I love airports. There, I said it.
When going on a trip, even if it’s just a 1-hour-15-minute jaunt to my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, I can’t wait to get to the airport.
With my bags pre-checked and TSA behind me, my entire body starts to sing, “go Desi…it’s vacation…time to party like it’s vacation” (in my best 50 Cent voice).
When flying out of Charlotte, I head straight to 1897 Market, which is my favorite restaurant there. I get a table and order their parmesan fries and a cocktail.
I didn’t always enjoy airports this way. I used to view them as a necessary place to get me from Point A to Point B. But then I noticed that airports were starting to change, getting sort of nice, with modern upgrades and amenities like phone-charging stations that look like a high-top bar you might find inside a Starbucks.
Now I love the airport, and I am always trying to find a trip with a layover. I start my unwinding process before I even reach my seat on the plane.
So the next time you book a flight, remember these tips to make your airport stay more enjoyable:
1. Research what the airport offers before you arrive.
Airports are not only fitted with some really nice culinary spaces, they also offer amenities such as non-denominational chapels, yoga rooms, nail salons, spas, shopping, quiet zones and other fun areas that can turn your wait into an adventure. Plan your airport time with as much rigor as you’ve planned your trip. This also applies to layover airports.
2. Turn a long layover into a BOGO (buy one get one) trip.
You don’t have to stay stuck in the airport during a long layover. Do a half-day tour of whatever city you’re in. Many tour companies will pick you up from the airport and return you in plenty of time to make your connecting flight. Rental lockers are also available in some airports, so no need to lug your luggage. Many airports, both domestic and international, have public transportation systems that can take you into the city for self-guided exploration at low cost. In other words, there are options to just being stuck on a layover.
3. Consider an airline lounge.
Some lounges offer a day pass to non-members. You can get access to amenities such as showers, food, drinks, snacks, free wi-fi, and comfortable lounge seating areas. Lounges can be a life saver if you can’t leave the airport but have a long wait between flights.
4. Plan an airport gallery crawl.
Many airports, including Charlotte/Douglass International, display artwork and exhibits that span many genres. From paintings to sculptures, airport artwork can be a great way of getting the cultural feel of a city without traveling into the city itself.
5. Take in a movie.
If you are traveling into or out of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, Changi Airport, Indira Gandhi International Airport, Hong Kong International Airport, Incheon Airport, or Portland International (coming soon) consider catching a movie. Yes, these airports have free movie theaters. Some cinemas, such as the See 18 Screening Room (a play on C18, the concourse where the theater is located), are open 24 hours a day and feature short films by local filmmakers. This can certainly make time fly.
Planning and using the time to unwind can turn 90 minutes of waiting into 90 minutes of fun and adventure. Your vacation doesn’t have to start when you reach your destination. It can actually begin in the airport.