Let’s face it: holiday travel is the worst. The ticket prices rise, the lines are extra long, and often – due to the sheer volume of travellers – flights are delayed.
But a delay doesn’t have to lead to boredom. Many airports across the US have activities and features designed to entertain weary travellers. For example, the Denver International Airport offers a free ice rink during the winter months, and the San Francisco International Airport has an Instagram-famous therapy pig to cuddle.
Keep scrolling to discover more fun things you can do while waiting for your delayed flight this holiday season.
Go ice skating.
If you’re in Denver for the holidays – or rather, you’re stranded in the Denver International Airport for a few hours – and you’re tired of sitting around, you can go ice skating.
The airport offers an outdoor plaza ice rink during the winter months, open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 23. The best part? It’s free.
Take in some art.
Many airports have art installations and cool architectural features that go unnoticed by the average hurried traveller.
If you’re stuck in an airport for a while, why not check out your surroundings and see if you can discover something beautiful? The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has over 65 pieces of art, from paintings to sculptures to murals. You can download the STQRY app for a self-guided walking tour of SEA’s art while you wait.
Snuggle a pig.
LAX has something called a Pets Unstressing Passengers program (PUP) designed for people who are overwhelmed by the holiday crowds. Trained therapy dogs and handlers roam the departures area of several gates at the airport, offering comfort, cuddles, and relaying information about the airport and some of its other programs.
But one of the most unique animal therapy experiences takes place at the San Francisco International Airport, which is home to a therapy pig named Lilou that dresses up in costumes to ease passengers’ anxiety. Her Instagram is super popular.
Hit the town.
Many airports in the US and abroad have shuttles to transport travellers from the outside world straight to their terminal. Why not reverse that this season, if you have an afternoon to kill?
Chicago’s public transit has a train called the Blue Line that runs directly from O’Hare to downtown Chicago in around 40 minutes, just in case you need to do some last-minute Christmas shopping on The Magnificent Mile.
Have a Michelin-worthy meal.
Airports across the US – and even the world – are upping their game in terms of restaurants. If you do a little digging, there may be a one-of-a-kind dining experience right across the terminal.
At LaGuardia in New York, there’s an Italian trattoria called Cotto, led by Michelin-starred chef Michael White. They serve fresh-made pizzas and pastas, and they even have truffle butter. Their gelato bar is also a can’t-miss.
Hit the gym.
Many airports in the US offer gyms and fitness centres to their travellers. Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport is one of them – they even have a “Walk the Sky Harbour Fitness Trail,” in which travellers walk from Gate A30 to Gate D8 while taking in stunning views of the Arizona mountains, all from inside the airport.
Some airports even have yoga rooms. The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport offers one that features free yoga mats.
Listen to some live music.
Who said the holidays are just for Christmas music?
The George Bush Intercontinental Airport has a program called “Harmony in the Air,” which features live performances from jazz, classical, and international musicians, all designed to help passengers de-stress and “showcase Houston’s rich and diverse musical talent and cultures.”
And if the airport you’re in doesn’t have live music, take advantage of the free WiFi and listen to your favourite playlists until you (finally) get up in the air.
Or listen to carolers.
‘Tis the season at Washington-Dulles Airport in Virginia, where holiday travellers are greeted by Christmas trees and Mr. and Mrs. Claus. If you zoom by on the Aerotrain, you can see giant ornaments and decorations hanging from the ceiling, too.
Airports used to look very different. And what better time to get nostalgic about it than during the holidays? The Miami International Airport has monitors outside Concourse F that play vintage clips showing MIA during the ’50s and ’60s, past celebrities arriving at the airport, and home movies filmed there ranging from the ’20s to ’60s.
So if you’re in Miami and you have some time to kill, why not cosy up and reminisce?
Get a blowout.
Many airports are home to spas and nail salons, like LaGuardia in New York. The Warren Tricomi salon is known for giving killer blowouts in under 20 minutes, and its Xpres Spas specialize in fast massages, facials, and manicures.
The Delta Centurion Lounges, which can be found in San Francisco, Vegas, New York LaGuardia, and Dallas, also offer beauty bars and skincare treatments.
Treat yourself to some time in a lounge.
The popular discourse surrounding airport lounges is that they’re restricted to frequent flyers (or those who pay for the pricey annual memberships). But there are some cheaper options and day passes for those who feel like “lounging” while they wait.
One-day passes for Admirals Club, Sky Club, and United Club lounges are available for $US50. And if you plan ahead and purchase online, you can get a one-day pass for US Airways’ lounge for only $US29. Many credit cards also offer lounge access, so check the fine print on yours.
Shop ’til you drop.
Nearly every airport has Duty Free shopping – it’s an opportunity for international travellers to purchase everything from liquor and tobacco to high-end jewellery at a discounted price.
However, according to USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Awards 2017, the San Diego International Airport is the best in the US for some retail therapy, as it has tons of high-end national and international brands as well as locally-themed shops.
Shoot your shot at a slot machine.
Of course, the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has slot machines.
The machines can be found all over the airport, and as long as you’ve got a little cash on you (and you’re over 21) you can play. Who knows – you might win some spare money to make up for all that holiday shopping.
According to winthebet.com, there have been a fair share of six-figure wins at McCarran, and someone actually hit the $US3.9 million jackpot on a “Wheel of Fortune” Machine.
Take a much-needed nap.
This is an evergreen option, but it’s even more appealing during the holiday season, when stress is at an all-time high.
Napping in airports is an art. You don’t have to take up an entire row of seats, but there are ways you can get comfortable. There’s even a blog devoted to the art form – fittingly called Sleeping In Airports – that offers tips, such as sleeping with an arm or a leg over your bags so that if someone tries to steal them, you’ll wake up.
Trip Advisor user “bestcornishcat” recommends getting an “announcement buddy” if you’re travelling alone, so that while you sleep, your new “buddy” stays up, pays attention to flight updates, and wakes you if there are any changes.
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