8 Things You Should Never Do at the Airport Before Your Flight

updated Jul 27, 2023
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Whether you’ve recently booked your dream trip abroad or plan to board a domestic flight, it can be overwhelming to prepare for a travel day. One of the best ways to ensure a smooth trip is to create a game plan. There are plenty of items you can check off your to-do list before you get to the airport, like securing your passport and checking into your flight. And there are certain things you never want to do at the airport before your flight. 

Of course, there are obvious travel chores you have to do at home, like packing your suitcase. But you may be tempted to leave some last-minute items until right before you step on the plane. To help you prepare for your next trip — and avoid the stress sweats — travel experts detail eight things you should never do at the airport.  

Don’t pack travel documents in your suitcase.

One of the biggest concerns for travelers is security of personal belongings. “Keep your boarding pass, ID, passport, and phone in your pocket or an outer compartment of your bag so you can easily grab them when needed,” recommends Miguel Teixeira, former director of cabin crew at French bee airlines. He also recommends researching the exact travel documents you need for a trip. “Consult your destination’s official website, as it will list all travel documents required,” says Teixeira.

Don’t scramble to check the contents of your carry-on.

No matter how much time you think you’ll have waiting in the long security line, it’ll go by way too fast. Sort out your carry-on bag and personal item at home: Double-check which TSA-approved foods and toiletries you can bring. You don’t want to be at the front of the line with a freshly filled reusable water bottle you’ll have to chug or toss before getting through security.

Don’t buy expensive airport concessions.

Planning comes in handy when hunger strikes at the airport. Bring TSA-approved snacks from home that likely cost a fraction of what airport food does. “Bring your own water flask, and pack your liquids together in one easy-to-remove bag,” advises Teixeira. “Some airports do not sell plastic water bottles, but there are free filtered water stations across the terminals.”

Don’t board the plane without a transit plan.

It’s essential you have a transit game plan long before you arrive at your destination. “Inform yourself about specific pick-up and drop-off points for Uber or Lyft,” says Teixeira. “These may vary depending on the country and legislation. Sometimes it’s not directly at the airport curbside, but at a parking lot.”

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Don’t buy day-of travel insurance.

Buy travel insurance at least one day before your departure. “If you choose to wait until the last minute, not only are you unlikely to receive a fully comprehensive travel insurance policy, or [get] one at all, but you will also be limited in your ability to cancel your flight for any reason or receive a waiver for pre-existing conditions in some cases,” says Brett Estep, Chief Operating Officer and co-founder of Insured Nomads, an insurance company for digital nomads. You can easily purchase travel insurance from online brokers, and it’s a smart investment to ensure you’re covered and protected as soon as you walk into the airport.

Don’t exchange your currency inside the airport.

Be careful about foreign currency exchanges at the airport. “In the U.S., prices are often more expensive and include an exchange rate fee,” says Stephanie Vollmer, creator of the travel blog Adventures with NieNie. “This not only costs you more to exchange currency, [but] it’s not a fair exchange rate and it will leave you with less than what you bring,” she explains. Vollmer suggests making an exchange once you get out of the airport. She says many hotels or even your bank can assist you with the transaction. “The other option would be to use your ATM card and pull out cash at an ATM abroad — there still may be fees, but they are substantially smaller than what the airport may charge,” says Vollmer.

Don’t arrive just in the nick of time.  

Don’t get to the airport too close to your flight’s boarding time. “…This is a terrible idea due to the time it takes to check documents, especially when traveling internationally,” says Lauren Scott, blogger at Freedom Not Fate. Scott points to possible flight changes, whether it be your gate or boarding time, as major reasons to not cut it close. “It’s advisable to check in earlier and give yourself more than enough time,” she says.

Don’t have a cocktail before takeoff.

Be mindful of drinking alcoholic beverages at the airport. “The pressurized airplanes contain less oxygen… when they’re 38,000 feet in the sky, making that one cocktail feel more like five,” says Corey Walters, founder of Here, a vacation property rental platform. He suggests ordering a ginger ale instead, especially for those who easily suffer from motion sickness. Save that cocktail for once you’ve reached land.