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If you’ve traveled by air lately, you know that the glamor days of riding through the skies and zipping through airports are long gone. With massive crowds, security checkpoints and overbooked flights, today’s airport experience can quickly turn into a hassle-filled scene that will leave you wondering why you ever wanted to fly in the first place. If you’re careful, you can minimize the airport stress and turn it into a learning experience in budgeting your time and planning. Here are a few tips to keep your cool before takeoff:

Staying Connected

Wi-Fi hotspots at airports are convenient and allow you to chat with your friends and family, work on assignments and send emails. You can entertain yourself and play online games on your iPad while you wait. However, anyone around you can use the same signal to peruse your data files. If you use unsecured Wi-Fi connections frequently, consider subscribing to a security service, such as Lifelock, that will alert you to any unauthorized use of your personal information. Added peace of mind is always a plus, especially when you’re headed for some rest and relaxation.

Arrive Early

It may sound obvious, but if you only do one thing to make your trip through the airport easier, allow plenty of time before your flight departs. Many things can delay your getting to the gate like traffic jams, long lines at check-in or at the security check point, or long airport corridors. Don’t start your trip by running through the halls, worried about missing your flight. Instead, add an extra hour to your travel to the airport time. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the airport.

Dress and Pack for Security

Much to the chagrin of travelers, TSA rules and procedures change frequently. Even if you just flew a couple of months ago, it pays to review the current security rules and requirements online before you pack and dress for your flight. Something else to consider: a new TSA program allows passengers who are traveling on one of several US airlines from one of 16 airports to sign up for Pre-Screen check-in. This allows qualified passengers to go through a special, fast-moving line at the airport.

Get Seating in Advance

Having your seat number in advance not only saves you time at the check-in counter, but it lets you get your boarding passes at the curb when you check your luggage or at the automated check-in machines. What’s more: you’re less likely to get bumped from an overbooked flight if you already have seat assignments. Seating in advance also gives you the perk of choosing a better seat, making your flight all the more comfortable.

You don’t really need another vacation to get over your trip through the airport. With a little planning and and plenty of streamlined tips, you can glide through the terminal relaxed and unfazed and ready for the beach!

 

Let’s be real, no one looks forward to airline food, no matter how much wine they’ve consumed before it is served.

 

However, enjoying a great pre-departure meal is very easy if you’re departing from Washington Dulles, as the airport offers over 10 different restaurants with International cuisine.

 

Here are five of our favorites…

 

Vino Volo- IAD Concourse C/Gate C3 and Concourse B/Gate B63

Price: $$$

Details: “Vino Volo” is loosely translated as “Wine Flight” in English, and that is the perfect name for these self named “post-security retreats” located exclusively in select US airports, and fortunately there is one at IAD airport. The locations offer an impressive collection of hand-selected wines and themed wine flights. In addition, passengers can enjoy elegant small plates, artesian meats and cheeses or their signature dish of smoked salmon and crabmeat crostini.

The combination of great wines, cozy leather lounge chairs and impeccable service makes this the ideal pre-departure meeting spot.

 

Matsutake Sushi and Hibachi- IAD Concourse A/Gate 18

Price: $

It’s always a sensory delight to dine at a Japanese sushi and hibachi restaurant, and Matsutake Sushi and Hibachi in Washington Dulles airport is no exception. Travelers may find it difficult to walk past the smells of simmering teriyaki and the rhythmic sounds of fresh vegetables being precisely chopped for hand crafted sushi rolls…definitely unexpected from airport fare. Follow your meal with a cup of sake or an Asian beer, and you are cleared for takeoff.

 

Jose Cuervo Tequileria- IAD Concourse B/Gate 38

Price: $$

Details: At the Washington Dulles location, you can enjoy an authentic Mexican breakfast, lunch or dinner, followed by a top-shelf margarita made from one of the many tequilas of Jose Cuervo fame. The menu features a great selection of Latin fare…and you can dine on the mild-side or go as spicy as you like. Enjoy your meal in the sit-down dining area, or strike up a pre-departure conversation over cocktails at the full-service bar.

 

 

Firkin and Fox- IAD Concourse C/Gate 22

Price: $$

Details: If British pubs are your “thing”, the Dulles airport Firkin and Fox is perfect for you. This restaurant features everything you’ve come to expect from these familiar establishments…great food and of course, beer. At the Dulles airport location, you can dine on fish and chips, burgers, salads, cottage pie and other selections from their full menu of pub favorites.

 

 

Chipotle- IAD Concourse B/Gate 54

Price: $

Details: This is the perfect place for a quick meal before leaving IAD or to grab the ideal carry-on cuisine. You can choose from freshly prepared handcrafted burritos (filled to capacity with the ingredients of your choice), tacos, rice bowls (they now offer brown rice) and salads that have the same fillings as the burritos…minus the tortilla wrapper. The guacamole is made fresh several times a day, and the cilantro-lime rice is a great accent to all of their selections. If you happen to bring your meal onboard, be prepared for the envy of your seatmate.

 

 

 

 

 

You’ve been sitting in the gate area at Washington Dulles for the past two hours when you hear those dreaded words…

 

“Ladies and Gentleman, Flight 365 is cancelled due to a mechanical problem. Please line up at the gate, and we will book you on the next available flight.”

 

Just great.

 

You merge gracefully into the stampede of frantic passengers who are at present, charging toward the harried looking gate agent who has had it up-to-here, and is ready to tell all the passengers to go you-know-where.

 

And alas, since you were one of the last of the herd, the “next” available flight leaving IAD airport (with an open seat for you) is the following day…at 3:00PM.

 

Now, we all know that Washington DC is a fantastic place…the National Mall, a complete host of museums, restaurants, great entertainment (even in non-election years) and several other activities to fill the time during your unplanned layover.

 

All of this would be great if you were at Reagan, which just happens to be right next to all of the fun.

 

But you’re at Dulles…30 miles away from the action, and you’ll only have a few hours to kill…hours that you don’t want to spend in yet another hotel bar paying $12.00 for a six ounce brew, and you definitely don’t want to spend all of it in the maddening DC traffic.

 

But, is there anything to do near Dulles?

 

Never fear, iFly to the rescue. We have for you, our weary travelers…

 

5 Things To Do Near Washington Dulles Airport (IAD)

 

1. SHOP

 

There is nothing like a little retail therapy to ease the pain of strandedness. Near Dulles you have two main options:

 

Reston Town Center

Distance from IAD: 6.0 mi http://www.restontowncenter.com/

 

This outdoor location offers over 50 stores, 30 restaurants, a huge movie theater, festivals year round and an ice-skating rink in the wintertime; a perfect place to spend a few hours and relax.

 

 

 

Dulles Town Center

Distance from IAD: 7.5 mi http://www.shopdullestowncenter.com/

 

This is your “Mall of Malls”. It is a 1.4 million square foot facility that boasts 185 fine retailers, 5 department stores, 23 quick food providers and 10 sit down restaurants. You may end up needing another suitcase if you spend your layover here.

 

1. EAT

 

My motto? “Will fly for food.”

 

Only because I am a crewmember.

 

Perhaps yours can be “Can’t fly, need food.”

 

Well the Dulles airport corridor has plenty of great eats, all within a two mile radius. Choose any of these establishments to satiate your cravings:

 

Hama Sushi (0.9 mi)

Minerva (0.9 mi)

Bertucci’s (1.1 mi)

Charlie Chiangs Herndon (1.4 mi)

Pei Wei Asian Diner (1.6 mi)

Zeffirelli Ristorante (2.2 mi)

Angeethi (2.3 mi)

The Tortilla Restaurant  (2.3 mi)

 Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon (2.5 mi)

 

 

  1. EXPLORE

 

National Air and Space Museum-Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Distance from IAD: 5.4mi

http://www.nasm.si.edu/udvarhazy/

 

Everyone knows about the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall, and if you ever find yourself visiting (read: stranded) at Dulles again with a longer stay, this place is a must-see.

 

However, coming in at a close second is the National Air and Space Museum-Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.

 

Basically, the Smithsonian had an overflow of items in the air and space category, so they opened this facility to showcase the excess…combined, the two locations showcase the largest collection of aviation and space related artifacts on the planet.

 

 

1. PLAY

 

Dulles Golf Center and Sports Park Distance from IAD: 6.8mi

http://www.dullesgolfcenter.com/

 

 

Take out your stress on a golf ball or baseball at this location; which has been voted among the top 100 golf ranges in the country. The location features heated driving range stalls, power tees, beach volleyball, miniature golf, batting cages…you name it. Blow off some steam here…not when you finally board your flight leaving IAD airport.

 

1. LEARN

 

Frying Pan Park/Farm Distance from IAD: 4.0mi

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fpp/kidwell.htm

 

Take off the suit and get your hands dirty…Frying Pan Park offers a complete 180 from the frenzied terminals of Dulles at their rural heritage demonstration farm. You can meet draft horses, cows, pigs, chickens, take a wagon ride and watch farm hands work just as they would have in the 1930‘s. Seems like an idyllic scene doesn’t it? Until the quiet is shattered when the plane you were supposed to be on flies overhead.

 

So Washington Dulles is not a horrible place for that unplanned layover, and you don’t have to go all the way into the “District” for some great layover diversions. Sometimes the best life has to offer is found in that unexpected stop.

 

Enjoy your journey.

 

 

 

Pros              

Free WiFi   – Washington Dulles offers travelers free Wi-Fi throughout all terminals, just use the “Dulles Airport” SSID for access. Other “for-pay” wireless services are still available for travelers.

 

International Departures – Dulles is definitely the airport of choice for international departures out of the Washington DC metropolitan area…the only international flights allowed out of DCA are to Canada and select Caribbean destinations.

 

More Parking Options – Parking at any airport can be a challenge, but with some pre-planning and research, parking at Dulles Airport can be surprisingly simple. Dulles offers onsite long term and short term parking, handicapped parking facilities, valet parking services and remote economy lots with free shuttles. Outside parking vendors offer remote economy parking that you can pre-pay online, and several hotels in the vicinity offer discounted parking or stay and park packages.

 

Cons

No rail access (yet) – Dulles airport is not connected to the Washington DC Metro rail system, so right now, it is only accessible by car, bus or taxi. There are several affordable options for shared airport transportation if you don’t want to drive your own vehicle or to shell out parking fees. However, construction is underway for the “Silver Line” (otherwise known as the long-awaited railway system to Dulles) which will make access much more convenient.

 

Not easy to navigate – To state that Washington Dulles is busy is an understatement; with more than 21,000 departures and 1.5 million passengers a month to contend with, getting to your gate on time can be a real challenge. In 2006, the airport discontinued the mobile lounge transportation system and introduced the AeroTrain; an inter-terminal train that services the A, B and C gates. The AeroTrain does facilitate movement throughout the airport, but arriving early and allowing additional time to get through the airport is still the best practice.

 

Over 25 miles from downtown Washington D.C. – Although IAD airport services the nation’s capital, it is not close to the center of the action. Fortunately, the city is easy to get to, and there are several transportation options available to travelers; including, shuttle services, tour busses and limousines.