Beyond the airport bar, there are few constants aimed at alleviating the burden that is spending time in the airport. Some airports have free wifi, while others (especially internationally) have glass boxes you can smoke a cigarette in. Either way, I’m always grateful for whatever amenities I can get to help me forget, if only for a minute, that I’m still waiting to sit on a plane for a few hours. Yet, there are some airports that put even the most outfitted resorts to shame. Ones with amenities so epic I’d almost look forward to that layover.
10. Taiwan Taoyuan International
At Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, the library is literally at your fingertips. As the world’s first “e-book airport library,” TTIA offers rentable iPads and e-readers, each loaded with over 400 books and thousands of magazines and newspapers. Fortunately, these publications are available in both English and Chinese, so as long as you can read one of those languages you’re set for any length of layover.
The beginning of 2012 put SFO on the map as the first airport in the world to have its own mirrored yoga room, an effort to “make the entire experience less stressful and more enjoyable” (as quoted from Airport Director John L. Martin). Given the amount of traffic an airport sees, it’s very likely that by now this shiny new room is no longer the clean beacon of health and restfulness it once was, but yoga still seems like a stellar way to shake off the airport security stress (and, if you’re like me, the heebie-jeebies that invariably result from passing through the backscatter dude-sees-me-nude machine).
8. Vancouver International
I may be a bit materialistic, but a huge part of vacation and adventure for me is collecting souvenirs — little pieces of this-and-that with an entire memory tied to them (since I’m notoriously too slow on the camera draw). At the Vancouver Airport Fairmont, they have a special service for those who come to partake in the renowned fishing Canada has to offer. Their “fish valet” allows you to store your catches in a 575ft freezer while you enjoy cocktails, and will package them up specifically to survive the flight home.
7. Munich Airport
Munich Airport has two things that make it fairly unique against the backdrop of today’s modern airport. First and foremost, it’s got a seasonal indoor ice-skating rink, so (if you’re like me) you can garner endless entertainment from watching people (fail to) conquer nature’s frozen majesty. While doing that, you can also enjoy the onsite beer garden courtesy of Airbrau, the onsite brewery. Nothing goes better with killing time than alcohol and ice sports.
Possibly the hottest thing since in-flight wifi, JetBlue’s Terminal 5 has been home to the “Live at T5” series since 2009. Since it started, Live at T5 has been a regular popup concert series, featuring artists such as Taylor Swift, James Blunt, Robyn, Jason Derulo, and Raphael Saadiq. To attend a show (which until recently took place exclusively gate-side), you actually have to have a boarding pass for a JetBlue flight.
5. Zurich Airport
Airports almost always have that super sterile brushed-metal and polished-granite look. Everything is angles and beams and beacons of humanity’s conquering of gravity. At Zurich Airport, however, you can get back to nature on their massive conservation reserve between terminals. A full range of recreation equipment, from bicycles and inline skates to Nordic walking poles, is available to rent for use on the reserve.
4. London’s Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport
These airports are the homes of the (until recently) exclusively airport-bound hotel chain Yotel, at which you can catch a quick respite from the airport chaos by booking a room for the day through one of the handy-dandy check-in kiosks. $52 buys you a small but comfortable futuristic private pod room with a bed, desk, and shower. After a long flight, I’d pay 50 bucks just to shower, so the rest is gravy. Fun fact: Schiphol Airport is also the first airport in the world with its own museum, featuring a collection of Dutch art and historical artifacts.
3. Hong Kong International
You know you’re in for a treat when the “entertainment” tab on the airport’s main page is subdivided into terminals, each better than the last. Terminal 1 is all about shopping, from high-end and designer products to duty-free goods and every variety of cuisine you can imagine. Terminal 2 is home to the Aviation Discovery Center (including flight simulators and some Star Trek-sounding thing called SkyDeck), the “Dream Come True Education Park” featuring “[education] by role playing in related uniforms” (y’know, for the kids), an IMAX theater, and the Sky City Nine Eagles golf course. It’s a nine-hole golf course, right next to the terminal.
2. Incheon International
Always a hot contender for the “best airport in the world,” and winner in 2012, Incheon makes its name for a variety of factors, including cleanliness and efficiency. Obviously that’s for a different article — instead let’s talk about its kickass amenities. So that all passengers can take advantage of the ubiquitous free wifi, Incheon offers free computers for patrons to use. In an effort to attend to any possible eventuality that could arise during travel, they also have a full-service medical center, dentist, post office, and dry cleaner, and a host of free showers. For the leisure inclined, there’s also a golf course, casino (located immediately adjacent to the airport), two movie theaters, an ice rink, the Korean culture museum, and a spa and sauna.
1. Singapore Changi Airport
This is the be-all and end-all of airports. I can’t believe this place actually exists. It’s got everything you’ve ever seen at an airport, plus a hikeable nature trail, butterfly gardens, swimming pool, arcade, and movie theater. Oh, and the tallest indoor slide in Singapore (the 40ft behemoth at Terminal 3). Take a minute and let that sink in: You have two-and-a-half hours to kill on a layover between who-knows and who-cares. Do you see a movie, or do you just spend a little too much on a couple beers and ride the big-ass slide a few times? Honestly, I’d hope for a lengthy layover if I were getting routed through Changi, so I’d have enough time to do everything before resting on the plane.