You deserve a holiday, and you especially deserve a relaxing holiday but airports aren’t always the best environments for unwinding, particularly during the summer months when peak numbers of travellers pass through clogging up the check-in and security lines.
If you’re flying to your destination this year, enjoy our tips for chilled-out air travel to make sure you leave your stress head firmly behind your front door, and effortlessly glide through to your departure lounge with enough time to have a refreshing gin and tonic, but not so much time you end up spending all your holiday cash in the duty free.
- Get smart with your packing
Some airlines now charge you to place a bag in the hold and all airlines have a maximum baggage allowance so check what this is in advance, as there are few things less dignified than emptying your suitcase on an airport floor trying to determine what you can palm off on relatives, throw away or smuggle in your hand luggage. In the absence of suitcase-size scales to measure your load, aim to pack light. You might just survive without a different pair of shoes for each night.
- But don’t try to sneak too much into your hand luggage
If you decide to scrimp on the hold luggage charges, check in advance what size of bag your airline will permit as hand baggage. And if you are planning to carry on a sizeable piece of luggage, consider placing your passport in your pocket, otherwise if your bag is confiscated at the departure lounge you might have some tricky questions to answer at passport control if your passport ends up in the hold!
- Check in before you leave your house
Most airlines offer you the chance to check in and print out your boarding pass in advance of your arrival at the airport. If you can do this, do. It simply means one less queue to stand in, which is definitely a bonus.
- Plan your journey to the airport
If you’re travelling to your local airport, you’ll be pretty confident about your route but remember if you’re travelling at peak commuting times factor this in to your journey – not everyone is going on holiday! If you’re driving to the airport it might be sensible to book your parking in advance and shop around for this. Many private firms offer airport parking at rates that are sometimes better than the airport’s own facilities. However if you choose this option, be aware that you might be parked at quite a distance from the airport so don’t arrive at the last minute. If someone is dropping you off, find out where the drop off point is and if there’s a charge, and if so make sure you have the correct change (many UK airports now charge a small fee for drop-offs).
- Don’t arrive too early
We all know we should arrive at an airport two hours before our flight’s departure time but arriving any earlier than this is rarely wise. Most bag drops will not even be open earlier than two hours in advance and gate announcements are usually made closer to departure time, so hanging around the airport earlier than you need is just wasted time, and if your flight ends up delayed you’ll really resent that extra hour. However, if you’re travelling from a busy, large airport during July or August, with kids and lots of bags the two hours guidance is worth sticking too. You can sometimes face large queues during security checks and the larger your party the more chance there is of someone being stopped, plus little legs might struggle to do a 10-minute dash to reach a gate at the other side of the airport.
- Or too late
If you are travelling alone or as part of a couple, with no kids and no bags to check in, you can probably afford to be a little more relaxed about your arrival time. Just check the details on your boarding pass carefully as some airlines board passengers about 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled departure time. Nobody wants to be the person begging to skip the queue at security because you’ve overheard it’s the final call for boarding while you’ve been contemplating what magazine to buy. That is never a great way to start a holiday.
- Don’t follow the herd
Sometimes air travel can seem like a series of never-ending queues – bag drop, security, duty free, boarding – but if you see a queue forming at your gate, resist the urge to join, particularly if the gate hasn’t even opened yet. Don’t let them panic you! Queuing in this situation is never going to result in getting to your destination quicker. Never. Instead, sit down, relax, finish your newspaper and wait until the queue shrinks before getting up to join in. Your feet will thank you for it. And this relaxed approach may help you avoid a terrible mistake (a “friend” nearly boarded a flight to Jordan – they were travelling to Southampton – after blindly joining a queue at a French airport).
- Bring your own refreshments
If you’re the sort of person who feels their blood pressure rise at the thought of paying £2.50 for a bottle of water, bring your own (though remember that you can’t take water through security so bring an empty bottle that you can fill up at the gate). Most airport shops only offer supersize snacks and drinks, accompanied with supersize prizes.
- Find a kids’ play area
If you do find yourself delayed and you have kids to keep happy, it’s worth exploring because you can often find some great kids’ play areas tucked away. They are free, too, which is great, especially if you’ve exhausted every bit of small change on a Peppa Pig ride. The Sky Zone at Birmingham airport is great for kids aged between two and ten, offering interactive elements that will occupy adults too. Many other UK airports provide similar facilities.
- Arrange your transfer at the other end in advance
It’s a great feeling stepping of a plane knowing you’ve arrived but the journey doesn’t end here. That joy of feeling the warm air hit your face may be short lived once you realise that it’s an hour until the next airport shuttle bus or picking up a local taxi will cost half your holiday price. Instead, to save money and time you can book your transfer in advance or consider hiring a car, which you can collect at the airport. Check your destination airport’s website for information on public transport links, fares and timetables.
- And if things go wrong…
Sometimes through no fault of your own your air travel lets you down due to delays or strikes or bad weather. Always take out insurance before you travel and research your rights in advance of your trip. Which.co.uk provides useful guidance on your rights as an airline passenger.
And if chilled-out air travel seems like an impossible dream, you can always try the ferry!
Find out more about how to plan and book travel for your Canvas holiday.