How To… Beat Airport Crowds At Christmas Time
With the countdown to Christmas well and truly on, airports up and down the land are bracing themselves for one of their busiest times of year. And for many people, the prospect of queues and crowds is all too much, turning the festive season into a yuletide hell. But follow these simple steps and you’ll be yo-ho-ho-ing all the way to the plane…
1 Fly from a small airport
A good idea is to sidestep major hubs like Heathrow and Gatwick and fly out of a smaller airport instead. You won’t find the world and his wife passing through so-called ‘regional’ airports. The result? Shorter check-in, immigration and security queues. Plus, you’ll be quids in when it comes to things like airport parking and hotels – smaller airports don’t normally charge as much as the big boys.
2 Book anti-social flight times
Setting your alarm for stupid o’clock in the morning to catch a crack-of-dawn flight brings benefits. Likewise a red-eye flight is worth it. Reason being, most people opt for mid-morning and early-evening flights. Travel outside of these times and you can look forward to deserted departure lounges. Plus, book yourself into an airport hotel and dragging your carcass out of bed in the wee hours isn’t quite so painful.
3 Avoid popular flying days
In much the same way as shops and department stores, airports get crazy busy in the run-up to Chrimbo. The big exodus tends to take place the weekend just before Christmas so it’s a good idea to think about heading out either before or after this point. Another option is to plump for an unpopular flying day when most people will be at home – so Christmas Day and New Year’s Day are both good bets.
4 Check yourself in online
Lots of airlines let you check in online so you can bypass the airport queues. But if you’re not that organised, don’t worry. Choose an airport with self-service check-in pods and express bag drops. For some reason the travelling public seem to be nervous of using these newfangled facilities, preferring to do it the old-fashioned way. But they’re very similar to supermarket self-service tills and just as easy to use.
5 Book airport extras upfront
Sort out your airport parking well in advance of your trip. It goes without saying that carpark spaces are few and far between over the festive period so companies can, and often do, charge a premium. So do yourself a favour and organise everything nice and early to avoid disappointment and a hefty price tag. The same goes for any other extras like VIP lounges and airport hotels.