Working Your Way Around Five Stressful Airports

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While sometimes the old saying, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” holds true, it can be hard to keep that in mind as you’re untying your shoes while waiting in a line you can barely see the end of. Our intrepid Forbes Travel Guide inspectors know all about long lines, parking woes and tasteless food. Thankfully, they’ve come up with ways to simplify visits to five of the most stressful airports in the country.

Chicago-based Inspector on O’Hare International Airport:

When you go through security at O’Hare, avoid the lanes right in the center and head to those on the side — they have less people and go faster. Also, if you’re flying out on a Monday morning, it’s usually busy, so get there early. And it seems like a lot of people fly out mid-afternoon. I always avoid flying on Fridays or book a flight early enough to miss all of the people flying out right after the workday between 3 and 9 p.m. And it’s always great to get some of chef Rick Bayless’ fresh Mexican sandwiches, killer guacamoleand margaritas at Tortas Frontera in terminals 1 and 3.

Dallas-based Inspector on Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport:

If you’re looking for a quick something to eat, there’s Home Team Sports Bar and Grill at gate E31 and Texas Stadium Skybox Bar and Grill at gates B6 and C25. Want fine dining? Try lll Forks Prime Steakhouse at gate D27. Need to feel better about what you just ate? Go to the DFW Airport Yoga Studio at gate D40. And if you don’t want to go to your next destination empty-handed, there’s decent shopping at Lone Star Attitude at gate C33 and the Dallas Cowboys Pro Shop at gates A24, C27, D23 and E13.

L.A.-based Inspector on Los Angeles International Airport:

I fly United, which is located at terminals 6 and 7. Fortunately, it has a TSA  Pre Check line at security, which is a huge time-saver. There is little traffic in this lane since it requires a special registration and fee, but they are well worth the effort for frequent flyers. You don’t have to do the annoying dance of taking out laptops and toiletries, or taking off shoes and jackets. This system is slowly but surely gaining traction across the U.S. These terminals also have several Bank of America ATMs, if you need last-minute cash before takeoff.

In addition to the TSA Pre Check, I’m enrolled in the Global Entry “trusted traveler” program, so when I return from international trips, I bypass the line for immigration and head to a self-service kiosk. It reads my passport and, after a few seconds, I’m off to claim baggage. The line to clear customs can be extremely long, and after half a day on a plane, yet another line is the last thing you want to endure. A designated Global Entry line allows you to breeze on by, and within seconds, you’re in a taxi and headed home. Participation in these programs is $100 and requires a background check, fingerprints with TSA and Customs and a fairly simple in-person interview with an agent. Several major U.S. airports have centers where you can do the interview.

Atlanta-based Inspector on Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport:

At this busy airport, having a high status on an airline does not help much with bypassing the long wait at security; the first-class lines are just about as long as the regular ones. Instead of going through the often-crowded main security checkpoint, hit the smaller north or south security checkpoints. Both give you quick access to the T Gates and train so you can reach any of the other concourses fast.

Have a free hour in between flights? Take the easy train to concourse A for a bit of shopping and relaxation. Concourse A offers luxury shopping such as Ermenegildo Zegna and Salvatore Ferragamo as well as a terrific XpresSpa offering massages and nail services. XpresSpa will get you in and out quickly and is honest about the wait — if there is one — so you won’t find yourself caught with wet nails as your flight is boarding.

For a taste of Atlanta’s good Southern cooking during a brief layover, visit Paschal’s Southern Cuisine in concourse A or C. The original Paschal’s is a staple in Atlanta with greasy fried chicken, decadent mac and cheese, and shrimp and grits. If you’re anywhere near concourse E, you have to try One Flew South. I recommend one of their signature drinks, such as the Pretty Brown Eyes with Eagle Rare Bourbon, lemon and Ben Marco Malbec Float.

New York-based Inspector on LaGuardia Airport:

The airport might be smaller than JFK, but that means a more personalized and intimate experience for travelers. Plus, LaGuardia offers some excellent dining options. Pizza aficionados must visit Tagliare, which serves New York-style pizza made by Dom DeMarco’s son, Dom DeMarco Jr., just past security in terminal D.

Enlisting chefs from some of New York’s top eateries, the airport offers the undeniably delicious burger from the city’s favorite meat purveyor, Pa La Frieda, also located in terminal D after security. Chefs Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson (from Minetta Tavern, a popular bistro-style steakhouse in Greenwich Village) designed the menu for Taste of Bisoux. Place your orders on an iPad, whether you want French-inspired food, excellent wine or both.

While we love Delta’s terminal D for the nice selection of food, terminal C does have the Victory Grill from chef Andrew Carmellini of The Dutch and Locanda Verde, as well as Vuelo Tacqueria from Aaron Sanchez.

After your meal, stop at the duty-free shop post-security in the Delta terminal. It has a great selection of jewelry and bags, including the reusable Baggus and tote bags that list the various neighborhoods in Brooklyn. For travelers with children, there’s an excellent selection of toys, in case you need some last-minute items to keep kids occupied during a long flight.

Photos Courtesy of Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport

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