By Doug Wahl
This may not sound flattering, but one of the best parts about living in Wilmington is how easy it is to get out of Wilmington.
My plan on Thursday morning was to wake up at 5:30 am. When the alarm went off I hit the snooze button. In fact I hit it several times. When I finally got out of bed it was almost an hour later…. and my flight was taking off at 7:45 a.m.
There was no panic. There was no worry. There was no reason for concern.
If this would have happened in virtually any other city in America my travel plans would have drastically changed. Instead of jumping in the shower I would have hopped on the phone and called the airlines- pleading for mercy. If I still wanted to get where I was going, there likely would have been some extra fees tacked on.
But this is Wilmington, this is ILM, this is different. For me, considering I only live 20 minutes from the airport, there was still plenty of time.
As a former broadcast journalist I have bounced around the country, I’ve lived in six states and flown in and out of big cities and small towns. To me, Wilmington is the Goldilocks of airports. It’s not too big and it’s not too small.
You know the problem with big airports. First you have to battle traffic just to get there. When you finally arrive, unless a friend is dropping you off, you may be parked so far away that it requires a shuttle. Of course you are familiar with the long lines at the ticket counter and through security. That easily adds a half hour to your journey. And then you have to find your gate, which could mean sprinting. Seriously, running at my age is only advisable if a defibrillator is standing by.
A small airport is less challenging, but the issue there isn’t getting to your plane. It’s the plane you’re getting on. Puddle jumpers personally scare me. I am not a fan of turbulence, and these prop planes can lead to some very shaky flights. At times it feels less like traveling and more like an amusement park ride.
Thursday morning 7:05 am.
After a quick shower I arrive at the airport 40 minutes before takeoff. There is no line at the ticket counter. I’m able to walk right up. There is also no line at the security gate. They wave me over, quickly scanning my luggage, and get me to the X-ray machine where a TSA worker is waiting on me.
Two minutes later, after a leisurely stroll that carries no threat of a cardiac event, I’m at the gate. An electronic sign tells me there is still twelve minutes before boarding will start.
Listen, this is not a ringing endorsement on how to travel. I was cutting it close. My intent was to arrive maybe 20 to 30 minutes earlier. That is still a much shorter wait than the two hours the experts suggest. Looking at my fellow travelers I doubt any of them arrived here at the crack of dawn.
My destination is Dallas. I’ll being traveling on an ERJ 175, a jet airplane that carries about 80 passengers. It should be a very smooth flight.
DFW is one of nine direct flights you can take from ILM: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and two Washington D.C. airports are the others.
If those aren’t your final destination, and Dallas was not mine, then you will have to deal with a layover. I will spend an hour at DFW, which is far less time than it would have taken me to drive to a larger airport.
Travel Tips when living in the Cape Fear
- As of this writing ILM is served by three airlines; American, Delta and United. If you’re a fan of discount carriers you will want to check Myrtle Beach or Raleigh.
- The perception is that traveling from smaller airports tends to be more expensive. This has not been my experience. Like anywhere else flying from ILM does require planning. I try to book a couple of weeks in advance. If I want to travel over a holiday weekend, I may try booking a month in advance
- Getting back home tends to be a bit more complicated than leaving. My advice is never book the last flight of the day. I am sure the airlines will deny this, but it does feel like they’d rather put you up in a hotel then let a half empty plane take off. I’ve been stranded in New York and Charlotte before the lesson sunk in.
When you move to a new town you don’t focus on the airport. It is not really a selling point that will persuade one to pick up their life and move somewhere else. Instead you daydream on the adventure, the beaches, the warm winters, the chance to explore somewhere new. In time though you will want to return to your old stomping grounds, and that’s when you will discover the convenience of living in a town this size.
Moving to Wilmington has many perks, and one of them happens to be how easy it is to go somewhere else.