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Wandering Around McCarran's New T3

June 11, 2012 at 7:10 PM | by | ()

The countdown to T3, McCarran's new multi-million dollar terminal is almost over. The first planes will taxi up to its gates on June 27.

After giving it a quick run-through last week, we returned over the weekend for a public open house. Thinking we'd be one of a handful of people, we were shocked to see folks streaming in and out of the terminal. Many with very young children in tow. Vegas Inc reports that airport officials were surprised themselves by the turnout, estimating about 12,000 people showed up over the six-hour event.

Most spent the time queued up in lines as they either vied for food (we spied plates of hot dogs and mac n' cheese) or in hopes of winning something, anything. We heard everything from iPads to Godiva was up for grabs. (McCarran had folks running around T3 in search of airport reps who would hole punch their ticket for a chance to win one of the many prizes. Seven punches were needed before you could turn it in. We wished mom would have told us to always make sure we had clean undies and a hole puncher at all times.)

McCarran gets its Jetson on.

We, however, wandered around to get a feel for the new terminal and.. ok, who are we kidding? We spent about an hour getting our tickets punched, too. But, during that time, we also looked around. First, it's huge. And, sprawling. In the shape of a double-decker 'H.' With the normal hustle and bustle of a busy airport, we could see ourselves easily getting a bit turned around. There were a couple of times when we turned to our companion to ask them if we'd already been in a certain area only to be met with a shrug and a 'beats me' expression.

You are here. You need to be way over there.

Part of our confusion, we think, is because several brands have multiple outlets in T3. Or so it seems. We noted two different Starbucks and three different Hudson newsstands. Handy interactive maps can help to get you back on track.

With that, we have four more observations to make:

One, the WiFi will be free, but the 3G won't be easy. McCarran will offer free WiFi in T3, but our AT&T service varied between one and three bars inside the terminal. When we declined McCarran's WiFi, there were times when we couldn't send anything out. Only signing onto their system would rectify it. Since we often generate our own personal hotspot for our devices that was a bummer to discover.

Two, T3 wants you to do it yourself (#thatswhatshesaid). The check-in area features a plethora of self-serve kiosks including some that allow you to weigh your bags yourself, too.

Three, short term parking is easy in, may not be easy out. When we walked across a skybridge linking the short-term garage to T3 we noted automated kiosks where drivers could pre-pay their parking ticket. (There were no coin meters to be found, at least on our floor.) We noted it as cool, but didn't think anything of it until we were driving away and saw our first sign that leaving airport property would require a pre-paid ticket or a credit card. No cash accepted. Parking was free for the open house and we rarely have cash, anyway, so that would not have been a problem for us. It might, however, be an unexpected problem for others. Especially as the signs don't appear until you're almost at the ticket booths lining the exit.

Four, traffic signage for T3 is great until it isn't. We headed to T3 the way most normally will, from Tropicana. Directional signage was fantastic with driver FYIs both overhead and painted on the road. Until you hit Russell where they completely disappeared. We went with our gut (and the help of one stray digital board that was there for the open house) and managed to find it ok. We're hoping, though, that more signage arrives before T3's official debut.

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