13 airport mistakes we all make

We’re all so judgey when it comes to the person in front of us in the airport security line who hasn’t bothered to take out their liquids or laptop. But truth be told, we’ve all made similar mistakes.

My most common error is not removing my watch. I take off my belt, shoes, and remove all the bits and bobs from my bag but, for some reason, I always forget to take off my watch.

It just goes to show that, while first-timers can make rookie errors, frequent flyers are just as capable of making the same mistakes.

Skyscanner Australia has published a list of the 13 most common mistakes that cause unnecessary hold-ups and inconvenience at airports. Avoid these mistakes and everyone will be a happy passenger.

1. Not knowing your limits
How often have you seen travellers unpacking one bag to add weight to the other? Or those who are madly putting on jackets pants and beanies so they don’t have to pay excess baggage fees? I’ve seen it enough times to always weigh my bag before I leave home, leaving a bit of leeway for the flight back. Know your airline’s baggage limits – they’re not all the same – and make sure your bag is underweight before you hit the check-in desk.

2. Packing liquids in your hand luggage
There are signs everywhere that say you can’t take bottles larger than 100ml, and yet, if you look in the bins near security, you’ll notice piles of plastic bottles filled with liquids. I only hope they go to a charity or to someone who can use them. If you do follow the100ml-rule, make sure you’ve got them in a clear zip-lock bag, and place them on the conveyer belt ready for inspection.

3. Plan for delays
Unless you’re catching the red-eye, traffic will always be at its worst when you’re on the way to the airport. So plan accordingly, giving yourself plenty of time for emergencies, hold ups and the ‘unforeseen’.

4. Leaving it to the last minute
Take note of the arrival time required for international and domestic departures – they’re that way for a reason. Clearing security checks take time, as does checking in, so give yourself plenty of time to make sure you don’t miss your flight. Three hours prior to international flights should suffice, as should one hour prior to a domestic departure.

5. Missing out on frequent flyer benefits
Most frequent flyer programs are free, and the benefits are worth the time to sign up for, even if you don’t fly very often.

6. Checking in at the airport
Why wait in a long line to check in at the airport, when you can do it on your smartphone on the way in or on your computer before you leave home. Most airlines will allow you to check in up to 24 hours prior to departure – some even let you do it sooner. You can skip queues and book your ideal seat and, best of all, scoot through unnecessary queues.

7. Not having your documents ready
Don’t you just love being the next in line, watching the person at the check-in desk in front of you fumbling around in their backpack looking for tickets, passport and other documentation? That was a rhetorical question, obviously. Don’t be that passenger – have your required documentation ready for inspection, and while you’re in the line, grab a bag tag, pull out a pen and fill out your details before you get to the desk. If everyone did that no one would have to worry about delayed flights.

8. Wearing headphones
Passengers wearing headphones with the music turned up too loud can often miss important calls, such as gate changes and delay announcements.

9. Not hydrating
The combination of stress, salty airport food and airplane cabins can dehydrate you faster than silk undies on an Outback clothesline, so make sure you drink plenty of water. You may not be able to take liquids through security, but you can take an empty bottle and fill it on the other side.

10. Not keeping your charger in your carry-on
Keep your charger in your carry-on and take advantage of the plethora of ports in gate lounges to charge your phone or tablet fully before boarding.

11. Not wearing a scarf
A scarf is the best thing you can take on a plane. Especially good for flying, they’ll not only keep the cool vent air off your neck (see our anti-sickness air-vent trick here), they also double up as a blanket or head covering to help you sleep. Even if it’s hot, get yourself a light muslin cloth or silk scarf for your flight – you’ll be thankful.

12. Wearing jeans
Small airplane seats already make flying uncomfortable, so why restrict yourself even further by wearing jeans? Think loose clothes, such as cargo pants for guys or harem pants for girls. Tracksuit pants are also great for long-haul flights, but they’re not the best look. Still, when it comes to flying, it’s function over fashion, so do what’s most comfortable for you.

13. Not labelling your luggage
Those bag tags come in handy for identifying your luggage, as does a big bright band or gaudy sticker. Your luggage may look original when you’re at home, but among the thousands of bags at airports, it can quickly become camouflaged and difficult for you to identify. So make it stand out in some way. It’s also very handy if, in the worst-case scenario, you do lose your bag, you can ask the baggage handlers to look for the “black bag with a bright pink strap and flouro orange tags”.

And a couple of bonus tips from our members

Get assistance
“A big mistake some people make is struggling through the check in and boarding process when impeded by health or age issues,” writes ozirules.

“Most airlines offer a free wheelchair service to assist negotiating the sometimes huge terminals and the long queues passing through security where most often no seating is available. A phone call to the airline once your flight ticket is issued is often all that’s needed to arrange this assistance. It may make the difference between deciding to travel or not. Please book the assistance ahead of your date of departure to ensure availability.”

SuziJ adds to this: “If you ‘need’ extra support, advise the airline or booking agent when you book your tickets, if not, at least 48 hours prior to your flight. Then you know you’ll get the extra help you need.”

Use public transport (when and where it’s available)
Instead of driving to the airport, take public transport, especially in Sydney,” writes SuziJ.

“There are both buses and trains to the airport. The buses will cost you less than taking the train (extra fee as the train stations are privately owned). The bus numbers are: #400 – Bondi Junction to T1 (via Eastgardens and T2), and return, and #420 Burwood to Eastgardens (via T1 and T2), and return. Check out the timetables on the Sydney Transport website.

It may be a slightly more awkward journey on the buses and trains (your luggage, etc.), but it’s better than paying for fuel to get to the airport, and then having to fork out for the expensive parking, too.

Do you know of any other obvious airport mistakes?

Related articles:
Costly travel mistakes to avoid
10 airport tricks for the holidays
Flight booking mistakes

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