Airport survival guide

Seven ways to make the airport experience painless

Marcus Webb – Virgin Money Living Mentor

by Marcus Webb | Independent Money Mentor

Editor of Delayed Gratification and independent journalist


Nobody chooses to spend time in an airport. They’re crowded, stressful, noisy and expensive places we visit only because we want to head off for a beach holiday. And even if you’re already armed with ingenious travel hacks there are some surefire ways of making the airport experience relatively painless. Here’s my airport survival guide…

Be an early bird

Airports are even less pleasant than usual when you’re freaking out at the back of the security queue, swerving past the beauty counters in duty free, and then hearing your name as part of the final ‘final call’ call over the Tannoy system before collapsing with despair at the end of a travelator which appears strangely keen to chew up your dropped passport. Get there early. 

Mastermind your check-in

Skip the stress-inducing airport mega-queues and nab the seat of your choice by checking in early. You can avoid messing around with fiddly pieces of paper by using airline apps and simply scanning your phone – but you should always carry a printed back-up. Your phone may be smart but you’ll feel pretty dumb if it runs out of battery at the critical moment. 

Book some breathing space

Booking your airport parking in advance will usually save you money – the drive-up rate is typically higher than the advance price sold online. But it’s also critical for your peace of mind. Driving in circles in a desperate search for a parking space isn’t much fun at the best of times, and it’s definitely not fun while watching your plane taking off without you.

Snooze and win

If your flight home departs at a miserable hour in the morning, consider investing in a room at an airport hotel. You can’t put a price on an extra hour or two in bed, and if a lack of early-morning public transport means expensive taxis you might make a saving anyway. More and more airports have hi-tech, low-cost sleeping pods on offer too – it’s worth considering these pay-by-the-hour capsules, which are great for rejuvenating naps.

Get appy

In an age when every imaginable human experience can be enhanced at the touch of a smartphone, it’s hardly surprising that a number of apps claim to improve the travel experience. GateGuru offers live data on flight delays, MiFlight gives users security queue wait times and FLIO is loaded with food and drink deals as well as useful info on public wifi.

Gain a sense of security

Airport security can be stressful, especially if the queues are long and your time is short. Breeze through security – and reduce the wait for everyone behind you – by knowing the rules and being prepared. You know the gist of it: don’t carry sharp or flammable items, put liquids in 100ml-max containers in a transparent plastic bag, put your laptops and tablets separately in a tray. You might even be rewarded for your good behaviour with a rare honour – a smile from the security staff. 

Delay your gratification

Many of us have experienced that awful moment when the information screen suddenly declares that your flight has been delayed by several hours. Granted, it’s not as bad as the dreaded word ‘cancelled’ flashing, but it’s still a bummer. Hours to kill in a tiny, boring airport will make you feel like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, so embrace your inner Bear Grylls and carry a lightweight survival kit. Pack a phone charger, a sleeping mask, a pack of cards, a change of underwear and some snacks in your carry-on baggage. 

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.