Handy Hints for Negotiating International Airports

Hints for international airport baby boomers budget travel

Leaving Australia

Arrive at the airport early. I always try to arrive at least 3 hours prior to my estimated time of departure. The check-in desk does not open until exactly 3 hours before your flight and my aim is to be the first to check-in.

In combination with being the first in line, I attempt to dress well and have my hair immaculately coiffured and my make-up in place, and ask (very politely, of course) is it possible for me to have a seat with more legroom if there’s one available.

Chances are you may score an upgrade to business, which is most definitely the most comfortable way to fly, especially on long-haul flights. If you are dressed well, you are obviously won’t look, nor feel, out of place.

Man or Machine?

Well, this is entirely up to you, but I prefer human interaction, particularly if I’m travelling alone. Humans are more reasonable than a machine, and you can use language to convey your needs.

I’ve had a couple of “unfortunate incidents” at airports where I’ve done such silly things as accidentally place my passport in the slot where the boarding pass is printed out. Of course, it became stuck and was irretrievable. A staff member had to open the entire machine and then I wasn’t allowed to use it. I had to go to the counter to check-in with her! Quite embarrassing. To be fair, I was incredibly tired.


Don’t worry about buying duty-free alcohol in Australia. You may encounter problems keeping it at one of your transit airports if you are boarding another flight. I’ve had my duty-free confiscated at Frankfurt Airport even though it was in a sealed bag. It’s also probable you can buy alcohol at your final destination much cheaper than Australian duty-free prices anyway.

What about liquids?

Have all of your carry-on liquids (even mascara and lip gloss) packed in an easily accessible clear ziplock sandwich bag. (size 20cm by 20cm) Make sure each bottle is no more than 100mls and they all fit into the one clear plastic bag.

My hint is to pack as many liquids as you can in your check-in luggage. Just take the absolutely essential items for your flight in your carry-on.

Negotiating queues.

As a general rule, get into the longest queue. You can equate this with getting in a short lane at the lights when there is a long queue in one lane. The short lane will inevitably have someone turning right or some unknown (to you) obstacle. Maybe that short lane runs out and you have to merge?

The same theory applies to the airport. If you’re a budget traveller like I am, the long queue is undoubtedly the economy and the short one is business or first class and you won’t be served even if there’s no one else in the queue. You could have saved time by getting in the long queue, to begin with.

Negotiating security

  • Have your laptop, iPad and phone easily accessible as you will have to separate them from the rest of your carry-on.
  • Have your plastic sandwich bag of liquids similarly accessible.
  • Wear as little jewellery as possible so as not to set off the metal detector.
  • And be prepared to take off your boots, which is no mean task for me as an ageing baby boomer.

Always have your flight back to Australia booked, even if you don’t know exactly when you’re planning to come home.

When flying from London to Paris, the Air France check-in clerk asked me (in Franglais) for my flight home. I couldn’t understand why she would need that as I was only flying to Paris for 5 days and was actually coming home 3 months later from Tel Aviv.

And of course, all of my future flights and reservations were packed away safely in my suitcase! But I had to unlock my suitcase and find the required document- no simple task! Fortunately, being old school, I print off everything! Which brings me to another point- try to avoid travelling through Heathrow Airport if you possibly can! I can’t remember ever having a hassle-free transit there.

To learn more about my budget travels, read Smart Packing Ideas Every Babyboomer Should Know

Share This Post



Don’t Miss Out

Stay informed with our frequent updates, news, and more.

Subscribe - Two Rows