Airport Survival Tips
Airports. The gateway to your next destination and the next chapter of your travelling adventure. The airport is what makes it all happen- look around an airport departure lounge and you see couples off on honeymoon, teenagers off on their first trip after exams, backpackers sleeping on the floor on 10 hour layovers, retired couples off to their holiday homes and families off on their annual holiday abroad. For every happy smiling face excited to go to foreign lands, there is also a face of despair and anxiety for the airport can be an equally stressful place. Here are some top tips for airport survival.
1. Take your laptop- If you have a long layover your laptop or portable DVD player can be your best friend. The best way to spend that ten hour stopover is to sit and do some work or watch a movie on your laptop and before you know it, you’re ready to board. Most airports have WiFi these days, sometimes free and sometimes you have to sign up with an account, but at least you can chat to your friends on Facebook to pass the time away.
2. Scope out before you go- Before you go to the airport do some research- find out if there’s internet access or if there’s some good shops you might want to go to. Always check the opening hours of the restaurants and shops because if you have a late or very early morning flight everything might be shut! And remember, most airports are 24 hours but some countries won’t let you sleep in their airports!
3. Don’t go through security before you have to- There’s nothing worse than going through security when you’re feeling a little bit thirsty or peckish to find that there’s nothing on the other side. Before you know it you’re stuck at the gate waiting for a delayed plane just wishing you were sat in the café on the other side. Don’t be late for your plane, but if you have plenty of time, don’t go through security until it’s close to your boarding time, you’ll only be sat waiting.
4. Look at the map- In most airport there’s a map so you can see where the cafes, restaurants, shops, toilets and prayer rooms are so check it out and plan where you might want to spend your time whilst waiting for boarding.
5. Always listen out and check the departure board- It seems obvious but there are so many missed flights from people not listening to the announcements or checking the departure boards. It’s always worthwhile- you may have a delay or a gate change.
6. Picking the right Queue- This isn’t always a fool-proof plan; I’ve thought I’ve picked the fastest queue and the other one always moves faster. But look at who is in the queue in front of you- if you’re at security who has a laptop bag? Who’s wearing a kilo worth of jewellery? Who hasn’t figured out the 100ml rule? If you’re at immigration, which line is moving faster? Who might need a visa to get into the country? Who is travelling with children?
7. Have your documents ready- It’ll save you a lot of time and effort if you have the correct documents ready such as your boarding pass and passport, plus make sure your hand-luggage liquids are in a re-sealable plastic bag. I always make sure I have a re-sealable plastic bag before I get to the airport as those dispensing machines sometimes charge you a fortune. You would think everyone knows by now that you can’t carry liquids over 100ml but I still see people close to tears in the security queue as their expensive make-up and toiletries are prized from their hands. Another piece of advice for going through security is to make sure you’re not wearing a belt or carrying mobiles or coins in your pocket when flying as it will save you time in the line.
8. Remember your gate might be far away- It’s happened to me before, my flight is being called for boarding and I find that the plane is leaving from a gate a million miles away. The next thing I know I’m legging it through the airport and I feel like I’ve done a half-marathon by the time I get to the gate. Always leave ample time to get to your gate before your flight.
9. Have a look for showers- some larger airports have showers in the terminal, even for economy passengers. If you’ve got a long journey or stopover sometimes it is worth asking at the information desk.
10. Don’t be conned into the most expensive airport food- Airport food is some of the most highly-priced food I have ever seen. A small bottle of water 2 euros. A burger? That’ll be 10 euros please. Have a look around before you buy something. I used to wonder why people still eat McDonalds when there are so many other options available, but Maccas has saved my life in airports as they’re still pretty cheap.
11. Find a good place to sleep- Find a place to sleep that’s going to be comfortable and where you have a chance of being woken up so you don’t miss that flight! You don’t want people stepping over you, but at the same time you want to be situated where people can see you so you’re not likely to be robbed- it does happen. Situate yourself close to a café and some toilets and carry a blow-up pillow, bed and lightweight blanket.
12. Carry a change of clothes/toiletries- I always carry the essential items in my hand luggage that I don’t want to lose if my hold bag goes missing. A change of clothes is essential- if you’re on a long haul flight it means you can feel nice and fresh when you arrive. If you’re in your nice warm clothes for the plane, you probably want something nice and cool for when you arrive in that sunny destination. Always carry a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, some moisturiser to stop your skin getting dry and anything else you feel like.
13. Have something entertaining with you- Magazines, a book, an iPod…something to keep you entertained during the wait.
14. Make sure boarding passes are printed- This applies particularly to low-cost airlines. If you’ve selected online check-in you’re meant to print your boarding pass. If you forget they’ll charge you around £40 just for a piece of printed paper!
15. Check out the excess baggage rules- Make sure you weigh your bag at home and don’t wait till you get to the airport to find out you’re a few kilos over. Airports used to be a little more lenient when it came to being overweight, but now they’re a lot stricter. I’ve seen countless people in airports hurriedly trying to decant as much as they can in to their hand luggage and waiting in the queue to pay for the excess hoping they don’t miss their flight. It’s not worth it. Airlines like Ryanair now charge £20 per kilo on the day for every kilo you are over! Stick to the weight restrictions and know the rules.