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Four tricks to make air travel less of a hassle

A new survey shows that Americans find air travel “stressful, frustrating and exhausting,” according to Stuck at the Airport. Of the 1,000 survey responders, 42 percent find security a “hassle.”

I’ve compiled a few trick to help make getting through the airport less of a hassle. You may not find it relaxing or entertaining, but at least this will take some of the stress away.

Be nice to the staff.

This is the easiest and most influential tip on the list. Staff includes everyone from airport, airline and TSA employees to flight attendants and pilots. They have rough jobs and although you may be stressing from travel, putting a smile on and saying “Thank you,” isn’t hard. In fact, you may find that by projecting niceness you actually enjoy yourself a little bit more.

As the Rogue Aviator said, “Get to the airport early and immediately go to the zen-mode of ‘every little thing is going to be OK.’”

Place ONLY your liquids bag, ID and ticket in the outermost pocket of your carry on bag.

This seems straight forward but we’ve all been stuck behind that one person in line who waits until the last minute and digs through everything to get their ID. Know what’s coming up next and be ready. If you have these three things in that pocket getting through security will be less stressful.

Research the airport ahead of time.

Know if it’s a large airport with just one security checkpoint at each terminal like Phoenix Sky Harbor or if it’s smaller like the Kansas City International Airport, which has separate security station at every 4 to 5 gates. This will help you calculate how much time to allow for security. Chances are the fewer the checkpoints, the longer the wait.

Here is a list of major U.S. airports, complete with a Google map that allows you to rollover the airport location and see a brief description.

Make sure electronics are charged before leaving the house (or office).

It never fails – the second your phone or laptop dies is the exact instant that every outlet in the airport is occupied. Once again, be prepared and charge before you get to the airport.

Once you’ve made these few simple changes to your airport routine, you’ll begin to see the difference that just a few small things can have on the overall experience.

Travel apps help get you to and through the airport

As one Ecotripper blogger recently discovered, there is an app for just about everything. A quick search for travel apps on iTunes produces more than 10,000 free travel apps.

The upside? Flight and airport information can be received in an instant. The downside? How do you know which apps are actually useful?

In the world of air travel, three apps stand out for their ease-of-use and helpful information:

  • myTSA
  • goHow Airport
  • Gate Guru
The best part about all three — they’re free!

Unfortunately for Android and BlackBerry owners, the most useful and probably most important travel app out there is only available for iPhones. The myTSA app alerts travelers to the various delays across the country. It also has a “Can I bring?” search engine where travelers type in an object to find out if it can go through security.

Search for airport security wait times. This feature has one problem — it relies on travelers to enter their wait times after going through security. If you use this feature, be kind to your fellow travelers and post your wait time.

As a Blackberry user, I like the goHow Airport app. Although not quite as visually appealing as some travel apps, goHow offers a ton of information in just a few clicks.

What makes this app unique is that it receives all of the information directly from the top airports, making information more credible.

The app allows you to:

  • Track your flight
  • Find security wait times
  • See what types of restaurants and shops are near your gate
  • Find directions to and from the airport
  • Look up information on taxi services and public transportation

GoHow is available for iPhones and Androids as well.

Gate Guru, another popular travel app for iPhones and Androids, was one of the first airport apps. The user-friendly app allows travelers to check flight statuses, security wait times and find entertainment within the airport. Sync it with your TripIt or Kayak travel itineraries to keep all your travel information in one place.

Gate Guru is not available for Blackberry users.

Site offers travel size products that follow the 3-1-1

With all of the rules and regulations about liquids from airlines and the Transportation Security Administration, travelers get confused easily about what items can be brought on a plane.

When placing liquids in your carry-on keep in mind one simple rule from TSA: 3-1-1

  • 3.4 ounce or less containers of liquid or gel
  • 1 quart size zip-top, clear, plastic bag
  • 1 bag per person in the security bin

Stores carry a limited selection of products that meet these requirements, offering one type of shampoo and one brand of toothpaste, but travelers should not have to sacrifice their beloved products to board a plane.

Minimus, which offers more than 2,000 travel-sized and individual size products ranging from personal care items to food, helps passengers find the products they love in TSA-approved sizes.

The website offers products from Herbal Essences, Pert, Dove and Crest, among others. They also carry gluten-free and organic brands. Minimus even carries hairspray in an aerosol can that meets requirements and nail polish remover.

If you want a quick solution, without shopping for individual items, you can purchase carry-on sets for men or women that include a reusable bag filled with:

  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • deodorant
  • lotion
  • hairspray
  • shave cream
  • resealable clear plastic bag

The sets start at $12.99 – a reasonable price compared to the cost of buying the products individually.

Shopping online for these products, however, has two downsides- shipping and time.

The site offers free shipping for orders over $20, but orders under that are subject to shipping rates starting at $6.50.

If you plan on traveling frequently, stock up on your favorites and buy them all at once to save the extra money from shipping.

Be sure to plan ahead to allow enough time for the order to reach your door.

Safe travels!

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