know before you go: San Antonio (SAT)

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When I heard there was a rhesus monkey that somehow got loose in the San Antonio airport, I thought to myself, that’s so San Antonio.  He was probably just jonesing for some Raising Cane’s (IMO, the best food vendor in the airport).

One of the fastest growing cities in the US, San Antonio is a strange place, often overshadowed by its hip neighbor Austin.  It seems to be a nice place to live and work, and for some reason there are always conferences there.  I myself, have been to San Antonio several times and thus have passed through the airport where said monkey wreaked havoc yesterday.

Located about 8 miles from downtown/River walk, this airport has 24 gates split into two terminals.  Terminal A offers service from Aeromexico, Alaska, Allegiant, Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, and Southwest. Terminal B serves American and United flights and there’s a USO for the large military presence in SA.

Remember: ✈️ = Old Man Riverwalk to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = The Big Fundamental

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (not too far and pretty easy to get to from the touristy Riverwalk area)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️:  there’s a steady flow

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Raising Cane’s.  There has been a vast improvement since the first time I visited years ago, but taking off a plane for no whataburger)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly well dispersed for a smaller airport)

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

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️ (there a few mall stores, duty free, United lounge, USO)

know before you go: STL

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name a more iconic duo…i’ll wait

Really, the only thing you need to know is that Lambert International Airport (STL) serving St. Louis, Missouri has Ted Drewes custard machines.

This alone should give it a top rating.  These babies serve 6 concrete flavors, ice cold, smooth and creamy deliciousness, I would book a flight there today just for that.  Bold statement coming:  you have not lived until you’ve had Ted Drewes custard.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Lambert Airport (named after a famous STL Olympian and aviator) is one of more historic airports in the country, as it is the site of the first use of air traffic control, and it had close association with Charles “Spirit of St. Louis” Lindbergh.  It has two terminals, Terminal 2 is made up of Concourse E for Southwest and international travel, with WOWAir starting this month to Iceland.

Terminal 1 is slight into 4 concourses:  A serves Delta, United, Air Canada Express, B is vacant and used for events; C is used by American, Frontier, Cape Air and Air Choice One (question mark?), D is mostly vacant except for those renamed as E gates and used by Southwest.  Because many gates are vacant right now, it’s hard to tell how many are actually in use, but probably ~40 active gates.

Remember: ✈️ = E.I. E.I uh-oh to  ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = meet me in st. louis

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (about 14 miles from Downtown, it’s not that close, but it does sit quite prominently on i-70)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s all one long connected strand)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (better than most)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (five ✈️ for Ted Drewes; if you’re eating anything other than a concrete from one of the three vending machines in this airport, you’re just being unnecessary…although I can make an exception for a Schlafly at one of the two brewery locations).

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (can use a little updating, but usually clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available for 60 minutes)

Amenities: ✈️  (Well, you didn’t come here to shop.  There’s an American Airlines Admirals’ Club and a Wingtips common use lounge, but otherwise just find a Ted Drewes to keep you occupied)

know before you go: PHX

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Phoenix SkyHarbor has to be one of the most connected through airports to the West. A hub for Southwest, I feel like I’ve flown into here or Denver a million times.  It’s a nice airport to have a layover, there are a lot of casual dining options and there’s a lot of space to stretch out and relax, although I wish things were open later. Recently in the news for its newest feature, an Urgent Care, it’s a huge facility that has a lot of interesting amenities.

There are 3 terminals (2, 3 and 4) comprised of 116 gates.  There are people movers, but the distance between the concourses is vast.  Terminal 2 serves United, Spirit and Alaska.  Terminal 3 is the home of Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian and JetBlue.  Terminal 4 serves American, British Airways, Southwest, Volaris and WestJet.  Almost every domestic carrier is represented here.

Remember: ✈️ = from the ashes to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = phoenix rising

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (it’s a little bit of a trek, and driving around in the airport loop can be tiresome)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️ (would be impossible without people movers)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (not the worst, not the best)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (it’s a large airport, so there’s lots of food: from McDonald’s to Cartel Coffee, Panda Express and Pei Wei, Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Peet’s).

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (they could have more, but usually clean)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (Urgent Care, airport lounges for each of the  major carriers, FitPHX trails, XpressSpa, a lot of Native American themed shops)

 

 

 

know before you go: Edinburgh (EDI)

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not sure what the reverse man hole cover is

Great Scott!  There’s no flying Deloreans, but plenty of planes.  Edinburgh (EDI) is a pretty cool little airport.  I mean, it kind of looks like a weird face from above or at least a pair of goggles, so that’s something.

For being a smaller airport, it’s the largest in Scotland and the 6th largest in passenger volume in the UK.  Not too shabby.  With many low cost carriers like WOW and RyanAir offering flights, I’m sure it’ll only get more popular with time.

There’s only one terminal and about 25 gates, so it’s easy to manage.  The best thing about it is that the exit is just steps from the Edinburgh tram stop, the most convenient way to get into the city (takes about 30-35 minutes).  This was HUGE when I had a long layover here — I just bought a return ticket and got to see all of Edinburgh in a few hours.

Remember: ✈️ = duke of edinburgh the crown season 2 to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = duke of edinburgh season 1 (very specific example, I know)

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (the tram is a godsend)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s only one)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (was pretty quick)

Dining: ✈️✈️  (not much, there’s a Costa coffee and Starbucks before security and a Krispy Kreme and M&S after)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️  (could use a little updating)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available–tons of charging at Starbucks)

Amenities: ✈️✈️  (a few souvenir shops, Michael Kors, Aerospa, Superdrug)

 

 

know before you go: Ontario (ONT)

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No, not Canada.  To continue the Coachella prep, for out of town friends joining in on the party, consider Ontario, an Inland Empire airport into which you can fly.  There’s not much there, so enjoy the animal style above instead.  The best thing about this airport is that there’s an In-n-out across the street.  Otherwise, it’s a hard sell unless you’re flying Southwest.

But remember, #1 rule on this blog: avoid LAX at all costs.  PSP is ideal, but it’s probably going to be pricey for the average general admission holder.  SNA is further and more expensive. Ontario is about a 90 minute drive from Indio, and it’s a really efficient and gets you from point A to point B.

There are two terminals, numbered 2 and 4, and a separate international arrivals area for a total of about 28 gates.  It is an international airport, with flights to Guadalajara and Taipei — but mostly it’s Southwest locoregional flights on the west coast.

Remember: ✈ = ontario, CA to ✈✈✈✈✈ = ontario, CA (you can decide which is which)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈✈✈✈ — it’s pretty small

Convenience of security lines: ✈✈✈

Dining: ✈ (there is a Coffee Bean, but you should really consider eating elsewhere before — hence the In-n-Out)

Bathrooms: ✈✈ (there could be more)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈✈  (free wifi available, not many charging areas)

Amenities: ✈ (you’re not here to shop, you’re here to get in and out)

know before you go: London Heathrow (LHR)

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“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think of the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.” — Hugh Grant, Love Actually.

Thus is the beginning to the greatest romantic comedy -with major plot points played out in an airport- ever.  I know, really specific–but that scene with Thomas Sangster Brodie where he’s running through to catch the girl! Love it.

Even though there’s quite a liberal dusting of Hollywood magic in that movie (who would ever cheat on Colin Firth?!?), at least that first scene is accurate.  The excitement always reaches a climax when you walk through that hallway and emerge to see the throngs of people waiting for you. Love is actually all around!

Heathrow is the second busiest airport in the world, and has over 200 gates. You can fly just about anywhere, on any airline.  It’s about 14 miles from the city center, and can be reached via Heathrow Express train, the tube, and bus.  Express will get you to the city in 15 minutes; the tube will take 40 minutes, but it’s only ~3 pounds.

There are four terminals split by alliances.  Terminal 2 — the Queen’s terminal — is Star Alliance (United, Aer Lingus, Icelandair), 3 is OneWorld (Virgin, Delta, Emirates, Qantas, etc), 4 is Skyteam (except Delta), Etihad, Malaysia and Qatar, and 5 is British Airways.

Remember: ✈️ = joni mitchell’s blue to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = to me you are perfect

Convenience to city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (although only ✈️ for hotels, catching the Hoppa would be a lot easier if there were signs telling you which stop is designated for each hotel)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️

Convenience of security lines: N/A, but customs line was ✈️✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (Gordon Ramsay plane food, a few different coffee options, Wagamama, Fortnum & Mason –although more for souvenirs than eating, Pre-a-manger.  I gave it an extra for an M&S simply food, my fav grab and go London spot)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️ (not too shabby for amount of passenger traffic)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (lots of airline lounges, a chaplain for every religion, the BEST shopping with Dior, Burberry, Bvlgari, Chanel, Gucci, Harrod’s, Jack Wills, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Ferragamo, Mulberry, Saint Laurent, Ted Baker, Stella McCartney, Rolex, Tiffany, Thomas Pink! It’s better than like every mall. Emoji heart eyes x trillion.)

 

3 days in Portland

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Portland is one of the great food cities in the country.  Add the lush backdrop of Mt. Hood and the proximity to natural beauties such as Columbia River Gorge, and you have a perfect destination to spend a few days.

There are so many distinct personalities of the city, as depicted on Portlandia.  While maybe a slight exaggeration, it certainly is an amalgam of cultures and types of people. So come with an open mind and an open stomach, grab a pair of Portland based Nikes and…

Just do it.

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know before you go: Dublin (DUB)

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Top of the morning to ya. Dublin (DUB) is an exceptionally beautiful airport that serves a lot of flights to and from the US to Europe.

There are two terminals connected via pedestrian bridge.  Terminal 1 serves: most european carriers including Air France, British Airways, Etihad, FinnAir, KLM, and Lufthansa.

Terminal two serves: Aer Lingus, Delta, American, Emirates and United.  This is the modern terminal that opened in 2010,  underscoring the lush Irish countryside with floor to ceiling glass.  This is also the terminal I flew into on Aer Lingus.

Because it is modern, there is good signage, a good amount of restrooms and charging areas.   As an aside, I will say that the people who work in this airport (especially for Aer Lingus) are unnervingly attractive.  Like really, did they do a casting call for good-looking young Irish folk or something?  Their emerald-hued uniforms are so striking, and all of the flight attendants look like the could be a member of the Corrs family.

This airport also features a special pre-clearance area for travelers going to the US.  It is the best thing ever.  You get all of your customs screening done here and when you return to the US, you’re treated like a domestic arrival because it’s all done. Apparently, there’s also a new executive lounge for pre-clearance customers available for a small free as well.

Remember: ✈️ = one pint of Guinness to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = many pints of Guinness

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️

Convenience of security lines: N/A, but customs line was ✈️✈️

Dining: ✈️✈️ (some Irish offerings, grab and gos and Burger King)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (incredibly clean facilities)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (free wifi available—none of their chargers seemed to work and are very few in terminal 2)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (preclearance to the US, airline lounges, but duty free shopping could be better, there’s a chocolate lounge that serves sundaes and fondue though so…call it a draw?)

Consider yourself to have the luck of the Irish if you get to have a layover here.

know before you go: Venice (VCE)

MARCO!!!!

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… POLO!!!

That’s right, the official name of Venice’s airport is Marco Polo, named after the famous Venetian native son known for being a well-traveled explorer and trader.  Luckily for us, we don’t have to take years long journeys to get from one place to the other now, we can jet in and out from his airport.

Flying into Venice through his airport will afford you one of the most marvelous views of your life.  If you’re sure to catch a seat on the right side of the plane, towards the front, you may catch a glimpse of one of the most beautiful cities in the world from a birds eye vantage point.

It’s not a huge airport, one terminal split into only about 35 gates, but it understandably serves a lot of tourists heading on their Italian holidays.  Lots of european airlines, and SkyTeam airlines.  The airport itself sits about 5 miles from Venice’s city center, and can be reached by ACTV bus, Aliguna ferry or water taxi.  Careful, water taxis alone can be very expensive (but may be a little faster).

Remember: ✈️ = o sole mio  ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = volare

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (mainly because of the large sea in between airport and city, understandable though)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (only one terminal)

Dining: ✈️✈️ (all italian, but extra points for a gelateria on site)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly clean)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (Two lounges.  For being a smaller airport, there’s a lot of designer shops: Bvlgari, Versace, Ferragamo, Valentino — hey, you’re in Italy, what do you expect?)

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know before you go: Frankfurt

DF204D50-828D-45A0-961D-6A01194B7FF0Frankfurt is one of the main financial centers of the world (this is where the Euro comes from), and thusly, it’s airport is one of the busiest (fourth busiest in Europe).  It’s the hub for Lufthansa and has arrivals from all over the world with planes landing something like every 2-4 minutes.

I have family in Germany, so on occasion, there’s reason to fly into this airport.  It’s huge and can be quite overwhelming.  There are 2 terminals, Terminal 1 and 2 connected by a sky train.  Terminal 1 has about 105 gates, split into concourses A, B, C, and Z.  Terminal 2 has 42 gates split into D & E.  The airlines are split between the terminals/gates based on airline alliances rather than domestic/international so you could conceivably have to go from terminal to terminal.

There are railway stations below the airport, for both regional and long distance trains, which is helpful because Germany is a huge country.

Shopping is decent, but more geared towards business travelers.  There’s a Burberry, Ferragamo, Versace, Mont Blanc, Porsche, and Hermes in terms of high end, but mostly it’s airport shops.  Dining has a variety of German bakeries, many Italian takeaways and restaurants, Asian (lots, there’s crazy traffic from Asian countries here), McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks.  I wish there was more traditional German offerings, but Ludwig’s fits that bill.  Notably, there’s a Nordsee, which is one of my favorite Scandinavian fast food chains.

Remember: ✈️ = the wurst to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = the best

Convenience: ✈️✈️✈️  (the railways make it easy to get to from near and far)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️ (this is a VERY large airport with multiple levels, although signage and directions are in both German/English, there’s not many of them, so make sure you have enough time for layovers as it can be very difficult to get from one end to another especially if you have to go between Terminals on the tram)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ (for the scale of the airport, it’s as efficient as it could be, but there’s going to be a line)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️  (not enough German food, but your basics of American and Italian fare)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi in certain areas)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (stores are okay, there is gate to gate transfer service available for a fee, showers for a fee, lots of executive lounges and even the ultra exclusive Lufthansa first class separate building)