Which TikTok airport travel hacks work and which ones will just get you into trouble?

Jul 29, 2022

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The heads of both Heathrow (LHR) and Bristol (BRS) have this week slammed travellers for copying a travel hack seen on TikTok, which involves passengers pretending to need a wheelchair to skip the queue.

This trend isn’t just daft, it’s dangerous, leaving vulnerable fliers who actually require assistance at risk during a time of peak uncertainty and stretched ground staff.

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And yet, with millions of people looking to beat the crowds at airports this year, travel tips on social media have never been handier. It’s just about knowing which ones to use — such as TPG’s Nicky Kelvin’s business trick at Amsterdam Schipol that helped him avoid a six-hour wait — and, frankly, which ones to avoid.

Read on for our verdict on some of the most shared travel ‘hacks’ doing the rounds in the U.K. and the U.S right now.

Beat the 100ml rule

The hack: One Tik Tok user went viral after explaining how she pre-orders her holiday cosmetics and toiletries online to an in-airport branch of Boots before she flies. Why? So that she isn’t hampered by the 100ml limit placed on liquids at security and can also dodge airport prices on certain costlier items.

Will it get you in trouble? No. This click-and-collect service has been available for ages, but is still massively underused. Boots offer collection in 14 U.K. airports (see the full list here). Warning: you will need to leave at least 10 days minimum before ordering, and this will count towards your carry-on allowance in the eyes of most airlines. Additionally, if you don’t use up these items during your holiday and wish to bring them back it will mean packing them in a checked bag for your return flight or risk having to throw the items away at security.

free seat upgrade

The hack: One US passenger recommended buys a cheaper economy ticket at the back of the plane for a domestic flight. He patiently waits to be called, and when he’s sure he’s the last passenger entering the plane he boards, sees if there are any free rows at the front and then sits in one accordingly.

Will it get you in trouble? Quite possibly. Let us level with you: this one is dishonest at best and borderline unlawful at worst. Some may call it a victimless grift seeing as though the seats are empty anyway but under Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules you get the seat you pay for unless you are otherwise upgraded by the airline.

While there’s a chance that the seats are simply empty and free, they could have also been left empty for a specific reason — to leave emergency exits clear, allow disability access or provide somewhere for returning (and exhausted) cabin crew to sit. If you do want to take your chances why not try putting on a smile, saying hello to the cabin crew and just asking politely if they’re able to move you? You’d be surprised how far being polite and courteous can get you in these situations.

Turn your carry-on pillow into free luggage

The hack: This is exactly what you think it is: stuffing a pillow with clothes and belongings that didn’t fit into your basic carry-on without exceeding limitations. This popular TikTok shows three women waltzing through a Spanish airport having shoehorned a bundle of summer clothing into three cushions they carried on to a flight.

Will it get you in trouble? Frankly, it’s debatable. The likes of Ryanair and easyJet have been allowing people to bring pillows aboard for aeons — not to mention goading customers on social media over the more inventive means of maximising carry-on. Given the clothing and pillows are effectively perfect for stashing extra items, it was only a matter of time before people looking to avoid steep luggage prices steeper would see how far they could push it. The TPG verdict? You might very well get away with this one provided you’re not filling your pillow with anything that wouldn’t get through security anyway.

Would we recommend it? No. For one, all your clothes will be creased to high hell — just use packing cubes. Secondly, imagine this doesn’t work… do you want to be the person at the airport standing with a pillow of belongings they can’t take with them? Thirdly, actual pillows are far comfier than pillows you make out of your belongings. All this said, there are plenty of TikTok videos showing it does work, but with every view, there’s more heat and it wouldn’t be surprising if the airlines clamp down on the hack at some point. Final verdict? Not worth it.

Pack a hammock for long delays

The hack: A group of US travellers waiting out a long delay overnight hung up out their hammocks while waiting in departures and posted their efforts on TikTok.

Will it get you in trouble? The aforementioned trio’s terminal hijinks have had 125,000 likes and counting, but could it inspire other travellers to get inventive ahead of possible flight delays, hunkering down with some of their own adventure gear like a BA Bear Grylls? And is it even allowed? According to a source at one leading U.K. airport that TPG spoke to, it’s a firm no: “Why would a customer put up a hammock at an airport when the airline provides hotel accommodation or pay for transport to an alternative airport if a flight is cancelled?  If the flight is delayed the customer is already in the departure lounge with very limited amount of cabin baggage.” It’s an entirely fair point to be honest.

Track your luggage using Apple Airtag

The hack: Simply pop an Apple Airtag into your suitcase to track it during your journey. If it’s still at the airport you took off from when you reach your final destination or has somehow gone missing elsewhere, you’ll know exactly where it is.

Will it get you in trouble? No. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it’s not even a hack, you’re simply using a piece of technology in the exact way it’s supposed to be used. Please note, however, that while your Apple Airtags might help you keep track of the location of your luggage, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to be able to get it back any faster. In most cases, you’ll still have to patiently wait for the airline (like this guy) to fish it out. If you do find yourself in the unenviable position of losing your baggage, follow our guide to reimbursement and the airline’s tracking methods.

Related: What to do when an airline loses your luggage

Stuffing clothes into a duty-free bag

The hack: Buy a small item in duty-free (or re-use an old bag) and stuff it with items you can’t cram into your carry-on allowance.

Will it get you in trouble? Hmm, it’s another one of those travel tips which seems wrong but does fall into something of a grey area given you’re usually allowed to waltz on with your bodyweight in giant Toblerone bars, provided they fit inside these sacred bags.

EasyJet, British Airways and Virgin are just a few of the carriers to allow an additional bag for duty-free goods that have been bought at the airport (minus booze in Ryanair’s case). Others, including Jet2, count a duty-free bag as a small piece of hand luggage. Earlier this year, Miguel Munoz, a flight attendant for an unnamed airline told The Express about the dark arts: “I know the trick because I always do this when I fly as a passenger. But a lot of crewmembers don’t know this and most won’t realise. If you come on board with one piece of luggage, which you are allowed to, and a duty-free bag with some of your belongings, no one will say anything.” Attempt at your own risk, and at the very least, check that the airline you’re flying with does not count a duty free bag as extra luggage.

Featured photo by Ge JiaJun / Getty Images.

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