One way to ease the stress of travelling to Europe, or anywhere, is to have a quick look online for your destination airport. Most travel planning focuses on the destination, but not necessarily the first stop – the airport. Why the fuss? You plan to simply collect your luggage, if checked, and head to the transport facilities to be on your way.
Taking the time to at least look at, or download, an airport map can save you energy and shoe leather. Years ago I trekked nearly the length and breadth of Heathrow airport in search of the intercity bus departure area. Yes, there were plenty of signs, but none that indicated the distance involved. Following the rush to departure, the overnight flight, airline food and little sleep, even the simplest tasks can become nightmarishly magnified.
No more. Now with a few keyboard taps I have destination power at my hands. Will I find currency exchange facilities in the airport? How far to the train or bus station? Are there shower facilities available? All of the answers to these questions and more can usually be found on the airport website.
What is helpful to know ahead of time?
Will your connecting flight depart from the same terminal at which you arrive? Knowing the geography and transport options available between terminals
Is there a designated meeting area? Heightened security measures mean that family friends can no longer appear at the arrival gate to meet you.
Is there a designated meeting area?
Thanks to heightened security regulations the days of meeting friends and family at the arrival gate are long gone. Knowing the location of an agreed upon meeting area takes away one more travel stress.
What personal services and facilities are available?
The Zurich Airport has a wonderful shower facility available. After a long flight from the Far East and with several hours to spend before my connecting flight, a long, hot shower was utter bliss. It cost a few Swiss francs but the unit was thoroughly cleaned between each use. Also, towels, soap and shampoo were provided. Not so in the Sydney, Australia. The facilities were so Spartan you have to provide your own soap and towel. How frequently it was cleaned was also questionable.
On the positive side for Sydney’s International Airport is the availability of well priced massage, hair care and other spa services.
Is there Wi-Fi available?
Most airports either provide free service or have designated kiosks available for travellers. However, some locations, such as San Francisco only have the service available for a fee.
Are there facilities for children?
Where will you find nappy changing facilities? Is there a play area? Where can you purchase baby food or diapers?
Is the airport open 24 hours?
Not all airports remain open 24 hours a day seven days a week. Unless you are a ticketed passenger you may find yourself asked to leave. More importantly if you experience a significant delay it may mean that many services we take for granted will not be available. Your only source of food could be a vending machine during certain hours. It’s good to know in advance.
What is unique to your destination airport?
Charles De Gaulle Paris has a place to get leather goods repaired. In Zurich you can buy fresh groceries and a raclette maker. Amsterdam may well have the most extensive and varied airport shopping anywhere.
In a few days I’ll be departing for Melbourne, Australia and a quick peek at their website revealed that my hotel is a mere 400 meters from the main terminal, there is a currency exchange available outside of the customs and immigration hall and I know where to find the complimentary shuttle to my hotel.
A little pre-departure research can make your arrival that much easier and stress free.