If you’re like many travelers, you’ll be logging some serious airport time soon. Next week, the week of Thanksgiving, is often touted as the busiest time of the year at US airports. US airlines are expected to transport 27.3 million travelers over the Thanksgiving travel period this year! As it turns out, the day before Thanksgiving isn’t the busiest air travel day of the year. In 2015, August 7 earned that honor, but the Sunday after Thanksgiving was a close second, with over 2.9 million people flying that day.
During busy travel times like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer weekends, you’d be wise to get to the airport early for your flight. The lines to check your bag and get through TSA security are likely to be much longer than normal. But if you luck out and get checked in and through security quickly, do you know what to do with that extra time at the airport?
These days, large airports in the United States have all kinds of amenities that you can enjoy while you are waiting for your flight. Here are our top ideas on how to make the most of your airport time!
Grab a Meal
These days, it’s rare to have a flight with a full meal service unless you are taking a long haul journey. Even if your flight does offer a meal, it’s unlikely to be anywhere near as tasty as what you can get on the ground! Even small regional airports will have restaurants where you can relax and have a meal before your flight. At major airports, you’ll have lots of choices. You’ll find familiar fast food chains, coffee shops, pubs, upscale restaurants, and perhaps even unique options featuring local cuisine.
Another option is to order a meal to go, and carry it on your flight to enjoy in the air. (Your seatmates will be jealous. It’s OK.) You can even buy food from restaurants in the public part of the airport and carry it through TSA security, but remember that you won’t be allowed to bring any drinks. Finish that pumpkin spice latte before you get in the security line!
Find a Play Space
Traveling with the kiddos? Check to see if your airport has an indoor playground or other play space for children. Let them burn off some energy before they have to be confined in an airplane seat for several hours.
Get Some Exercise
It’s not just kids who benefit from getting some exercise before a flight! Your body will thank you if you use your extra airport time to squeeze in a workout. One easy option is to take a brisk walk around the airport. Just like “mall walking,” the long indoor corridors at airports are great for stretching your legs… and for people-watching.
If you don’t mind being the one that other people are watching, you can find a bit of open space to do jumping jacks, stretches, or body-weight exercises like pushups or squats. We’ve even seen people hula-hooping at the airport!
Another trend that is growing in popularity is airport yoga. Miami International Airport is one of the latest airports to open a dedicated yoga room, joining airports such as San Francisco-Oakland, Burlington, Dallas-Fort Worth, and both Midway and O’Hare in Chicago.
Cardio isn’t your thing? Airports have other ways you can practice self-care! Many airports now have salons and day spas. You can get a facial before you fly, or have your hair styled before you hit the runway. If you’re a nervous flyer, perhaps a pre-flight hot stone massage will help you relax. It sounds good to us!
Do Some Shopping
These days, many airports have enough stores, kiosks, and boutiques to rival a small mall. From familiar chains like The Body Shop to unique local merchants, you’ll find plenty to browse through as you wait for your flight. Shopping options at airports often include stores dedicated to clothing, electronics, beauty products, books, travel accessories, and souvenirs. If you are flying internationally, you’ll have access to the duty-free stores with unbeatable prices on liquor, cigarettes, and high-end perfumes and cosmetics. This could be a great time to get a jump on your holiday gift shopping, or to find a treat for yourself. There’s no harm in just window-shopping, either.
Relax in an Airline Lounge
The airline lounge is the hidden oasis of the airport. They aren’t open to all travelers, but if you are allowed to access the airline lounge, we highly recommend it! You’ll be able to relax in comfortable chairs and sofas, away from the noise and hustle of the rest of the airport, while enjoying free drinks and snacks. Most lounges have business centers where you can catch up on your emails or print out that sales report you need to deliver shortly after you land. Many lounges even have luxurious restrooms complete with showers, in case you need to freshen up before your flight.
Access to airline lounges is generally reserved for members of the elite-status frequent flyer program. You may also be allowed to enter if you have purchased a first-class ticket. If you hold an airline-branded credit card, you may have a lounge pass or two available to you as a benefit. The busy holiday travel season would be a great time to take advantage of that pass!
Charge Your Phone
We’ll admit it, this one isn’t nearly as fun as shopping for shoes or chowing down on a double bacon cheeseburger. It’s a practical concern. We know that you’ll want to use your phone, tablet, e-Reader, or laptop during your flight, and we don’t want you to run out of juice midway to your destination! You can find power outlets or even dedicated charging stations at most airplane gates. Many of them even have their own power cables for iPhones and Android devices, so you won’t even have to pull out your own charger.
How do you like to while away your extra airport time? Tell us in the comments!