With near-endless ways to entertain and distract yourself, you’ll have to be careful not to miss your flight!
Ever feel like you’re spending more time at the airport than you ever used to in the past? You’re not imagining things. Most air carriers now expect you to arrive 90 minutes to two hours ahead of the scheduled departure for your domestic flight—and up to three hours prior for international flights. Even after checking any gear bags and scanning your wheeled backpack that still leaves a lot of time for you to hang out in the terminal prior to takeoff.
Airport planners are fully aware that you’ve got extra time on your hands—which is why the savviest ones are turning their terminals into full-blown amusements parks that offer everything from fine dining and high-end shopping to movie theaters and multi-story slides. Of course, almost everything comes with a price tag, but its one you’re probably willing to pay to experience the novelty of, say, an ice-skating rink or a beer garden, during your layover or an unexpected flight delay.
Don’t feel too guilty about opening your travel wallet and giving in. These days the most entertaining airport terminals are destinations unto themselves—and worth both the visit and the extra few dollars, Euros, or won you’ll pay to experience them to the fullest.
Munich International Airport (MUC), Germany
Frankly, it might a completely forgettable as an airport if MUC didn’t contain its very own brewery and beer garden, located just outside of security. The open-air Airbräu brewery is no cheesy knockoff designed solely for thirsty passengers in transit: it’s open year-round and can fit 600 of your soon-to-be closest friends and fellow travelers. In additional to an ever-rotating selection of house-made beer and live music acts, you can also find a sizable menu of traditional Bavarian fare (check the website for special themed days that include “Suckling Pig Day” and “Schnitzel Day”).
Incheon International Airport (IIA), South Korea
At this ultra-modern airport—consistently ranked one of the best in the world—you can practice your double lutz (or at the very least, just staying upright) on a “dry” ice skating rink known as the Ice Forest. Once you’ve hung up your skates, get a full body massage at the 24-hour spa, explore 35 species of flora in the wildflower gardens or catch a flick in one of two complimentary movie zones. If you’ve got a longer layover, take a five-minute shuttle ride to the Incheon golf club, where you can squeeze in a 9- or 18-hole game of golf or take to the green to practice your put.
Singapore Changi Airport (SIN), Singapore
Let the young (and young at heart) rejoice—this airport is home to the tallest indoor slide in Singapore. It’s a whopping 4 stories high, and you can whiz down at heart-pumping speeds of 6 meters per second (just over 13 miles per hour). Younger (or less daring) visitors are also welcome to try a slightly tamer 1.5 story slide if they prefer. Once your adrenaline levels return to baseline, take a soothing trip over to the butterfly garden. Amid the flowering jungle plants, you’ll spot more than 1000 butterflies, from 50 different species. There’s also an “Emergence Enclosure” where you can witness butterflies breaking out of their chrysalises and taking flight for the very first time—appropriate, we think, for an airport setting. Still have more time to spare? Catch a movie at Changi’s 4D theater (it’s open 24 hours and usually offers eight different movie choices), or just grab your travel pillow and head to one of their rentable nap rooms for a snooze.
Nashville International Airport (BNA), United States
This airport might look normal to the eye, but to the ears, it’s a whole different story. Living up to its reputation as a major US music capital, Nashville’s airport has four stages and as many as 100 free concerts every year. After grooving through security, try whipping a harmonica out of your suitcase and starting up some line dancing. If you get hungry but don’t want the tunes to stop, try Nashville’s famous Honky-Tonk bar, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. They serve up more live music from local bands—plus that essential cold beer.
Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Canada
Oh sweet Canada! The travel-weary will be pleased to discover that Absolute Spa (based in Vancouver) has no less than 4 locations within this airport. In addition to the standard massage/manicure offerings, they also offer anti-jet lag treatments, such as grapefruit body wraps. Recharge there, then say hello to some wolf eels and jellyfish at Vancouver’s incredible 31,000-gallon aquarium. If you’re more the type to skip the spa and tackle a few chores on the go, you can swing by the airport’s very own dental office for a filling or a teeth whitening (they have a medical clinic, too, but here’s hoping you won’t need it).
If other airports follow suit, saying you’re “stuck” in an airport may become a thing of the past. Which airports do you think are stepping it up? Let us know in the comments below!
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