woman traveling through an airport with her luggage

How to Travel Safely

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

Make your travel experience a little less stressful with useful tips to smooth the trip. From skipping security screening to packing light, use our suggestions for your next flight.

An airplane is a fast and convenient way to get where you want to go. But before you take flight you have to navigate the airport. And that can be a frustrating, sometimes stressful, experience. So we’ve come up with some tips to make the airport a better place to be, so you can stay focused on your high-flying adventures.

What to Do Long Before the Flight

Get travel insurance. Having travel insurance is a great first step toward a worry-free experience. Your American Family Insurance agent can give you the lowdown on global medical insurance and trip cancellation insurance.

Join TSA PreCheck. For a small membership fee, you can sign up for TSA PreCheck. (Opens in a new tab) This special status means no more waiting in long security lines. You’ll get to keep your shoes on, and your liquids and laptop can stay tucked away! You’ll need to apply online, and there’s a 10-minute in-person interview with a background check, but once approved you’ll move through security in no time at all.

Pick your seat. If possible, select your seat online when you buy your ticket, so you can sit where you want. Remember, if you have a tight connection, getting a seat up front can get you to the gate faster.

Become a smart packer. When you travel light there’s less luggage to worry about, making it easier to haul what you have. And, when you get the hang of it, you’ll be a more confident traveler. Try these packing tips.

  • Keep documents nearby for easy access and safety.
  • Know your itinerary and pack only what you’ll need.
  • Create a list of your medications and toiletries to avoid forgetting to pack them.
  • Use plastic zip-top bags for your toiletries so you can easily see them. Bonus — your clothing is protected if something spills.
  • Bring extra zip-top bags to store sandy shoes, dirty clothes and souvenirs.
  • Go monochromatic with your wardrobe so it’s easier to mix and match with less.
  • Roll your clothing so it takes up less space and reduces wrinkles.
  • Pack clothes you know you can wear more than once.
  • Limit your shoes. This might be hard to do, but shoes take up a lot of space that you could fill with souvenirs.
  • Let go of the “just in case” mentality and remind yourself, if you need it you can buy it. This saves you from packing things you’ll never use.

Learn the 3-1-1 rule. It stands for 3.4 oz. bottle of less in one 1-quart zip-top bag. This means, you’re allowed one 1-quart sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes per person through the security checkpoint. But they need to be 3.4 ounces or less per item. Make sure you’re using a clear, zip-top bag to hold all of these items.

Know your meds. You can bring liquid medications on flights without putting them in a zip-top bag, but you need to disclose what you have at the beginning of screening. You can bring pill medications without restrictions. While the TSA doesn’t have rules on bringing medications in original prescription bottles, some states do. So it’s a good idea to check departure and arrival states to see if the original bottle is required. Also, keep your medication in your carry-on, just in case you need them in flight or your checked luggage is lost.

Prepare for travel with kids. If you have little ones, in addition to keeping them entertained, there are some other things to know. Your stroller and/or car seat will need to be screened. You’re allowed to bring more than 3.4 ounces of breast milk, formula, milk products, juice and baby food. And, check with your airline to see if they offer discounted rates for children.

Think food and fun. Whether traveling with children or alone, bring stuff that will keep everyone entertained so the wait doesn’t feel so long. Snacks can go a long way toward making the wait more comfortable. If you don’t want to buy overpriced water at the airport, bring an empty water bottle and fill up at a refill station.

Know the parking. Ease the pain of parking. Airport parking ramps can confuse even the savviest of travelers. Check out parking maps online to get a better idea of where to go. Or better yet, get a ride to the airport and leave your car and your parking worries at home!

Review the route. If you’re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the trip to the airport, go online and review the drive. Check out where the gates are, the baggage pick-up and any other information that’ll help you feel more comfortable.

Mark your luggage. If you’re checking bags, make sure you can easily identify yours on the carousel. Tie a scarf or pompon to your bag, add a bright sticker or just buy unique luggage. You don’t want to grab someone else’s bag and you certainly don’t want someone to mistakenly grab yours.

Tips for the Day of Your Flight

Check in online. If you’re not checking bags, you’ll save a lot of time by checking in early.

Screenshot your boarding pass. If you’re using a digital boarding pass, save a copy of it to your images so you can pull it up quickly. This way you can still get to it even when there’s no Wi-Fi. And a printed pass means you don’t have to rely on your phone at all.

Watch the weather. Signing up for flight alerts will give you a heads up if there’s a delay. But, did you know you can be even more proactive when it comes to weather? If you anticipate flight delays due to weather the night before, call your airline and see if you can reschedule the flight. This avoids last minute switches, delayed flights and waiting in the airport.

Arrive early. The rule of thumb is to arrive 2 hours early but, depending on your airport, this might not be the case. You can ask the airline what they suggest or, if you know the airport, you can gauge based on past experience. Remember, delays with other airlines and inclement weather can slow down the travel process.

Prep for security. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, go through a mental checklist of what you need to do when entering the security checkpoint. Get ready to remove your metal jewelry, keys and belts, take off your shoes, have paperwork ready and pull out liquids and your laptop.

Be ready to act. If there’s a delay or cancelled flight and you’re going to miss a flight, skip the long lines at the gate counter and try calling the airline to see if they can quickly reschedule you. Or, you can double your odds of getting rescheduled by calling the airline while you’re standing in line waiting to talk to the gate clerk.

Airports are busy places with lots of chaos. By preparing in advance you’ll know what to expect, saving trouble and time. Sometimes being informed and ready to react makes a difficult situation a lot easier to manage. It’s that proactive approach that helps you prepare for the unexpected.

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