When we imagine our dream holiday, we think beaches, sunsets, margaritas, walking tours, museums, gorgeous outdoor cafes, meeting new people... In fact, we think lots of things.
What we don’t think - usually - is about how our fabulous last-minute holiday can start the moment we get out the front door and head for the airport. And how we can extend that holiday for a few hours longer on our flight back.
Look, if you hate flying, then start those mindful meditation exercises and ignore this article - it’s all about plane fun. But if you’re just not good at it: disorganised in how you pack, always late to the airport, forgetting to charge your phone before getting on the flight which you’ve barely made on time, then there is hope. And, hopefully, a fun experience ahead.
So, you’re jetting off on your spontaneous holiday to Crete and are ready for a week of sun, sea, surf (and checking out the birthplace of the Minotaur). Here’s how to get the most out of your impromptu hols before you’ve even landed in your dream destination…
Do some prep work
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If you're a frequent work-trip flier, you know there are two words that make every journey so much better: airport lounges. Free food. Free Wi-Fi. Free drinks. Free newspapers. And a place to sit, chat, work and relax.
The airport lounge experience is enough to entice even the most disorganised traveller into arriving at the airport early. But if work isn't footing the bill and you don't have the loyalty points, don't despair: get a Priority Pass
, which gives you use of over 1,200 lounges worldwide.
Also, look up your airport ahead of time. From pet therapy animals (yep, we're talking about stroking miniature horses before your flight) to movies, museum exhibits, CPR training and gaming, you can do a lot of cool things at airports around the world before your flight. All for FREE.
Fit in a workout (or a snooze)
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If you're anxious about not being able to move around on the five-hour plane journey ahead, then make the most of your airport time and walk, walk, walk around the terminal. Some airports can offer something even better, like the free gym at Estonia's Tallinn Airport, free yoga at Miami International Airport, centred wellness and fitness studio at Heathrow (due to open in 2018) or Amsterdam Schiphol's free meditation centre.
Browse the duty-free shops
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Fact: a duty-free shopping spree can be as much fun as the holiday itself. Especially when you know you're bagging a bargain (fragrance, beauty products and alcohol can all be found cheaper than the high street or online) or scoring an exclusive you won't find anywhere else. Airport membership apps (e.g. myGatwick
), can offer further discounts. If you can't spend any money, don't despair: duty-free is designed for the professional sampler, with fragrances to spritz, creams to rub in and new Baileys flavour samples to imbibe.
Invest in your in-flight accessories
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The difference between a fabulous plane journey and a terrible one can sometimes come down to forgetting one key travel accessory, like that amazing pair of Bose noise-cancelling headphones you purchased on your last flight to keep out the wails of the toddler nearby and the airplane's jets. Or you may need fancy snacks, posh toiletries, snugly slippers, a portable footrest or an electronic toothbrush to make your flight more bearable. Whatever it is, buy it, bring it and marvel at how much more pleasant your flight is when you're polishing off a box of Charbonnel truffles instead of soggy plane pasta.
Speaking of airplane food, chef and frequent flier Jason Atherton recommends travelling with a bottle of Tabasco sauce to make it taste less bland. Or you can try pre-ordering a special meal (e.g. vegetarian, Halal, etc.), which might taste fresher and stand up to the airplane reheating better than some other edible options. Another silver lining? You'll be served first.
Variety is key
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When it comes to in-flight entertainment, it's best to be prepared. Over-prepared. Pack books and magazines (or a Kindle with everything you want to read), and make sure you've got some pre-downloaded entertainment on your tablet (audio books, podcasts, TV shows, movies). If you get restless and bored, have enough entertainment to switch it up every 15-20 minutes if needed.
Upgrade your seat
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Getting a flight upgrade is a roll of the dice, with everything from the weekend of your journey (bank holiday travel tends to help) to the time you arrive at the airport playing a role in whether you'll get the better seats (try arriving super early or very late). At any rate, asking for an upgrade is always worth a shot.
You can also upgrade yourself within coach: an exit row seat can totally revolutionise your flight. You'll be served first, you won't be tripping over your neighbours to get up and you'll have plenty of extra legroom.