It doesn't matter what type of traveler you are, traveling during the summer months can add extra stress to a trip, especially if the trip itself is a high-pressure one. Summer travel often means longer queues, more traffic, possible delays, and less room to get work done. Fortunately, much like when there was a government shutdown, there are strategies to help you make the airport experience pleasant.
My job requires me to travel year round. Regardless of the time of year, planning ahead and taking advantage of services designed for frequent travelers is always helpful. Here are a few things you can do to make your summer business travels more efficient.
1. Use technology to get you through more quickly.
Make checking-in a smooth process by employing airline or booking apps to digitally check-in. While many airlines use the digital self-check-in computer, I've found that they are often limited or being occupied by large families who have a number of suitcases and people to check-in. Not ideal.
Instead, pack light and stick to a carry-on. Check-in ahead of time or even on the way to the airport. Once you arrive, you can go straight to security.
2. Take advantage of TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, and/or Global Entry services.
If you are not familiar with them, TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, and Global Entry are U.S. government approved services that allow approved travelers to go through security more quickly.
TSA PreCheck allows travelers to pass through an expedited security lane in select U.S. airports. Travelers in this lane do not have to remove their shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets. Good for 5 years, the $85 enrollment fee is worth the price of getting through security faster.
For $179 per year, CLEAR uses biometric data from your eyes and fingerprints to verify your identity after you've enrolled. Once cleared, a staff member will escort you to the front of the PreCheck security line.
Global Entry allows travelers entering the USA to bypass traditional security lines and scan their fingerprints at kiosks. Even better, the $100 enrollment fee is also good for five years and includes access to the TSA PreCheck service.
While CLEAR is only available at select U.S. airports, TSA PreCheck and Global Entry are more widely available.
3. Know where you're going.
If you have a layover or are traveling to an unfamiliar airport, plan ahead by downloading or at least reviewing the airport map. If you have a short layover, try to sit towards the front of the plane, that way you can deplane quickly and make your next flight. You can also ask a flight attendant if they have any information about the gate you will be landing at and the gate you will need to get to.
I've nearly missed a flight because I didn't realize my next flight was in another annex further down the road. Try to get close to your gate, even if you have a bit of time to spare. Otherwise, you may be deceived or underestimate the time it takes to gate to where you need to be.
4. Pack smart.
Because the airport is fuller during the summer months, don't count on finding a place to charge your electronics. Instead, bring a portable charger or power bank to give you freedom. You could also visit a lounge, though I've seen those get super crowded too.
However, you could also visit a lounge and bring an extension cord. If it's massively busy, there's a good chance that someone will ask to share your cord, thus opening up the opportunity to network.
I recommend sticking to a carry-on but if you do check luggage, keep a small bag with you that has your essentials. Bring an extra set of clothes so that you can freshen up and will have something to wear should your luggage get delayed or lost.
Pack so that everything you need is easy to reach. I have a small bag that has my headphones, wet wipes, disposable toothbrushes, medicine, laptop, and gum that I can easily reach for before storing my suitcase in the overhead bin. Opening up your suitcase in the middle of the airport to rummage for an item while on a business trip is not fun.
5. Upgrade to save.
Buy a pass to an airport lounge. Upgrade your seat so that you can have a meal and be more comfortable, rested, and less jet-lagged when you arrive at your destination. Plus, sitting in a lounge and sitting in business or first class both provide opportunities to meet other business people
6. Fly early.
Fly early to avoid delayed flights. If possible, grab a non-stop flight. Avoid taking the last flight of the day if you can.