The airport: a long strip of asphalt connected to a huge metal shed full of armed police officers, screaming children, and overzealous security staff! A place where nobody will bat an eyelid if you have a pint with your breakfast fry up!
It’s the place where your holiday begins, so why not make the most of it?
Book your airport car parking as early in advance as you can. Like flights, it tends to get more expensive as it gets closer to your departure date.
If you are being dropped off, many airports now charge extortionate amounts to be dropped off directly outside the terminal building. However, many airports give half an hour, or an hour, of free parking in the official medium stay or long stay car park, then you can get a free bus to the terminal.
A happy airport experience begins at home. There are plenty of online tutorials for how to pack a suitcase, but some forward planning at this stage will make your airport experience that much smoother.
Tuck your ticket into the photo page your passport (to act as a bookmark) and don’t pack them in your main luggage! You will be showing your boarding pass and passport several times before you board the plane, so keep them to hand in a trouser pocket, coat pocket, or a side pocket of your carry-on bag.
If you have a mobile boarding pass on your phone, then it’s still worth taking a printed boarding pass too, as a back-up, in case your phone runs out of battery or your boarding pass app crashes!
The queue for security can sometimes be long, or you might be pulled aside for a more detailed check, so go through security as soon as you can. Don’t hang about drinking in the bars: go through security first, and then you can have a drink and relax.
Stock up on food – avoid the coffee
Food can be expensive onboard the plane, so if you haven’t brought anything from home, stock up on a few snacks for the flight while you’re at the airport. A flapjack from somewhere like Pret a Manger is good, because it fills you up for a long time.
Coffee might be something to avoid at the airport. It acts as a diuretic, making you want to go to the toilet, which can be impractical. It can also sometimes upset the stomach, which isn’t what you want either! Finally, coffee can dehydrate you, and the air inside a plane cabin is dry enough already.
As demand grows for flights, UK airports are constantly getting bigger, and adding more gates to park the planes. This means that there can often be a considerable distance to walk to get to your plane, sometimes taking 15 or 20 minutes (especially if you are on a low-cost airline).
Most airports in the UK have maps available online with distances marked between entrance points, security checkpoint and departure gates. Use this to both map out your route and to leave enough time to get around without rushing.
If you’re flying with easyJet, their mobile app can sometimes give you the walking distance to the gate, depending on which airport you are flying from. Other airlines are also starting to introduce this service.
Leave enough time!
Aim to arrive at the airport 2 hours before take off for European flights, and 3 hours before long-haul.
This will give you ample time to drop off luggage and pass through security, so that you can be relaxing with your drink when your gate is announced, not frantically rushing to put your shoes and belt back on in the security area!
A day or two before your flight, check for pre-planned roadworks or railway engineering, and check the weather reports in case there is anything that could delay your journey.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Airport and airline staff are there to help you: from our own experience, we know that airline and airport staff go above and beyond every single day.
If you need help to get through the airport, just ask. Most airports and airlines will ask that you request assistance at least 48 hours in advance if possible. They can help transport baggage (or even you!) across terminals and through security. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or worried about, it’s a practical service to help you, the customer, to have a smooth transit through the airport.
Have some perspective
Finally, and something many of us could bear in mind, just remember where you’re going. This is the miracle of flight! You are going to be sitting in a pressurized, metal tube flying at 35,000 feet above the earth’s surface and travelling at 550mph – and it’s all as normal as getting on a train.