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5 best ways to beat the check-in queue

Get your holiday off to a flyer - we reveal the best ways to find the easiest and quickest way to check in for your flight.

"Wahey! We’re all off to sunny Spain… oh no! Look at that queue! Can’t they move any faster? We’re going to miss our flight!"

Nothing kills the holiday mood like mile long check-in queues. So many travellers are choosing to check-in from home, on their mobile, or by using the airline’s self-service kiosks. But these alternatives are often far from hassle-free. Find the best method for you with our round-up of the most popular check-in options.

1. Online check-in

Online check-in can be completed via the airline’s website anywhere between 24 hours and just 90 minutes before your plane leaves the runway. Once you’ve confirmed your details, chosen a seat and ordered your delicious on-board snack (if applicable) you can then print out your boarding pass using your own printer. Alternatively, you may be able to go to a self-service kiosk at the terminal and quickly print it off there. If you’ve got bags to check-in, leave them at the drop-off point at the airport, but you should do this at least an hour before departure.

It’s a winner because it means you can check-in from home, avoid queues and save a bit more time for duty free browsing.

Think again if you don’t have access to a printer, or if you’re travelling in a large party. Each person travelling normally needs to check-in individually and print off their own boarding pass.

2. Self-service kiosk

Self-service kiosks for larger airlines open 24 hours to 90 minutes before your flight departs. Although you’ll still arrive at the terminal without having confirmed that you’re flying, and you may still have to queue, lines are usually shorter because the process is a lot quicker. Scan your passport or e-ticket, select your destination and confirm your seat selection. Your flight details will be displayed and your boarding pass will be printed. Luggage is left at the drop-off point.

It’s a winner because they’re often open before the check-in desks, so you can beat most of the queues.

Think again if the airline you’re travelling with doesn’t operate any kiosks, if they’re not used on your specific route, or if there aren’t any at the terminal, so check before you choose this option. Children travelling solo are not normally allowed to use them, while some airlines may reserve them for passengers travelling with hand luggage only.

3. Mobile check-in

Do more than just update your Facebook status and use your mobile to check in. Go to the airline’s website armed with your booking reference. Enter your details and hit ‘check in’ to receive a text message that will act as your boarding pass. When you arrive at the departure gate airline staff will simply scan this message on your phone.

It’s a winner if you want all the benefits of online check-in on the go. As a paper-free option, it’s also good for the environment.

Think again if your phone dies or you forget it all together. In this case you’ll have to go to a self-service kiosk at the terminal to print out your boarding pass anyway. Mobile check-in is still quite new and some airports are not yet fully-fitted for it, so double-check if this option is available before you travel.

4. Resort check-in

Resort holiday operators are now offering the option to check-in from your hotel. Virgin Atlantic let you check in from some hotels in the Caribbean, in Orlando, Florida or for example, at the airport train station in Hong Kong. This means you get to stay poolside for longer and staff will even deliver your bags to the airport for you. Check with the airline for their particular spin on luxury check-in options.

5. Check-in desk

The good old fashioned check-in desk can still be the most appropriate option. Open up to three hours before the flight departs (depending on flight and destination) check-in times vary. For long-haul flights it’s best to arrive at least two to three hours before departure, whilst domestic flights may only require check-in 45 minutes before scheduled take-off time.

It’s a winner if you want the least confusing option with that personal touch. It’s a lot easier to make sure any special requests have been arranged by talking face-to-face with someone from the airline. Your chance of getting a cheeky upgrade is also higher if you check in in person.

Think again if you hate standing for hours in disorderly queues with the person behind you ramming their suitcase into the back of your ankles.

Get loads more inside intel on how to make holidays and travelling better in our Tips and Advice section.