We have all been there. Either a flight delay or long layover creates a “twilight zone” of time in our lives. And yes, I have my tablet, and my smart phone, and a good book. So, what else can I do for anywhere from two to 6 hours of down time?
My first option is to find a an airline lounge. If I am traveling first or business class, no problem, IF the airline has a lounge nearby, or at all. I found out that my Chase Visa card offers free lounge access through Priority Pass. That means the lounge provides free internet, free snacks, and soft drinks, and sometimes free alcohol and hot food. Often times, they have CNN or BBC running on the TV, lots of magazines and newspapers, and a view of the airport that you usually do not get elsewhere. But even this option can get old.
My second option is to walk. I try to walk while staying inside the secure areas of the airport. But with a long layover, I will go ahead and leave the secure area to find longer, more interesting walks. Some airports even have marked walking paths or trails! But you can walk almost completely around airports like JFK, LAX, SFO, ORD. International airports are always more interesting, as you might guess. Phoenix has a fitness trail.
In that vein, some airports have gyms or workout rooms. But unless I have adequate time AND a shower, I would not purposely start sweating on a trip in indeterminate length. I have, unfortunately, been seated next to people who do not realize that deodorant, soap, or running water have existed for decades, even centuries!
Some people find a comfortable place and try to sleep. I am just not able to do that, save for rare occasions. Mostly, I am afraid I will miss my flight, or that somebody will steal my backpack. If you can do it, I say sleep away, set an alarm on your phone, and relax! My other problem is finding a comfortable place to sleep!
A few airports around the world have movie theaters, Portland, OR for one. Most are free, and allow you to come and go as you please. Not sure if the popcorn is free though.
Many airports have a massage service, mostly for head, neck, shoulders, and upper back. I have used the service and it is a great tension reliever. Try it sometime! Some airports go a step further and have an actual spa. My only concern would be the expense.
SFO, like many airports around the world, have rotating art exhibits, some very unique and interesting. My favorite at SFO is the one in the International check in area. But I have seen some other more “artsy” exhibits in places like Paris, St. Petersburg, Russia, Haneda in Tokyo, and Boston.
Layovers at train stations in Europe, are of course the best. They offer a great variety of food, as well as both coach and first class lounges. And really interesting, local food, local brew, and decent shopping arcades.
Las Vegas and Dulles have museums dedicated to flight. Vegas has Cannon Aviation Museum in Terminal One. Dulles has the Stephen Udvar-Hazy Center, a branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I am sure there are others.
Recently, I have enjoyed the airports with live music, particularly those with lively Latin beats! Of course, I have encountered my share of really awful music, in places like Bangkok, Cape Town, and Santiago. My guess is that they work strictly for tips!
Perhaps the best layover option lies at the Baltimore-Washington International airport. They have a 12.5 mile hiking and biking trials with bicycles for rent!!! Again, a shower is a must after! Some of you may opt for the yoga room, now all the rage at bigger airports. Again, a shower is a requirement!
I have also seen my share of crazy ways to pass the time. I have seen pickle ball, hackly sack, or what could loosely be termed kick boxing in some of the airline terminals and waiting rooms. Please don’t be one of those! Most of us like it quiet and safe. Please!