It’s summer, we’ve been traveling for much of the past few weeks, and the pace won’t be letting up anytime soon. As I sit here at Dublin Airport on a 5 hour layover, I thought I would share a few top tips that might smooth the way through airports in the British Isles if you’ll be heading over here for research, a conference, or for fun!
1. Consider flying within the British Isles. If you’re booking in advance and are somewhat flexible as to times and airports, a flight can be considerably cheaper than the train. Travel time might not be significantly better, however, thanks to the standard request for passengers to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours early. Buses booked ahead can be the cheapest option, but also a long, uncomfortable one too. Ferries and ferry-train combinations, such as these suggestions from ScotRail, can make for a more relaxing, comfortable journey.
2. Check In Online. This is fairly standard now, not just for within Europe, and it’s worth doing! You’ll be able to skip standing in line to check in (and skip the line altogether if you’re only bringing carry-on luggage). Print off your boarding pass ahead of time, too, to avoid extra costs at the airport (I’m looking at you, Ryanair), or just follow tip number 3. No printer or computer while you’re travelling? You’ll tend to find electronic kiosks in the departures area at the airport (and sometimes the train station where you catch the airport express train, like I recently found at Oslo Central Station in Oslo, Norway) where you can check in.
3. Download the Airline’s App. Many major international airlines have their own apps to download onto your phone. From there you can check in, add baggage and choose your seat (usually for a fee), check the flight’s status, and it gives you your digital boarding pass right on your phone. Then just scan your phone and show your passport at security and the gate and you’re set! But be sure to screenshot the boarding pass, keep a photo of it and bring a phone charger, just in case! Or print a paper copy of your pass once you get to the airport at one of the kiosks.
4. Travel Light. Most airlines within the UK and Europe will charge you for every piece of hold luggage, so check out the details of your carry-on allowance and see if you can make do with that. It also saves considerable time before departure (having checked in online or at a kiosk you can go straight to security and skip the baggage drop off queue) and when you arrive you’ll have all your luggage at hand. No waiting at baggage claim and no one else can lose your luggage.
5. Know Your Baggage Allowances. These vary in terms of size, weight, type, and number of bags for each airline and can also vary depending on the origin and destination of the flight. For example, transatlantic flights tend to give you one free hold bag of approximately 23kg (time to get out the scale and Google the conversion!), but once you’re in Britain, flying domestically and/or within Europe you’ll almost certainly have a smaller allowance, sometimes even from the same airline if it’s a flight that was booked separately. Some airlines even weigh your carry-on. Too heavy? You could be facing some hefty charges, so avoid that with a weigh-in ahead of time.