by Alyssa Faria
It was 9 o’clock in the morning. I had a glass of red wine in hand and was bored out of my mind as I stared up at Anderson Cooper, that handsome devil, on a television screen nearby.
Days before, I had booked an overpriced ticket from Boston to Detroit, with an 8-hour layover in Atlanta – you know you’ve done poorly when your flight path is shaped like a V.
Yet, seeing how Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest – serving over 104 million passengers via an astounding 898,000 takeoffs and landings a year – I was confident I would find plenty of interesting and enjoyable ways to occupy my time.
Boy was I wrong.
During my extended layover, I got my nails done. Ate a burrito. Played word scramble games on my phone till I lost all feeling in my right index finger.
With my remaining fingers, I snapped surreptitious photos of the hilarious facial and body contortions of catatonic passengers delayed at Gate 12, to which I applied silly filter effects until my phone battery died.
After searching in vain for a power outlet, I then read InTouch Weekly, from front to back and back to front. It got so bad that, lost in the Twilight Zone of the magazine’s gloss, I found myself searching for widom in Miley Cyrus quotes… and adding and subtracting the numbers in celebrity birthdays to unlock coded mysteries of the universe.
Fast forward a few years and, nowadays, when I’m reserving a flight that requires a connection, I’m way more strategic about where I layover. With a little planning, research and selectivity, you too can book your way to a relaxing and enjoyable layover in different cities around the world. Here’s how…!
Get better acquainted with your layover locale during a free, city-sponsored tour.
Turkish Airlines’ Touristanbul excursions straddle the continents, visiting ancient and modern attractions on the European and Asian banks of the Bosphorus.
Transportation is usually provided from the terminal, but it’s best to sign up in advance, and be aware of any visa requirements or layover time restrictions imposed by the host country or airline.
Free tours are also available in Qatar, Taipei, Amsterdam and Salt Lake City, and reasonable fee-based tours can be found in many other cities, including Frankfurt, Bogota, Bangkok, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.
Rest & Recharge
Cramped seats, stale air, cockpit announcements and screaming children can make sleep the impossible dream on a flight.
Now, you can catch some sacred Zzzs in a growing number of airport sleep pods — private soundproof and lightproof cabins — wherein you can nap in comfort without having to leaving the terminal. Pricing and amenities vary by location.
- GoSleep: Hamburg, Germany; Dubai/Abu Dhabi, UAE; Moscow, Russia; Beijing, China; Hangzhoi, China; Helsinki, Finland; Tallinn, Estonia; Amsterdam, Netherlands, Tokyo, Japan; Xi’an Xianyang, China; Belo Horizonte, Brazil; Mumbai, India
- EnergyPods: London, England; Toronto, Canada; New York, USA
- SnoozeCube: Dubai, UAE
- NapCab: Munich/Berlin Germany
- Zleepandgo: Bergamo/Milan, Italy
- Izzzleep: Mexico City, Mexico
- Minute Suites: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Fort Worth, USA.
- Yotel: Amsterdam, Netherlands; London, England; Paris, France
Get Some Culture
If you’re in the mood for some art and culture during your layover, take advantage of on-site museums located in international airports in San Francisco, Phoenix, Albany and Las Vegas, just to name a few.
If films and live music are more your speed, you can watch short films for free at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, which is home to the first state-of-the-art cinema in a major U.S. airport. The airport also hosts live musical performances pretty much daily.
Work Out & Meditate
Travelling doesn’t always mean time off from your workout, and layovers are a great way to earn extra health points between terminals.
Yoga and meditation studios are popping up in airports in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Frankfurt and London.
If you’re feeling a little more energetic between flights, you can sweat it out at Roam Fitness in the Baltimore-Washington Airport, with more locations in the works. A day pass is $25 and includes clothing rentals, exercise space, equipment and showers.
They’ll even vacuum pack your post-workout clothing to protect the rest of your belongings — and other passengers — from your eau de sweat.
Stay the Night
Not long ago, multi-city vacations might have required several, expensive one-way flights.
Today, more carriers are offering free or discounted ‘stayovers’ as part of the standard booking process. These extended layovers give you anywhere from a day to a week to explore your transfer city.
Like, perhaps, partake in an ice sauna during a stayover in Finland, which is home to 3 million saunas (in fact, saunas outnumber cars here in the land of nearly 200,000 lakes).
Stayovers require an extra step when booking, so check with airlines for offers and booking information.
Some carriers currently promoting stayovers include TAP Portugal, Icelandair, Air Canada and Turkish Air. TAP even has a nifty stopover app on iOS and Android you can use to plan 24, 48 or 72 unforgettable hours in Portugal.
Alyssa Faria is a board games aficionado, former game show writer and avid traveller who has trekked the Andes; cliff dived the Azores; and savored octopus in 8 countries and counting!
You can usually find her in Boston, where she slays tech dragons by day when she’s not busy running marathons, scaling rock walls and indulging her inner foodie. Follow her on Instagram