10 simple ways to survive the airport experience

if you are flying abroad for your holiday this year, you face one major obstacle before you get there: the airport. Most people will find it expensive to get to, slow to use, and unpleasantly crowded. But there are ways of improving the experience; here are 10 ideas that may help.

1. Go local

Small regional airports tend to have more convenient (and cheaper) parking, shorter check-in times and fewer queues, and you don’t have to walk for miles to get from security to the departure gate. You will probably get your luggage back more quickly when you return home, too.

2. Avoid weekends

Airports are generally at their quietest and most pleasant between about 11am and 4pm on weekdays. Book to fly at these times and you will probably find cheaper fares too.

3. Book a convenient car park

If you have to drive to the airport, it’s worth keeping an eye on parking offers by checking the airport and agency websites. Often within a week or so of departure, deals start to appear offering reduced rates in the short-term car parks, or for valet parking services.

4. Check in smoothly

Since most airlines now allow you to print out your boarding card at home or have the details available on your mobile, check-in is one part of the airport experience that has become more bearable in recent years. (Where possible, make sure you are able to take both outward and return boarding cards.)

If you travel with checked baggage, however, you won’t be able to avoid a queue for the “fast” baggage drop; all you can do is reduce yourstress levels by arriving with plenty of time in hand. Much better: travel with hand baggage only.

5. Fast-track through security

Now that check-in queues have shortened, the biggest hold-up is likely to be at security. Controversially, several airports offer a fast track through the checks to those who pay a fee.

The worry for consumers, of course, is that there must be a temptation for airports to keep queues long to “encourage” the use of the paid-for service. Whether you choose to pay or not, an important way to reduce hold-ups is to make sure your cabin baggage complies with size restrictions (which vary from airline to airline), and the latest security regulations, especially with regard to the number of bags you are allowed, and the amount of liquids you can take into departures.

6. Consider a lounge

If you know you are likely to have a long wait, you can escape the throng by buying access to an executive lounge in advance through agents and Lounge Pass (loungepass.com). Fees usually start at around $50 a head and include snacks, drinks, newspapers, internet access and lavatories that don’t reek of overuse.

More lounges are now allowing you to pay for entry at the door – worth bearing in mind if your flight is subject to a long delay.

7. Shop and collect

Now most of us are trying to keep our hand luggage to a minimum, shopping at the airport has lost much of its appeal. Some airports – including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh  however offer a “shop and collect” service.

8. Board last

It is clearly best to board among the last passengers: you will spend less time stuck in your seat waiting for take-off.  Buying priority boarding means you don’t have to spend all your time in the airport queuing; it’s expensive, but might be worth considering if you’re flying at peak times.

9. Disembark first

Sit as close to the front of the plane as you can (some airlines charge an extra fee to reserve a seat in this area). The first to disembark are first in the queue at immigration. This isn’t an issue at smaller airports, but can save a lot of time at peak times or in destinations such as the United States, where queues at immigration can last an hour or more.

10. Use the biometric

The queues for biometric machines are usually shorter but they are no guarantee of a fast exit.