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Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but despite the savings, many travellers will pay more to avoid the extra time in the airport. But for those budget travellers, going on a trip can include lots of time spent at airports.
Despite their reputation as a necessary evil, layovers don’t have to mean endless hours of watching the clock and waiting for your vacation to start. So what does one do when faced with a long layover in a busy airport? Most international airports have a lot more amenities to offer than just a bookstore and a decent candy bar selection.
From exploring museum exhibits to hitting the gym or even relaxing with a spa treatment, here’s how to make the most of you layover with different things to do in airports all over the world.
Some airports have fitness centres and even yoga rooms for you to destress and get your sweat on while waiting for your next flight. Most airport gyms offer shoes, clothes, and showers for rent—including Toronto Pearson. Singapore Changi Airport takes it a step further with a swimming pool. If you’re feeling a little run down, a quick workout may be exactly what you need to get your energy back.
If cardio or weights isn’t your thing, find out if your airport has a yoga room. You’ll find one at Chicago O’Hare featuring bamboo flooring, wall-to-wall mirrors and complimentary mats, with a video loop of poses on repeat to guide you. Helsinki Airport, San Francisco, and Dallas Fort Worth also have yoga rooms for those on layover.
Nothing like some retail therapy to get you through a long layover or an annoying delay. Most airports are full of duty-free shops that feature everything from liquor to perfume, designer handbags and even high-end cosmetics and skincare products. Some airports, like Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, even have entire shopping centres attached to them.
If you have the extra hours—and the extra money—might as well stop into a few stores to kill some time. This is also ideal for picking out any last minute souvenirs you may have forgotten to grab during your travels.
If you’ve ever tried to sleep in an airport, you know it’s nearly impossible. The uncomfortable chairs, the rush of travellers’ suitcases skidding on the tiles, and the constant flight announcements, it all can make for a restless snooze. In an effort to help, some airports offer sleep rooms to rent. The rooms vary from airport to airport but many of them are inspired by Japanese capsule hotels and can be rented for hours at a time, allowing weary travellers to get a bit of privacy, stretch out and rest without leaving the terminal. Some even have toilets and showers in them.
You can find these sleep rooms by various names like Yotel, Napcabs, or Sleepbox in airports around the world.
Airplane food is nothing to brag about, but airport food has definitely stepped its game up. Skip whatever they’re serving on your flight and instead take in a delicious meal at one of the airport restaurants during your layover.
Munich International Airport has an on-site Biergarten in the Airbrau tavern where you can sample some of Germany’s most notable beers. Top chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, Gordon Ramsay, and Jamie Oliver have opened their own restaurants inside airports to bring delicious dishes directly into terminals. While you might not have enough time to leave the airport, at least you’ll still get a feel for the local culture through its food.
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As airports expand and renovate, so does the airport experience. From sculptures to gardens and even small exhibits, airports have become destinations. At Singapore Changi Airport you’ll find a two-storey butterfly grotto featuring a six-metre waterfall and a koi pond. Vancouver International Airport is home to two aquarium exhibits, while Seoul Incheon International Airport hosts a culture centre where those waiting for flights can make Korean crafts, try on clothing, and listen to music.
If you’re an art buff and on a layover in Paris, check out the Espace Musées in Charles de Gaulle Airport. There you’ll find you’ll find a free, mini museum designed by the architects of the Musée d’Orsay that showcases original works from French artists like Auguste Rodin and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Too rushed to get your nails done before your trip? Don’t worry—you’ll have time during your layover. Airports usually have at least one spa to let travellers with extra time pamper themselves. If being crammed in coach for so many hours has your feeling like a sardine in a tin can, opt for a massage treatment or facial during your layover to reenergize.
XpresSpa has over 50 airport locations in the United States and Europe offering massages, manicures, pedicures, and even haircuts. Across Canada, you’ll find Be Relax Spa in a handful of airports as well as Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with services in as little as 15 minutes.
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If you’re layover is long enough to actually leave the airport, go explore the city. An extra-long layover provides the perfect opportunity for a mini vacation. Most airports offer affordable and fast transit to the city’s centre and popular tourist attractions. If you have six or more hours, that’s enough time to check out a new place and still arrive back at the airport to make your next flight. Airports even encourage it, offering free tours to visitors on layovers.
Singapore Changi Airport offers free 2.5-hour tours departing six times a day, Seoul Incheon International Airport offers seven different free tour options ranging in length from 1-5 hours, and Salt Lake International Airport offers a free shuttle to those with a layover of two hours or more to Temple Square. If you have a long layover, look up ahead of time what travel and tour options are available at your airport.