Approximately 6 million people fly every day, a number that’s growing year by year, yet the airports aren’t growing with the demand, meaning long queues and a lot of faffing. Getting through the airport is rarely a cruise, but with a little preparation and these top tips you can make it a little easier on yourself.
Avoid stressful airports. This may seem like a strange suggestion but there are some notoriously stressful airports out there, usually the massive ones like Heathrow in the UK and New York JFK or New York Newark in the USA. These are physically huge and hard to navigate, have big queues, tend to have rubbish customer service, ropey food and are pretty dirty in general.
Airports such as Barcelona Girona and London Stansted could also stress you out as their names may mislead you. Anyone who has travelled through Stansted will know that it’s miles north of London and can add hours onto your journey, especially if you’re coming from the South West, Girona, Barcelona is also 1.5 hours away from Spain’s culture capital.
On the flip side London Gatwick seems to whizz you through security nice and quick, has fast frequent trains connecting both terminals and some great food options including a personal favourite; the oyster and champagne bar. But Bristol airport is by far the least stressful for me as it’s close to the motorway, has ample cheap parking and a quick and easy checking-in procedure.
Travel midweek. Wednesday may be hump day for those in the office, but it’s the best day of the week to fly. Most people start their holidays on a Saturday or Sunday, businessmen / women travel on Mondays and Fridays, leaving Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the nomad travelers. Tickets are also cheaper and the fewer fellow passengers means shorter queues and therefore less faff / stress.
Check in online. People ignore this quite often but its SUCH a faff-saver. If you check-in online it means you don’t have to go to the ticket counter, you know the one with the big queues and can head straight to baggage drop. The super savvy traveller will print out their boarding pass online and travel only with hand luggage avoiding this queue altogether and head straight to departures.
Arrive early. No brainer, but there really is no point in leaving to get to the airport late. If you’re flying that day, just leave early. You usually write a flying day off anyway, unless you’re at work, so instead of pottering around buying things or casually packing, get to the airport nice and early, miss the queues, check your bags in, go through departures and enjoy dinner and a beer stress free. I just wish my girlfriend would get this.
Leave it yeah. You can go a few hours without that Lynx Africa, Issey Myake and family size Colgate. Most places in the World that we travel to sells this stuff anyway, so leave it at home.
Power up. Delays and queues are pretty much inevitable, but we all have insane super computers attached to our palms and a few spare hours with nothing to do is the best excuse to have a mega sesh on puzzle bobble, get real deep into Facebook, or listen to an album song for song, word for word. But not having enough battery on your iPhone to instagram that that cronut can be quite stressful, so make sure you’ve charged your devices before you fly.
Using said multimedia device to stream a movie whilst waiting for your delayed flight is convenient but you must consider the fact that free airport WiFi is public WiFi, which is unprotected, meaning your personal information is very easy for a hacker to access, so be WiFi savvy and always browse using a secure (SSL) connection.
You can also avoid standing in customer service queues by using the superphone to answer to simple questions you may have. Airline apps are usually very good with this kind of thing so download pre-holiday, then delete it when you get home.
Line up last. A controversial one but the plane leaves at the same time whether you are first in line, or last. You going to spend at least a few hours on the plane so instead of spending the last 15 minutes queuing up impatiently, getting coughed on and shuvved around, take these last moments before committing to sitting down for hours stretching. The flight isn’t going to leave with out you…
Lost Luggage. Now this is the true stress. The ultimate faff. The holiday killer. In 2012, in America alone about 1.8 million bags were damaged, lost, or stolen by major American airlines and in 2013, more importantly the incredibly useless United airlines lot my girlfriend Jasmine’s bags, whilst we travelled three countries with three totally different climates for three months only for them to somehow find them on our final flight home to Heathrow. No apologies, no compensation, just mega stress, but we did learn some lessons.
Firstly report the bag asap to the airline. You may start to believe it’s not true and it will show up, but if it doesn’t swing round on the carousel with all the others from your flight, it’s probably not coming, so get to onto it straight away. The airline will look for it but it will be a slow process, expect to wait between a week and a month, then the bag will be declared ‘lost’ and will, like our case, turn up in the general airline lost property sorting department.
In large, busy airports, due to the quick turnaround of flights and increasing numbers of air travellers, baggage carousels churn out bags from different airlines frequently. This increases the chances of bags getting misled and most lost bags are just delayed / left behind at the previous airport. Although it may seem almost unbelievable when the airline says they will get your bag and deliver your bag onto your address, they actually will and most have a whole department / delivery team for delayed baggage, so sign everything you need to sign accurately and wait. In popular tourism destinations you’ll probably meet someone on the same day with the same problem.
If your bag is delayed don’t be shy about asking for reimbursement for emergency costs. However, be persistent and don’t expect much. If your bag is declared lost the real pain starts and you have to justify the bags worth. Jasmine spent the best part of 2 weeks building up her claim and the total value came way above the baggage liability limit, which in America is a mere $1,500 per passenger. Obviously the sentimental value of things isn’t included and when the bag was returned three months later it was time wasted.
One way of making sure this never happens is to travel light and only take hand luggage. Sounds hard but very doable, take a look here.