know before you go: volare FCO

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Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (say that three times fast) is one of my favorite airports ever.  It’s very representative of the city it serves, Rome: bustling, loud, a little disorganized and has the best shopping ever.  It’s one of the busiest airports in Europe and you get that impression right away; there are people everywhere.

There are three passenger terminals, 1, 2 and 3 (however 2 is currently closed for renovation) with > 50 gates.  The renovated areas of the airport are NICE.  Like, there are moss living plant walls in the bathrooms, nice.  It is the hub airport for Alitalia and Vueling, and most international carriers have flights to FCO.  Flights to and from the US can be found on American, Delta, United, Norwegian and Alitalia.

Remember: ✈️ = rome if you want to  to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  volare, whoa whoa!

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (22 miles away from city centrale; there is transit, but if you know anything about Rome’s metro system, you know it’s not the easiest to navigate)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (as with a lot of European airports, they don’t announce/show your gate until right before departure, so don’t wander too far)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️✈️✈️ (faster than I thought it would be)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, inexplicably Ferrari and Mercedes Benz cafes.  There’s a place called heaven Italian Food Street in the shopping mezzanine. As I tend to say, the worst pasta in Italy is like the best pasta in any place you live, so mangia!)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (the renovated bathrooms are some of the nicest bathrooms i’ve ever seen)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Free wifi, charging is available if you can get it — don’t forget your Type E adapter!)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (this rivals CDG Paris as one of the best in airport shopping: Bottega Veneta, Bulgari, Burberry, Dolce&Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, Emporio Armani, Fendi, Gucci, Hermes, Michael Kors, Moncler, Montblanc, Omega, Pandora, Prada, Rolex, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sunglass Hut, Swatch, Tod’s, United Colors of Benetton, Valentino, Versace.  You can even get a free personal shopper to accompany you on your duty free bonanza!)

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Also, there’s a Venchi for one last gelato before you go. Or be like me, and have two before you go!  That’s amore!

know before you go: KOA

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The long anticipated Southwest to Hawaii routes just went on sale, and man were there some good deals (especially if you have flexible schedules).  I’m definitely going to have to take advantage of a random Tuesday flight one of these days –worth it for < $100 from LAX.  The departure cities are mostly from Northern California and the destinations are three airports for now: HNL (Oahu), OGG (Maui) and KOA (Big Island), with the hope to expand to more destinations and inter-island flights.

Often times overshadowed by it’s flashier sister Oahu, a Big Island adventure is actually Hawaiian must.  So much vast, natural beauty.  Volcanoes National Park, Waipio, Akaka Falls and black sand beaches are just a few delightful destinations on this very large island.  Throwback to my 5 day itinerary, which is a perfect amount of time to spend hanging loose in the Hawaiian tropics.

Ellison Onizuka (in honor of Challenger astronaut and hometown hero) Kona Airport is the Big Island’s larger airport (the other being Hilo ITO) and it truly looks like a Polynesian village when you taxi towards the main cluster of buildings.  It really reminds me of the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia, too.  The bulk of the structure is outdoors, because it is so temperate and gorgeous in Hawaii.

There are technically two Terminals 1 which has gates 1-5, and 2 which houses gates 6-10.  It only has one runway, and still uses ramps to board and deplane passengers from planes.  I love these kinds of airports, it makes you feel like you’re flying Pan Am in the 60s or something.  Southwest joins Hawaiian, Japan, United, Delta, Alaska and American.

Remember: ✈️ = go Big Island or go home to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = Bigger the Island, the better

Distance from city: ✈️✈️✈️ (about 7 miles from Kona Village, 25 miles from the resorts on the Kohala Gold Coast — give yourself time if you’re renting a car, it can take a long time)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (could probably walk from one side to the other in 5 minutes)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (a lot of families, one security area, you do the math)

Dining: ✈️ (there’s not much, so highly suggest picking up something from Pine Tree Cafe nearby — the chicken karaage and mac salad, mmm so good)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not many, but not usually crowded)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️ (no wifi set up yet)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (you can definitely get lei’d here, and that’s a plus right?)

 

bon voyage: know before you go CDG

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Paris is one of THE magnificent cities of the world, and its main airport? C’est si bon!  It is the second largest airport by volume in Europe and the 10th largest in the world.  Obviously Paris is a destination in its own right, but as a port to the rest of the world, if you’re headed to Africa or the Middle East, good chance you could be stopping here, too.

The hub for Air France, this airport is named after the leader of the French resistance against Nazi Germany during WWI who later became president of the newly re-democratic France, Charles de Gaulle.  The history is complex, so you’re gonna have to trust me when I say he was a very notable French figure in the 20th century.  They don’t name airports after just anyone (see: the soon to be Muhammad Ali airport in Louisville).

There are three Terminals, but the set up is not exactly like other airports.  Terminal 1 is for airport operations, mass transit stations, shops and restaurants, check in counters and baggage claim.  Terminal 2 is split into sub-terminals 2A-2G. 2E is where your long haul flights will be, as it can accommodate Airbus A380.  Air France international flights are almost all exclusively run through Terminal 2 (American, Delta are also Terminal 2, while United flies through both 1 and 2A).  2F is for intercontinental European and 2G is in a separate building and is dedicated to regional Air France flights.  Terminal 3 is for budget airlines.

Remember: ✈️ = hate it  to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =   louvre it (sorry i couldn’t do any better, i’m le tired)

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (16 miles away, but RER metro transit will take you from central Paris –and there’s a new express trains coming soon.  There are also express buses and old fashioned car travel as well)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (there are CDGVAL trains that will take you from one terminal to the next; it does get confusing though and there’s not a lot of helpful people jumping at the chance to help you)

Convenience of check in/security lines:  ✈️✈️✈️ (there are a lot of travelers here, that doesn’t make things go quickly)

Dining:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there is only one thing to know and that is there is a Laduree in 2F.  Otherwise, there’s a McD’s, Starbucks and Pre-A-Manger along with french offerings)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (fair for an airport of its size)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Free wifi, charging is available — don’t forget your Type E adapter!)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (this is Paris, home of Cartier, Dior, Chanel, Hermes, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp, Saint Laurent –you will find them all here along with well known Italian brands too 😉  All that’s missing is Goyard and Louboutin and then you’d have the best place ever airport shopping center in the world.  There are MANY lounges available as well — Air France/Delta SkyTeam in like all terminals, American, Etihad, Air Canada, El Al, Emirates, Qatar, SAS, Lufthansa, United/Star Alliance, Cathay Pacific.  Also, this airport was used in both U2 and Alan Parsons project album artwork, so extra cool points.  J’aime cela!)

know before you go: GSP

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Greenville-Spartanburg International airport in South Carolina is the best kind of airport. Modern, convenient and easy to navigate.  The architecture is clean, there’s not too much hustle/bustle, and best of all, there is a Chick-Fil-A.

It’s the simple things in life, truly.

There is one terminal split into Concourse A (Allegiant, American, Southwest and United) and Concourse B (Delta).  Check in terminal and security is the same for all gates.

Even though they call it an international airport, it’s really only international for cargo.  Who knew (probably everyone in this region), but BMW has manufacturing here, and so there are cargo planes that travel back and forth from here to Germany.  Most of the travel is local in the South (ATL most popular destination), but there are featured flights as far as La Guardia and Las Vegas.

Remember: ✈️ = it ain’t easy being greenville to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = this is SPARTAnburg

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (it wasn’t hard to get here, but it felt far?)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (so easy, good signage, straight terminal)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Chick-Fil-A.  Baskin Robbins.  Dunkin Donuts.  Wolfgang Puck.  All your bases are covered, obviously)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (very clean and not too claustrophobic)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (Just get a book from Hudson and call it a day.  There’s an Escape lounge for AMEX members, and weirdly a place to file grievances based on discrimination on their website?  Is there something you’re not telling us, GSP?)

know before you go: DXB

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Appearing like a glittering jewel oasis in the middle of the desert, arriving into Dubai and being saluted by the sea of skyscrapers and hotels makes you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.  A paradise that is far more fancy and luxurious than anything you could imagine…except no need to pinch yourself, you’ve made it, you’re here.

DXB is one of the world’s preeminent destinations, so it’s no wonder that its airport is one of the top three busiest in the world.  The numbers for passenger traffic are astounding when you take into account that there are only 2 runways.  Being the largest traffic stop for Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 helps.  It is the hub for Emirates (if you live in the USA, that’s probably how you’ve arrived — from a very long flight out of LAX, JFK, SFO, IAH, ORD), flyDubai, and Qantas.

The MASSIVE airport is split into three Terminals.  Terminal 1 is for international flights and is connected to a separate Concourse D, and 2 is for travel around the Middle East region (“domestic flights” as it were), and Terminal 3 is the main one, further divided into Concourses A, B, and C.   Emirates operates out of Concourse A.

Terminal 3 is the second largest building by floor area in the entire world.  Think about that for a second.  Yeah, there’s multiple 5 star hotels, more shopping than most massive luxury malls and several FLOORS of executive lounges.  In fact, there is a secondary mini-terminal near Terminal 2 that is exclusively for people richer than you and me.

As one of the top cargo ports in the world, there’s even a terminal specifically for flowers.  FLOWERS.  This is how you know exactly how extra they are at this airport, and I’m here for it.

Remember: ✈️ = dub down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = dub step

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, taxi — just be sure to check the times if you’re traveling during Ramadan)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it is massive, but there’s a people mover and shuttles –luckily most connections are long bc it takes more than 30 minutes per shuttle ride in some cases)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Your typical International fast food brands — Starbucks, McDonald’s, Burger King, Shake Shack, Krispy Kreme, KFC, Charley’s Steaks?, Pinkberry, Subway, Wolfgang Puck, and a lot of Indian and Asian fare)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (obviously very clean, and +100 for FREE showers at Terminal 3, C gates)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (This is what makes it worth it.  Gucci, Hermes, Ferragamo, Chanel, Cartier are some of the high end.  Many spas, executive lounges — literally the Emirates lounge has been my travel goal for years– 5 star hotels, showers, prayer rooms, gardens, gym, conference rooms).  Shout out to the baggage claim, too.  What usually looks like a bottom of a trashcan in most airports looks like the foyer of a palace here, mad props to DXB.

know before you go: BOS

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Well, I honestly thought I would be writing about Houston and Milwaukee this week, as I thought they would be in the World Series, but that shows you un-Moneyball I am because the Dodgers are playing the Red Sox tonight.

Before we get to see Manny Machado be yelled at by the delightful Boston fans this eve, you gotta get there, and Boston Logan airport is the largest airport in New England.

It’s a hub for Delta and JetBlue (the best way to fly to Boston, IMO).  There are 4 terminals ABCE that make up 102 gates. A is for Delta and some Southwest flights.  B is American, United and Air Canada.  C is Alaska, Aer Lingus, JetBlue (including South American/Central America — flights to Havana start next month).  And E is the one you want to be flying out of, the International terminal.  Boston has flights from Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic and gates for the Airbus 380.

Remember: ✈️ = bos baby to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = like a bos

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there’s metro, ground, ferry transport and the Logan Express)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (you can take the airport shuttle between terminals, but in some cases you have to leave security and re-enter which sucks)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s everything you need from Legal Sea Foods to Starbucks, Wahlburgers to Samuel Adams Brewhouse.  But seriously?  You’re in Boston, why aren’t you at one of the many locations of Dunkin in the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fair to clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, but there’s lots of airline lounges and a few outposts of the Massachusetts State Lottery in case you need to get that Powerball)

know before you go: ATL

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Welcome to Atlanta where the players play…it’s that time of year again, when droves of Otolaryngologists flock upon one lucky city for their annual society meeting.  This year, it’s HOTLANTA, so watch out, many  mild mannered surgeons will be heading your way.

The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta Hartfield-Jackson, is like a city on its own.  Luckily there’s a train that connects the terminals because no one would ever make their connections due to the vast nature of the complex.  Speaking from experience x multiple times.

There’s MARTA and SkyTrain transport that can get you to the airport from the city, which is convenient as it is about 10 miles or ~30 minutes in Atlanta traffic.

There are five (count em, 5! runways that serve two terminals, which are where you check in and retrieve your baggage.  The Domestic terminal is further split into a North and South.  South houses Delta, which has its hub at ATL.  North has all other domestic carriers: American, Frontier, JetBlue, Alaska, United, Spirit, Southwest. In between the terminals lay the 209 gates in the seven concourses A-F and T.  T is connected to the Domestic terminal, F is connected to the International side.

You can fly anywhere from this airport.  I’ve gone to Central America, Africa, Europe.  Literally it is a microcosm of the world, as is its dining options (albeit Americanified).  The shopping could be better, but the international terminal does have a bunch of duty free shops.

Remember: ✈️ = stomp the yard to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = ATL

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (MARTA, SkyTrain available to domestic terminals)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a train, but be prepared to walk)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (every type of fast food you can imagine, all major chains including Burger King, McDonald’s, Chick Fil-A.  There’s Panda Express, PF Chang’s and Peiwei.  Are you thinkin’ Arby’s? Cuz you can because there’s one in there.  There’s a lot of southern fare, too, if you want low country food at high country price)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (depends on the concourse, but clean and plentiful)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, good amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (not a ton of high end shops, although there’s a Sean John store? American, Delta and United have lounges, there are Xpress Spas and art)

 

know before you go: IAD (Dulles)

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Originally the black sheep of the three airports serving the Washington DC-Baltimore Metro area, Dulles International Airport has been coming into its own lately with the rise of more Dreamliner and Airbus 380 transatlantic flights.  Hey, if you’re one of the 9 cities that has gates for Airbus 380 then you fancy.

Dulles takes the share of the International business that comes into this area, but still has less passenger volume than BWI and DCA.  It is located a marathon distance away from the District, so it’s not the most convenient.  But…there’s some interesting features that make this airport stand out. For one, this is one of the last airports to use plane mates.

You heard me. Plane mates are large people movers that carry passengers from the plane to the concourses or main terminal.  They look like transformers or those oil rig grasshopper things.  They are being phased out (nothing gold can stay) for the Aerotran underground train system, so fly United into Concourse D if you want to experience one.

There are ~123 gates in one terminal building and two midfield terminals split into Concourses A/B (all non-United and United Express) and Concourses C/D (United).  Because there is a ton of International traffic to this airport, there are tons of lounges: Air France, Etihad, Virgin, British Airways, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, United.

Remember: ✈️ = dulles to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = funnest, am i right?

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (once the metro line is connected it will be a little more convenient, but until then you can really only get there via beltway or bus)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Any airport that has a Chipotle or a Pei Wei is A+ in my book, I’m a simple person.  There’s also Five Guys, multiple Dunkin’ Donuts and even a Starbucks Evenings (ooh la la), but I’m taking away a star because multiple Potbelly’s)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, fair amount of charging)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (So many lounges, perfect for the business class traveler.  There’s an interfaith church, lots of pet relief areas, express spas, and a little bit of shopping: Burberry, Tumi, Vera Bradley, Thomas Pink)

 

know before you go: PHL

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if you’re a bird, i’m a bird

Thank goodness another football season is upon us, after what felt like an endless summer of baseball.  At least we had the World Cup to break up the boredom (just kidding, I love you MLB).  NFL kicks off tonight when the Falcons take on the defending champ Eagles. Fly Eagles Fly, to catch the game tonight!

And the only things that get more air than Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are the planes coming and going from Philadelphia International (PHL).  See how I tied that up nicely?  Like a pair of cleats.

PHL is an old airport, but it’s undergoing a major renovation/expansion over the next few decades.  It is becoming more of a favored international destination for bargain European airlines, and serves the large Delaware Valley.  There are 7 terminal buildings, A-F with about 125 gates.  A West (Philadelphia, born and raised…) serves American, Lufthansa, British, Icelandair, and Qatar Airlines.  A East is Aer Lingus and American.  B  and C are American.  By now you can probably tell American has its hub here.   D is Air Canada, Alaska, United and Delta.  E is JetBlue, Frontier, Southwest and Spirit.  F is regional American Eagle flights.

Remember: ✈️ = streets of philadelphia to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = philadelphia freedom

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (SEPTA trains are pretty cheap to and from the city)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (if you want, you can walk all seven terminals)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (There’s Chick-Fil-A and Cantina Laredo.  Need I say more?  Yes? Bar Symon, Chickie & Pete’s (crab fries), Chipotle, Dunkin Donuts, Pinkberry and Red Mango, Legal Seafood.  Oh yeah, Geno’s and Tony Luke’s for cheesesteaks 😉

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (will get updated with the expansion, I’m sure)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, lots of charging stations — the kind with actual desks and seating)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️  (typical airport stores, not a ton of luxury brands, but there are minute suites, Admirals, British Airways, Delta and United lounges and rotating art exhibitions.)

know before you go: Las Vegas (LAS)

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Labor Day is the bittersweet holiday that marks the end of the summer, and what better way to commemorate hard workers who have helped this country prosper (?) than to get out of town and party!?!

I’m headed to one of my favorite airports this weekend, McCarran International Airport (LAS) serving Las Vegas, Nevada.  You could not get me to drive on the 15 during a holiday weekend, and so I’ll pick flying to Vegas every time…especially because it is a fun airport.  There’s a lot to do here on a layover, like gamble!  I’m not sure I’ve ever flown internationally from here, but I would say I average 6-8 domestic connections per year.  It’s a huge hub to and from the west coast with 110 gates.

First of all, it’s fairly close to the strip (less than 5 miles), and it’s cool to see Las Vegas boulevard from an aerial view as you start your descent.  This part always gets me pumped.  However, because Las Vegas is hella hot, both takeoffs and landings can be very turbulent.  This part makes me hesitant.  That’s Las Vegas in a nutshell.

The worst thing about flying into Vegas is that inevitably, one of your flight attendants will call it “Lost Wages.”  This is the worst joke, it needs to be retired.  Please.

The confusing thing is that it is split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.   There is no Terminal 2.  Not sure if Lance Burton (a Vegas deep cut reference)  made it disappear or what, but it’s not there.  Terminal 1 (concourses A-D) has a lot of domestic, but not all.  Terminal 3 (also D along with E) has international and some domestic.

I love people watching here.  There’s no other airport where the arrivals and departures are so bipolar.  When people get here, they’re ready to party, all bright-eyed and bushy tailed.  And then when they leave…well they look more like Conor McGregor after 10 rounds with Floyd Mayweather.

The security lines are always a bit hairy, and you’ll watch the TSA video featuring celebrity impersonators/Vegas entertainers like a hundred times, but once you’re in, there’s chimes and flashing lights and all sorts of commotion from the slot machines!

They have good fast food options, it’s easy to get from one concourse to the other (although from the Southwest C gates takes half your life).   You have to take a tram from the gates to baggage, but it’s quick.  The baggage claim area is huge.  Their rideshare waiting area can be tricky to get to (have to cross the street into a parking structure whose elevator levels have the weirdest designations–random mezzanine level, huh?). But overall, if you had to have a layover here, it wouldn’t be a complete loss (unless you do get tempted by the shiny machines with the flashing lights).

Remember: ✈️ = lost wages to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = viva, las vegas!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (good signs, it’s a long walk)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (get there early)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (mostly fast food, great hours, and there’s Coffee Bean and Starbucks)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️ (always crowded, need more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not enough charging stations in the gate areas, but have designated areas that are always packed)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Gaming facilities.  People watching can occupy you for hours.  Only a few lounges (AmEx and United), some Xpress Spas, weird B list mall stores, no luxury purveyors because I think they want you to spend the money in their casinos instead)

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