If you ask any traveler what they hate most about traveling, they’re likely to tell you it’s the airport experience. No one likes to deal with heavy traffic, long lines, extra fees, security, delays, overpriced food and drink … and this is just to name a few of the travel peeves that contribute to a less than fun experience.  Since I’ve flown so much, I’ve really learned how to deal with all of the above and then some, so much so that when my mother-in-law travels with me, I hear her tell her friends the next day that traveling with Johnny Jet is a joy, everything is so seamless and comfortable. Nothing like brownie points, eh? RELATED: 10 Airport Security Hacks Every Traveler Needs to Know

LaGuardia Airport.Here’s how I do it.

1. Allow Extra Time

The most important advice I can give is also the simplest: Allow extra time. Show up to the airport earlier than you think you should. You would be surprised how many travelers don’t follow this advice, which is why you see so many frustrated and aggravated travelers. When you rush, that’s also when you forget things at security.

2. Have a Game Plan

Before heading out to the airport, I figure out where I’m going to park or where to return the car rental if I’m driving. For a really smooth experience, I almost always take a reliable, luxury car service like Blacklane or a ride share like Uber or Lyft. If I rent a car, I return it the night before off airport property so it’s cheaper and more importantly, I don’t have to deal with airport shuttles if it’s a large airport like SFO, DEN or HNL. Miami Airport is one of the few exceptions, since it’s easy to return a car there. RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car

3. Don’t Check Luggage

I don’t check bags when I travel alone for a number of reasons but most importantly, I don’t have to show up early to check them or stand around waiting for them, which seems like an eternity, or risk having them go missing. Also, if there’s a delay or cancelation, I can quickly make alternative plans. If you check bags, see if there’s curbside check-in. Usually, the wait to use curbside check-in is so much shorter than the airport counter and is well worth the small fee or tip you should give them.

4. Bypass Long Security Lines

Clearing security is almost everyone’s sore spot; that’s why my whole family has TSA Pre and Clear. TSA Pre lines are generally much shorter and quicker because travelers don’t have to take their liquids or laptops out, jackets or shoes off. Tip: If you travel internationally, get Global Entry as it comes with TSA Pre and costs just $22 more ($100 total and some credit cards cover the once in every five year enrollment fee). Clear is TSA Pre on steroids. It costs $15 a month and members get escorted to the front of the security lines at participating airports. You don’t even have to show ID, just scan your fingers and boarding pass and you’re good to go.

5. Don’t Wear Clothes That Trigger Alarms

I almost always wear the same clothes and carry the same contents since I know they won’t trigger the metal detectors and I won’t be held up for secondary screening. At some airports like London’s Heathrow, I know to take all my electronics out of my carry-on and lay them out on the security tray and make sure I don’t even have one little tube of liquid hiding in my bag because the screeners there can hold you up to 30 minutes.

6. Wear Comfortable Shoes

Since most of the airports I travel to are huge, I always wear comfortable shoes as I know I’m going to be walking a ton and I dress in layers since airports (and airplanes) can be inconsistent temperature-wise. TIP: This the the unusual thing I always pack … and you should, too. Some airports that you think will be warm, like Miami Airport, are not. In fact, it has to be the coldest airport around as one worker even told me they call it ‘The Arctic Zone’.

7. Find an Airport Haven

I spend a lot of money on annual credit card fees because I travel multiple airlines and want to make sure that my family and I can pass the time in a plush airport lounge, that’s more sane, has food and drink, a quiet place to work and agents to help change our tickets if there’s a delay or cancelation. If the airport is small and doesn’t have a lounge, I walk around to discover if they offer anything unique. If it’s crowded, I will walk to a gate that is vacant to work but I always set my phone’s alarm to make sure I don’t miss my flight. If I’m traveling with my little kids, I look for play areas. Some airports have amazing ones where they can run off their energy.

8. Avoid Getting Stranded

I try to avoid connections since that doubles the chances of getting delayed. But if I have to make a connection, I leave plenty of time in between flights so I’m not stressed; planes are flying at capacity so there’s a good chance there won’t be a vacant seat on the next flight. I also make sure it’s not the last flight of the day so I’m not stranded. RELATED: How Long Should a Layover Be When Booking a Connecting Flight?

Early morning flights have the lowest chance of being delayed since those aircrafts tend to be parked overnight. If I do have a really long connection, instead of hanging out in the airport, I explore nearby cities or areas. Some airports like Singapore and Amsterdam even offer city tours for travelers with long connections, so always enquire.

As you can see, it takes a lot of pre-planning to have a comfortable airport experience. Obviously, you need Mother Nature to cooperate and if she doesn’t, it might be worth it to see if the airline is offering a waiver so you can fly a day later or before.

Here’s to a smooth travel experience!

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