Air travel is a lot like going to the doctor. You can try to avoid it, but eventually it has to happen, and boy oh boy, it is going to be uncomfortable. Both involve long waits, unexpected and unpleasant developments and significant costs. But at least when it comes to flying, you can always find the best strategies and hidden perks, specifically when you’re flying out of Milwaukee’s own Mitchell International Airport. Here are a few ways to make the most out of your upcoming flight.
As with most airports, your best option is always being dropped off at the gate. Whether by taxi or through the generosity of a friend, being dropped off gives you the chance to get right into the gate area without the hassle of parking. But, if that’s not your option, I’d suggest using one of the long-term lots near the airport. Parking is plentiful and relatively affordable. Free shuttles run back and forth from the lots at frequent intervals. Unlike many other airports, these shuttles are not disgusting and jam-packed with sweaty bodies and bulky luggage. It’s not as convenient as the drop-off-and-run tactic, but it’ll get the job done.
Weirdly enough, one of the best used bookstores in Milwaukee has a location inside the airport — Renaissance Books. With a wide selection from classics to new releases, all marked down based on condition, it’s the perfect place to select some light reading for your flight, such as Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. If reading isn’t your thing, you and I should have a serious talk, but there are other options. Right next to Renaissance, you can get your shoes shined at Royal Shine II, which is a fantastic way to class up your footwear game. Or grab some food — pizza, sandwich, burgers, salads — at one of the restaurants a few yards away. Before you hit the gate, pick up some new clothing to show off on the trip, either a classy new suit from the Brooks Brothers or a Drink Wisconsinbly T-shirt, depending on your target audience.
Enjoy Live Music
This isn’t a sure thing, but relatively often there’s a piano player tickling the ivories in the center of the airport court. There’s no more effective way to calm pre-flight jitters than taking in some contemporary jazz and/or easy listening. Toss a tip the pianist’s way after you enjoy the tunes.
Kill some time at The Mitchell Gallery of Flight, an aviation museum inside the airport. Explore the artifacts and exhibits and learn about Milwaukee pilots such as the astronaut James Lovell, made famous for his heroism during the Apollo 13 mission (played by Tom Hanks, if that jogs your memory). But maybe don’t spend too much time thinking about the accident and subsequent emergency landing before you get on an airplane yourself.
The Recombobulation Area
This is by far the best part of Mitchell Airport. We’ve all stumbled out of the TSA line, shoes in hand, belt over our shoulder, feeling somewhat violated and struggling to re-orient ourselves. Every other airport in the nation just drops you out of that security checkpoint and straight into the fast-paced fury of the gate area without a moment’s peace. But not Mitchell: An overhead sign lets you know that the benches and open space before the gates are a special place — a sacred place, even — a place where you can recombobulate. Take a seat, slip your shoes back on, fill your pockets with all that loose change you dumped in the bin. Take full advantage of this beautiful amenity.
Picking Your Gate Seat
Mitchell is blessed with multiple charging stations. This is prime real estate at each gate. If you want to snatch one up, get there early. If that doesn’t matter to you, then you have little to worry about. All the seats are relatively comfortable, and your only concern (at some gates at certain times of the day) is sun through the large windows getting in your eyes. Scoping out some shade before choosing your seat is always a good move, and then you’re all set and ready to board. Seat backs and tray tables in their upright and locked positions, folks.