There are two types of flyers in the world – those that leave for the airport at a reasonable time before a flight and everyone else who thinks those kind of people are risk-taking-maniacs who want nothing more than the thrill of almost missing a flight. For many, the notion of arriving at the airport 3 hours before an international flight is one airline commandment that can’t be broken – except that even most airlines don’t recommend you get to the airport that early.
Where Does The 3 Hour Rule Come From Anyway?
There are two factors the airlines use to determine their recommendations on how early you should show up at the airport before any flight: the time it takes for a checked bag to get to the plane from the counter and how long it takes a passenger to get to the gate from the counter. (The airlines see a lot of passengers giving them a huge data set with which to base these times.) It turns out the total time between the two have varied over time, they have remained equal to one another over time.
- So, the time it takes for you to get from the counter to your gate – passing through security, walking, etc. – is roughly equal to the time it takes your checked bag to get on the airplane.
Despite what it feels like to us, getting through security now is a lot quicker than it was 20 years ago and our bags also get to the planes faster too. (As most experienced ramp agents will tell you.) The 3 hour rule may have been practical for most flights in a time when all bags were routinely opened for searches, passports couldn’t be scanned electronically, ticket records weren’t computerized; but not so much now.
Save Yourself An Hour
The sweet spot for getting to the airport before an international flight is actually two hours before scheduled take off. Two hours isn’t an arbitrary time I’m just making up, it’s based on how the airlines calculate the time you’re recommended to show up. (For some, it’s even as little as 90 minutes.) Again, the airlines base their recommendations according to the amount of time it takes for a checked bag to get from the check-in counter to the gate – which is roughly equal to the amount of time it takes the passenger to get to the gate.
For most airports this time is calculated as 45 minutes – the minimum amount of time it takes for your checked bag to get to the gate. For those of you who traveling with checked bags, this is the absolute latest you can get to the check-in counter. Otherwise, you won’t be allowed to check bags which might be a deal breaker for your flight depending on your backpack or suitcase.
Add in 30 minutes in line to get to the counter (as the airlines do), totaling 120 minutes. Remember, this time varies by airline, airport, and destination so be sure to check on the airline’s site for last check-in times.
More Time If You Don’t Have Checked Luggage
Traveling without checked bags not only saves you a lot of time upon arrival since you can skip baggage claim, it also generally means you can get to the airline 30 minutes later (around 90 minutes) before an international flight. Again, this isn’t an arbitrary time – it’s what the majority of airlines recommend. Not having checked luggage often means you don’t need to see an agent at the check-in counter and pick up your tickets directly from a kiosk.
Also, some destinations with strict visa or security controls (e.g. Israel) often mean you need to get to the airport earlier than 2 hours before your flight.
Cut It Efficiently Close
Some airports are small enough where you can show up even an hour before a scheduled flight but unless you know it well enough it’s best not to get carried away with procrastination. Inside the United States you can check security wait times with the TSA, use What’s Busy for future flights, plus see how long a walk to your gate will take with Gate Guru.
Despite all of your best efforts, in case you do show up too late you can try missing your flight for free without paying for re-booking.
Travel pillows are those U-shaped things you can’t stand to see people wear in airports but secretly want to try since admittedly your neck is a bit sore from that last flight. The NapScarf though tries to give you both – a comfortable way to sleep sitting up on an airplane (train or otherwise) while being disguised as regular apparel. NapScarf were kind enough to send me one to try out during some recent travels and I was delightfully surprised how inconspicuously useful it was.
Fold Open And Easy
There are plenty of travel products that start off as tiny, tightly packed balls to convince careful packers they won’t be overloading their backpacks. The problem is unless you’re a magician or the factory machine which did the wrapping in the first place, repacking efficiently is almost impossible. The NapScarf however is a two-fold system; so with a single move its ready for sleepy time and the other, storage in your carry on. Also, unlike standard travel pillows you can pack and use the 150 gram (~5.3 ounce) NapScarf quickly without having to deflate or stuff an awkward shape into your bag.
How To Use The NapScarf
The video below does a good job of demonstrating exactly how the NapScarf works, which wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Although there are a lot of stickers showing neck, shoulder, etc. positioning on the NapScarf packaging; watching the video makes you wonder how I couldn’t figure it out the first time around.
Inside the fleece exterior of the Napscarf is a flexible plastic neck support your heavy head hopefully weighs down on. If you’re a shifty sleeper it might take some readjustment from time to time, especially on longer flights. Additionally the fleece too can get a bit warm depending on how much recirculated air is blowing on you.
Aside from those minor drawbacks NapScarf is really the travel-pillow-not-a-travel-pillow I would recommend to any traveler. NapScarf is available on Amazon.com as well as trtl.co.uk for $29.99 and comes in either black, pink, grey, or red.
This post is brought to you by Tanzania Odyssey, who want you to experience Tanzania’s jaw-dropping showpieces from the spectacular Mount Kilimanjaro to the Ngorongoro Crater; plus more on a Tanzania honeymoon. [What is this?]
When you don’t travel very often, the piece of luggage you tend to pick out is often an overlarge, inefficient bag of questionable quality. Frequent travelers know picking the right backpack means finding one that doesn’t merely hold your things but is useful, well-designed, and ultimately durable.
Your luggage – backpacks, carry-on, daypacks and the rest – are arguably the most essential gear for a traveler. Even if you have travel insurance a torn backpack can stop your journey in its tracks. These are the backpacks that have been travel tested over countless kilometers to keep up with your boundless wanderlust.
Osprey Sojourn 25-Inch 60 Liter (Convertible Roller-Backpack)
There’s a perception that wheeled luggage isn’t quite as cool as the hiking backpack that every student abroad in Europe seems to be lugging around. Not that there’s anything wrong with them – a few of my favorites are listed below – in most cases wheels are more comfortable, especially if you’re carrying a daypack. (Yay, no double-turtle for you!) For those of you not ready to give up backpacking completely, the Sojourn comes with straps if you need them in rougher terrain.
The Osprey Sojourn is my current backpack of choice and extremely well constructed, resisting the beating it’s taken as checked luggage all over the world. As for the size, the Sojourn 60-Liter is a sweet spot for a single traveler and 80 might cut it for two light packers.
The Kelty Coyote 80 is a hiking backpack which does well as a travel bag because it’s front loading (you really don’t want a top loader), put together with two reinforcing fabrics, and pockets, pockets, pockets.
At 80 liters the Coyote will probably encourage you to pack a lot more than you need (here’s how to put your backpack on a diet) so if you really like to travel light, the Kelty Redwing 50 might be the better size. Whichever you go with, remember it’s best to only fill up 80% of your bag to pack like a pro.
Swissgear ScanSmart Backpack (Carry-On)
The SwissGear computer backpacks are a perfect combination of padding plus pockets to protect a variety of gadgets. I have been using one which has gone with me everywhere for the past 10 years, with only two minor signs showing its age. Swissgear’s line of backpacks are just big enough to be good weekenders for business travelers or anyone who takes short trips – a great gift for the minimalist in your life.
There’s nothing fancy about the REI Stuff; it’s a single large pocket bag with two side holsters for bottles or smaller items. The nice thing about the REI Stuff is that is folds up into a small little ball for easy packing in a larger bag when it’s not needed.
Microluggage Scooter (Bag You Can Ride)
The Mirco Luggae Scooter is one of the most fun things I’ve ever reviewed because it makes being slightly late to an airport gate fun. As the name implies, the Micro Luggage Scooter is a carry-on sized bag that can be ridden as long as your legs are up for it. A good way to combine a workout when traveling.
Protect What You’re Packing
No matter how good of a bag you buy, be sure to think carefully about what you check in, remove old bingo tags, and prepare to track and recover your luggage if it does happen to get lost by an airline.
What are some of your favorite bags you would have added to those mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below!
Travelers and fathers seem almost impossible to shop for since they never seem to want anything and dismissively scrutinize what gifts they do get. While you can fall back on the old reliable combo of socks and wine for dad (a purchasing paradox that may never be solved) when it comes to frequent travelers they generally want better – not more, stuff.
Size, battery life, durability and weight aren’t factors that mean much to a laptop that sits on a desk all day but for those of you who carry an electronic baby on your back regularly, they’re crucial factors to consider before purchasing your next one. Read more.
All this means that any mobile you buy now has the potential to last you 3+ years without feeling like an abacus so if you want to save more for your travel budget with less on electronics purchases, here are the best phones for your pocket. Read more.
I’ll add that if you’re in the United States, although it’s Verizon-only, the Droid Turbo is basically a Moto X on steroids. Less aesthetically pleasing but much more powerful with exceptional battery life.
These are the best point and shoot cameras of 2014, though if you’re on the market for a DSLR I recommend you check out the gear some of my favorite travel bloggers are using. Read more.
Best Carry-On Backpack
So many of you have left comments and written me echoing my fondness for SwissGear computer backpacks; one I’ve been using for over 10 years now. They’re incredibly durable with enough pockets of varying sizes to find a home for anything you’re traveling with. Padding makes them a comfortable carry while at the same time protecting valuable gadgets.
Motorcycle Books And Running Genes
- I first read about Dr. Yannis Pitsiladis MMEDSci., PhD, FACSM in The Sports Gene, a book by David Epstein about what makes super athletes different than the majority of us. Dr. Pitsiladis is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton who has done research on obesity and the detection of doping in athletes but his passion is running. He travels around the world studying the genes and environments of the world’s top runners (often on his own dime) and created the largest known DNA bio-bank from world-class athletes.
- Ted Simon rode around the world on a Triumph motorcycle during the early 1970s and wrote one of the best travel books ever. Jupiter’s Travels is his account of the trip, 78,000 miles over 45 countries. Before the trip Simon was already writing as a journalist and Jupiter’s Travels flows on every page. In 2001, when he was 70 years old, Simon took the trip again – a similar route on motorcycle – and wrote Dreaming Of Jupiter. His observations from the first trip to the second one 30 years later are truly fascinating.
Conduct A Covert Minimalist Survey
It’s always best to begin with some gentile probing to find out what type of replacement gadget or updated backpack the traveler you’re shopping for is lusting for – yes, minimalists still want things – they’re just pickier about them. Don’t be afraid to ask as generally they tend to know exactly what they want; preferring to get just the right gift over the thrill of a disappointing surprise.