International Travelers Guide to American Airports

Despite questionable travel bans, negative media coverage and an a politically divided rhetoric surrounding the entire country, travel to the United States (U.S.) is still as popular today as it has ever been. Travel for leisure, business, academics and myriad of other reasons keep the U.S. as a top destination for people around the globe. With so many flying in and out of the country every day, your good friend, Dr. People Watcher, is going to take a break from ridiculing various airport subcultures and instead put his knowledge to good use for the sake of our soon to be foreign friends. Statue_of_Liberty_-_4621961395I’ve chosen to focus on the airports because in many cases this is the first impression a visitor will have of our country and I would like to make it a good one.

Here are some useful tips that anyone traveling from outside the U.S. can utilize to help make your trip easier, stress free and less likely to start an international incident!

  • Americans only speak English

No matter where you come from, the easiest thing to do is just assume that nobody in the U.S. speaks a language other than English. In fact, only 1% of Americans are fluent in a second language which compared to other countries is a complete disgrace. Therefore, learning a little bit of English before heading over is not only a good idea, but a necessity especially if you plan on spending time outside of the major metropolitan areas like New York or Los Angeles.

englishIn the airports, be prepared to go English only the minute you land. Some of the larger airports have multi-lingual signage but it is usually restricted to Spanish, French, and maybe Chinese. However, just like anywhere else, following the crowds will usually place you in the right direction. America does have a fairly diverse population (again, mostly in the large cities) so you can find help there. Still, brushing up on your English and downloading some translation apps will go a long way after you land.

  • Personal space is a necessity

One thing America has in abundance is space. As the #3 largest country in the world (in overall square miles), we have plenty of room to grow which is a point of national pride. Unlike cities in Europe and Asia that were built in close proximity for protection against invaders, U.S. cities were built with space in mind and stretch for miles in every direction. This has created a space themed obsession amongst our population.

personal-spaceWhen you land in the states, keep in mind that Americans are accustomed to at least an arm’s length of separation from anyone around them. When getting off the plane, waiting in line at customs and getting your luggage at baggage claim, be sure to put enough space between yourself and those around you. Also, enjoy this as a luxury add-on to your trip. If your home country doesn’t have the same practice, this will be a nice vacation in itself.

  • Tipping is an unfortunate custom

The U.S. likes to brag that its low taxes (compared to other countries) keep the economy strong by putting more money in the pockets of citizens and visitors. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we will find any way possible to nickel-and-dime you during your trip. Tips are not just common courtesy; they are pretty much required. tippingBoth in- and outside of the airport, you are going to be inundated with hands reaching out for an additional payment for everything from being served meals, to giving you a (paid) ride, and even transporting your luggage. At the airport specifically, if you use the curbside check-in, sit down for a meal or even get a cup of coffee, the expectation is 15-20% for a tip. Exceptions being at fast food restaurants and retailers.

The best thing to do is to budget a certain amount of tips into your travels plans. You can also avoid some tipping outlets by not using the curb side check-in, carrying your own luggage and utilizing shared service companies like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. Of course, if you do run across a tipping situation, be generous. Many service workers rely on these to supplement their income.

  • Smokers are being phased out

Smoking is not allowed anywhere surrounding air travel including the plane, in the terminal and in some places, even within a certain distance from the airport entrance. This varies significantly by airport but many are phasing out the designated smoking areas to promote a healthier lifestyle amongst travelers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Even outside of the airports, smoking is looked down upon. While growing up, most restaurants had both smoking and non-smoking sections which was abandoned city-by-city, state-by-state starting in the early 1990s. Of course, that practice was like having a pissing section in a swimming pool so it has been well received by most Americans. As a visitor who smokes, be conscious of where you can and cannot smoke especially near tourist heavy sites. You can still have your smoke break outside, but just keep it in your own lungs, not ours.

  • Security will be tight

After 9/11, airport security became serious business which has not subsided especially with the onslaught of terrorist attacks routinely happening around the world. With all governmental fingers pointing to sources outside of the U.S., visitors from just about any non-Western country can expect multiple layers of security while entering and exiting America. Even those from our more trusted allies are going to be thoroughly checked out upon arrival.

tsa-searchTo prepare, make sure you have all your documents ready and answer questions from security personnel truthfully and with a certain amount of confidence (uncertainty will just bring on more questioning). Don’t take anything personal as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) folks are just doing their duties and trying to keep everyone safe. In the event you have to go through additional screenings, just continue my advice from above and all will be fine. Unless, of course, they do a cavity search…that part sucks!

In conclusion, I hope these tips help you have a more enjoyable experience state-side. With all the great things we have to offer (unnecessarily large food portions, an entitled yet whiney population and people everywhere running around yelling “America is the greatest country in the world”) how could you not have fun. Thanks and enjoy our little piece of the globe!

-DPW

Like my judgmental and pessimistic view of the airport world, then follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Tumbler. You never know, you may be next!

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Sleeping in an Airport? 5 Ways to Feel Comfortable

It’s not going to be everyone’s first choice but sometimes spending the night in an airport is inevitable. Whether you’re trying to save money by avoiding pricey airport hotels, or your flights just been cancelled and you’re stuck for an unknown amount of time. These tips will help you find a way to rest in any airport and allow you to avoid a nightmare overnight in an airport carpark.18121938_10104469634992648_8990468203052447310_o

Traveling often calls for versatility. You can’t expect things to run perfectly when you’re on the road, and even if you plan everything right down to the minute there’s still a chance that something may go wrong.

Here are five ways you can survive, and possibly even get a good night’s sleep in an airport:

1. Preparation is Key.

You may think that you’ve hit rock bottom by sleeping in a public space. But you haven’t, not yet anyway. There are certain airports where security don’t support people setting up camp on the seating. However, they’re not going to kick out genuine travelers waiting for their next flight. Ensure you have a valid ticket, showing that you do indeed to travel in the next few hours and you should be fine if anyone asks any questions.

Friends six sweaters2. Dress For the Worst.

Airport air conditioning can be brutal. If you intend to sleepover at an airport it can get extremely cold. Wear comfortable and warm clothing. If you dress well enough you don’t even need blankets! This can help you to avoid looking conspicuously homeless. The less you look like you’re planning to move into the terminal, the better.

3. Make Safety a Priority.

Airports are generally pretty safe. But that doesn’t mean youkeep-calm-and-watch-your-back should treat it like your own home. Remember that this is a public place and as such you should keep your guard up as you would anywhere. Take care of your belongings, sleep on top of them or at the very least keep all important documents on your person. Learn where the security office is and keep in brightly lit areas with CCTV. This will help you feel more relaxed and at ease. All in all helping you have a better rest!

4. Look Around the Airport.

First Do your research. Check out all the spaces available around the building before you decide which spot you’d like to take. You may think you have no options, but if you try hard enough you’ll likely find a good place to relax. Most airports are huge and generally have enough seating for a large number of people. Don’t give up too early.

hangry_cat5. Bring Food and Water. Even though airports are usually open all night, it doesn’t mean that the stores will be. Make sure you’re prepared with food and water to ensure that you stay comfortable throughout the night. Get your supplies before everything closes to avoid that 6 hour stomach rumble and dry mouth – trust me, it will make things a lot more pleasant if you aren’t hangry.

Spending the night in an airport can actually be a pleasant experience if you’re prepared. But just like with any plans, things can go wrong. Plan for the worst, hope for the best. Good luck with your in transit overnighter and feel free to leave a comment on your experience of sleeping in an airport!

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Hunny is a freelance writer, avid reader and lover of all things travel.

Condé Nast 2016 Top Airports

It’s that time a year again when Condé Nast Traveler names their top airports as determined by the 2016 Reader’s Choice Awards.  Indianapolis International Airport (IND) was named the top choice by the readers.  The rest of the list is below:

  • Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP)
  • Austin-Bergstrom (AUS)
  • Pittsburgh (PIT)
  • Long Beach (LGB)
  • Palm Beach (PBI)
  • Savannah/Hilton Head (SAV)
  • Dallas Love Field (DAL)
  • Tampa (TPA)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • Indianapolis (IND)

Congratulations to all the airports on this list!