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: 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: SMF airport

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Flying out of Sacramento, California (SMF) airport is probably the fastest experience of any airport.  It’s impressive.  I’ve flown out of here dozens of times and it has literally never taken me more than 15 minutes from parking to gate, and this is even on holiday weekends.

The airport is about 15 minutes from Downtown Sacramento, so depending on the time of the day, you could be stuck in infamous California traffic, so plan accordingly.

There are two terminals: A & B with 32 gates total.  A is home to American, United, Delta, Jet Blue.  B has Southwest, Alaska, and Hawaiian.  I appreciate when airports have multiple options for coffee shops, and while they are still chains such as Starbucks and Peet’s, at least you have options.  The unique thing about Sacramento is that the food offerings are almost exclusively local Sacramento restaurants, which is an extra nice touch for people to get the local flavor of the town if you only have a layover.

Other than security being fairly efficient and fast, the airport is clean, has a lot of outlets for charging your devices, and has plentiful restrooms.  Downsides, there are not any lounges, but as there are not too many direct international flights, you’re probably not going to have too long of a layover or need to shower here.

Remember: ✈️ = old sac to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = sac kings

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (it’s pretty far from downtown, even though the traffic isn’t usually terrible)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️:  super efficient, especially if you have pre-check

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Dos Coyotes, Burgers and Brew, Iron Horse, Paesano’s, Cafeteria 15L, and Squeeze Inn are all local restaurants, which is nice if you don’t end up leaving the airport)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (clean facilities)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available, charging available both in common areas and at the gates)

Amenities:✈️✈️ (no lounges, not a lot of shopping, a somewhat out of place Asian Pacific Californian exhibit?)

 

know before you go: JFK

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I have a complex relationship with JFK, as I do with LAX.  Being the two most populous international arrival airports, they should be more inviting and welcoming than they are.  Instead, customs lines are long, people aren’t the friendliest, and they both could be cleaner for sure.  Plus, at JFK, you have to leave security to go terminal to terminal!  There’s no way that’s not confusing to a foreign visitor, or even to a local for that matter.

Perhaps we’re trying to give foreign visitors a picture of what America’s truly like?  Confusing and crowded and sweaty.  At least it’s still better than LaGuardia?

JFK is located in Queens, about 16 miles south of Manhattan.  There are 6 terminals with about 128 gates.  Terminal one serves a bevy of international carriers (Air France, Korean, Lufthansa, JAL, Turkish, Norwegian, WOWAir, Alitalia, Air China, China Eastern).  Terminal 2 is for Delta, Four is for Delta and Skyteam (including Aeromexico, China Airlines, China Southern, KLM; JetBlue, Emirates, Etihad, Singapore and Virgin amongst many others).  Terminal 5 is a club in NYC and it also serves JetBlue.  Terminal 7 has British Airways, Alaska, LOT, Icelandair and Qatar.  Terminal 8 is for American.

Remember: ✈️ = ny i love you but you’re bringing me down to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = welcome to new york (it’s been waiting for you)

Transportation to the airport:  ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (metro, bus, taxi, car, airporter, lots of options)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️ (just the fact that you have to exit and re-enter security sucks)

Convenience of security lines: ✈️✈️ (it goes as fast as it can with the sheer volume of passenger traffic; customs lines can be brutal here)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (there’s lots of options, but it’s inconsistent; like some terminals have McDonald’s and Starbucks, some don’t.  Some have Peet’s and don’t get me started, eesh.  7-Eleven in a few, and Terminal 4 has two Shake Shacks while the others don’t have any.  Some have Dunkin Donuts and Buffalo Wild Wings/Panda Express!  Why so cruel, JFK?  And since it’s NY, so I’m kind of expecting elevated dining, but there isn’t much beyond fast casual)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (please don’t judge us by the bathrooms in this airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi — didn’t always used to be the case)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️ (again, inconsistent luxury shopping between international terminals.  Tumi, Cartier, Hermes, Mont Blanc — do people need last minute fountain pens as gifts? Good luck in Terminal 2, there’s like a Best Buy kiosk for shopping and that’s it.  Lots of international flights means lots of lounges {except for the last one shutting down in Terminal 5}, but don’t expect any yoga or meditation/prayer rooms in this airport, there’s no real estate for that)

know before you go: London Gatwick (LGW)

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London Gatwick may be my favorite airport in London (only because Heathrow is the LAX of London.  Sure, no American carriers are there, but it’s quaint and manageable. Even though it’s a smaller scale, it still has tons of amenities.  A sizeable Harrod’s!  A lot of seating! A Nandos, which is HUGE!

It’s located about 30 miles south of central London, but the Gatwick express will get you there from Victoria station in a jiffy (for about £20).

There are two terminals, North and South that are connected pre-security by a people mover.  There’s 115 gates split amongst both terminals.  North serves EasyJet, Air Canada, Emirates, Virgin, West Jet and Icelandair.  South serves British Airways, and everyone else (Norwegian, Cathay Pacific, Aer Lingus, etc).

Remember: ✈️ = london fog to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = london calling

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (Gatwick express is speedy, but spendy. i got to the train early and still didn’t have a seat either)

Security: ✈️ (if you print your boarding pass there, be forewarned, it probably won’t work too well in the self-check first security gate)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (5 planes for Nandos.  I love Nandos, and the fact that they serve their take away in containers making it easy to eat on the go is SO convenient –sorry seat mates on plane, I’m eating my pitta. There’s also Starbucks, Jamie Oliver Italian, wagamama, and wetherspoon)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (for some reason, never encountered a line)

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

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️✈️ (a bunch of lounges, British Airways and Virgin especially; Harrod’s, multi-faith prayer rooms, on site hotels and conference centers)

know before you go: Bali (DPS)

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Bali is an otherworldly oasis, tucked away in the pacific island nation of Indonesia.  It’s paradise found for many who flock there for romantic getaways and family vacations.  To get there can be tricky, but there is an airport that serves this area: Ngurah Rai airport (DPS).  Named after a Balinese hero who fought the Dutch, this airport is about 12 km from Denpasar (the capital of Bali) and about 2.5 km from Kuta, a main resort area.

It is Indonesia’s third busiest airport, although a share of passengers has been shifted away to Lombok Airport.  There are two terminals (split into Domestic and International) with about 25 gates serving mostly Asian and Australian carriers and destinations. Domestic mostly serves Garuda, Batik, Indonesia, Citilink NAM, and Siriwaja.  International carriers include Cathay, China, China Eastern and Southern, Emirates, Qatar, KLM, Korean, Qantas, Thai and Virgin Australia.

Remember: ✈️ = bally total fitness to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = bally’s las vegas

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ = not too far, but as in any Asian country, beware of swindlers and pickpockets.  Taxis are notorious for overcharging and cheating tourists, so get a shuttle to your hotel if possible or take the bus transport.

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ : some western options (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza hut, Haagen Daz, Hard Rock Cafe), but take this opportunity to explore some interesting Asian eateries with the best names: The Duck King, Beard Papa, Coffee Club.  The traditional Indonesian fare looks amazing: Kantin Modern, Singgalang Jaya, Bakso Lapangan Tembak Senayan.

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ : tidy, could have more

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ : free wifi, but not a ton of charging areas

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️: balinese architecture is beautiful, these decent dining options, Garuda Executive lounge, spa, the shopping could be better and more luxurious

 

 

know before you go: Palm Springs (PSP)

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Palm Springs, formerly the hotbed of older celebrities: Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Bing Crosby.  Now still pretty well used by the jetset for quick getaways (and Coachella).  Located about 2 hours from LA, this small regional airport gets its mileage from the tons of events that happen year round…and its proximity to some top desert resorts.

There are only 20 gates, and two runway, but there is a lot of sun in its open floorplan.  There is a main terminal, but the gates are split into Sonny Bono and an unnamed concourse.  Sonny Bono was the former mayor of the city, and congressman…also he was a half of Sonny & Cher, duh. American, Allegiant, Alaska, Delta, United and Westjet all fly regular flights out of this airport. Air Canada, Frontier, JetBlue and Sun Country fly seasonal flights in the winter.  Who knew Canadians came down here so often?

Remember: ✈️ = the beat goes on to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = i got you babe

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ = 2 miles away from downtown Palm Springs, and security is a breeze

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (they know their audience: 2 starbucks, golf themed restaurant and a winery; Celebrity Bistro has a beautiful, prime location in the center of the courtyard)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (clean, not very notable)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️ (free wifi available, not as much charging, but it’s a small airport)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️ (PGA store, some sundries shops, mainly you’re here for the peaceful outdoor courtyard)