An international layover used to be a time of endless waiting and boredom.
With little to do but hang out in a transit lounge, overseas travelers added hours to their total flight time with not much more than a book or magazine to stave off the monotony of an international layover.
But the times, they are a changing!
Recently a number of forward-thinking international airports have begun to offer today's transiting travelers an array of facilities and services to wile away these use-less hours.
Amenities run the gamut: from food to fitness, gardens to gaming, relaxation to shopping - even local tours - are proving to reduce or eliminate the boredom of a long layover
Airports are incorporating a variety of entertainment options, to make formerly mundane layovers fly away like the speed of your next flight.
And a few high-profile airports are morphing into destinations in and of them-selves.
Imagine - a six hour international layover you actually look forward to!
Any of these choices are yours on an international layover at the right transiting airport.
All of them are yours at just one – Changi Airport in Singapore.
An article in Fodor’s reported the early stages of this new reality back in 2013.
Since then, airports around the globe are jumping to lure transiting travelers with a sense of one-ups-man-ship for the type and quality of the layover experiences they offer.
The article noted that for travelers picking the correct transit airport, an interna-tional layover can be – if not totally pleasurable – a time to escape the stresses of long haul flights, making the tedium of a traditional airport transit more palatable.
If not down right fun.
In addition to the possibilities for a traveler's reprieve at Singapore's Changi, we've found other forward thinking airports with inventive activities to lure international layover passengers:
Munich International Airport, Germany: How about visiting an onsite brewery, where you can watch the brewmaster at his daily tasks? You don’t have to wait for Octoberfest to enjoy what the Germans do so well – celebrate beer!
Then hop on over to the airport location of one of the world’s great luxury class hotel chains – Kempinski [located between Terminals 1 & 2]. Have yourself a workout or spa experience to further your travel de-stressing.
If you’re an architect at heart, you’ll not only be impressed by the hotel’s mega atrium, but – back at the airport – you’ll wow yourself with the ultra sleek design of Munich International’s modern Terminal 2 [circa 2003].
If you’re fortunate enough to transit Munich International around the Holiday season, visit the traditional Christmas Market in the airport’s covered outdoor space. It's a true Holiday Market and one of Europe’s largest.
Vancouver International, Canada: Named Best Airport Hotel in North America for 4 years running, Vancouver Airport is a transit traveler’s dream for an international layover.
Vancouver’s onsite hotel, The Fairmont, offers both a luxury health club & spa experience, should exercise be your method of shaking the tedium of travel, as well as sound-proof rooms, if you prefer to sleep your travel stress away.
Like fish? Well, you can choose from watching them at a branch of Vancouver’s noted aquarium, where you gaze on species native to the Pacific Northwest. Or consume them at the in-airport revolving sushi bar.
If spirits are your choice, saunter up to the Jetside Bar, to imbibe on your favorite beer, wine, or local Fairmont cocktail. Be sure to try their exclusive honey lager made in partnership with local brewery, Whistler Brewing Company.
Then relax on plush sofas scattered in front of a great stone fireplace, with floor to ceiling windows that provide a unfettered view of nearby airport jetways and Vancouver's gorgeous natural scenery.
Zurich Airport, Switzerland: Sleek, modern, and recently renovated , Zurich International is busy, but – as in all things Swiss – extremely efficient.
Another award-winning airport: Europe’s Leading Airport and Best For Food & Drink [along with a slew of other awards], Zurich International houses shop-ping and restaurants, a Museum of Transport, an animation show of real-time global air travel, and personnel to help you schedule the perfect Swiss tour.
Bikes or skates are available for rent, if you feel the need to reinvigorate travel-weary muscles, while checking out the nearby Swiss countryside. Or wander up to one of two rooftop observation terraces for a first hand view of the local scenery.
If catching up on work or email is your thing, ask about 60 minutes of free internet WiFi, available while you wait for your flight.
With a bit of research before booking your overseas flight, it's easy to zone in on potential connecting airports that can be excellent choices for a more interesting and less boring international layover:
Hong Kong International, Hong Kong - Clean, modern, and open, with a photo-worthy landing approach. Inside you'll find Asia's largest 4-D cinema, interactive flight simulators, and a free gaming area. [Be sure to look for Dragon Air planes on the tarmac!]
Incheon Airport, Seoul, S. Korea - Like history? How about checking out 5,000 year old UNESCO artifacts. What about culture? See a live performance, or learn about Korean handicrafts, like paper-making. Maybe you'd like to invigorate your muscles on a driving range, a putting course, or go ice skating on 'plastic' ice.
London Heathrow, Great Britain - If shopping's your thing, then Heathrow's your airport. You won't have layover woes when scouting out luxury items to add to your wardrobe, skin care routine, or jewelry collection. Visit the on-airport location of Harrods, before making a quick escape over to the Queen's house [Windsor], which you can book online.
San Francisco International, CA, USA - How about a session of yoga to relax your travel nerves. Or a spa, with services of your choice. Maybe a shower, before settling in to catch up on email with free WiFi. You can pass some time at the Aviation Museum, see the aquarium with South Pacific coral and tropical fauna, or head out to Fisherman's Wharf for some local seafood.
Schiphol, Amsterdam, The Netherlands - No time for the Rijksmuseum? Spend some time in Schiphol's free branch of this world-class museum. Then claim your hour of free WiFi to catch up on email, while picnicking on a sunny terrace, home to chirping birds and butterflies that will convince you it's Spring. Recharge your electronic gadgets with the energy you make by cycling - and yourself with aromatic 'air' from the oxygen bar.
Dubai International Airport, Dubai, UAE - How about 58,000 square feet of duty free shopping? As the hub of Middle East aviation, Dubai airport is nothing less than the sparkle and glamour of the city itself. Like others of its ilk, free WiFi is available if you simply must work, but also on tap are Zen gardens, shiatsu massages, mini-spa treatments, and plenty of water for a swim or shower.
Few travelers overtly choose to spend hours of time waiting aimlessly in a transit airport lounge for the next flight to their destination.
But if you must break your trip due to flight scheduling and have time on your hands, choose one of these airports for your next international layover.
You can relax, refresh, and return to your travel with a renewed sense of anti-cipation for the journey at hand.