Everything You Need to Know Before You Go: Airport Edition

Kristina Tracy
June 7, 2018


Purchasing plane tickets can feel a bit like Russian roulette between all the sites and airlines and price fluctuations, but with a little bit of practice and a couple insider hacks, you'll be a plane ticket pro in no time!

    • Generally speaking, you want to buy your tickets as early as possible. Some articles will suggest a 45-50 day in advance rule but when in comes down to it this is more of a theory than a fact. As a rule of thumb, most airlines offer seats for online booking about 8 months in advance so the closer you can get to the release date, the better.
    • A lot of people also claim that flights tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays or Wednesdays (depending on who you ask), but airlines make hundreds or even thousands of flight adjustments per day for dozens of reasons. The only verifyable trend in airline prices is that tickets tend to be cheaper the further you buy in advance.
    • If you have a little bit of leeway with the dates you're flying out, this is where timing really can make a difference. Flights tend to be cheapest on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays and the earlier the departure, the better.
    • If you can be on the first flight of the day, you'll likely also be on one of the cheapest flights of the day. "Flyers tend to not want to travel at inconvenient or uncomfortable times" says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com, making these early flights some of the cheapest. The next-cheapest flights are generally at meal times, lunch and dinner hours."There's a general rule of thumb, which is 'fly hungry,'" Seaney says.
    • Always, always check sites like Kayak.com and Orbitz.com that will not only find you the cheapest flight, buy they'll even create flight paths from different airlines if needed to keep travel costs as low as possible. (Always remember to switch the filter results from Recommended to Price: Low to High)


    • If you have money to spend and you fly often enough, consider investing in TSA precheck ($85) or Global Entry ($100). Each one is a program that offers a 5-year membership that allows you to skip security and avoid all those pesky airport rituals that add up over time. These both do require intensive background checks and oftentimes an in-person interview, so if you're not planning on traveling a ton in the next few years, this might not be the right thing for you.
    • Some studies suggest that when faced with a choice of going left or right (for lines or paths or other options), people tend to go in the direction of their dominant hand. Since most of the population is right handed, this results in the left line or lane often being shorter than the right, so keep that in mind while deciding where to wait your turn!
  • SAVE THAT $$$ - 
    • Airport food is easily some of the most overpriced consumer goods known to man. For this reason, anything you can do to bring in your own food is always a good idea. I, for one, am a huge supporter of the oatmeal cup and instant coffee hack, which works as follows:
      • First things first, you want to bring a packet or cup of instant oatmeal with you in your "personal bag" through security.
      • Once you're inside and waiting at your terminal, go to your local Starbucks or any kiosk, really, and ask for a cup of hot water. They'll almost always be more than willing to give it to you. Add the water to your oatmeal and cover it over for a couple minutes and BOOM, there you have it. A hot, delicious, nearly free breakfast right there at the airport.
        • Add in walnuts, dried fruit, or individual peanut butter* or honey packets* for flavor. But make sure that if you do bring in peanut butter, honey, or any other kind of nut butter, it's in a sealed 3.4 oz package and kept with your other gels and liquids or they'll take it at security.
      • The process works pretty similarly for instant coffee. But, to kick it up a notch, I have to recommend Café Bustelo instant coffee packets, especially the Café con Chocolate flavor. I've been a die-hard advocate for this brand since I realized I was way overspending at coffee shops. I swear this packet genuinely rivals any Starbucks mocha you can find and it takes no milk, sugar or any other additive. You can buy 5 in a box at Meijer for $2.50. Trust me. This coffee saved my life (and my bank account).
    • In addition to your carry-on, nearly every airline also allows what is considered a "personal bag," which can be your purse, a laptop bag, a breifcase, whatever can find under your seat. Generally, I back my purse in my checked bag and take a small backpack with me to take advantage of all the space I can.
    • Here are some of the most useful airport essentials to keep your experience as smooth and pleasant as possible:
      • Toothbrush and toothpaste*
      • Gum
      • Lotion* and Chapstick* - the air in the cabin gets so dry sometimes and I promise your skin will thank you 
      • Dry Shampoo*
      • An empty/reuseable water bottle - nobody should have to spend $5 for a minature water bottle at the terminal
      • Fresh fruit, Kind Bars, and other healthy options - between jetlag and sitting down all day, barely sleeping, and watching in-flight movies for 10 hours, its nice to have a little something healthy
      • Motion sickness medication - make sure to take this 20-30 minutes before you takeoff and if it's a long flight 20-30 minutes before you land as most people feel most sick at these times
      • Jetzone and Melatonin - You can buy both of these at Whole Foods and lots of frequent travelers swear by them to prevent jetlag and make sleeping on the flight easier (respectively)
    • My last tip is downloading a travel app (or two) onto your phone to help you through your layovers and catching your next flight. I've tried several different apps and sites including Gate Guru, Flightview, TripIt, Travel Time, Flight Tracker and Trippie and from my own personal research here are my suggestions for you:
      • While Gate Guru has a sleek design and offers nearly everything you could want, it crashes so frequently that it makes it nearly unuseable. 
      • Try Travel Time if user ease and design is important to you. The app is sleek and offers tons of information about your saved flights, airport maps, weather, delays, lounge availability, and an essential checklist for flying as well as other details. For a 3 month ($2.99) or a yearly ($4.99) subscription you can also get information about your layovers and connecting flights, but this isn't really necessary. The only real downside to Travel Time is that you can't group your flights into trips so they all appear on the app as individual flights, even if you have your returning journey loaded as well.
      • If you want to be able to group your flights and see your layovers, but don't mind a little less in the way of appearance, I'd recommend downloading both Flightview and Trippie and using them together. Flightview offers you the ability to group flights into trips and name them, tracks your personal flight and layover information with note space available, as well as offering the same delays and updates notifications. However, it does not provide airport maps. This is where Trippie comes in. Trippie is another sleek looking app with a comprehensive restaurant and store guidebook for each concourse featuring walk times as well as a map with labeled concourses. This app also has general flight information, though you can't save your booked flights.

* - starred items are considered gels or liquids by TSA and must be sealed in a 3.4 oz or less packaging and all be able to fit in one quart-sized zip top bag.

Stay tuned for Part III if you're interested in packing tips for your destination, what to wear, how to stay safe wherever you are, and avoiding falling into common tourist errors and unnecessary travel fees.

Until next time, stay adventurous and happy flight finding!

Kristina Tracy

Kristina Tracy

<p>I’m a twenty year old student living in Indianapolis, born and raised in Kokomo, IN. All my life I’ve watched the Food Network and the Travel Channel and movies about people pursuing passions outside the norm and experiencing life first and foremost. I love new experiences. I love new foods, new people, new perspectives, learning at all times from everything around me. I’ll try anything once (at least), whether its skydiving or swimming with sharks or the kind of food only Andrew Zimmerman would enjoy. When I’m not studying for school or working, I like to stay busy. I’m a writer, a traveler, a reader, a cook, an adventurer, a student long after I graduate. In everything that I do, I look to do it with the kind of enthusiasm that comes with experiencing new things and appreciating every opportunity that I am granted.</p>

2018 Summer 1, 2018 Summer 2
Home University:
Purdue University - Fort Wayne
Kokomo, IN
International Studies
Explore Blogs