Summer 2013: Airports and Train Stations

Summer 2013 was an unusually active travel period for me. Between June 5 and July 24, I managed to pass through 14 different airports, a few train stations and I don’t know how many subway stations. In case you find yourself visiting any of these places anytime soon, here’s my summer list and some comments about them.

AIRPORTS

Amarillo, Texas — The Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport is where practically all of my trips begin. It’s a small airport that just recently added a new concession area.

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas — Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is one of my favorites. It’s easy to get around, and I find it to be comfortable. There are numerous food and shopping choices here, and if you have a pretty long layover, you can take the Skylink rail to the other terminals to explore their dining options. DFW’s Twitter account (@dfwairport) has responded promptly and positively to every tweet I’ve ever sent it. On the down side, DFW is so huge, and the traffic volume is so high, that it’s not uncommon for your gate assignment to change with little notice.

Lubbock, Texas — This summer marked my first visits to Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. It was easy to maneuver through and seemed to have some pretty good food choices. If you’re there, look for the huge Buddy Holly mural above your head.

Denver, Colorado — Denver International Airport truly is international and has the amenities necessary for travel overseas. There are lots of eating and shopping choices here, too. Don’t be surprised to land here and then learn you have a 40 to 45 minute ride into the city. The airport is “out there.”

Huntsville, Alabama — Huntsville International Airport is my other “home” airport because that’s where I land when I visit family and old friends. It’s not a large airport, but there are a few dining and shopping options.

Montreal, Canada — I wasn’t at Montreal-Trudeau Airport terribly long, but I noticed that there was a good bit of construction occurring. My flight arrived from the U.S., and even though I was transferring to a flight with a European destination, I still had to go through Canadian customs. However, there’s a special line for folks who are transferring, so I didn’t have to wait with everyone who was arriving to stay in Canada.

Toronto, Canada — I was able to go through U.S. customs when I landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport after a flight from Europe. They have a new system: scan your boarding pass, wait in a waiting area until you see your name on a monitor, then proceed to the first check desk. On the other side of that desk, I waited in line to go through U.S. immigration. I also didn’t have to retrieve my checked bag for the customs process: it passed through to my final destination. An airport authority employee told me that since the new system was introduced, the entire process has become more efficient.

Brussels, Belgium — I waited in a long line at Brussels Airport just to get through immigration. Be prepared to wait at least a half hour and perhaps longer. However, I didn’t have to declare anything to customs. Once I passed through the immigration line, I was free to leave. And that’s what I did, so I have no memory of dining and shopping options in the arrivals area. Public transportation serves this airport, and I bought a train ticket to get to my destination.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg — Luxembourg Airport is small but the architecture is modern. It was easy to get there via public bus. I grabbed breakfast in the terminal before passing through security. Whether it was the time of day or the airport’s smaller size, I got through the security checkpoint quickly.

Barcelona, Spain — Flying into Barcelona-El Prat Airport offers terrific views of the city’s Mediterranean coastline and beautiful blue-green water. I arrived at Terminal 2, which made it very easy to catch the train into the city. The airport train leaves every half hour, so keep that in mind when you’re returning to the airport. You can also get easy access to the city’s metro system this way. Keep in mind that if you’re using the train to return to the airport for departure, it will only get you to Terminal 2. You then have to walk to catch a shuttle bus that takes you to Terminal 1, which is located about a 15-minute drive (about four kilometers) away. Build all of this into your travel schedule. By the time I got to my gate, my plane was boarding. I’m practically never that late.

Seoul, South Korea — Incheon International Airport is another one of my favorites. It’s swanky, and there’s a lot of shopping, dining and entertainment options here. If you’re taking a bus (which I always do), it’s about a 45 minute ride into Seoul. The public bus service is excellent. Trains are also available.

Seoul, South Korea — You can get to Gimpo International Airport pretty easily using Seoul’s metro system. It offers direct flights to Tokyo, and that’s why I was there. There are plenty of places to eat here, too, and I took advantage of that before going through security. Once on the other side, you’ll find all kinds of duty free shopping choices.

Tokyo, Japan — Despite its multiple levels, I found Haneda Airport easy to navigate. This was our group’s entry point into Japan, and we got a lot of help (in English, no less) with directions to our destinations, information about public transportation, and where we could rent a local mobile phone. It’s quite easy to access Tokyo’s train and metro system from here.

Tokyo, Japan — Narita International Airport is another of the world’s nice airports. I’ve used the Narita Express rail service numerous times with success. That method takes about an hour. Like other major international airports, Narita offers a host of dining and shopping options.

TRAIN STATIONS

Brussels, Belgium — Don’t make the mistake of thinking Brussels Midi means “middle,” because it doesn’t. It’s the southernmost of three stations that serve the city. It is also called Zuid, so be aware if you need to hop off the train here. The website says it’s the busiest, and I believe it based on my personal experience. I passed through this station a few times and became quite comfortable with it. You can catch local trains or inter-European ones here. There are several places to eat (coffee and pain au chocolat were breakfast staples for me), and there are a couple of mini grocery stores to serve those needs, too.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands — Amsterdam Centraal Station is beautiful. It’s also crazy busy, as one might imagine. If you’re planning on taking advantage of the city’s liberal marijuana laws, take note. As I was waiting to take a train from Amsterdam to Brussels, I noticed a very friendly dog approaching everybody — everybody. It was a drug dog. Its handler and her partner were both dressed like travelers. So were the other four men who came walking by after them, all with ear buds in their ears. The canine gave me a quick check and moved on. Two other people on the platform, though, were “invited” somewhere for some private conversation, I suppose.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg — If you like to look at architecture, spend some time at Luxembourg Station. Many public buses serve this station, so it’s convenient to get around the city from here. The support staff made it very easy for me to purchase the correct bus ticket and stand in the correct line. If you like walking, though, the station is located close enough to so many points of interest that if you’re traveling light, I would recommend exploring the city on foot from here.

How I Booked My Travel

STA Travel booked all of my flights in Asia as part of my study abroad excursion. I booked my European flights through a conference website (which offered a discount), and I booked my trip to Alabama through Orbitz. When my flights were delayed, I received updated emails from Orbitz, and they relayed the information to me before the gate monitors were updated. I booked my European train travel through Rail Europe.

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