The best way to talk about a first time trip is to just walk through one.
I have created an imaginary flight from Atlanta, GA to Eugene, OR with a 1-1/2 hour layover in Salt Lake City, and a change of airplane.
These 3 simple steps will show you how easy it is and how many things there are to do and see in an airport, no matter how many times you’ve been up, up, and away.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
- Download the mobile app of the airline you are flying on (from the airline web site) onto whatever device you have. All the major airlines have downloadable apps. If you happen to be flying on a smaller airline that doesn’t have its own mobile app, try FlySmart or GateGuru. I like them both. If you don’t own a device that reads apps, don’t worry. There are huge boards in the airport that will tell you gates, times, etc. Apps are just fun.
- Enter your confirmation/reservation# into the app and after you check-in 24 hours before your flight (which you can do on the app or airline web site) you’ll be able to see your gate, boarding times, schedule alerts, baggage claim location, as well as airport services and terminal maps. Those waiting to pick you up can even see a map that shows the progress of your airplane across the country.
- Download and print a map of the destination terminals, in this case, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Eugene. Carry them with you, it will help if your connection gets tight. BTW, if you happen to come across an online terminal map of the EUG airport, please let me know, I could not find one.
- Freeze two bottles of water
PACKING THE CARRY-ON(s)
Everyone says this and they are right: Try and take only one carry-on bag, unless you are not planning to ship anything. Then you may need two carry-ons, depending on the length of your trip – a daypack and a small rolling bag.
DayPack This will be the bag you put under the seat in front of you, filled only with items you want to use while on the airplane or waiting in the terminal. Check this size chart to make sure your bag will fit. Here’s what to put in it.
- ID & boarding pass
- Jacket or hoodie: Often at altitude the plane gets cold and there aren’t enough blankets.
- Food: Use The Rule of 5 and pack for energy. Pack foods that are mostly dry: nuts, hard cheese, fruits wearing skin, cooked pasta, sandwich, etc. Cream cheese won’t make it through security unless it’s already spread on a sandwich.
- Water: Freeze two bottles of water the night before. Right before putting your stuff in a bin for security, drink off any liquid that may have melted, then put them into your bag or the bin. If fully frozen, they should go right through. Much cheaper than buying on the other side of security, but you can do that if you’d rather.
- Devices & cords, extra device batteries, & earbuds: I always load my tablet with a movie or two, because they aren’t always free on the airplane anymore and I’d rather choose if I’m going to pay. And I would never use someone else’s headphones – eeew. Plus they work well to block the sound of babies crying and loud talkers. Note: I use this for extra power backup.
- $50 emergency cash
- Tissues or a handkerchief
- Germ-killing wipes. Airplanes, like hospitals, are very germy because of all the people and small children sneezing and drooling and coughing and generally being icky. Each time I get on an airplane, I wipe down EVERYTHING. I know, I look like I have OCD, I don’t care, I hardly ever get sick. Window shade handle, armrests, tray table, seat belt buckle.
- Anything really valuable: Jewelry tops my list, expensive gifts you are taking to the folks at the other end, wallet, passport, etc.
- Three large safety pins. These will repair rips ad broken zippers on your hoodie, on your luggage, on your backpack. You probably won’t need them but if you do you’ll be SO glad.
- A quart sized plastic baggie with the following rolled up and stuffed in: one pair of underwear, one pair of sox, and one clean t-shirt. Just in case.
- A separate quart sized plastic baggie with your 3-1-1 items.
Carry-on Rolling Bag: This goes in the overhead bin. I rarely check bags, so I often take mine, and it’s very handy because I can put bag number one on top of it and roll both around the airport. Helps if I have to run for a connection.NEVER PUT ANYTHING IN THIS THAT you aren’t willing to put under the plane. If the gate person decides it has to go under, it has to go under period.If you don’t need a 2nd carry-on, you can put your lunch and water frozen water bottle in a lunch bag and use it for your “personal item”.
3. DAY OF FLIGHT
Double-check you have ID and your carry-on. I once had to double back when halfway to the Seattle Airport because I forgot my stupid purse. I was going to PARIS. I made it, but I had to run and I hate that.
AT THE ATLANTA AIRPORT:
If you are checking a bag, you’ll have to go to ticketing/check-in for your airline, and they’ll print your boarding pass and check your bags. Make sure to arrive at the airport 2 hours early if checking bags because weather can screw up flights and cause long lines.
If you are NOT checking bags, print the boarding pass out at home on your airline’s web site by using the ticket confirmation#, you can skip the ticketing line and go straight through security with your boarding pass and your ID. One and a half (1-1/2) hours before the flight is sufficient to cover any security line backup. With the sequestration, a lot of TSA jobs were cut,so it’s a little slower.
- The goal is to get to the gate 1 hour ahead. Boarding is generally 25-30 minutes ahead of the scheduled departure time, and 30 minutes buffer is enough time to find out about a gate change and run to the new gate if needed. See the logic?
- After going through security, go straight to the first arrival/departure board you find and double-check the gate number. Gates can and do change unexpectedly, I recommend checking them about every 20 minutes to avoid having to suddenly rush to a new gate.
- Go straight to the gate to make sure you know where it is – I have been surprised by a “Gate 1” that was actually at the far end of a concourse, down stairs and around the bend.
- After you know where your gate is, feel free to wander, use the restroom, or just sit there and entertain yourself with whatever you put in your daypack.
- There isn’t free WIFI at ATL yet, although rumor has it there may be soon, but there are power outlets throughout the airport and free charging stations near the many Delta Gates. Sometimes I like to plug-in while waiting just so I have a full charge on the plane.
- Steps for paid Wireless Internet Access:
- Select SSID: ATL-WIFI wireless network to connect, and launch your browser to visit the Airport’s Wi-Fi splash page.
- Select the payment option and enter the required user and credit card information.
- The user gains 24 hours of Internet access after the credit card payment successfully goes through and a receipt is received by email.
- Places to wander (while still checking gate & “on time” status every 15 min)
- Between Concourse A and the T-gates there is a 10-foot-tall, 31-foot-long dinosaur, and a permanent installation of about 20 stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, displayed between the moving sidewalks.
- The Atrium has the Georgia Aquarium’s Beyond the Reef exhibit
- Concourse B has the Zoo Atlanta Panda Veranda
AT THE SALT LAKE AIRPORT
Find your next gate first, so you don’t miss your connection. Check boards frequently.
Art collection along the moving sidewalks (download brochure).
Power outlets are located throughout the terminals. A bank of power strips is available in the connector between Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.
Free wireless internet service is available throughout the airport.
- Open your computer’s wireless network connection window and select SLCAirport.wifi, then click CONNECT. Once connected, start your computer’s browser.
- A security pop-up will open. Click YES to accept the terms and proceed.
- Click CONNECT to receive free airport Wi-Fi. The Salt Lake City International Airport homepage will then open.
- You can now browse to your desired destination.
- XpresSpa – If you have $23 bucks you can get a 15 min chair massage (just neck and shoulders) on Concourse B upper level and between concourses C & D
- Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – pick up gifts for your mom.
AT THE EUGENE, OR AIRPORT
Groovy art located on the secure side of the terminal building, in a 600-square foot open area at the top of the escalator, the Gallery at the Airport
Live music performance venue in the main lobby area.
Eugene Airport is the home of the Oregon Air and Space Museum.
And there you have it. If you are in an airport and have questions, ask anyone in a uniform where the Customer Service desk is. Or look at the terminal map you printed out before your left home (see #1, bullet 3 above) and it will show you the location of Lost and Found, information desks, and restrooms are. Your app should do the same (but if you run out of power, the map is in your bag…)
My final advice: Soaring through the air is a beautiful thing, look out the window. Enjoy the take-off where all the cares and worries of day-to-day life shrink is size until you can just barely make out what they are. Enjoy the cloud layer, the blue sky at 38K feet. Enjoy the landing, as you connect with a new place to explore. Bon Voyage!!