“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” ― Bill Bryson

How (not) to get to Luton Airport Or any airport, for that matter

How (not) to get to Luton Airport Or any airport, for that matter


Another trip to Amsterdam, another near disaster. It's news to no one that I love Amsterdam. I adore it for many of the obvious reasons - the architecture, the canals, the tulips, the apple pies, the pancakes, the bike riding. I absolutely melt when I walk out from Amsterdam Centraal station and see the stunning city hustling and bustling right in front of me.

That said, Amsterdam and I have something of a complicated relationship. Actually, it’s not Amsterdam, it’s me. Amsterdam is perfect. Always. I'm the one with complications. During one of my last visits to Amsterdam I got very lost and had my friend's bike repossessed (later returned, but still).

This time I almost missed the flight due to sheer carelessness.

I now realise that, while many of my blogs could be categorized as guides, they’re not based on my personal success stories, but on my quiver-inducing mistakes. This brings me to introduce my latest guide.


How to get to Amsterdam without missing your flight from Luton Airport

  1. On the day of departure, check your flight time. Then have someone else check your flight time.

  2. Calculate the entire journey time to Luton airport from your current location. An app like Citymapper is perfect for this - assuming you get your flight time correct.

  3. Okay, so you know your flight time. Technically, boarding closes 30 minutes before that time. Adjust your flight time to reflect what we'll call 'true flight time', i.e. 30 minutes before the time on your ticket.

  4. You're travelling to Luton most likely because it offered the most affordable fare (or because you prefer flying from a remote airport), so you'll likely want to take the train. In general, it takes approximately 1.5 hours to travel to Luton airport and about £19.

  5. Subtract 1.5 hours from your 'true flight time'.

  6. If it's your first time traveling to Luton by train, subtract an extra 30 minutes. It's probably the most complicated airport transit by public transport and you might benefit from a margin of error.

  7. You have accounted for journey time - now subtract 30 minutes for security lines. Look, it shouldn't take that long but you never really know, do you?

  8. Now you have what I call 'true departure time'. This is the time you should depart to arrive on time for your flight to Amsterdam from Luton airport.

In my case, the flight departed Luton at 16.15.

My 'true flight time' was 15.45.  Subtract 1.5 hours for train travel - that brings us to 14.15. Let's subtract 30 minutes for directional issues - now we're at 13.45. And finally, let's subtract 30 minutes for security lines. Now we're at 13.15.

So, if your flight to Amsterdam departs Luton airport at 16.15, then you should be out the door at 13.15 if you actually want to make your flight.

What you definitely do not want to do is misinterpret your original flight time, as mentioned earlier. Continuing with the same example, you wouldn't want to misread 16.15 as 6.15pm. If you did this, you might incorrectly allow yourself two hours to arrive at the airport and set your arrival time at 16.00. Citymapper would then suggest your departure time as 14.45.

This would mean you would absolutely miss your flight, unless, by some miracle you realise you’ve made an enormous error at 1.30pm whilst having a leisurely lunch.

You might then find yourself in a frantic panic to get out the door to try to take the train. You might also realise that you've missed your train, and that the next would set your arrival time to 15.20 (something like 35 minutes prior to 'true departure time').

You might then find yourself forced to take an Uber, which will cost you more than your flight to Amsterdam, by the way.

Your Uber driver will probably ask what time your flight departs. When you tell him 16.15, you might have to deal with the feeling of immense despair as he tells you he can’t guarantee you’ll make it in time and that you’re better off taking the train.

Together, you might consider driving to a station but, because your Uber driver is a great guy, he’ll say, “Let’s do it”.

On your hour long ride to the airport, you might gain some deep insight into the importance of checking your flight time. By some miracle, you could find yourself arriving at Luton airport at an amazing 15.00. Big signage will lead your way and if the gods are looking down on you, you’ll find just five people ahead of you at security.

You could find yourself in the lounge about 10 minutes before your gate is announced.

And you might still, by some miracle, make your flight.

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