My favorite airport feature in pop culture is the intro scene of Love, Actually. You see families coming together, friends reuniting, and couples generally basking in their love. It’s a picture of happiness and contentment.
Unfortunately, the reality of airports at Christmas time is the opposite. While there are times we do achieve moments of pure joy, majority of the time the experience is more like the chaos of Home Alone You know the scene, the McCallister family are rushing to their flight and fighting against time itself.
If you haven’t seen the movie, I can bet that the description still rings a bell in your head. The reason for that would be that this stress is the norm for dealing with airports at Christmastime. Especially in the Philippines.
So we’ve compiled 10 tips to help you survive the nightmare of holiday flights.
10. Skip those pesky check-in lines
We all know the situation: you’re running late, the roads were jammed, and to top it all of, the lines are snaking around each other. You have a bit more time until your flight starts boarding but you know that when it comes to the airport during Christmastime, not even an hour would be enough to get through all the gates.
Something you might not have known is that checking-in online or using those self-check-in machines means you get to those skip those lines. If you have no bags to check in then get the airport personnel’s attention. They wave you through the lines and even bring you to the front of immigration — just make sure to press how urgently you need to get to your plane.
9. Bring a reusable water bottle or jug
If you’re cheap like me, then you must hate having to buy bottled water at our airports. I firmly believe that clean drinking water is a human right and should be accessible to everyone. So, I refrain as much as possible from paying for water. This is what led me to learn that certain places within the airport will be willing to give you free water as long as you have your own bottle. This works for places like Starbucks, where the service is better and the staff is nicer.
8. Be prepared with an extension cord
Because we’re Filipinos that means, more often than not, we arrive at least 2 hours early to a flight. 4 hours if it’s Christmas. All that time – whether spent in line or seated on a chair – will lead to your phone or laptop battery being drained. Because of the high volume of travelers this time of the year it becomes difficult to find a free plug. This is why I like to carry around an extension cord when I fly out. You wouldn’t want to drain your power bank early on! Plus, it’s a good way to make friends for a long wait.
7. Always have something to do
On a good day, flights in the Philippines are delayed by a few minutes. During the holidays, a few hours delay is a safe bet. I once made the mistake of taking only my phone with me for entertainment on a holiday flight. Of course, the flight was delayed. And of course, the airport I was in had a horrible signal.
Make sure to always have something on hand to keep you busy — something that doesn’t rely on cellular data or the wifi. Bring a book, download movies, or keep some work to complete.
6. Reap the benefits of being an early bird
I’ve heard friends and acquaintances tell stories of being transferred to earlier flights. It’s never happened to me before but apparently, if you arrive at the airport before the previously scheduled flight has even boarded there’s a chance they will transfer you there. You only have to approach the desk and ask if there happens to be space on this earlier flight and if it would be possible to transfer you. Asking never hurt anyone!
5. Research on your layover airports
Manila’s holiday airport scene might already be something you’re familiar with, but don’t forget that the layover portion of your trip is one of the most crucial points. Some airports require you to go through immigration or pick up your own baggage for the connecting flight. Become familiar with the policies of the particular airport you’re landing in to lessen the hassle.
4. Save on luggage space by layering
As Filipinos, our luggage is perpetually full with pasalubong. To squeeze everything you bought and brought with you, a simple trick is to wear your heaviest clothing and shoes. And then layer. This means shirts then sweaters then coats. Any neck pillows will be worn from the moment you enter the airport until the moment you disembark.
Coats or jackets with deep pockets are a huge bonus too. A Filipina stewardess on a Japanese flight once whispered to me in tagalog to transfer heavy objects to my pockets so they wouldn’t fine me for going overweight.
3. Dress conveniently
Wear whatever you’re comfortable with — you do you. If that means dressing professionally or showing up in your pajamas, it doesn’t really make a difference. The only article of clothing you really have to pay attention to is your shoes. NAIA’s security has gotten stricter in the past few months and strictly enforces the scanning of shoes.
I don’t know if it’s just me, but they never actually enforced the shoe policy before. In any case, use shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Wear socks if you’re not comfortable going barefoot!
2. Have a Duty Free bag on hand
This is the simplest solution to all your baggage problems. As long as it’s not too stuffed or too obvious, the airline personnel will assume they were newly purchased items. These items get a free pass on the weighing scale for baggage. This may not be applicable to all airports since only some have Duty Free stores even before the check-in point. But, it can be used for airlines which weigh your carry-on luggage twice: once at check-in, then again at the boarding gate.
1. Organize your items
I advise keeping the things you need for immediate use in designated pouches and bags. Everything you need for the flight (earphones, medicine, gadgets, etc.) go in your handbag, while all pertinent documents (passport, tickets) have their own travel pouch you can keep on hand. A separate pouch for loose items like coins, accessories, and other things you keep in your pocket would quicken your pace at security checkpoints.
Share with us your own tips for dealing with the airport crowds!