Airports have long been a source of confusion and stress for travelers. But what if you were suddenly gifted the top secrets of any given airport? Someone who could tell you where the best spots are to eat or relax. Or the most under the radar ways to save time or money. Or where there is free wifi or which security line tends to be the fastest. Unique secrets known by only the locals and traveling elite that make a particular airport as familiar as your neighborhood. Well here you go, courtesy of the leading travel app, GateGuru. In order to do this, we poured through tens of thousands of reviews and tips from GateGuru users, but we didn't stop there. We also talked with airport and industry experts, as well as top travel pros to bring you the top secrets for the world's largest airports.
Here's the first installment of "Know Before You Go" -- a regular series brought to you by GateGuru featuring travel tips on the world's largest airports. We are starting the series with the world's largest airport: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
1. Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson hosts some of the most interesting and highly-rated restaurants in the country. If you find yourself looking for a meal at ATL, GateGuru's top tasty spots are Café Intermezzo (Concourse B), Sweet Georgia's Juke Joint (Concourse D), One Flew South (Concourse E) and Nature's Table (Concourse E). And don't discount their fast-food to get a good Southern fix. GateGuru users are repeat customers at Chick-Fil-A and Krystal Hamburger (both in Concourse A).
2. Our traveling pros cite frequent last-minute gate changes as the biggest issue at ATL. One pro suggests checking the status of your connecting flight BEFORE you land with in-flight wifi (connecting to an airline's website is typically free) to double check the departure status of your connecting flight. It only takes a few minutes to check, but that could be the difference between making or missing your connection!
3. If you're a frequent business traveler, you're likely spending a good amount of time in airline lounges. In ATL, GateGuru users predominantly cite older, dated lounges. Want to know the best lounges? GateGuru users rated the Concourse A Delta Sky Clubs the best and then the AA Admirals Club in Concourse T. Travelers going through ATL should keep and eye out for the new Delta Sky Club near Concourse B10, which is expected to reopen in February 2011 after a big renovation. Until that club reopens, expect the other Delta lounges to be more crowded than usual.
4. Maybe the airline lounges are too crowded, and you are looking for complete peace and quiet? Check out Minute Suites, located in Concourse B. Minute Suites is a new, fresh concept and ATL has the only one in the country. Minute Suites allows you to rent a private room for napping, relaxing, working or watching television. Each suite is equipped with a daybed sofa, HDTV, desk, phone, and office chair. Prices are reasonable -- you can rent a suite by the hour ($30 / hour) or overnight ($120). This concept is expected to expand into other major national airports.
5. Nothing is free in life, especially in-airport Internet access; with one exception. Most travelers going through Atlanta Hartsfield purchase WiFi through Boingo. However, the little known secret among savvy ATL travelers is that within the Concourse E Food Court, you can access Internet free. No maximum time, no credit card required. If you have a long layover or delay, hit the food court and surf away!
6. The MARTA is an efficient way to get between Atlanta Hartsfield Airport and the city. When going between the city and airport, don't be afraid to take the MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) -- it works well and is easy for travelers. The cost is $2 and it takes about 20 minutes to get downtown (versus $30 - $40 and the same amount of time for a cab). MARTA's station at ATL is attached to the airport, right off the baggage claim.
7. Security lines at ATL tend to be quick, but one checkpoint in particular is reported to be faster than the others. ATL's security system offers travelers 3 different security areas -- Main Security Check Point, North Security Check Point and South Security Check Point (the Main Security Check Point is in between the North and South). Based on user submitted wait times to GateGuru, travelers going through ATL should head to the South Checkpoint for the shortest wait time, as the posted wait times are approximately 25% shorter. In general though, ATL does a good job of moving passengers expeditiously through security, although during heavy times, lines can be longer than 30 minutes (early morning and early evening).
8. Who says you can't experience some culture while you're at the airport? While at ATL, check out the Sculpture of Zimbabwe exhibit. It's part of ATL's permanent collection and is located in the Transportation Mall. If you have a few extra minutes before your flight, use the moving sidewalk along the pedestrian corridor that connects Concourse T and Concourse A to enjoy the sculpture.
To get tips such as these and many more, download the free GateGuru app, available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.