Getting to your gate 101: A lazy teen’s guide to airport fails, fears and follies


It was airport rush hour. Long lines snaked across gates and hallways as tourists and staff desperately squeezed themselves between clusters of commuters and baggage, everyone simultaneously rushing to get to their different destinations. 

In other words, it was an introverted traveler’s nightmare, and one to which I was already well-accustomed. 

As someone who flies almost once a month and often alone, I’ve had my fair share of hilarious and awkward experiences while trying to navigate the airport. 

But from those moments, I’ve also learned some tips and tricks to avoid any (more) mishaps and ensure a smooth flying experience. 

So, if you’re new to flying, or simply want to read about my most embarrassing airport moments, here are eight of my top pieces of advice to help you safely reach your gate and beyond.  

No. 1: Udon

With my own past trauma in mind, here’s my first piece of advice: Don’t end up like me who miscalculated her time and got distracted stuffing her face with udon a few minutes before her flight took off. 

For the sake of your own peace of mind, don’t have something important planned immediately before or after your flight arrives. Post-flight plans are a recipe for anxiety. Flight times aren’t always set in stone; delays are common, and gate changes aren’t rare either. 

Give yourself some wiggle room. Please.  

No. 2: Screaming baby

Don’t head to an airport thinking “I’ll just sleep on the flight.” You never know if a screaming baby or a talkative neighbor will be seated near you.

Always be prepared with a movie or book downloaded onto a personal device, or at least some headphones to either listen to downloaded music or plug into the airplane’s seat monitors. If you aren’t a fan of those, try some offline video games, drawing apps, sketchbooks, or even work (or in my case, long overdue homework).

Anything that you can enjoy while sitting in a cramped seat a few hundred miles in the sky is perfect. Oh, and don’t forget to use the toilet before you leave.

No. 3: Legroom

Know your plane. Know your flight. And, hopefully, know your destination.

It’s important to know at least the bare minimum about the giant metal machine that you’ll be trusting your life with for the next couple of hours. How big it is, how many seats are in one row and where the nearest bathroom is in case you forgot to follow the last part of tip no. two.

Seats located in and behind the emergency exit row usually have extra legroom (a few precious inches of paradise). Try to choose seats in those rows. Being able to fully extend your legs on a flight will save you from experiencing hours of endless suffering and an aching lower body.

No. 4: Baggage

Put all electronics in an easily accessible place in your bag or backpack. That’ll save you a couple of embarrassing minutes at security.


For short weekend trips, I only bring the bare necessities that all fit in my backpack. One or two outfits, my devices and chargers, toiletries and money. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to lug around heavy bags through a seemingly endless airport. They’re tiresome to drag, take up one or two of your hands and make it harder to find a decent seat in an airport restaurant or cafe. They also make it that much harder to use the bathroom.

Just limit yourself to one backpack.

No. 5: Waiting with style

Those uncomfortable and cramped seats at your gate would be somewhat less uncomfortable with a drink or snack in front of you.

If you have time, go relax and order yourself something small at a restaurant. Give yourself a break. Traveling can be tiring, and it’s important to rest in between all the fun.

Even if you don’t have much time, at least buy yourself a drink at a small cafe or browse some stores. Not only is it quick and enjoyable, but you also get to look cool.

No. 6: Pick your poison

Finding the right time to board is complicated.

If you board too early, you’ll be extending your torture time in a cramped seat by at least half an hour.

If you line up in the middle, you’ll also be extending your torture time, except standing up.

If you board too late, you’ll be having a rough time finding overhead space for carry-on luggage.

Of course, if you’re running late, finding the right time to board is hardly a problem. Just make sure you do end up boarding your flight in the end.

So pick your poison. I can’t offer much help with this one.

No. 7: Communication is key

Don’t be afraid to ask when you need something.

It’s common to switch seats with others, so don’t feel bad about it. Just ask and they’ll usually agree. If you’re like me and fly alone with no one to sit with, it’s not even a problem you need to consider.

If you’re thirsty, ask for water. If you’re hungry, ask for food.

If the monitor in front of you isn’t working, then tell the flight attendants and they’ll figure something out. Don’t be like me and end up sitting through a flight with a broken screen and a useless charging pod. My heart died along with my phone on that flight.

No. 8: Don’t panic

Traveling is often unpredictable and won’t go as planned. Never panic; it doesn’t help. The best way to solve your problems is to think clearly and act sensibly. The airport staff exists to help you if you’re ever lost or have questions.

If you’re stuck in a security line and your boarding flight is near, maybe some nice people will let you ahead of them.

If you lose your grip on your cat as you’re walking through the security checkpoint (I speak from personal experience), then you won’t even have to ask and you’ll get help.

If your flight is canceled long after you’ve dropped off your luggage, it’ll probably be right where you expect it — at your destination. 

How to get to your destination? Well, that part is for you to figure out.