Yes, security lines will probably be long this holiday season and you will have to adjust your packing to what can be brought on board. But that doesn’t mean the flying portion of your holiday trip is something to be endured instead of enjoyed.
Airports have changed over the past decade as they have become more aware of travelers’ needs.
Taking advantage of the changes is easier today than even a few years ago thanks to electronic devices that tell you where the good stuff is.
With a click of an internet link you can find out about an airport’s amenities before you leave home or from touch screens and information specialists when you arrive.
Here are five suggestions that can up the level of your airport experience:
1. It’s child’s play. If traveling with children, go to the airport’s website to see if and where there is a play area.
In Chicago, O’Hare International Airport has an airplane and other airport related build-outs for let’s pretend and role-playing. They are in the Children’s Museum area of Terminal 2 across from the Travelers Aid Office. The area is accessible to Terminals 3 and 1 after going through security.
The Dallas-Fort Worth Airport has a McDonald’s Play Area in Terminal D near gate D33 and another children’s play area at D10. DFW also has a Pepsi Junior Flyer’s Club in Terminals B and C.
2. Sometimes it’s about the food.
Although this traveler does not miss the often strange and limited plane food service that once was part of the ticket price, now that airlines charge extra a good option is to plan to eat or buy food to go at the airport.
The problem is if you don’t know what food kiosks or restaurants are in your terminal or near your gate you might merely snag something at hand and find out later there was a better choice.
Many airport websites list food kiosks and restaurants so you can think about options and know the locations ahead of time.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airportis so traveler friendly it has everything from food and shopping to parking options on its website and at vertical touch screens at the airport. It also has goHow, a free, downloadable application.
In addition, food coupons can be downloaded and printed for some choices. The touch screens are at either end of the shopping and food mall in Lindbergh, the airport’s main terminal.
3. Speaking of shopping
It’s OK to leave some shopping to the last minute. After taking care of work deadlines you had to squeeze family and packing time into the few minutes left.
Fortunately, major airports and even mid-sized ones stock jewelry, clothes, books and sports items that make good gifts for others and yourself.
This veteran flier and shopper recently found Native American items at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, electronic devices at DFW, CDs and Elvis memorabilia at the Sun Studio booth at the Memphis International Airport, jewelry and books at O’Hare and an extra travel bag at the tiny John Wayne Airport in Orange County, CA.
Go to your airport’s website to see if it has a shoe-shine or massage chair station.
Sometimes merely treating yourself to a service you don’t have time for at home is all it takes to make a trip’s airport portion feel like the first leg of the holiday getaway.
5. Bring your electronic devices and their chargers and down load a free application. Several airports now have apps that have all the information travels need.
Airports also now have WiFi. At many of them the WiFi connection is free. Wait time before boarding or between connections is also a chance to go online to learn more about where to visit and eat when you arrive.
It is also an easy opportunity to recharge your Blackberry or other devices so they will be ready to use at your destination. End tables in some of DFW’s seating areas have outlets.