In one corner, we have the super chill people glugging their champagne/beers at 5am because “Yay, holiday!”. In the other, we have the people frantically checking and re-checking their bags/documents/watches and looking generally preoccupied. No prizes for guessing which one I am.
It’s like there’s something in the air that can send even the most typically relaxed people into a bit of a tizz.
I’m really excited to be visiting Toronto next week – it’s a trip that’s been in the making since the tail end of 2016. I’ve even done well to avoid the typical pitfalls of pre-travel anxiety.
What I’m not so excited about is revisiting London Heathrow.
Don’t get me wrong, as far as airports go, Heathrow’s up there with the best of them. It’s just that… it’s still a sodding airport. It’s the necessary evil precursor to holidays abroad.
And I hate them for many reasons.
1. Timing is everything
This point is as good as any to kick off with. I might be an organised person, but the minute I have to start doing things on someone else’s schedule, I freak out.
There’s just too much that can go wrong that might mean I miss my flight. Is the taxi here yet? When do I need to check in by? How long will that take? When does the gate close again? What if everyone decides to travel today and security’s crazy busy?
Speaking of which…
2. The nightmare that is security
OBVIOUSLY I am 100% on board with safety measures – I’m anxious enough as it is, I’m glad there are people putting boundaries in place to keep passengers safe.
But it is entirely the worst part about airports. The rules seem to change every time I fly. Belts off? Yep, get that off. Jewellery off? Watch on? Shoes on? Um, even with the metal bits? Oh, okay. TAKE YOUR iPAD OUT OF THE BAG NOW, MA’AM. Got all your tiny travel bottles you counted 3,406,270 times just to make sure you were under the limit, too?
Holy heck. I’m stressed just thinking about it.
3. Sensory overload
Okay, you’ve made it through security and into the departure lounge.
Gate announcements, carousels of advert after advert, the smell of strong perfume, the throng of people all going somewhere. Some call this exciting.
You may have already guessed: I do not.
My brain struggles to form a cohesive thought at the best of times – so when it’s silly o’clock and I’m trying to figure out what the next step is in Airport Hell AND remember where my passport is all these other external factors tend to make my head spin.
So if you could pretty much just not talk to me until I’m in my seat on the plane, that’d be great.
4. Nothing to declare. I think?
So even after you’ve endured all of that, you still have to contend with more rigorous checks and processes.
I’ve never had anything to declare. Never. But it’s like walking out of a shop after deciding not to buy anything and trying to look normal so they don’t think you’re a shoplifter or anything weird. You start doubting yourself.
Do I look like someone who has nothing to declare? Wait, did I actually have something to declare? Is wine and food okay these days? Should I ask someone? WALK LIKE YOU HAVE NOTHING TO DECLARE.
5. Bored of border control
Oh, boy. Hope you enjoyed your flight because your patience is about to get tested.
Along with the joy of queueing – we Brits are good at this, but the memo has yet to reach other parts of the world – you also have the joy of other people.
Restless children, incessantly chatty teenagers, pushy business flyers, those who try to inch in front of you because that’s really going to get you so much further… if you’re unlucky you might get a full house.
Something about border control (the previous hours of stress) makes me a tetchy, stroppy mess. There should be the option to just have a little sit down and a cup of tea before enduring this level of misery.
But airports aren’t all bad…
There is one thing that redeems them.
Regardless of whether you align yourself more with the super-chill champagne sippers or the frantic and frazzled (me), there’s a wonderful sense that you’re about to make new memories – especially if you’re travelling somewhere new. For me, that makes all the stress worth it.