Can the Airport Be Where the Fun Begins?

Eileen Dougharty

Summer is here, which means many of us will be taking some much anticipated time off to chase our recreational pursuits. If your vacation involves taking to the skies, you’ll most likely be spending more time in the airport than in years past.

Inexpensive itineraries often come bearing long layovers, and delays this time of year are inevitable for a myriad of reasons. If your plane isn’t running late due to a summer thunderstorm, it may have gotten caught up in the tempest caused by the current Transportation Safety Administration, or TSA, and air traffic control cutbacks due to sequestration.

Nvate Airports, pass the time with vino volo, minute suites,

Credit: potowizard

The good news is buying a trashy novel at the airport bookstore isn’t your only option for distraction anymore. Airports are seizing the opportunity to entertain business and leisure travelers alike with new and creative ideas to help idle time pass more quickly.

Wine Stores

If you’re headed to a wedding or a graduation, perhaps it could benefit from a gift of liquid cheer, or maybe the cheer is your personal secret to smiling your way through such family-centric events. In either case, many airports now have wine stores inside security to make buying a bottle for your family member or yourself an easy purchase.

Vino Volo is a chain that combines the cozy wine bar and restaurant with the retail outlet for bottle purchasing, depending on local law, in over 20 airport locations. Also be on the lookout for stores featuring food and drinks that are exclusive to your region, which also make for thoughtful gifts for your hosts when traveling.

Visit the Vino Volo website for a list of locations.

Pampering and Solitude

If the mere idea of dealing with the airport instantly puts you into a personal state of high alert, you might benefit from a spa treatment. Onsite spas now offer massages, nail care, facials, waxing, and other restorative services you might not have had time to take care of while scrambling to get ready for your vacation.

If you’re less about pampering and more about solitude, travelers in Atlanta, Ga.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, can check out Minute Suites for a true airport rarity, peace and quiet. Hourly rates for “noise-neutralized” rooms furnished with a daybed and a work station can help put your mind at ease, by finishing up those last few office tasks uninterrupted or catching a few winks before it’s time to take off.

Visit the Minute Suites website for pricing.

Stay Active

For those looking for a more active airport experience, there are plenty of opportunities to get a workout in once you’ve passed through security. San Francisco, Calif.; Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; and Burlington, Vt., all feature spaces dedicated to yoga practice, complete with mats and instructions to silence your cell phones.

Graphic designer and triathlon racer Kevin Gillotti started compiling fitness possibilities inside and near airports on his website, Las Vegas, Nev.; Vancouver, British Columbia; Detroit Metro in Michigan; and Chicago’s O’Hare in Illinois all have fitness facilities inside the terminal available for fees ranging from $10 to $15 a day.

Walking is a free and stress relieving exercise choice, and Minneapolis, Minn.; Cleveland, Ohio; Indianapolis, Ind.; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; offer dedicated walking paths of varying lengths to help keep you moving around and away from the Cinnabon. Extra credit for those bringing bicycles on their journeys, and in cities like San Francisco, Cali., and Portland, Ore., you’ll be rewarded with assembly stations outfitted with basic bike tools to help dissemble and reassemble bicycles before and after flying.

Keeping kids from going stir crazy during lengthy layovers and delays can be quite a challenge. Check to see if you’re in a location that might offer your family a quirky diversion. Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee, Wis., features table tennis, Palm Beach, Fla., has an indoor putting green, Lubbock, Texas, offers a giant chess set.

Cities where live music is a big draw, such as Austin, Texas, and Seattle, Wash., regularly offer live music in the terminal. Nashville’s terminal C in Tennessee features a smaller and more brightly lit version of Tootsies Orchid Lounge, one of the Music City’s most beloved honky tonks.

Meet Someone New

And if you’re in the market for a new swing dance partner, there’s even a niche market dating website aimed at travelers, aptly titled Or you could try putting down your smartphone and meeting people the old fashioned way, by seeking out another human staring into space and asking them about their itinerary.

Nvate Airports, pass the time with vino volo, minute suites,

Pass the time at the terminal by meeting fellow travelers. Credit: Ambro

Sometimes being bored is all you need to have in common to start a conversation. Inviting someone who’s also twiddling their thumbs waiting for their holiday to begin to join you for a glass of wine, a power walk around the airport, or to take in some local music can be a pleasant way to take your mind off the time, regardless of your airport’s location. Think of Jesse and Celine in “Before Sunrise,” travelers looking to kill time who eventually end up getting married.

When you prepare for your trip, check your local airport’s website not only for Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, and TSA directives and average wait times, but to get a feel for which amenities might be available for you to take advantage of during your time there. No matter where you’re going, there are ever increasing options to make sure your delay doesn’t automatically equate to dismay.

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