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Airport Survival Guide

Christmas is upon us and it’ll soon be time for millions of us to travel far and wide in order to enjoy the festivities in the company of friends and family. Unlike Santa, Rudolph, Dasher and the rest of the gang who enjoy unrestricted access to the world’s air space, most us must contend with a slightly more conventional way of travelling – be it by road or air.

Catching a flight over the festive period can often involve negotiating busy airports or, even worse, unexpected delays due to adverse weather. Luckily for you, however, we’ve pulled together some helpful advice for airport Christmas travellers. We’ve also highlighted a few air hubs around the globe that are so amazing, you’d actually be quite happy spending some extra time in them! So check out our helpful tips below and remember, you can always make your journey that little bit more convenient by using our airport connect car hire service.

Airport basics: Get there on time

Image by Hirokuyi Kambe
Image by Hirokuyi Kambe

More often than not, the key to a good airport experience is to be on time. Queues for baggage drop offs and security can often catch you out, so give yourself plenty of time and keep those stress levels in check.

It may seem obvious, but you should always take into account the size of the airport you’re travelling from. If you’re on a short-haul domestic flight from a smaller airport then you can often rock up an hour before departure. For bigger international air hubs, however, it’s wise to arrive two or three hours prior to the scheduled departure, particularly around busy holiday periods.

Take Heathrow, for example. Over 70 million passengers passed through its five terminals in 2013, so needless to say, it can be quite a hectic place at times. A flight takes off or lands at Heathrow every 45 seconds, and Terminal 5 alone has 30 miles of baggage conveyor belts.

If you happen to be flying in to Heathrow, then keep an eye out for extra luxuries that can reduce your overall journey time, such as the Arrive and Drive car hire service. Book in advance and you’ll have a car waiting for you outside either Terminal 1 or 5. This can be a real life saver if you’ve got one or two tired kids in tow, enabling you to hit the road in no time.

Relax, you’re on holiday!

A bit of preparation can go a long way to ensuring you enjoy a hassle free travel experience. These tips will stand you in good stead:

• Online check-in: Usually available 24-48 hours in advance of your flight. Skip the queues upon arrival safe in the knowledge that your boarding card is already securely nestled in your pocket.

• Check the airport website: On the day of travel, check the airport’s official website regularly. This will keep you in the loop regarding any travel disruption.

• Dress lightly: It may be cold out there, but avoid arriving at the airport dressed like you’re preparing for an arctic expedition. A simple outfit will make your life far easier when passing through security, so avoid too much jewellery or other accessories which take a while to remove.

• Bring the tunes: Always bring your headphones! A bit of music can help you relax, or at the very least drown out the noise of the unruly child in the row behind you.

So, what else? Well, if you find yourself flying out of Gatwick Airport, you may wish to take a leaf out of blogger Mondomulia’s book and indulge in a spot of extra luxury whilst waiting for your flight. She took advantage of the No1 Gatwick traveller lounge and enjoyed a hearty buffet breakfast, free Wi-Fi and access to shower and spa facilities. Now that’s how you kick off your Christmas holidays in style…

If you’re flying into London then you can always book a car hire at Gatwick, meaning you can hop off the plane and straight behind the wheel.

Now that’s my kind of airport…

Image by Todd Wade
Image by Todd Wade

Some people love spending time in airports, but for many the aim is often to spend as little time within the terminal building as possible. Online check-ins and hand luggage-only tickets enable you to gleefully skip past the often lengthy check-in and baggage drop-off queues, but sadly there’s little that can be done regarding flight delays or lengthy layovers. Thankfully, there are one or two airports out there which are so downright awesome that you may just find yourself wishing for an unexpected delay.

Take Singapore’s Changi Airport, for instance, currently the proud owner of the 2014 World’s Best Airport award. Not only does it boast an outdoor swimming pool, idyllic butterfly garden and cinema, but you can also unleash your inner child on a four storey slide inside one of its terminals.
And if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, the airport currently doubles up as a Disney themed Christmas wonderland. The Terminal 3 departure hall features a three storey festive castle modelled on Sleeping Beauty’s iconic abode, whilst a host of Disney characters and other attractions can be found throughout the airport.

There’s plenty of other enjoyable terminals closer to home too, such as Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport which has its own library and casino. In Munich, meanwhile, you can tour the airport brewery or unwind with a game of mini golf.

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Ready to take to the skies? Check out some of these other posts for extra inspiration:

Europcar’s Christmas Survival Guide
Europe’s best Christmas markets
5 family snow sports destinations to hit this half-term

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