Hacks for the Worst Airports in America

Are you excited to travel this Thanksgiving? Of course not! No one is, that would be ridiculous. There are ways, though, to make the turmoil less awful. Bloomberg Businessweek has created both a Frustration Index for the worst airports in America and also a Survival Guide. Some of these hacks include:

+ If you have to go through the dreaded LaGuardia (LGA), try to fly Delta, which has the best terminal. Also, the only tasty-ish and affordable food option there is the veggie burger at Burger King, which for some reason was the regular $2.99 the last time I got it. It might not be on the menu but they had it when I asked. Their standard practice is to dress it up with both ketchup and mayo so stay alert if you like your lukewarm Morningstar Farm patty unsullied.

+ If you have to go through Newark (EWR), use United, and save time by enrolling in TSA’s PreCheck program beforehand. Also leave more padding than you need time-wise not merely because security is tight; one time, the Air Train that takes you through terminals broke down, and masses of us had to be loaded on buses, and Ben and I only barely made it through the door onto our international flight after running straight from security still barefoot and clutching our shoes. It was like a rom com, only much much sadder.

+ Avoid Washington Dulles (IAD) at all costs on Friday afternoons, when it’s mobbed by members of Congress. (You can always spot them by their dull suits and flag pins.) TSA Pre-Check is a good bet here too. The airport has been renovated, though, so it feels like there’s more oxygen. I’m pretty sure there’s a Potbelly and a Chipotle.

+ Expect to get stuck at O’Hare (ORD) and then make the best of it:

The airport’s two-story “aeroponic” vertical garden between Terminals 2 and 3 that grows greens used at several O’Hare restaurants. “Great place for Wi-Fi or getting away from the crowds if you have a layover,” says one traveler. There’s also a yoga room near the same area.

+ Everyone arrives to Los Angeles International (LAX) by car, so to avoid some of the crowds, get dropped off at Arrivals instead of Departures, except at night, when you should reverse course. And don’t expect to find a free outlet. Come with your electronics pre-charged and, to be safe, a book.

+ At Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW), the superior food options in Terminal D are worth the hike.

+ Avoid Miami International (MIA) entirely. The place is so sprawling and badly designed you’re liable to go MIA yourself between your original flight and your connection, at least unless you flag down an electric cart. (See what I did there?)

+ If you have to fly through Philly (PHL), soothe the savage beast with Crabfries at Chickie’s and Pete’s.

In my experience, there’s not much you can do to survive the airport experience except have exceptionally low expectations, get there as early as possible to reduce stress, bring your own food so that anything you buy will be a treat and not something whose quality you must depend on, and have lots of things to read. Oh, and don’t hope to save money. Money in airports is not a commodity to be hoarded; it’s a tool to help boost your experience from Dreadful to Survivable. If money can help solve an airport problem, consider letting it.