Written by Marco Carvajal
Photographs by Marco Carvajal
Some travelers like me don’t wait to arrive at our final travel destination to start enjoying a trip. Especially when flying, we all know that airport checking, security, and boarding comes with some stress that can take away part of the fun and excitement of going to a holiday vacation, to visit family, or going into a business trip.
So why not relax at the airport and start enjoying your trip before you fly, while making airport connections at other airports, or at the airport of your final destination.
Somebody already thought about it and created the “magical” airport lounge.
Airport lounges can be compared with traveling into a luxury all-inclusive mini-hotel in the Caribbean, except that you don’t get the pool or a bed, but in most of these VIP lounges you have private bathrooms with shower and towels, and large lounge chairs or coaches to relax, or even take a nap.
Some people think that these lounges are too expensive or just available for travelers on first or business class, and that is true in part, but let me tell you the real truth. You can find the way to have access to most airline or airport lounges absolutely free of charge, and not only for you, also for your travel companion and children.
Drink champagne or your favorite spirt, juice or sodas, have a nice meal and several appetizers similar to those you will eat on a nice Sunday brunch in a hotel. Most lounges include premium spirits, a few varieties of coffees and teas, beer, several types of wines, Champagne, Brandi, Porto, Belize, Limoncello, all type of juices and sodas and when visiting international lunges is nice to try drinks or local juices. In terms of food, there is usually a nice buffet with a few meal options including vegetarians, meat, cheese, ham, salami, smoked salmon sometimes, a few types of bread, desserts, cookies, salads, fruits and more. You are supposed to eat the food and drinks there and you are not allowed to take alcohol out of the lounge, but sometimes you can take a fruit and a coffee or water to go to eat during boarding or inside the plane.
Enjoy a large TV area where you can relax and watch your favorite movie or news. If you travel with children some lounges have a specific children area inside the lounge, with games and fun decorations to keep the kids entertained and busy in a very safe environment. If you need to work that is also possible in the lounge, as most lounges have a few large screen computers similar to the business center of a hotel, very good internet in case you bring your own computer and in some cases, even Ipads are available free of charge for you or the children. Good Wifi is always included and some lounges have even a conference room.
Each lounge is different and sometimes big airports like Atlanta can have several lounges on each terminal. Most airport lounges include a nice exterior view of the airport runway. Some lounges have beds and some have an outdoor terrace or garden. Please note that usually there is a minimum dress code enforced, business casual is perfect to visit the lounge.
Visit Several Lounges in one Airport
If you are able to receive one of the free unlimited memberships to airport lounges that I suggest to get, then some airports have more than 10 lounges, so you can even visit a few lounges during a long connection and experience the best of each lounge.
When I travel with Delta to connect through Atlanta I visit the Delta Sky Club on my arriving Terminal usually C, then visit another Sky Club on my departing terminal, E for example. There are about 9 Delta Sky Club lounges in Atlanta airport and I get unlimited free access to all of them with my credit card as long as I travel with Delta the same day. One of the cons of Delta is the guests and children are not free, so one way to fix this, instead of paying the guest fee, is to obtain an additional credit card for your spouse and children so they can also enjoy free access to the lounge.
In Atlanta, if I have enough time I also visit “The Club” lounge where I receive access free of charge through a credit card that gives me unlimited Priority Pass network membership free of charge. A plus of Priority Pass is that usually you can bring to guests free of charge and some lounges allow children free of charge. Between lounge visits, I enjoy a one hour nap at the Minute Suite, what is some type of lounge that I also receive free with priority pass, but just for 1 hour. For the Minute Suite you can bring guests free of charge into your private mini-suite and if you need more than one hour, you can check out and check in again once your hour is finished. There are two Minute Suites in Atlanta airport and you also can find them in other airports.
On one of my last trips to Europe with my 3 children, we departed from Miami where we had free access to a lounge, it was a good place to have lunch and a glass of wine before flying transatlantic, then we connected in Denmark where we enjoyed 3 different beautiful lounges, and we all had free access through my priority pass. We loved the European bread and fine cuisine appetizers in the lounge, and since I didn’t have to drive upon arrival to my final destination, I could have a couple of glasses of wine while enjoying the comfortable seats on each lounge. My children love airport lounges, it is a very safe and private place where they can sit in their own table or play in the kids area when available.
It is rare but some airports in Europe, like Bergamo airport near Milan, Italy, have a lounge in the check-in area, before you check-in for your flight, so you if arrive very early to the airport you can visit a lounge before you check-in, have a snack and a nice coffee, then check-in for your flight, pass security, and inside the gate go to another lounge.
I feel lucky being able to visit so many lounges every time I fly, my vacation starts inside the airport.
The key question? how to have access to these lounges free of charge? Read my next article to find out How to get Free VIP Airport Lounge Access