I found a new blog yesterday, AirportsMadeSimple. A blog! About airports! This is so useful! Such a simple idea — but so smart. Everyone writes about places to visit, but who writes about the practicalities of the things that GET you where you need to go? Not so much. Huzzah for information!
Wow, talk about pro tips for Brazilian airports — hidden gates, recycled gates, and the perils of the Brazilians’ love of shopping and how it will impact your layover time. :D
Reading that reminded me of how much I loved the airports in New Zealand! We visited five airports — Auckland (domestic and international terminals), Queenstown, Christchurch, Wellington, and Rotorua.
I could probably write a whole other post about airport tips, but I thought I’d sing the praises first.
1. You’re in beautiful places. Well, this is a given. Just look out all those windows! Airports usually have a million windows, but unlike LAX (mmm, tarmac…), you almost always have a great view.
2. They don’t care that much about checking your ID (domestically). Coming from the US, it’s a complete shock (and relief). They’re an island! Either you’re a native, and you’re a pretty known quantity, or you’re a visitor, and you’ve already come through customs in Auckland. I’m pretty sure nobody checked our ID for any domestic flight.
3. FREE WIFI. In a country of irritating poky internet speeds, tightfisted access to wifi, and hardly any free wifi… I definitely appreciated the glorious freedom to actually look at more than 8 MB at a time. (Seriously. A hotel we stayed at — 20 minutes per day, or 8 MB, whichever ran out first.)
As Liz of Young Adventuress said “As I understand it from my tech friends, NZ is literally at the end of the under-the-ocean-magic-internet-cable” (#6 on this post). Yes. It is. And you pay for it! Like crazy! So be happy when you get free wifi. (Pro tip — the Auckland airport even had free computer terminals to use, if you don’t have a mobile device!)
4. Pharmacies!!! Hello, why isn’t this a thing everywhere? Like not just a few packages of painkillers and some bandaids — the bigger airports had full service pharmacies. (Christchurch and Auckland at least, probably more.) In a place where you’re corralled with germy people or just got released from being trapped with ’em — wouldn’t it be nice to fill a prescription immediately? Or talk to a pharmacist? My mom was able to chat with a pharmacist about a mouth concern and get advice, for free.
5. Self-service everything, if you want. For people who hate waiting in lines if they don’t have to, most airports let you do everything yourself when checking in (if you’d like), including tagging your checked luggage and tossing it onto the conveyor belts! Ahh, sweet relief. THANK YOU AIR NEW ZEALAND! :D
6. Heavenly security procedures. Jacket on? Who cares! Coffee? No problem. I’m 90% sure they don’t check your boarding pass, either — you can hang out in the gate area if you want. Just remember that security opens and closes in the smaller airports between flights. (Not the end of the world, but an interesting idea. It gives them time to reorganize between streams of travelers.)
7. Simple public transportation. We took buses to and from every airport, and it was pretty easy to get maps and information. Even the tiniest airport had frequent buses running.
8. Comfy lounge areas and plenty of food for everyone. Leaving Auckland, before you go to the gate, they have an entire area full of little loveseat couches to just sprawl on. Christchurch had a food court bigger than half the malls in LA county. Plus, most of the time — anyone can access the food and lounge areas, because they’re pre-security! Three cheers for waiting with family members in comfy locations.
9. And another given — friendly people! Okay, everyone has an off day, but it was such a relief to go through unfamiliar places with nice people. Just go talk to the dude in the silver Airstream selling coffee at the Auckland airport, he’s happy to explain what a “flat white” is, how the owner bought the trailers in Arizona and had them shipped, and how to get between the international and domestic terminals. :)
I’m pretty sure I’ve never been less stressed in airports than when in New Zealand*!
(* Well, except when I burned my mouth on boiling hot spinach pasty, that really killed the mood for a few days…)
Have you ever visited a nice, thoughtfully planned airport that didn’t stress you out to visit? Any horror stories? ;)