Throngs of passengers and countless budget flights often mean international flights don’t hold the same glamour as they used to but there are several ways to avoid the stress of busy airports.
We’ve put together some top tips to help you minimise stress in the airport.
Organise airport parking beforehand
If you plan to drive to the airport, booking a car parking space before you arrive should save you time and money, you’re more likely to get a good parking deal which is often at a nearby car park with a regular shuttle service to the airport. Leaving it until the day you arrive, means you could well be paying over the odds and relying on luck to find a space in the airport car park.
Avoid flying at weekends
If you have the luxury of being able to pick and choose your travel times, try to avoid weekends and peak holiday seasons. Generally the quietest times are between 11am and 4pm so, for a quieter, less stressful experience, try to be at the airport at these times.
Keep away from international airports
Instead of using major airports such as London’s Gatwick or Heathrow, you could consider Southampton, Bournemouth or Bristol instead as they handle fewer flights. You won’t have to walk as far from security to your departure gate and once you get there, your baggage should arrive faster too.
Check in online
Booking online enables you to print out your outbound and often return flight boarding cards before you leave. You can then skip standing in a long queue to check in and go on to relax in the Departure Lounge instead.
To find out how to check in online without any problems, a quick online search on: “how to check in online” will list all the airlines and their check-in procedures.
Double check luggage allowances
As airlines vary so much in their requirements, double check your flight’s rules regarding weight limits, as well as hand luggage limitations. It’s well worth weighing your luggage carefully before you arrive at the airport or you could find you have to pay highly for any excess weight.
Hand luggage is limited to a certain size and number of bags so make sure you comply with the rules to avoid any hold ups at check-in. Skyscanner provides a useful, up-to-date guide to hand baggage sizes and weight restrictions.
Fast track through airport security
Some airports now provide a fast track through airport security checks for anyone who pays a fee – usually between £3 and £5. This could be a worthwhile charge as it saves the stress of queuing at busy times.
If you are not fast-tracking through security, you might be in for a wait while you and all the passengers have their hand luggage scanned, so allow plenty of time. Make sure you have all your liquids (under 100ml each item) ready in a see-through plastic bag ready to scan separately and familiarise yourself with the airport’s security allowances in terms of what items you are permitted to travel with. Skyscanner outlines some surprising items not allowed in your hand baggage.
Use IRIS recognition booths
If you’ve waited in long, zigzagging immigration queues in the past, you might be interested to know that some airports such as Heathrow (terminals 1, 3, 4, 5), Manchester (1 and 2), Birmingham (1) and Gatwick (north) provide state-of-the-art IRIS recognition booths. These perform automatic clearance based on a scan of your iris to confirm your identity and nationality – a process which takes just 20 seconds!
Simply enrol (a one-off initial process which takes about 10 minutes) on your way out of the UK at one of the IRIS centres – look out for them in the departure lounges.
Use the VIP airport lounges
These are worth considering if you can’t avoid travelling at busy times or you may simply enjoy a bit of VIP style when going on your travels. You can escape the throngs by relaxing quietly with a paper, internet access, drinks and snacks for around £20 per head.
Many airport lounges now allow entry at the door, so they are well worth thinking about if you have a delay or a long wait for your connection.
Don’t queue unnecessarily to board
If you have an allocated seat, there’s no point in queuing unnecessarily to board the flight. Getting on board first, only means you’ll be cramped into your seat longer than if you wait to board last. If you prefer to avoid the queue altogether then think about purchasing speedy boarding, especially at peak times but, as always, you will still be kept waiting on the plane.
Quick boarding facilities are particularly useful however, if you have a wheelchair or are unable to queue for long periods to get to your seat.
If you do end up a little stressed while travelling in general, take a look at Eleanor’ Mckenzie’s stress-busting tips.