I travel as much as I can. In fact, one of the main criteria for choosing where I live is that I must be less than 20 miles from an international airport. I get pretty claustrophobic on this little island we live on and I like knowing I can easily escape whenever I feel the urge. Not only do I travel a lot in my personal life, I also get the opportunity to travel for my job fairly frequently. As such, I’ve become quite the pro at navigating BHX efficiently and with minimal stress and time-wasted.
Unless I’m travelling long-haul, I only travel with hand luggage. I’ve perfected my packing skills so I can easily be away for a week and just take hand luggage. I also hate waiting around at the airport so I’m known for leaving the absolute minimum amount of time before my flight. As such, planning and preparation really is vital to airport success.
Plan as much as you can beforehand (and don’t be the annoying traveller)
This is my number one rule when travelling from any airport. The process of going through an airport has not changed in so long that, apart from the very small minority of first-time flyers, you really should know what to expect by now.
Make sure you’ve checked-in, printed your boarding pass (or downloaded it to the airline’s app – make sure you have full phone battery if you’re using your phone for your travel docs), got your passport, and have your hand luggage prepped to easily go through security.
This means: jackets, belts, jewellery/watches off, pockets emptied, laptops/ipads out of bags and cases, liquids of the correct size in a clear, sealable bag, and also consider what footwear you have on as you’ll often be asked to take that off – so those knee-high, lace-up boots are really not the best option.
The rules regarding liquids changed over a decade ago so it still blows my mind when people just aren’t prepared and then get upset when the security officer informs them that yes, your £50, 150ml bottle of perfume will have to be confiscated. Also, the amount of times I still see people go through the scanner, look utterly surprised when it beeps, and then empty mounds of coins, their phone and whatever else out of their pockets is unacceptable. You have time when waiting in the security queue to start sorting yourself out so that when you get to the conveyor belt you should be able to just offload into trays and be ready to go straight through. Don’t wait for ages in the queue, then get to the conveyor belt and start faffing for ages. Come on guys, you’re holding up the queue! Please don’t be that person. Please don’t be the annoying traveller.
Birmingham International rail station
For a number of reasons, this is the absolute best thing I can share about getting to and from Birmingham Airport.
- Trains – having a rail station which has excellent connections straight into Birmingham City Centre, as well as to other key towns and cities, makes it a great option to use when coming to the airport. The traffic around the airport is often pretty bad, with the NEC so nearby and the never-ending roadworks on the A45. An Anytime Return ticket from Birmingham New Street to Birmingham International costs £6.00, with more than 6 trains an hour and the journey usually takes around 10 minutes (depending on which service you board).
- Cost of parking – I often fly out and back in a day for work. To park at any of the airport car parks, it’ll cost at least £30 a day. If you park at Birmingham International, it’ll cost you £12 a day.
- Drop off area – there is a cost to using the drop off/pick up area at the airport so whether you’re being dropped off by a friend or family member or you’re in a taxi, head to the rail station rather than the airport. Although it’s only £1 for 10 minutes, it’s often pretty busy as well so just avoid the queues and waiting and use the rail station. Importantly, if you’re delayed on your return then the cost of having someone wait for you in the airport drop off/pick up zone will obviously increase (rates here).
- Monorail – the monorail makes the connection between the rail station and the airport so simple. It’s free and frequent and takes about 2 minutes. It also brings you in right at the entrance to the main departures gate so there’s no battling through the crowds downstairs waiting at the check-in desks.
- The queue through security to the departures lounge can be pretty insane during peak times at BHX. If you pre-book online, Express Lane security only costs £3.50.
- The main entrance to security is upstairs from the South Check-in area, next to Burger King. There is, however, another entrance to security which I’ve always found is less busy. You get to this using the escalator near check-in desks 101-130.
Know where your flight will be
In 2011, the airport was re-developed and turned back into a single-termainl airport. Security therefore now takes you directly into what was formerly known as Terminal 1 (access to Gates 40-54 and 55-68). It’s then a bit of a walk to Gates 1-20 (old Terminal 2). Gate numbers don’t always come up very long in advance of your flight so it helps to know Ryanair and flybe depart from Gates 1-20. There are places to eat, drink and shop in that area so for time-saving, head straight round that way if you’ll be departing from there.
I rarely have enough time to sit around at the airport (unless I’m travelling long-haul) but if you are determined to get there way ahead of time and don’t want to fight the queues at Wetherspoons or Costa, then consider booking into Aspire Lounge (approx. £19) or No. 1 Lounge (approx. £24). Access isn’t dependent on frequent flyer status or anything else and you can easily pre-book online ahead of time. I always look at the best options on Quidco at the time as you then get cashback (Quidco is offering 11% cashback on No. 1 Lounge bookings at the moment). I’d definitely rather save money on parking, by using the rail station, and then spending it on lounge access instead. It’s all about making air travel less stressful after all.
Getting out is a nightmare
I have never managed to get out of Birmingham Airport easily. The queues for border control are often an absolute nightmare, they always seem so unprepared for an arriving flight, luggage takes an age (again, another reason why travelling with hand luggage-only is a great option), and I’ve even been locked in a walkway with the rest of the passengers on my flight as they let us off the plane and then couldn’t find someone to open the door at the other end to let us out (that took 25 minutes with the entire flight-load being stuck in a locked walkway, not ideal!). My tip here is just to prepare yourself mentally – expect the worst and expect delays and then anything better than that will be a welcome surprise.
I hope these tips help. Let me know if you have useful tips you swear by when travelling through BHX or any other airport – like I said, I travel a lot so airport tips are always very welcome!