No one wants to run the risk of missing their holiday flight. The time you need to arrive at an airport does depend on where you’re flying from, where you’re flying to, and who you’re flying with. The size of the airport, and the time it’s anticipated to check-in, pass through security and find your way to the gate also makes a difference, but the general guide in the UK is to arrive three hours before long-haul flights, and two hours before domestic or short-haul flights.
Once you’ve got through security, and you’re bag free, you’ve time to kill. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Plane food is notoriously bad, and that’s why it’s worth taking the time to eat before you board. And it’s not good to rush your food – you don’t want to spend your flight with heartburn or indigestion. So make stopping off for sustenance the first thing on your list, especially if you’re travelling with young children. It will take a substantial proportion of your waiting time to select and consume your meal, and by doing it first, you will have time to relax (you’re on holiday, after all) and enjoy it, as well as leave time to digest it before you board.
The rules around what may, and may not be taken through security in hand luggage mean that it’s often necessary to make purchases gate-side. Making a list of what you need to grab before you board is a good idea, and can help save precious time for more important things. Like Duty Free.
It’s important to remember that there is not just one Duty Free shop when you travel. Aside from the brightly-lit, perfumed halls that line the shopping precincts of the airport, there is also a chance to buy while you’re in-flight (although a more limited choice), and when you return. If you’re looking to buy perfume or aftershave, it’s worthwhile doing a little research about your purchase before you go to make direct comparisons about cost savings.
If you’re buying alcohol, it’s important to remember that you may only bring it into your destination country if it remains sealed (no tipples allowed on your flight), and for booze and tobacco purchases, seek advice on what your limits are. Don’t be seduced by low prices, if you risk confiscation when you land.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that there are hand luggage restrictions and some airlines are extremely strict about them. So before you’re tempted to buy a duty-free designer wardrobe, check you’ve room in your bag, otherwise you might end up paying additional baggage fees, or even see it consigned to the hold during your flight. And you’ve got to carry it all somehow – not too much of a problem until you’re juggling it with your cases. If you’re making a large purchase, you may be able to register it with the airport and pick it up on your way home.
Leave plenty of time to get to your gate. Abta reported that Stansted airport was found to have the greatest maximum distance from check-in to departure gates at more than 1km, but even short distances can take some time to walk, especially if you’re negotiating crowds and wheely-cases.
If you need special assistance, request it in advance and make sure you take your confirmation with you.
Listen to announcements and check departure boards regularly: airport time seems to pass differently and your departure time can sneak up on you unexpectedly. You won’t want to rush.
Once you’re safely on board, with luggage stowed and seat-belt fastened, you’re just a flight away from your holiday. Time to relax, enjoy the in-flight entertainment, and avoid the plane food.
Travel safe and have a great holiday.