5 ways to save time at the gate

Traveling is fun, but airports often aren’t. First, you have to get there, which means asking friends or family for a favor, paying for a taxi or rideshare service, or leaving your car in an airport parking lot. After checking in, it’s a hassle to stand in line for security, where you’ll probably need to remove your shoes, belt, and jacket, and take any liquids or laptops out of your bags. When all that’s over, you could be running to your gate to catch your flight. But with some planning, you can take some of this stress out of your journey.
Make parking simple with The Parking Spot

One way to save time is by leaving your vehicle at The Parking Spot. You can reserve a space, so you don’t have to worry about looking for a spot. Plus, The Parking Spot waives its normal $4.95 reservation fee for AAA members. With shuttles that run every five to seven minutes in most locations, you’ll be off to the terminal in no time, complete with a complimentary newspaper and bottle of water. Wondering how long it’ll be until the shuttle arrives? You can download The Parking Spot’s mobile app to track the shuttles in real time.

Best of all, you’ll get at least 10 percent off the daily parking rate by showing your AAA membership card when paying. Speed things up even more by joining The Spot Club, the free rewards program. You’ll earn reward points, plus express entry and exit at the lot. Flying soon? Make your reservation at The Parking Spot today.

Check in online and skip the counter

Airports are full of lines, two of which are at the entrance: passenger check-in, and baggage check-in. Most airlines now offer online passenger check-in and boarding pass printing, so you can skip that line and go straight to baggage check-in if needed.

Even better, try to travel without checked bags—you’ll be able to skip the front counter entirely and head straight to security, which can be a huge time-saver.

Speed up security by enrolling in TSA PreCheck
Unlike the check-in desk, security can’t be skipped, but there are ways to speed it up. TSA PreCheck provides expedited security screening benefits for flights from U.S. airports. TSA PreCheck frequently means a security wait of less than five minutes, plus other perks like keeping your shoes on, leaving electronics in your bag, and so on.
Enroll in TSA PreCheck at select AAA branches
TSA representatives will be conducting TSA PreCheck enrollments for members and non-members at select AAA branches. Appointments may be scheduled online up to 45 days in advance and take priority over walk-ins.
There is also Global Entry, which is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that speeds up re-entry to the U.S. for pre-screened passengers. Enrolling in Global Entry involves an application, background check, in-person interview, and a $100 fee. But once approved, you’re good for five years, meaning that most of the time (depending on airline, airport, and TSA’s discretion) you’ll be sent to the shorter PreCheck security line. You can start the Global Entry application process on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
Going through regular security? Think ahead

If you don’t have Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, some smart planning can make going through regular security screening less of a hassle.

  • Traveling with gifts? Keep them unwrapped in case TSA officers need to do additional screening.
  • If you’re not going to wear your bulky coat on the plane, put it in your checked luggage so you don’t have to fumble with it through security. 
  • Not sure whether something's allowed in your carry-on? Put it in your checked baggage. If that's not an option, visit the TSA's "What Can I Bring?" page and look up the item in question. Still unsure? Leave it at home.
  • Check carry-ons for prohibited items one last time, even if you don't think you have any. A forgotten water bottle could cost precious minutes.
  • Don't tune out TSA instructions about how to handle electronics, shoe removal, and other procedures, no matter how many times you've heard them.
Bring your own snacks
You’ve gotten past the parking, check-in, and security. Nothing stands between you and the gate—except maybe your empty stomach. Packing snacks could save you yet another wait in line, and probably a pretty penny as well. Remember that outside beverages larger than 3.4 fluid ounces are prohibited by the TSA, so if you want a drink, you’ll have to buy it after you go through security.
Traveling internationally? Here's one thing you won't want to rush

If you’re planning to leave the U.S. (including trips to Mexico and Canada), make sure you have a valid passport. Many countries require that your passport is a minimum of six months away from expiring upon departure and arrival. If you don’t have a passport or your current one is nearing expiration, it should be taken care of as soon as possible. The regular renewal process can take at least four to six weeks, and even costly “expedited” processing can take up to three weeks. (If your destination requires a visa, you may need your passport renewed even earlier.)

 

Let your local AAA branch help you get started early by providing the necessary forms and taking passport photos. Learn more about the process and how to get started.

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