Every time I get off the plane, the thought of airport formalities makes me shiver and I start thinking of ways in which I can skip time in getting through all the procedures. Over time, I have observed and tried out newer ways of bringing down the total time I spend at the airport. Some of the things mentioned below might sound a little silly and make you might feel awkward doing them in person but believe me, when I say that it feels all worth it when you get to leave the airport earlier than expected. Times when you are travelling alone or are on tight schedule, you wouldn’t want to spend half the day trying to get out of the airport. This is when my tips and tricks may come in handy. Do give them a try to see if you find them effective enough (A few of these may not be applicable in some airports). I leave the rest up to you.
High-Level Categorization things where most of the airport time goes by are: Luggage, Plane & Immigration, Visa and security Check. Let me go through all of this one by one.
Visa is something which varies from person to person. You may or may not need the visa to enter a specific country and that depends from country to country. (You can find more information on VISA procedures in my post here.) This column is mostly targeted to those who need to show a visa to enter your destination country. There are mostly two types of Visas.
- Advance Visa: In this case, you have to get the visa from the country you are travelling from in advance. I believe that if you already have this with you then there won’t be any time issues at the airport.
- Visa on Arrival (VOA): Now this is where we underestimate the power of the Visa. When we hear that we will be getting a VOA at the destination country, we don’t bother to spend planning about it. Let me be the one to tell you that except for at a few countries, most airports are always busy with people from all over the world lining up for VOAs. The most underestimated visa is that of Thailand and it can take up to more than 14 hours at the airport for one to get a VOA there. To save this massive time waste, you can get the same visa in advance either online or from the embassy of the destination country at your own country. If your trip is not a last minute plan, I suggest that you get the visa in advance and not to rely on the VOA facility.
Another huge time waste is waiting at the luggage belt. 200 people get off the plane with 2 bags on an average. The chances of your bag being among the first few bags out of at least 400 of them are incredibly less. You might find yourself spending 15-20 minutes just waiting to collect your bag. The best and the easiest solution to this problem is to travel light with only carry-on baggage which can be carried inside the cabin itself. This will save a lot of time and you will be able to walk outpost the immigration procedures with a smile on your face. To find out more tips and suggestions about travelling light please refer to my post here.
Security Check at the Airport:
Here comes the biggest nightmare. If you are carrying only one backpack, you will have some things which security check won’t allow you to board with and the long queues at the security checks are very frustrating. So here is what you can do to make your security check pass quickly.
- Keep all liquids on the top pocket of the bag and pack them in airtight poly bags while so that you can just take it out easily and put in the security tray without having to go through any problems.
- Keep all the electronics accessible since you will need to put them in the tray as well. Make sure they are handy.
- Always go in the line where you see the business travellers lined up. Business travellers travel light and know how to pass the security check quickly. That line will surely move faster than others and that will save your time as well.
Getting on and off the Plane:
This might sound odd to you since you probably haven’t thought about how this has anything to do with saving time. Let me explain to you how even these small things can make your travel hustle-free and quick. Let me put it this way:
- Web Check-in: Always use web check-in to select your seat and get your boarding pass in advance. Most of the airlines these days open their web check-in at least 24-hours in advance. You don’t have to wait in the long queues at the boarding pass counter if you have already checked in and you can straightaway walk into the security check and save a big chunk of your time.
- Selecting the Seat: While doing the online check-in, you get the option to choose your own seat. I suggest choosing the aisle seats and within the seat numbers 1-10 if possible since these are closer to the gates. The advantage of this is that you get to leave the plane before the 150 other passengers sitting behind you and that will also help you be ahead in the immigration line.
- Getting off the Plane: This is the silliest one and I laugh every time I wonder about that how this works out. We are all aware of the hustle in the plane which begins the moment the seatbelt sign goes off after landing. Everyone wants to be the first one out. Having an aisle seat at the front of the plane certainly gives you a head start ahead of many others. Try being fast in your walk to the so that you can overtake the other passengers. All you would have is a small backpack and that is the time when everyone is tired of the long flight and the people tend to walk slowly to the immigration. You can show a little more energy and walk past them to reach the immigration ahead in the line.
It is always advisable that you carry your travel documents in handy while at the immigration counter. Keep an extra travel organizer which has your important documents such as the boarding pass, the return tickets, the address of the hostel or host, your insurance, a photo ID, etc. This will help skip opening the backpack while trying to search for the required documents if the officer happens to ask for an extra proof. This can frustration in both parties and also wastes your time. Sometimes the immigration officers ask questions even though you show them documents, like “where will you be staying, how long will you be here for?” etc. So make sure that you have read the address or remember at least the street name of the accommodation and know about your plans.
So these are a few tried and tested methods which are very effective at the airports and will help you save your time. I remember my first trip to Stockholm where it took me about 2 hours to come out of the airport while on my last trip to India; I was out of the Delhi airport within 30 minutes which happens to be one of the busiest airports in India. Let me know if this helped you and I will be looking forward to your comments. Please feel free to add other tips and tricks if would like to help out your fellow readers.