Sometimes a long layover is expected; other times a flight delay can unexpectedly strand you in an airport for hours. The silver lining to the layover cloud is that more airports around the world have created entertaining diversions for travelers.
Bring along your books, audiotapes and movies downloaded on electronic devices. And airports have long offered restaurants and bodegas for face stuffing. But if you’ve got some serious time to kill, be advised that depending where you are, you might be able to take a swim, listen to live music, play Ping Pong, pet a pig or even get married.
I’ve yet to take a dip while in transit. You’d have to plan for carrying a wet bathing suit onto the plane, but it’s kinda cool to know pools and spas are available at the airport.
Where? Several hotels on or near airport property pools for travelers, including the outdoor infinity-edge pool at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport, the heated indoor pool between Terminals 1 and 2 at the Munich Airport, and the Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, which offers runway views from its lap pool.
Animals, animals, animals
During a recent layover in Las Vegas I discovered the McCarron International Airport’s Pet Relief Area. It’s a post-security, enclosed room furnished with green turf (and a faux fire hydrant) where pets can relieve themselves.
If you don’t travel with your furry friend do miss them, a growing list of airports, including Hollywood Burbank, have trained therapy dogs that you can stop and cuddle. The “Wag Brigade” at San Francisco International Airport includes a pettable pig; miniature therapy horses regularly hoof it over to Cincinati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport offers the Roam Fitness post-security gym facility, with workout gear and shower areas. Roam is looking to expand to other airports.
If you’re in need of relief only achieved via downward facing dog and warrior poses, plenty of cities’ airports offer yoga rooms and classes, including San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, London and Frankfurt.
Airport floors I’ve slept on include Phoenix’s Sky Harbor and LAX. Would that back in the day places like Minute Suites existed. At airports in Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Philadelphia you can check in and book a power nap (one-hour minimum).
The Yotel at London Heathrow, Gatwick, and Amsterdam airports offers beds with bathrooms ($38 for four hours). Or, you can rent a soundproof Snoozecube at the Dubai International Airport or a NapCab in Munich and Berlin.
Grab a bucket of popcorn. A few years ago, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport opened the See 18 screening room (near Gate C18) to reel off short films. The idea was a hit and has spread to other airports.
A 17-seat Hollywood Theatre “microcinema” opened at Portland International Airport. It features short films made by Oregon filmmakers. A bank of old flight monitors at Miami International Airport now runs vintage footage of celebs arriving at the airport, circa 1950 to 1980. And San Francisco International Airport opened a Video Arts Center for short films in its International Terminal.
This past summer I landed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and some groovy tunes put out by a live band were echoing through the terminal. I wondered if there was a special occasion going on? Nope, there are four stages throughout the east and west concourses where you can catch a show before boarding your flight.
Portland International Airport is also full of volunteer musicians trying to help take the edge off your air transportation blues.
The Seoul Incheon International Airport offers a five-minute shuttle ride to a golf course where you can play nine or 18 holes. Hey, if you’re in a hurry just hit a bucket of balls at the driving range.
Or, if you’re at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, channel your inner Forrest Gump and make use of the free Ping Pong table near the concourse E entrance.
But wait, there’s more:
• Every knows about the slot machines near the airport terminals in Las Vegas, right?
• You probably don’t know about the 30,000-gallon aquarium at Vancouver International, not to mention the 500-gallon jellyfish tank.
• If you park in one of two garages or the outside lot at Spokane International Airport, you’re eligible for a free car wash.
• The House Spirits Distillery at Portland International makes rum, vodka and a single-malt whiskey; the tasting room is open daily from noon to 6 p.m.
• Last but not least, you can get hitched to the love of your life in a 26,000-square-foot event space at St. Louis Lambert International, go for an all-inclusive wedding package at Frankfurt International, or hold your ceremony under the wing of a British Airways Concorde at Manchester International. To love, honor and cherish, through clear skies and turbulence, till overbooking do us part. J&J