Airports are usually the one place we spend a lot of waiting time at and really do wish we were some place else. I know I’ve often spent an hour (or two!) staring at the departure board, happy to be jetting off somewhere but day dreaming about all those other places I could be going too. And while you’ve got every modern convenience at the large international airports like JFK or Heathrow, people often just want to get in and get out.
On more than one occasion my wife and I have actually done the complete opposite, instead of trying to turn up as late as possible and get the hell out of whatever country we’re in, we’ve slowed things down and made enjoying the hotel and it’s features as much a part of the holiday as the destination we’re off to.
Once the domain of the jet setting businessman with no inclination to sight see, I’ve actually spent the night at a number of airport hotels for a few different reasons. First and foremost I like to enjoy flying, something that all the rushing around at the airport can often destroy. We all like to save money on flights but leaving your house at 4am just to fly at 8am and save a few bucks can be a real drain on your first day off in a while!
Taxis and trains to airports can also be seriously overpriced at that time of day so I’ve found it more cost effective and far move comfortable to leave the night before. Check in to a nice hotel near your airport terminal and relax! Holidays are, after all, supposed to be about enjoying yourself. Pretty much all airport hotels will have a regular shuttle service to the terminals and you can put your feet up knowing you won’t be late to the terminal the next day. If you’re more the active type there’s always the hotel gym or pool. Definitely more fun than setting an alarm for some ridiculous hour.
Check out the Holiday Extras website for deals on airport hotels.
So you’re up after a good night’s sleep in your airport hotel, it’s not 4am! hooray! You’ve checked in and you’ve got bags of time to spare. What now? Time for some breakfast! I’m a firm believer that when you leave your house, your holiday starts. So why eat nasty fast food at an airport when you can treat yourself (and your loved one) to a champagne breakfast. It’s pretty much a tradition of ours now to visit the “Caviar House & Prunier Seafood Bar” in Heathrow airport terminals 1, 3, 4 and 5A. What better way to wait for your flight than with smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and a glass of champagne! It’s reasonably priced too and well worth celebrating the first day of your trip. They’re also at Gatwick and a number of airports around the UK and US.
I used to think the shops at an airport were a last ditch attempt to empty your pockets of money before you left the country. Something to rush through and try to avoid before boarding your plane. These days the shops have improved somewhat and I prefer to view a terminal as part shopping mall, part airport. With many international airports duty free or at least matching duty free prices, you can usually find a few bargains compared to high street or online prices. I’ve bought video cameras, iPods, sunglasses and those essentials I completely forgot to pack, all thanks to having a little extra time to browse before a flight. Rushing around isn’t much fun, neither is sitting, bored of waiting for your departure gate to be announced.
Whether at the airport hotel or in the terminal itself you could put your time to good use and treat yourself to a massage. It’s pretty much the norm these days to have some sort of spa treatments available. Perfect for the night before a flight to help aid sleep or while you’re waiting for your plane. I highly recommend head massages to sooth any pre-flight nerves and back massages to help feel more comfortable before that 12 hour flight to the other side of the world. Arriving last minute at an airport will only stress you out and add tension to a flight that should be enjoyable and relaxing. There’s even an entire spa full of treatments at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Check out the Elemis website for more details on that.
If like me you find the whole airport experience quite stressful at times, take a fresh look at how you travel. Make the journey part of your holiday and find ways to enjoy the airport experience. Relax in a hotel the night before so there’s no early alarms, have a tasty (and cheeky) champagne breakfast, indulge in some shopping and treat yourself to a massage to make the flight all the more enjoyable.
If you have any other reasons to spend more time at an airport we’d love to hear them. What traditions and rituals do you have before you fly? What advice would you give to nervous flyers?
Read this nextPam Ann’s guide to London Heathrow’s Terminal 4