One of the best things you can do when preparing to fly, is to check in online (usually offered within 24 hours of your flight). Not only can it help to secure your seat (in the event of over-booking), it can dramatically decrease your stress and time in line ups at large airports.
It isn’t always easy to check in online if you are travelling overseas. You may not have a smartphone or other laptop or tablet with you (David and I usually do). And, if you do, you may not have easy access to wi-fi or an internet connection. But, many hotels will have some type of business centre where you can use a computer and printer to check in and print off your boarding pass. It is worth it to seek that out.
David and I had this experience at the Barcelona El-Prat Airport. We were staying at an airport hotel, and used their business centre to check in. When we got to the airport, there was a HUGE line up for boarding. Most large airports have a line for baggage drop off, and then other attendants actually checking people in, so we checked out the area and saw there was a baggage drop off that no one was using.
We walked through the line (hearing people saying.. “oh, first class!”.. umm no, just smart).. and walked right up to baggage drop off. An attendant checked out our boarding pass first, then we dropped off our bags and headed to security. It saved us at least a half hour to 45 minutes in line.
People can act like cattle when they see a line, so I’m not sure if others had checked in and didn’t realize there was a separate line for baggage drop off, or if many people just didn’t check in prior to arriving at the airport (for all the travelling reasons noted above). But, it’s worth it, and gave us more time to enjoy the great duty-free shopping (and wine tasting) that the Barcelona airport has to offer.