Tampa International Airport is one of my favorite airports, although I must admit I love Raleigh/Durham as well. I once flew in on an international flight, and couldn't believe how easy it was to get from immigration and customs, to my internal gate.
I use Tampa; we call the airport T.I.A., several times a year. At least one of these flights is International. This year will be my 25th visit back to England, and the majority of them have been with British Airways.
If I am going on my own, my husband leaves the car in the short term parking lot. This is a multi-story car park. We learned our lesson early, and always park on the top level. This way he can always find the car after my departure. If you park on any other level, remember to take the number with you. It is also sectioned into 'Red', and 'Blue', which also helps you to find your vehicle quicker.
We then go down to Level 2, in an elevator, which is ticketing. Here all the airlines have their counters. The airline employees are always helpful. When we get our boarding passes, the representative tells us which of the 'legs' we will be leaving from, and which of the escalators to take. Blue for south and Red for north.
The escalator takes us up to Level 3, in the main Terminal building. Here in the center are shops, newsstands, etc. Around the sides are the 'legs' that take us to the different air sides. Before going over we always stop at Burger King, The Garden Cafe, or one of the other restaurants. If time is running short, never worry, a snack bar and gift shop are located at all the air sides. The 'legs' differ, so you may not get the same ones, if you are traveling with a different airline.
On the envelope with the boarding passes in them will be the letter for air side A,B,C,D,E, or F. Before the problems with September 11th, people not flying were able to accompany you. Now I have to say my goodbyes and go through the security screening by myself. My International flights leave from air side F, so I get on the shuttle to the gate area.
On arrival I check to see in which direction my gate is. There are only a few at each air side, which makes traveling really easy. There are also plenty of monitors to check if your flight is on time.
While waiting in the boarding area, there is a great view of the runways. They also have free WIFI, which really makes the time go by. Len and I can Skype each other, instant message, or just email back and forth. Yes, I have had delays in Tampa, but most times it has not been the fault of the airport.
When Len comes with me we park in the economy long-term parking lots. These are a fair distance from the main terminal. They have a great bus system, picking up passengers within a few minutes. It takes you to either the south or north side of the building. This way you have to find your ticket counter yourself. If someone is just dropping you off, they can let you out outside the particular airline counter. No parking or waiting for arrivals is allowed, but you can drive up and pick up. If the people are not there you can keep driving until their arrival outside the terminal, or go to the cell phone parking area, and wait for your call.
Just once we stayed in the long term parking in the terminal area. Here it runs around $10-$12 a day, instead of $10 for economy. With this parking, you just go down to Level 5 and get the monorail to the building containing ticketing, etc.
If you do have your tickets in advance, and no luggage to check in, you can go straight up to Level 3 and check the monitors, to see which air side and gate you need.
As with all airports, restrooms, phones, courtesy paging phones, carts, etc. are available on each level.
When coming back from your trip and into T.I.A, the reverse will happen. After coming off the shuttle just head for either the red or blue signs for your airline. Go down the escalators to the baggage area. Again there are monitors directing you to the correct baggage claim.
On this level (Level 1) there are rental car counters, ground transportation, carts, etc. This is where we pick up the bus to take us back to our vehicle in economy parking.
This is a clean building and it is very well kept and a pleasure to be in. The way it is laid out makes it really easy for anyone to get around. The only problem I have found is in the Southwest ticketing area. There are normally so many people lined up, that sometimes they are almost out the doors. If you are flying by any other carrier this will not affect you.
Last year I had booked my flight 9 months ahead of time, and my right wrist got broken 2 weeks before my visit. I had a titanium plate, steel rod, and 7 screws, inserted in my wrist. I got the go ahead to travel. I contacted British Airways, and said that I needed assistance, as I was traveling alone.
As soon as Len and I arrived with my luggage, I was asked if I wanted help. I told the lady that I had made arrangements, and a gentleman with a wheelchair approached me. He took me up on the elevator, over on the tram. Once we got to security, I showed my passport and boarding pass. He put my hand luggage on the belt, while I removed my shoes, took out my phone. I asked him to remove my computer from the case.
I had my wrist/arm in a cast, and I told the security people about the metal. I then had to get out of the wheelchair, and have a complete pat down. The lady was very professional, and told me everything that she was going to do. She used the back of her hands in certain areas. My main worry was that my purse, passport, green card, money, and everything I was taking to England was on the conveyor belt. She informed me that the gentleman helping me would take care of my belongings.
When I finally got back to him, he had my luggage for me. He waited while I got my shoes on, and got back into the wheelchair. As I belong to 'Priory Club', he took me to the lounge. I asked him to make sure that he was back in plenty of time before my flight.
The time came for me to be collected, and no one showed up. I asked the receptionist to check for me. Another gentleman came just as they were calling for people, who needed extra time, to board the flight. He took me right to the door of the plane. Both these guys got great tips as I wouldn't have been able to get there on my own.
When I came back, the wheelchair people were the last to get off the plane. They didn't have enough people, and so the 3 men, pushed 6 wheelchairs. At immigration our guy went up with the other person first, pushed them through, and then came back for me. At customs he got a cart, and got both of our luggage. Again wheeled the first person through, and then came back for me. For the first time in years, I didn't have to spend 2 hours in customs, with them going through my case, hand luggage, and purse. He then wheeled our luggage to the shuttle entrance, then one of us, and then the other. He timed it just right to get everything on.
At the other end Len was waiting for me. The gentleman told me that they are always short staffed, and he is used to doing this. I knew that as he was so organised.
Tampa International Airport was very well organized both ways. I got the help I needed, with no additional charges. As stated I tipped well, because at Gatwick, England, I was charged for my bags to be picked up, even though I couldn't lift them myself.
Tampa International Airport is at;
5507 West Spruce Street,
Monday - Friday 8.30am to 5pm.
The airport is located 5 miles west of downtown. Leave extra time for your journey to the airport, at peak times.
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Jun - Aug