From Asian aviation megahubs to palm-fringed Pacific island airports or simple landing strips in the Panamanian jungle, I've been lucky enough to touch down at a wide variety of airports around the planet. Each time there's always that slightly giddy feeling of landing somewhere new and looking forward to kicking off a new adventure. Here are my picks for my favourite airports around the world.
Despite being one of the world's busiest airports – more than 55 million passengers pass through Changi every year – arriving at Singapore always seems relaxed and efficient. Baggage pickup and immigration usually takes less than 30 minutes, and as a transit hub it's hard to beat. The concourses are spacious and uncrowded, there are good value eating and drinking opportunities, and plenty of good shopping and free internet access. Bonus attractions of relaxing gardens with orchids, butterflies and sunflowers, a 24-hour movie theatre, and a rooftop pool make Singapore an airport where a multi-hour layover is something to be enjoyed not endured. And if you're in transit for at least six hours, there's the option of a complimentary Singapore city tour.
A North Asian alternative to Singapore when heading to Europe, South Korea's Incheon airport is another busy hub that's often rated one the world's best airports. A futuristic subway system whisks passengers smoothly around the connecting terminals, there's an emphasis on relaxing garden areas to rival verdant Singapore, and free showers and whip smart 4G WiFi are really appreciated if you're in transit. A casino and a golf driving range are other diversions to fill a few hours, and for a major airport, food is surprisingly well-priced. I can recommend the spicy octopus hotpot at Banjoo Modern Korean Dining and the doughnuts and freshly-squeezed juices at Paris Baguette – umm, delicious!
Frankfurt is often a destination airport or transit hub for New Zealand travellers heading to Europe, but after a few hectic occasions negotiating what is one of the world's most sprawling airports, I've now begun to explore options to instead transit via nearby Munich. It is still a big airport – handling 41 million passengers annually vs Frankfurt's 60 million – but better design and a more compact footprint means it is more efficient and less confusing to negotiate. It's an excellent option for travelling on to Central European destinations like the Czech Republic or Croatia, and the airport's direct rail link to Munich's main train station makes it easy to continue overland to Switzerland, Austria and Italy.
One of the planet's fastest growing airports – soaring to 78 million passengers in 2015 – Dubai is a very versatile option with direct flights to many destinations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Direct 17-hour flights from Auckland with Emirates mean New Zealand travellers can knock off the bulk of their travelling time with a single flight. Highlights of the world's busiest airport – Dubai knocked London's Heathrow off the number one spot in 2014 – include free showers and WiFi, compact sleeping pods, and good value Dubai hotel stopovers that can be booked in association with Emirates.
New Zealand's biggest airport may be a mere minnow by international standards – Mangere handled around 8 million passengers for the 2015 financial year – but it's definitely one of my favourites and always eases the occasional angst of arriving back home. The Smart Gate entry system is quick and efficient for Kiwi and Australian passport holders, I love the New Zealand birdsong and traditional Maori carved doorway framing the arrival area, and the range of restaurants and different cuisines on offer is better than many other much larger international airports. Some times of the day can be very busy – Saturday evening around 6pm is crammed with flights from Asia, Australia and the Pacific – but other recent flights home have seen me lining up for a taxi within just 20 minutes of landing. And that just makes it a little better to be back home after a holiday too!