Common Airport Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

by  Paul Eisenberg | May 16, 2013
Airport security check
Airport security check / Chalabala/iStock

Every time I set foot in an airport I'm overtaken by the urge to look like I know what I'm doing, which is quickly followed by a desire to actually know what I'm doing. And sometimes I fail on both counts. While I've learned much about travel the hard way, I do try to learn from my blunders. Here now, five common mistakes that are all too easy to make at the airport, and how to avoid them.

1. The mistake: Using too many pockets
Given how diligently airlines limit our carry-on luggage while simultaneously trying to charge us more for checked baggage, it’s no wonder that multi-pocket travel jackets – which don’t count toward a flier’s carry-on baggage allowance – have become quite popular. And one side-effect of these specialty jackets are travelers who can’t remember which pocket holds what at pivotal moments, say, when a TSA checkpoint officer is asking to see your boarding pass and ID.

Avoiding it: After making this mistake too many times, I realized that just because my jacket has 22 pockets doesn't mean I have to use them all. And, I'm now more disciplined about using the same pockets for the same items, every single time.

2.  The mistake: Going on a bin binge
I see plenty of confusion when it comes to the plastic bins at security. One mistake is placing your actual carry-on in a bin rather than directly on the conveyor belt. Another is using way too many bins, putting your shoes in one bin, your multi-pocket travel garment in another, your laptop in yet another, etc.

Avoiding it: While this shows TSA screeners how organized you are, what you're mostly doing is giving yourself too many bins to track down when you get to the other side of the conveyor belt. Focus your energy instead on making the inside of your carry-on more orderly and x-ray friendly, as suggested in the handy TSA article How to Get Through the Line Faster.

3. The mistake: Counting on an open electric outlet at your gate
Whenever I get to my gate, I start seething at the sight of fellow passengers either hogging every last electrical outlet to charge their phones and laptops or having their stuff plugged into those outlets in such an awkward way that it’s impossible to access any remaining outlets that might be free.

Avoiding it: The easiest fix for this is simply to use the outlets at a nearby gate within earshot of your own or, if necessary, rely on a portable USB charger to keep your gadgets juiced.

4. The mistake: Counting on Wi-Fi access at the airport
I recently discovered before boarding a flight that I was unable to email a Microsoft Word document to an editor because I couldn't get Wi-Fi on my laptop, despite previous success in getting Wi-Fi access at that airport.

Avoiding it: My solution was to transfer the Word document from my laptop to my smartphone via my phone’s USB cable, open the file in Quickoffice to make sure it looked okay, and email the file from my phone. This was before I realized that my phone could be used rather easily as a mobile hot spot, but I still give myself credit for finding a quick workaround while my flight was being called.

5. The mistake: Treating yourself to a big breakfast
You've cleared security and are heading for your gate when suddenly you hear a luscious sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich and a 30-gallon cup of coffee calling your name from a nearby breakfast kiosk.

Avoiding it: It really does seem like a good idea at the time, but trust me, keep walking; your wallet (and probably stomach) will thank you later.

What are some of your airport tricks and tips? Share them below!

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