Getting around Kansas City International Airport is easier than many airports, says a local travel agent.
In the last few years, lower air fares have encouraged more people to take to the skies when traveling.
And most area travelers who plan to wing it to a holiday destination are likely to find themselves departing from Kansas City International Airport in Kansas City, Mo.
"It is possibly one of the dullest airports they've ever been in, but it is easy to get around and the lines normally move very quickly," said Anne Walters, manager of CWT/Sunflower Travel Service, 800 Mass.
"The problem is, it is not passenger friendly. There are not lots of shops and restaurants to entertain people who are stranded at the airport because of weather," Walters said.
To help people planning to use the airport, Walters and Joe McBride, manager of marketing and communications for the city aviation department in Kansas City, Mo., provided a few tips for travelers.
"Make sure you have plenty of time," Walters said. "When you don't have enough time, people's nerves get frayed and they can be on edge. And travel is a big hassle anyway."
McBride and Walters both recommended arriving at the airport at least an hour before your flight leaves.
And during the busy holidays, arriving 90 minutes early is recommended, "especially on the low-fare carriers, where you don't have assigned seating. If you get there late you're going to sit in the back," McBride said.
A recent mid-morning trip from Lawrence to KCI, after rush hour, took about 45 minutes. Travelers should allow some time for parking, if they plan to leave their car at the airport, Walters said.
"I recommend packing a book," she said. "If you're traveling with children, take plenty of things to entertain them and some of their favorite snacks. Many of the airlines don't serve food and children are comforted by favorite snacks."
If you need to have specially prepared meals on the airplane or need a wheelchair at the airport, those should be arranged ahead of time and reconfirmed 24 hours before your flight, Walters said.
"We do suggest people just plan that extra time to go early, get parked and just be flexible," she said.
McBride said the airport's busiest times are during morning and afternoon rush hours.
"If your schedule permits and is flexible, it's not a bad idea to schedule your flight a little later in the morning," he said.
KCI has a site on the World Wide Web that outlines a lot of information, at http://www.kcairports.org.
Probably the quickest way to get to KCI by car from Lawrence is on the Kansas Turnpike (Interstate 70) to Interstate 435, then to Interstate 29.
Enter the turnpike at the East Lawrence toll plaza, just north of North Lawrence. Be prepared to pay the $1.25 toll at the turnpike's eastern terminus, which takes about 25 minutes from Lawrence.
From that point, continue east on I-70, then turn off at Exit 411B North to get to Interstate 435.
You'll drive another 15 minutes on I-435 until you turn right at the Interstate 29 exit, which will take you to the clearly marked entrance to the airport.
Some people like to avoid traffic at the main entrance to KCI from I-29. To do so, they turn off at I-29 a few miles early, at Mexico City Avenue, Exit 15. Then follow Mexico City Avenue until it meets Paris Street, take a left at Paris, then turn right at Cookingham Drive to get to the three terminal buildings.
If you don't want to drive yourself, Walters said there are several taxi and limousine services in Lawrence that will provide transportation to the airport.
"We encourage people to use the satellite parking lot, which is $4 a day," McBride said. "It's assured you'll get a parking space."
Shuttle buses take travelers from those parking lots to the A, B, or C terminals, where the air carriers check in passengers.
The A and B terminals also have three-level underground parking structures. Short-term parking, which is closer to the exits, costs $18 a day. Long-term parking, which is farther from the exits, cost $12 a day. Cars may be parked there during the duration of the trip, he said.
There are underground tunnels that will take you to the terminal from those parking lots.
A new underground parking structure is under construction now in terminal C. Travelers who use air carriers operating from the C terminal may use a temporary parking lot adjacent to the control tower, at a cost of $10 per day, McBride said.
Shuttle buses come every eight to 10 minutes to take passengers to the terminal building.
At terminals A and B, there are spaces available for 30 minutes of parking for free, to allow someone to park to pick up a traveler. Terminal C has spaces for one hour of temporary free parking, McBride said.
Clearly marked signs that use both words and international graphic symbols and arrows provide directions to the terminal buildings.
Walters suggested that travelers who are going to be gone several days make arrangements to use valet service offered by Thrifty Car Rental, Kansas City, Mo. Their rates are $3 a day and they will pick you up at the terminal and have your car already heated or cooled, depending on the weather, she said.
"To me, it is just wonderful if you have the extra time to do that," she said.
Handicapped parking is $4 per day at all the lots. There are elevators in the tunnels to get people to the passenger levels.
McBride said most of the airlines offer curbside check-in or "sky cap" service.
"It's not a requirement, but it's customary to tip $1 a bag, or give some sort of tip," he said.
McBride said to be aware that you will need to show photo identification when you check in at the sky cap or at the airline ticket counter.
If you have a physical problem and need help getting your luggage from the parking lots to the terminal, shuttle bus drivers will be happy to help, McBride said.
They will also help you find your car if you've forgotten where you parked following a long trip, he said.
Besides the international symbols and signs, KCI has a new audio paging system that also displays what was said on a visual display inside the terminal to help hearing impaired travelers, McBride said.
Once travelers check in and check their bags, they can visit some of the small video arcades, shops and eateries in the terminal buildings, he said.
"Since KCI is not a major connecting hub, typical waits aren't that long," McBride said. "So we don't have a great deal of amenities for long waits. However, there are the shops and the restaurants and the arcades to help people occupy their time if there is an unforeseen wait. Some of the airlines have little tykes' play areas."
McBride said travelers need to remember not to carry anything on them or in their carry-on luggage that could be considered a weapon.
"Oftentimes, if someone has a small pepper mace for self defense, that will be confiscated because it is considered a weapon," he said. You should avoid carrying pocket knives ... or anything that could be remotely considered a weapon, such as scissors."
Around the holidays, there is a possibility airport security personnel might have to unwrap a gift to inspect it, he said.
"It might be good to wrap it at your final destination," he said.
Passengers are generally allowed to bring two carry-on bags with them, which need to be small enough to fit underneath the seat in front of them or in the overhead compartment.
Cellular phones, portable computers and video games may be carried on, but their use is discouraged during flights because it's uncertain what effect they might have on the electronic flight control systems on the airplane, he said.