Having recently undertaken 5 weeks away by myself with 9 days travel on planes, trains and automobiles I have decided there is nothing very exciting about spending time in departure lounges. Some might offer more facilities than others but generally speaking, airport lounges are noisy, stressful, crowded and not terribly restful. So I have put together my ideas of getting the best out of an airport particularly while in transit.
My girlfriend recently travelled with her son who has successfully completed a university degree, worked part-time, participated in the Para-Olympics swimming team and has spent his life bravely dealing with severe physical restrictions. Thus, when he went through the airports recently it was sensible to accept the offer of a chair. As his mother said, ‘That is the way to travel.’ You go quickly through security, the staff are pleasant to you, usually know which gate to go to and where the best coffee shop is, and you get to the top of the queue every time. I recently shuffled in a queue for 50 minutes at the Milan Malpensa airport before I reached the security gate. I watched as an elderly woman in a wheelchair was accompanied by airport staff and I think I had wheel envy.
Be quick to get a shower
Personally, I feel so much better if I can shower between flights. Even if you are a member of a lounge there is often a queue for the showers, so hurry straight from the plane to the lounge and book your shower. QANTAS lounges are generally quick and in Singapore Changi Airport I didn’t wait, but I waited an hour in the Hong Kong International airport. Another trick is if you offered a hot towel when first boarding as Cathay Pacific does in Premium Economy, keep it (bring an extra small plastic bag) and use it to wash your face and neck at the end of the flight. You feel so much better.
Shampoo is provided in the shower but don’t forget your deodorant and of course the clear plastic bag in which to place it when going through security. A deodorant stick is often lighter and a better shape than the roll-on which also has the tendency to lose the roller ball with pressure changes. It is almost impossible to push it back in and I have watched the ball of my deodorant fly across the room and ricochet off the shower wall leaving slimy trails behind it.
Leave your hairdryer behind because the showers provide a dryer even if it is a dinky little travel model.
Being a woman I also bring a change of clothes. My husband who travels in the same shirt and trousers the entire trip says this is a chick thing. Perhaps, but I can deal with almost anything if I have clean knickers. I take on board a spare shirt and gym pants which I wear during the flight so that I can walk off the plane not looking like a crumpled paper bag.
Do your exercises and find your gate
Inevitably my departure gate is at the far end of the terminal, so I use this as an opportunity to stretch my legs and calculate how many minutes it will take to get to the gate from a departure lounge. I walk quickly trundling my trolley bag behind me then I return and find myself a quiet spot and do my exercises. This fills a good 30-40 minutes whilst waiting for a shower. I do a combination of lunges, stretches, sit-ups, jumps, even a dance routine if I am feeling like it. I may look as if I am a demented spider with arms and legs waving around but it makes me feel comfortable and you often see others doing the same thing. Recently I even had a couple of little children join me and we ended up in giggles just watching ourselves. I don’t know if it still exists, but the International airport in Mexico City when I last passed through it had an airport lounge with a gym facility for travellers. A fabulous idea.
Most airline lounges offer food of one sort or another from biscuits in packets and uninspiring sandwiches to the full dining experience. Take advantage of the opportunity to have a relaxing meal with no cooking or preparation involved. Challenge yourself to a wine tasting whilst there.
Alternatively, tour the world through the various food outlets which offer everything from pizza and noodles to oysters and caviar. Take your time as after all you will probably have a few hours to spend, and conduct a movable degustation dinner by sampling a little of what each outlet has to offer. This can be fun with children.
Undertake a coffee or tea tour and watch the skills of the barista and the ambiance of each outlet.
Recharge your battery
There is nothing so useless as a dead mobile phone, tablet, laptop and camera. Take advantage of the power outlets offered in the airport and the lounges to recharge the batteries of your digital equipment. But check that the plug is working, particularly if using an adaptor as I have one that tends to slide out of the socket and it is so annoying to turn on the iPad to read and find that it has’t charged.
However, don’t hog the outlet. You don’t need to do all your electronic equipment. Consider others who also might need to do this and share the power.
Most of the major airports and lounges now offer free wi-fi. It is often limited to 30 minute segments probably in order to minimize the number of large downloads and deter those outsiders who try to take advantage of a free system. I found that when accessing the London Heathrow, Milan Malpensa and Hong Kong Airports free wi-fi I was required to provide contact details to verify myself.
Use this time to download photos and update their information, tags and categories. Peruse the emails for the junk and marketing ones and delete them to lighten the reading load when you are more alert.
Recent books and magazines
I could spend a happy hour just perusing all the magazines and books on the racks in the airport bookshops. This is also a great opportunity to test my language skills by buying a French magazine. I still bring on board a book, magazine and the iPad as there are times when I do tire of reading that digital screen.
If you do have a few hours and find a comfortable seat or lounge then grab the opportunity to have a cat nap but do set an alarm on your watch or phone. In fact set a couple of alarms and give yourself time to wake up and get to the gate. I arrived at my gate early in Hong Kong, stretched out on a couple of seats, set two alarms and went to sleep. When I woke up with three-quarters of an hour to go, it was very quiet around me and I found when I looked on the screen that the departure gate had changed! Fortunately I had plenty of time to get there but it does get the heart racing.
Any suggestions? This is only quick list I would love to hear what others do to while away the time in the airports.