New — hopefully temporary — flight restrictions mean that if you're catching a plane in Australia, you have to be at the airport either two hours (for domestic flights) or three hours (for international flights) early. Here's a few ways to pass the extra time you'll inevitably have after you pass through security.
1. Shop for everything you forgot to pack. Especially if you're flying internationally, chances are there's something important that you've forgotten. If I'm flying in economy on a long-haul flight, I like to pick up a litre bottle of water at one of the convenience stores — yes, I know it's overpriced — to hydrate and stay hydrated throughout the flight, especially on carriers that only give you a small bottle of water on a 14-hour hop across to the US. Do you need a magazine to pass the time? Did you forget your favourite brand of moisturiser that you can't buy in Bali? Now's the time to pick it up.
2. Use the free airport Wi-Fi to download books, music, TV and movies. It was pretty terrible in the past, but the free wi-fi in all of Australia's major east coast airports is now actually pretty damn good. It's time-limited before you'll have to log in again, but in our experience whether you're at Canberra, Melbourne or Sydney, the 'net is fast enough to grab at least a half dozen Netflix episodes, a couple of albums on Spotify, or as many Kindle titles as you could possibly ever need for any one flight. Or use the 'net to build yourself an itinerary of what you'll do after you've landed.
3. Visit a lounge, if you can get into one. Hands down, visiting an airport lounge is the best way to spend your excess time in an airport. Lounges are generally much less crowded than airport concourses and gates, and generally have free food and drink, fast Wi-Fi and the occasional perk like massages or shoe shining. Of course, you either need frequent flyer status or to pay for entry to those lounges that allow it. If you're in Sydney, I can give a special recommendation to the international Qantas First lounge — it's one of the 10 that every aviation nerd should experience at least once in their life. Try the salt and pepper calamari.
4. Get half cut on free wine tastings. You know those Wine Selectors stands that are littered around all of Australia's airports — the ones that you've quickly walked past and never tried? Be a maverick — try one. Walk up and listen to the patter and see how much Hunter Valley semillon you can neck before someone asks for your credit card details. Then pretend you've just heard your flight announcement and leg it.
5. Treat yourself and get a massage or a beauty treatment. Find a free massage chair, stump up for one of the coin-operated ones, visit one of the little hole-in-the-wall massage parlours that you can find around Australia's airport terminals (just Google). Flying domestic isn't especially fun because of the cramped seat widths, and flying international is even more of a pain unless you're in business or premium economy, and a massage will loosen you up nicely whether you're about to take off or even after you've just landed.
Any other tips? Let us know in the comments below.