I think we are all familiar with most travel tips regarding air travel: colouring books for children, pashminas and loose clothing to counteract the cold and trapped wind (you didn’t know that?) , roll up your knickers and stuff them in your shoes (this is luggage-packing advice, not a suggestion of fun things to do on a plane).
What you really need are some essential tips that the magazines don’t tell you. This is where I come in with Trish’s Top Travel Tips (ah, the joy of alliteration). Today’s lesson is ‘Airports’.
1. Hand Luggage or Hold Luggage?
If you’re going on a two-week family holiday then bite the bullet and pay for as much hold luggage as you are allowed. If this is your well-earned summer break you want to have as many pairs of shoes at your disposal to make your vacation as pleasurable as possible. Remove some of the kids’ toys and replace with sandals in all colours.
If it’s a short break then you can save money and time by only taking carry-on luggage but, be warned, you will spend the weekend in shoes which pinch and you’ll be fed up of the black and white clothing combo you’ve chosen. You will also have to suffer the ignominy of carrying all your lotions and potions in a very small transparent bag. Do you really want your teenage son and the rest of the travellers in the security queue to snigger at your ylang ylang massage oil, G-Pulse lube and haemorrhoid cream? Don’t think that decanting the stuff into anonymous plastic bottles will help: you will only live to regret it when washing your hair with something decidedly slippery.
Do you eat before going through security or after? It all depends on the quality of the eateries on each side. Problem is, you don’t know until you’ve passed the point of no return whether your decision is the right one. In Montreal and Madrid we chose to eat airside. Big mistake: only two food outlets we could find, both busy and food disappointing. In Copenhagen we feared a similar experience so grabbed a pizza meal deal at the first 7-Eleven we spotted, only to discover a whole smorgasbord of tempting treats on the other side. I have now learned my lesson and plan to google each airport before we travel and print out a map showing what delights they have. This will also be invaluable for indicating where the check-in desks and toilets are located so you can avoid having a marital tiff as soon as you arrive.
You will not be allowed to take a bottle of water through security so remember to buy some on the other side so that you have some refreshment while waiting at the gate in the long queue of people like you who refuse to pay for speedy boarding. Do not assume there will be a cheaper bottle if you just keep on walking. There won’t be and you’ll be left paying 2 euros for a teeny bottle from a vending machine: this will make you very cross, especially if you are Scottish.
This is still quite an ordeal, requiring the removal of coats, jackets, boots and belts. My advice here is, if you’re going to wear a belt, make sure it’s superfluous to requirements. If you actually need a belt to keep your trousers up then you’ll embarrass yourself. If you like being frisked, wear lots of chunky jewellery in odd places and the security officer will have you standing on a podium, poking you with her light-saber quicker than you can say ‘Im not carrying a dangerous weapon, honest’.
5. Car Parks
Book your car park as far in advance as possible to save money. By all means choose a ‘meet and greet’ service, where they valet-park your vehicle, but only if you want your husband to hyperventilate as he hands over his precious keys. If you can’t cope with the images of some young oik whooping it up for a fortnight in your SUV and wearing out the back seats, you will have to plump for the Long Stay Car Park and take the transfer bus. This will cause another domestic as your husband will choose a spot as far away from the bus stop as possible and, most probably, in a part of the car park not yet tarmaced so your wheely case will topple over.
Make a note of which car park you have left your car in. This helps enormously at midnight when you return, optimistically wearing the flip-flops and sarong from the beach earlier that day.
So there you have it: airport advice from one who knows. Please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.