Friday, 25 August 2017

6 tips for a smooth airport experience

We're finally back from our holidays (where I got to see the beach by the way!) after some misadventure at the airport. This eventful experience made me reflect on everything that happened to my and my husband while flying out over the years. So here are some "tips" for a smooth airport  experience...

Don't lose your flight tickets

Nowadays, with online check-in and mobile boarding passes, the likelihood of losing your ticket is slim, but 15 years ago, when most people were going to the travel agent and had to hold onto their tickets for days or even weeks, the risk was real! I had booked my tickets for the big Irish move and placed them in a very *secure* place (the kitchen table) only to realise the day before leaving that they were gone. I suspect my mum threw them away by mistake as they were probably buried in between a pile of rubbish... Unfortunately the travel agent wasn't able to re-print one and I had to buy a brand new ticket. She opened an investigation with Air France to make sure no one used the spare one, and I got a refund ONE YEAR after! Since then, I'm an organised freak when it comes to travel documentation!

Make sure you leave for the airport well in advance

That goes without saying, right? Even Google sends you reminders to leave on time! You should be at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight, so you should take in account all possibilities that could occur on the road and even the airport. At least that's what my mum says: "There could be a car crash, a traffic jam, snow (in summer, seriously??), you could also get lost, who knows...". Most importantly a few of those things could happen at the same time.
Back in July, my mum drove my husband to the airport after he dropped the kids for the summer. She hadn't been to that place for a while so he had the GPS on. They got stuck in a traffic jam for an hour because a car had broken down just before a roundabout. Once they finally got out, they made their way to the airport but the GPS directed them to the military airport instead of the civilian one, and my husband arrived only 10 minutes before the plane departure. He was let onto the plane only for the fact that he had to be in Dublin the same day to leave for Mauritius the following day for his father's funeral. So, if you don't want to stress too much, anticipate all possibilities!

If you're dropping someone, stay until the plane takes off

And that's because, once again, you never know what could happen, especially if the airport is a long distance from your home. About 10 years ago, I went to France for a few days, and my parents drove me back to the airport. I checked in and started to queue for boarding so my parents decided to leave. As it happened, the plane was cancelled because some protesters invaded the runway and the plane we were supposed to take couldn't land. Unfortunately it was a small airport and they only had flights to London (I was connecting) 2 days after. My parents were gone already and I tried to ring them but their mobile phone was off. I only managed to reach them once they were back home, an hour and a half later. Then I had to wait another hour and a half for them to pick me up... The moral of the story? Do not leave someone until their plane take off, or keep your phone on.

Have a valid passport

This is a common mistake if you don't travel a lot. It happened to my mum with her ID card, but she managed to get a new one just in time. One of our friends was even at the airport when she realised her passport had expired so that was the end of the trip. But the worst thing that happened was when my husband's passport was only 5 months valid at the time of our trip to Mauritius (If you fly outside the European Union you should have a passport valid for more than 6 months after the return date). We flew out without any issues, and he was supposed to renew his passport while over there, but he was so busy catching up with family and drinking Mauritian beer that he didn't think too much of it. He was sure there wouldn't be a problem, but in the end, the airline refused to let him on the plane back to Ireland and I had to travel on my own with a baby, for 12 hours...

Do not leave your luggage unattended

*All luggage left unattended will be automatically destroyed*. I always laugh when I hear that announcement in the airport. After all who would do that? Well, when you're travelling with kids, inattention can happen. My husband was transiting through London with the kids, and of course, one of them wanted to go to the toilets. The eldest was carrying a suitcase and the small one had his bag pack, while my husband had another suitcase. The youngest complained his bag was too heavy, so in a panic and with the child almost peeing himself, he took the bag pack. After a minute or so, he realised he wasn't carrying his own suitcase anymore. But when he went back, it was gone. He went to the lost and found desk, hoping they hadn't blown his suitcase up already, but no, it was just being scanned. Then the agent asked him what was inside to make sure it was his. The problem was, I was the one who packed it! He did opened it once before to put the kids' hoodies in so he kind of knew (and it was just children's clothes). After he got his suitcase back, he had to fill in the longest form ever, detailing all the addresses he lived at, all the jobs he had, and the same for me (even if I wasn't even there!). MI6 probably has him on file now!!

If you book connecting flights, make sure you have plenty of time between both flights

We came back from Brittany last week-end and when we arrived at the airport, we were told the plane was delayed for 2 hours because of a crack on the runway (!). We got transferred by bus to another airport an hour away, which means we missed our connecting flight in London. There was only 90 minutes in between the 2 flights, but I had booked that one because I didn't want to be home at 1 o'clock in the morning. Also, I thought that in the event of something happening on the last flight, we would be stuck in London for the night. That was without counting the appalling Ryanair Customer Service who stressed us out even more (their only solution was a flight on the following Thursday!!). We almost considered renting a car and travel to Holyhead to take the ferry home. At least their agent at the airport was a bit more helpful. He initially told us they weren't doing any stand-by for the last flight, then, after an insane amount of begging he finally agreed, but there was someone before us on the list. "So you actually do stand-by!" I told him. He replied it was an old lady. Fair enough. Except the old lady was actually a 25 years old guy whose first flight had also been delayed. Ryanair, you never cease to amaze me (in a really wrong way!). In the end, we had to pay 400 pounds to fly out that night, all that because there were less than 3 hours in between our 2 flights. Lesson learned I guess.

If every trip went without a hitch, we wouldn't have any stories to tell, wouldn't we? So, even if there's always stress involved at the time, we always manage to laugh about it afterwards!

What about you, any interesting airport stories you want to share?