, before anything worse ensued, they found me in my favourite place. Tucked away in the back of CNA reading Archie comics.
So this is the reason I’m a bit hesitant to travel with my kids. But for the sake of them exploring the world and me not being the reason that they miss out on anything, I compiled a list of airport tips & tricks to ease my mind and use as a reference. This is applicable to those who are travelling without kids as well because I’ve seen and heard of so many people missing their flights for the most absurd reasons relating to travel. Trust me, if you’re going to be flying anywhere, these are the airport tips & tricks you need to know.
Ticket & Flight Info
From the time you book your ticket, check that it is the correct date and time you booked for. We take for granted that what we clicked on is what’s going to appear but whether you were in a rush or the airline made a mistake, it’s up to you to check that the info is 100% correct beforehand.
Get your documents in check
Make sure you have the correct form of identification before check-in, either an ID or a passport. For kids, some airlines require an original copy of the child’s birth certificate whilst others would accept just a copy. Make sure your passport is not expired or not expiring soon. Most countries require that travellers have at least 6 months availability on their passport beyond the date of departure. Passport renewal can take a few days so don’t leave it until the last minute. Also, make sure you have a VISA for certain countries you are visiting.
Don’t miss your flight
Make sure everything you need is packed and ready to go the day before you leave. You don’t want to be running around looking for items at the risk of missing your flight. You need to be at the airport at least three hours before an international departure and 90 minutes for domestic departures. Another thing to remember is boarding gates close 10 minutes before departure so even if you’re at the airport, they might decline to let you on the plane.
This is one I’m all too familiar with. When hubby and I returned from Bangkok, we had used the hotel scale to make sure that our bags were the correct weight. When we got to the airport, however, we were 4kgs over on one of the bags. We said we didn’t mind paying the overweight charges but the lady insisted it had to do with the fact that the guys who load the luggage weren’t allowed to lift over the 30kg weight restriction. It had to do with labour laws and medical insurance etc. So there, slap bang in the middle of the airport, we had to open all our bags to try and reshuffle the extra weight around. Trust me, it’s much harder than you’d think it would be. Rather invest in your own luggage scale, they’re available from Takealot and Mr Price Sport and are quicker and cheaper than having to go through an unnecessary ordeal.
Prohibited items and substances
While packing, make sure you have a list of items that are restricted from travelling and remove them from your packing list. Flammable items, such as aerosol cans and lighters. Sharp objects, such as scissors and nail files. Liquids, up to a certain amount. Some airlines do allow it in your checked-in luggage but not on your person or in your hand luggage.
Don’t be an unwanted mule
Always keep an eye on your luggage. First and foremost, pack it yourself so you know exactly what is in your bags. Get a combination lock so there’s no chance of losing the key. Although I must sheepishly admit that I’ve forgotten my combination before and we had to break the lock ourselves. Then the minute you get to the airport have your bags wrapped. It’s a paid service at all airports where they basically engulf your entire bag in plastic wrap. This way, no one can open or tamper with your bag without you knowing about it.
Regardless of the duration of your flight, always be prepared for anything. Being dressed comfortably always has its advantages. Bring your favourite neck pillow, a light blanket or even your favourite snacks. It will make the experience that much more enjoyable.
Now for a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way
It’s one thing to want to get to the airport early but if you have checked-in luggage and know you need to rush off once the plane lands, then wait until the last minute to check your baggage in. Basically, when they’re packing the holding compartment, it’s first in last out. So if you check your bags in later, it’ll probably land on the arrivals conveyor belt first.
Keep to the left
This is actually more of a life hack. For some odd reason, people always veer to the right. Whether it’s on the road or waiting in line, you’ll almost always find the left line has fewer people in it. This applies to check-in, boarding and possibly most stores I go to every day.
The airport toilets are miles bigger, and almost always much cleaner than the tight cubicle they call a toilet on the plane. Get your business done on the ground before boarding your flight. You’ll thank me later.
Bring your own earphones
Whether you’re going to be watching TV, or listening on your iPad or phone, bring your own earphones from home. Not is it only more hygienic but the quality is much better too.
Invest in leashes
I know I shouldn’t treat my children like animals but if they’re anything like I was, this is the only way. I’ve seen various different harnesses for kids over the years but I’m especially intrigued with the ones that have a key so the kids (or someone else) can’t remove it from their wrists. Also, I’m thinking it’s a great idea to prevent them from running into toy stores everytime we walk past one.
And last but not least,
Wear a brightly coloured jacket or scarf so that in a crowd your family can find you. Mark your bag with brightly coloured stickers or buy a bag with a funky print. It’s much easier to spot on a conveyer belt and it’s less likely that someone might mistake it for their own.
I hope you enjoyed reading my airport tips & tricks. If you have any of your own you’d like to share, then leave them in the comments below.
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