How to Avoid Airport Crowds

How to Avoid Airport Crowds

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I’ll be the first to admit that crowds are not my favorite. They weren’t always bothersome; in fact, I used to love getting lost in a crowd. Lately, however, I have found myself growing more frustrated with the oblivious pace of shuffling steps and self-important attitudes. The combination of short attention spans and distracted minds seems to be hindering kind and orderly behavior. Airport crowds are among the worst offenders.

The Resurgence of Travel

Ever since travel picked up following pandemic-induced mayhem, I have noticed an influx of short-tempered travelers. Staffing shortages, flight delays, and other travel inconveniences may be to blame; nevertheless, it seems as though airport crowds are becoming increasingly irritable these days. Truthfully, these behaviors are also on full display beyond the airport, but that’s a whole different conversation!

In any case, as I shared my sentiments about airport crowds with others, I discovered I wasn’t alone in my frustrations. What was previously a pleasant enough experience through security, boarding, and flying has recently become punctuated with instances of micro-aggressions and impatience. As Brian and I have returned to air travel, we find ourselves actively trying to avoid airport crowds. It’s been difficult as travelers re-enter the market, but we’ve had some success in finding small ways around big crowds.

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Navigating Around Airport Crowds

Naturally, taking a road trip is my preferred way to escape airport crowds. Unfortunately, it isn’t always practical or even possible. When a road trip isn’t an option, the airport offers a quick and convenient way to reach your destination.

However, if you share my sentiment and would prefer to navigate around airport crowds, you may want to consider the following tips:

Fly During Less Popular Times

Traveling during off-peak hours, and sometimes off-season, is a simple way to reduce the likelihood of running into busy crowds. Early morning or late night flights are not only less crowded, but they are also usually less expensive! It’s a win-win, as long as you can be flexible with flight times.

Take Advantage of Expedited Security Screening

Bypass the crowds waiting in line for standard security checks! Eligible passengers can enjoy the convenience and experience of faster security screening at participating airports.

  • TSA PreCheck: $78 for a 5-year membership; ideal for domestic travel
  • Global Entry: $100 for a 5-year membership, which includes TSA PreCheck and access to expedited U.S. Customs lanes; ideal for domestic and international travel
  • Clear: $189 for a 1-year membership; uses biometric technology for speedier identity checks; best used in conjunction with TSA PreCheck or Global Entry for maximum value; ideal for domestic travel

A number of loyalty programs and credit cards offer an application fee reimbursement as an added perk! Both Brian and I are enrolled in Global Entry, which is paid for via our Chase Sapphire Reserve and IHG One Rewards Premier credit cards.

We chose Global Entry because it offers the most value with its automatic TSA PreCheck membership and expedited immigration processing. It was a breeze for us to fly through Canada, England, Italy, and Australia!

Diversify Your Lounge Access

If you favor airport lounges, you may want to consider joining more than one membership, obtaining a day pass, or purchasing a qualifying ticket.

Thanks to our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, Brian and I are members of Priority Pass, a membership-based network of more than 1,500 airport lounges and experiences across 148 countries.

While we’ve enjoyed great experiences with Priority Pass lounges internationally, we’ve discovered that our experiences fall short stateside. Lounges in the US aren’t as plentiful, well-stocked, or pleasant as their international counterparts. The differences are so stark that we’ve found ourselves questioning if we would benefit from joining another lounge membership. The biggest problem we have faced is overcrowding.

A lounge should feel like a bit of a haven away from the bustling activity of noisy terminals. Unfortunately, crowding has become so commonplace at our home airport lounge that they don’t allow travelers entry until about 30 minutes before their boarding time.

Escape crowded lounges by venturing to less crowded ones. Here’s how you can enjoy access to more airport lounges:

  • Sign up for a credit card with airport lounge access
  • Purchase a day pass directly through the lounge
  • Purchase a day pass through LoungeBuddy, Holiday Extras, or Lounge Pass
  • Receive complimentary or discounted access upon earning elite/loyalty airline status
  • Present a valid active Military ID for complimentary or discounted access at select lounges
  • Gain access with a First-Class or Business-Class ticket

Retreat to a Minute Suite or Sleep Pod

If you’d rather have some time and space to yourself, consider checking out a Minute Suite or Sleep Pod. Embrace the privacy and quiet of your own space in a private room, suite, or a simple, bare-bones single pod for an hourly fee.

Brian and I have only used the Minute Suites, courtesy of our Priority Pass membership through the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card. A Priority Pass membership includes one free hour of access to a private suite, and because Brian and I are both members, we can enjoy up to two free hours of use!

Minute Suites are a great option when a little quiet time is needed. We’ve really valued having access to Minute Suites while traveling, whether we are craving a power nap, wrapping up our work day, or just looking to escape the crowds.

Head to a Chapel or Meditation Room

Did you know that more than half of US airports have chapels or multi-faith prayer rooms? Some even have meditation rooms available! These shared spaces are often uncrowded, offering a serene and peaceful environment.

Look For Empty Gates

Last but not least, perhaps the most apparent way to avoid airport crowds is to seek out an empty gate and take advantage of the space. Empty gates are perfect for resting the mind and body. There’s even space to do some lunges if you’re itchin’ for some movement!

When Brian and I don’t have access to a lounge, we like to roam around the airport in hopes of finding the emptiest areas, be they gates, restaurants, or quiet corners. I also recommend checking out the Sleeping in Airports website, a dedicated source of user-generated tips and recommended locations for catching some shut-eye. I’ve scoured this site more than a few times solely to find the best place to avoid airport crowds!

Enjoy the Peace & Quiet

Spending time at the airport doesn’t necessarily mean having to sacrifice pre-travel peace and quiet. Sure, there’s bound to be crowds lining up at security and rushing to catch flights. Luckily, one does not have to be in the middle of it all.

I prefer to kick off my travels with as little fuss as possible, which includes staying away from irritable people as much as I can. Whether you prefer the same or simply value more low-key privacy, then I highly recommend the tips above.

Do you have any other suggestions on how to avoid airport crowds?

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