This blog post was updated on May 12, 2020.
It’s always important to research a trip before you leave. You probably make a habit of checking out the area you’ll be visiting, your accommodations, and local points of interest. But you may be overlooking one important research point: the airport you’re traveling from. Believe it or not, looking up all the details so you know what to do at the airport can make a big impact on your next trip … especially if you’re flying for the holidays. Understanding the airport before you even pack your bags will help you feel safe, secure, and ready to catch your flight even with all the holiday craziness.
So just what information should you be looking up? Here are the five core aspects of any airport you should know ahead of any holiday travel.
Scope Out the Security Checkpoints
Missing your flight (even if it’s NOT during the holidays) can turn a pleasant trip into a real pain, particularly when you’re delayed due to lengthy lines at security checkpoints. Unsurprisingly, delays during November and December increase as countless travelers decide to fly the friendly skies. This can add up to major delays that could impact the rest of your trip. By knowing about the available security checkpoints and how to reach them, you’ll be able to formulate a plan to get to your gate on time, even if there are delays. You can even download the TSA app and keep an eye on the length of the lines at the security checkpoint, so you won’t have to spend tons of time waiting to hit the road.
Look Up the Airline Check-in Desks and Gates
The airline check-in desks can seem daunting, especially when the airport is packed with rushing travelers. This goes double when you don’t know where to check in for your flight booking and can’t find your gate. The easiest solution is to find a map of the airport and download it to your phone. It’ll reduce your chances of getting lost and missing a crucial flight. If you have to change flights at some point, track your entire journey so you don’t get lost in a strange part of the airport. This will reduce the anxiety of getting where you need to go, and will give you extra time to relax and unwind while you wait for your flight. And remember, if you get disoriented or lost even with a map handy, you can always ask an airport worker for directions to your airline!
Check Out the Car Rental Counters
A lot of the time, your traveling doesn’t end at then airport; during the holidays, odds are you’ll continue on the way to your final destination. In some cases you’ll have to rely on a rental car for the duration of your trip — now where exactly is the car rental counter? Depending on the airport you’re traveling to, the answer can vary. Some airports shuttle you directly over to nearby car rental locations, while others expect you to make your own way there. If your airport doesn’t have a place on their website regarding car rentals, look for the website of the car rental company itself. Usually they provide you with information on hours, transportation options, and how to continue on your way with a minimum of fuss. And if you’ve already made a reservation for a rental, you can always call the company’s customer service number and ask.
Figure Out the Food Options
Nobody wants to be stuck in an airport with a hungry family, so it’s important to be aware of the dining options around you. While there are tons of candy kiosks and places to grab a quick snack on the go, if you have a layover or delay you may need more substantial sustenance to get through the travel experience. Most airport websites provide comprehensive lists of every eating option, from low-key family-friendly options at the food court to full-blown formal affairs that will make you think you’re indulging at a fancy restaurant. There are usually choices for vegans, those who are going gluten-free, and finicky eaters of all ages, so scope out some spots that will keep everyone’s cravings at bay.
Explore the Entertainment & Amenities
Even the best-laid of travel plans can come across unexpected issues: delays, bad weather, lost luggage, or simple bad luck. When this happens, you might find yourself cooling your heels at the airport for longer than you expected. Luckily, most airports are prepared to keep your whole family occupied until it’s time for takeoff. Having a thorough list of the available amenities and entertainment options at the airport bookmarked on your phone or printed out ahead of time can go a long way to help you stay calm if things get stressful. Some things to keep an eye out for in your research include children’s centers to keep the little ones busy, stores for some distracting shopping or picking up something lost/forgotten, privacy compartments or transit hotels to grab a quick nap, a gym or shower to clean up between long flights, and even a spa for indulging in a much-needed massage.
Do you ever use research on what to do at the airport to prep for a big trip? Have any stories on how it saved the day or tips for the other readers? Feel free to share in the comments!