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: 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: 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: 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: Toronto (YYZ)

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Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) is the main airport for the largest city in Canada, Toronto.  Spacious, clean lines, easy to navigate, it gives a great first impression when you’re landing here for the first time, especially because there’s a prominent Tim Hortons on the arrivals level!

There are two terminals, 1 and 3.  Terminal 1 has 58 gates in a whopping 6 million square feet space.  That’s right, 6 million.  Great white north indeed.  This is one of the biggest buildings in the world and also nbd, but Moshe Safdie’s architecture firm had a hand in designing it.  Air Canada (hub), Emirates, and Star Alliance (including United, which was me) operate out of this terminal.

Terminal 3 operates Skyteam and Oneworld alliance flights along with Etihad and WestJet out of 48 gates.

When you’re traveling to the US, there’s separate gates/customs screening which makes the process very streamlined.  Although, I couldn’t get like three kiosks to work before finding one that functioned correctly.

Remember: ✈️ = started from the bottom ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = and now we’re here

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (22.5 km from downtown Toronto –traffic can be a bear; there’s also train from the airport to Union Station downtown $CAD12)

Rental Car area: ✈️✈️ (conveniently located in the parking structure across from the terminals, however when returning the car, it’s hard to tell which terminal your airline is located in because there are no signs. I fortunately guessed Terminal 1 correctly.  Moral of the story, check ahead of time to determine from which terminal you’re flying)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a super fast people mover in terminal 1, Link train connects the two terminals)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (not too crowded, flows easily)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Good variety of chains, Tim Hortons, and local chefs backed eateries.  I spent my last few loonies at Hearth by Lynn Crawford, not sure $CAD20+ for a burger was that well spent but it was decent for a well-done burger)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (very clean and spacious)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (Many lounges.  Nice selection of luxury purveyors: Bally, Burberry, Gucci, Mont Blanc, Ferragamo, Longchamp, Tumi. Hudson’s Bay department store, 7-elevens, nail salons, Sheraton Hotel connected to terminal 3)

know before you go: Copenhagen (CPN)

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I believe that the airport is a window to a city’s soul.  Copenhagen Kastrup (CPN) matches up with its city quite well.  It’s got all sorts of expensive things in a clean, sleek design that’s easily navigable.  Honestly, it looks like a mall when you get deep into the concourse.

It is the largest airport in the Nordic region, serving as a huge hub for Northern European travel.  There are only two terminals, 2 and 3 that encompass ~ 108 gates.  It’s 5 miles away from the city center, and it’s so easy to get there by train (platform 2 if you want to go towards the city, take any gray train).  Security is very efficient and fast, and there’s a focus on self-check in which went a lot more easily than I thought it would.

The food choices are varied and feature a lot of Copenhagen favorites and chains: Joe & the Juice, Lagkagehuset, 7-11, Starbucks, Aamaan’s Smorrebords, Caviar House (!), McDonalds, Burger King.  The shopping is incredible: Hermes, Gucci, Georg Jensen, Paul Smith, Bang & Olufsen, Royal Copenhagen, Peter Beier Chocolates, Mulberry, and Burberry to name a few. And of course, since you’re in Denmark, there’s a Lego store.

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Remember: ✈️ = something rotten in Denmark to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = everything is awesome!

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (5 miles to city center, so easy by trains that run very frequently to and from airport)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s very large, but they provide you free carts for your carry on luggage–HUGE)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s a lot of self-check in kiosks to make check in go super fast; security lines are long but go quickly)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (there are 3 lagkagehuset bakeries, multple 7-11s and joe & the juices, many hygge eateries)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (decently clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, could have more charging areas)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (some of the best shopping both local and luxury, did I mention there’s lagekagehuset bakeries, hotel, a replica of the Little Mermaid, airline lounges, very hygge place)

know before you go: Detroit (DET)

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If you’re going to have a layover in Detroit, it will probably be in McNamara Terminal via Delta.  I’ll spoil the surprise, you’re gonna love it.  This airport and I go way back to the times of Northwest being a hub here before it was taken over by Delta.  Loved it then, love it still.

The design is sleek, modern and very open.  It doesn’t feel that crowded because there is a lot of room to move around.  It’s also very clean.  The ceilings are incredibly high because there’s an above ground tram (!) that takes you from one end to the other because it’s so big.  You can walk if you choose, but it is quite a journey.

Moreover, there’s like six different options for coffee, and with the tram, it makes it feasible to have Coffee Bean at one end and make it back for your flight at the other end.

There’s two terminals: McNamara (Delta, Air France, KLM) and North (Air Canada, Alaska, American, Southwest, Royal Jordanian, Lufthansa, Frontier, JetBlue, and United).  McNamara has split into concourses A-C (although B and C are just accessory concourses but there’s like a rave lighted tunnel to get there) with 105 gates.  North has 26.  I’m basing this review on McNamara.

Remember: ✈️ = no town  to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = detroit rock city!

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (I cannot stress enough the amazing above ground tram for the one concourse!)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️✈️  (can get crowded, moves quickly)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (lots of variety in type of cuisine, price points and dining level: sit down vs fast vs lounge vs fast casual).  Chic-Fil-A to PF Changs to Tim Horton’s to a Robata to Robert Mondavi experience to Coney Island?  Like, you don’t see those restaurants at any other airports)

Bathrooms:✈️✈️✈️  (very clean and well lit)

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

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (the tram, Delta Sky Lounge, fountains, shopping is a bit random)

know before you go: Los Angeles (LAX)

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I have often called LAX the eighth portal of hell, and I mean it.  There is no worse pain than landing at LAX on a Friday afternoon/night.  Well, maybe there is if you’re Chrissy Teigen and John Legend.  Y’all need to stop what you’re doing right now and read about their 8 hour flight from LAX to LAX due to a passenger snafu last night.  I would die.

Anyway, if you’re flying into LA, hope you didn’t make any plans because you’ll be stuck for an hour before you can even reach Century or Sepulveda Blvds.  It has one of the worst traffic flow designs of any place that is allegedly supposed to serve that many people.  Like the architect deliberately thought, how can we purposely make it so there’s only one route out that bottlenecks like crazy?

Even though it one of the worse places on this planet (you think I’m exaggerating.  I am not), it’s a necessary evil that has to be dealt with because you can fly almost anywhere from there.  One of the busiest airports by volume, if you’ve flown internationally from SoCal, you’ve likely flown out of LAX.  It is the second busiest airport in the US by passenger load, and maybe for this week it is a little better than the busier ATL (at least there’s power).

There are 8 numbered terminals separate from the Tom Bradley International terminal.  1= Southwest; 2 = Delta and SkyTeam members: Aer Lingus, WestJet, Virgin, Aeromexico.  3 = Delta, Copa, Avianca, Interjet; 4 = American 5 = American, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Allegiant, Frontier, Spirit, Sun Country. 6 = Alaska, Virgin America, Air Canada, Mokulele, Great Lakes. 7 and 8 = United.  There are random exceptions in terms of check in counters for some of the international carriers of the codeshare alliances, but all international flights return to Tom Bradley (TBIT).

I will give it one thing though, there’s some good shopping there, particularly duty free.  And if you’re uber wealthy, there are separate luxury lounges that are not connected to the terminals where you can get checked in and taken to your plane by SUV.  There could be more restaurants, as the selection is dispersed sparingly amongst the terminals.

Remember: ✈️ = welcome to the jungle to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = i love LA (we love it)

Convenience to the city: ✈️  (theoretically it is, practically it is not; may the odds be ever in your favor if you’re flying in during peak hours, rideshares help but it takes awhile)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️  (you’re at the mercy of shuttle buses on the tarmac that wind passengers around planes from terminal to terminal)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️ ✈️ (fairly efficient for its size)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (three planes because the eateries are good, but limited in each terminal, so there’s not that many given options.  But…you should look for Ink.sack by Michael Voltaggio in TBIT, La Brea Bakery in Terminal 1, lots of Coffee Beans and Starbucks as well as local coffee shops around; Pinkberry locations, Panda Expresses, Shake Shack in terminal 3, Wolfgang Puck eateries in 6, the Habit and Wahoo’s fish tacos in 6; LA’s hipcute cafeteria Lemonade in 5, Umami Burger, 800 Degrees Pizza, SlapFish, etc)

Bathrooms: ✈️  (don’t expect them to be that clean unless you’re in a recently renovated terminal)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️  (no free wifi, which makes complete sense)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (every lounge ever (including a luxe Qantas), retail from bliss spa, Spanx to Burberry, Gucci, Hermes, Harley Davidson — wish there were more options per terminal, but hey real estate is a premium here.  I took one plane off because the Sanrio store closed.  Also, don’t forget to check out the spacey Theme Building on arrival, home of the former Encounters restaurant (wasn’t actually that bad food wise) but now is a viewing deck on the weekends)

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know before you go: Long Beach (LGB)

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As we start traveling for the holidays, I have to shout out to one of my home airports.  Ah Long Beach, a lovely little secret.  I like flying into this tiny regional airport.  It’s no frills, quick, easy and it makes you feel like you’re in the 60s or something because you go out directly onto the tarmac when you come and go.

LGB is a hub for JetBlue, but now Southwest even has some flights out of here. There a couple of regional Delta and American flights as well. It’s one small terminal split into North and South concourses with 11 gates for the whole airport.  JetBlue has gates 1-5. There’s not much food, but what are you doing eating at the airport? You’re likely coming from LA/OC anyway.

Overall it’s a nice airport to get from point A to point B quickly.  The fact that you can skip LAX to get to NY and Boston from this no fuss airport is awesome and worth giving up on amenities and dining.

Remember: ✈️ = so much drama in the LBC to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sublime

Convenience to the city: ✈️ (it’s in Long Beach, off the 405, may the odds be ever in your favor)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (I think it takes 5 minutes from one end to the other)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (not a lot of traffic = fast lines)

Dining: ✈️ (bring your own food)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not that many of them)

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

Amenities: ✈️ (what are amenities?)

 

 

 

know before you go: Newark (EWR)

 

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I hadn’t been to Newark Liberty (EWR) in years, like more than a decade, and it has changed considerably for the better.  One of the airports serving NYC as well as most of the Garden State, it has very heavy traffic.  There were people everywhere.

We’re talking a TON of restaurants, shops and amenities.  It’s still crowded, and the addition of said trendy restaurants in the middle of the concourses narrows the walking path quite a bit. But, at least there’s stuff to see and do.

I was really pleasantly surprised at the amount of food choices and the presence of the Global Food Bazaar, although ramen, pizza and philly cheesesteaks doesn’t quite scream “global” to me…but at least they tried.

There are 121 gates in three terminals A-C, each with three concourses.  A serves JetBlue, Alaska, Virgin, Southwest, Air Canada, American, United Express.  B is international, Delta and Spirit.  C is United and is the terminal I passed through (i.e walked circles in).  If you’re flying in from the north, sit on the left side of the plane.  You’ll catch a great view of Manhattan and will even be able to see the lights of Times Square from very high up (think about all that energy being used!)

Remember: ✈️ = EW-R to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = the Boss

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (airtrain connects to the train/amtrak station which will connect you basically everywhere in the tri-state area)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️ (the hallways are narrow because of restaurants taking up the middle portion)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Global Bazaar food market, CBGB, all sorts of chains, upmarket restaurants/bars, fast casual bistro types, Dumpling Bar–I would skip this food is meh, neapolitan pizza, french brasserie, steakhouse, sushi/ramen, oyster bar — like everything you could want at exorbitant prices)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️  (clean but there could be more of them dispersed)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, plentiful charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️  (the shops are a little weird, America! store? Swatch? There is a Metropolitan Museum of Art store so that’s a plus, CBGB’s, spas–mainly the things to see here are food based and of course, people watching–the best activity on layover)

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how bazaar