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Top 5 Ways To Save Time At The Airport Amidst Record Crowds

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Air travel is back with a vengeance, with the highest airport crowds since February 2020 reported last weekend. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 2.49 million passengers on Sunday, the highest number since February 11, 2020.

Large Crowd in an Airport

As Americans act on the pent-up demand for travel, airports across the country are feeling the strain. Many airports are still short-staffed after reducing personnel during the pandemic.

The record crowds returning to U.S. airports have led to long lines at TSA security checkpoints and airline check-in counters, as well as flight delays, lost luggage, and other mishaps.

Here's how to save time (and your sanity) at the airport:

1. Check In Online

Checking in online for your flight saves you time because you don't have to wait in the check-in line at the airport.

Boarding pass in smartphone. Woman holding phone in airport with mobile ticket on screen. Modern travelling technology and easy access to aeroplane. Terminal and timetable in the blurred background.

Most airlines allow you to check in online starting 24 hours before your flight and give you the option to print your boarding pass at home or download a mobile boarding pass on your phone.

Additionally, if you purchased a ticket without a seat assignment, you will often be able to select your seats when you check in online rather than waiting to have them assigned at the airport check-in desk.

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Close up of legs of young man going into the airport with suitcase

2. Travel With Carry-On Luggage Only

Another way to save time at the airport is by skipping the checked luggage and packing carry-on only. When you avoid checking a bag, you don't have to wait in line at the airport to drop off your luggage.

You also don't have to wait at baggage claim when you arrive to collect your luggage, which also saves time.

Traveling with a carry-on also ensures that you won't have to deal with a missing suitcase, with lost luggage being a common occurrence right now.

Man collecting his luggage

3. Sign Up For TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is a program that allows travelers to join an expedited security line at the airport. You don't need to remove your shoes, belt, jacket, or laptop when going through the security line, which saves time and is an overall more pleasant experience.

Enrolling in TSA PreCheck is only $85 for 5 years, so it's worth the cost for anyone who flies more than a couple of times per year. Some credit cards will even cover the cost of TSA PreCheck as a cardholder benefit. See the full list here.

TSA PreCheck sign in airport

4. Avoid Airport Parking

Parking at the airport can be a huge drain on time and money. Not only do you have to arrive even earlier to find a parking spot, but you may also have to walk a long distance or take a shuttle to get to the airport itself.

For many travelers, using a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft will be cheaper than paying for airport parking for the duration of your trip and comes with a convenient dropoff and pickup right at the airport entrance.

You can also coordinate with a friend or family member to drop you off and pick you up from the airport.

Chicago airport parking lot

5. Get Lounge Access

A lesser-known way to save time (and have a more relaxing experience) at the airport is by getting airport lounge access.

Airport lounges are much calmer than the general waiting areas in the airport, and they offer free food, so you don't have to wait in long lines at airport dining locations to get a bite to eat before your flight.

woman relaxing in lounge

They're also a great place to get some work done if you're traveling for business.

Purchasing lounge access outright can be pricy (for example, an annual membership to the Delta Sky Club is $545 per year for an individual membership or $845 per year to bring in guests), but many credit cards offer lounge access as a cardholder benefit.

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.


Friday 21st of October 2022

Go early or late (red eye, cheaper plus saves 1 night hotel cost) !!

also get Global Entry instead to save time upon return to USA (PreCheck is included) Many travel credit cards has this benefit.