Get to, through and off of the plane while keeping your good vacation vibes intact.
Ahhh, summer travel season — the time of year when we get away from it all. The problem is, we’re ALL trying to get away from it all.
Navigating crowded places like the airport in busy times can get stressful. But since the journey should be (at least partially) as fun as the destination, here are 10 airport-centric travel hacks to help you get to, through and off of the plane while keeping your good vacation vibes intact.
- Pack smart
Most airlines now charge you to check a bag, but it’s difficult, especially for families, to pack a lot of gear into carry-ons. To save some money, reconsider the full-size suitcase. They’re easier to manage than in the past, with smooth-rolling wheels, extendable handles and lighter weights.
If you pack using the roll method, you can get everyone’s gear into one bag — for just one checked-bag fee. To ensure it’s under the 50-pound weight limit, simply weigh yourself on your home scale, then pick up the bag and weigh yourself again. Leave yourself a couple pounds of wiggle room.
- Leave your car at home
With more stops opened, taking Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail to and from Sea-Tac Airport is more convenient than ever. Have guests coming? Send them to the stop closest to your house (the line now runs from SeaTac to the University District) and they can see some of the city while saving you a schlep to the airport.
If you do drive, download a coupon to pay $20 a day or $110 per week in the Sea-Tac garage. No matter what lot you park in, take a photo of your parking-spot number; then when you come home with vacation brain, you won’t have to wander around in search of your car.
- Stay connected
Hallelujah. Sea-Tac offers free Wi-Fi while you’re in the airport so you can entertain the kids with some Netflix or send off that last work email before you unplug (because you’re going to unplug, right?).
Low on power? The airport now has under-seat power outlets, so you no longer have to do the dreaded floor-sit. They can be found at nearly every A, B, D and S gate, and at Alaska Airlines N and C gates.
- Stay alert
For a one-stop check before you leave, visit the Port of Seattle website for traffic alerts or delays at the airport and to check the status of your flight. The Port can also provide text alerts (text “Update” to 206-347-8045).
Or sign up for text alerts from your airline to be notified of delays without having to get online.
- Be snack-savvy
Airports are no longer food wastelands. Whether you have a picky eater or need to get coffee ASAP, you can figure out what’s where at Sea-Tac with a new phone-friendly interactive map that lets you zoom on each terminal (pro tip: Beecher’s is by gate C3).
Pick up a snack-pack for the plane, and don’t forget to fill up your water bottles at a gurgling Talking Fountain near gates B1, C3 and D5.
Need energy or a jet-lag pick-me-up? Experts advise avoiding alcohol (tap those water bottles instead) and packing snacks like almonds, cheese and crackers, and protein bars.
- Stay entertained, part I
Hey, parents, there’s no need to try to keep your kids from climbing under the chairs and onto harried strangers. Take them to a children’s play area, which can be found at most major airports. The enclosed space at Sea-Tac (located between the Central Terminal and A gates) has an array of soft airport-themed climbing pieces, seating for adults and a family restroom.
- Stay entertained, part II
Those looking for culture can take a guided art walk through the airport’s collection with the Stqry (pronounced “story”) app. Search by concourse or terminal or look up individual pieces from the contemporary collection of glass, sculpture, photography, painting and sound. (The Stqry app can also be used at other local museums and historical sites, if art-loving friends are coming to town.)
- Don’t forget the gifts
Don’t worry about shopping ahead for Seattle-centric gifts to take on your trip. Use your arrival cushion to pick up a perfect thank-you for your hosts from the great local shops just past security checkpoint 3. There’s chocolate from Dilettante and Seattle Chocolate, music and T-shirts from Sub Pop Records, and jewelry and accessories from Show Pony and Fireworks. You can pass on that “Sleepless in Seattle” nightshirt.
- Speed through customs
For your return trip, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mobile Passport Control App can expedite entry into the United States and help speed you through customs. You can enter your information up to four hours in advance, so you won’t be fumbling for a pen and everyone’s passports while trying to beat the crowd to the checkpoint.
10. Catch a show
Did you know that Sea-Tac has live music throughout the airport? Take a minute to jam.
Follow Sea-Tac Airport’s Twitter feed, and share your travel tips with #SeaTacHacks.