Stringent security measures give travelers more time between security and boarding, so the availability of amusements at airports has become more important. If you are traveling with kids, you might want to know if your departure point has more to offer than a McDonalds. If it doesn't, consider these tips and start packing an extra bag of toys, games and books. Need some added help?
Hungry? Eat healthy
It's important to know what food choices are available at departure airports around the world. This is especially important to travelers, as many airlines no longer offer in-flight meals. The popular choices at many airports are national chains, like McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, Starbucks etc. (Read our guide to healthy airport eating for the best nutritional options at fast-food restaurants). Tired travelers aren't up for unpleasant dining surprises, and many would rather eat at a well-known national chain instead of risking their stomachs at a local unknown.
This doesn't mean travelers don't worry about carbs and cholesterol while they are waiting at the airport, however. Luckily, many airports offer healthy options. Miami International Airport is one of the top airports for its healthy choices, which include La Carreta Cuban Cuisine, Casa Bacardi and sushi bars. Detroit's Metropolitan Wayne County Airport has implemented a Heart Smart nutrition plan. Travelers can choose from vegetarian stir-fry and almond rice salad at the Mediterranean Grill and veggie fajitas at Diego's Mexican Village. Other notables on the airport cuisine list are Denver International Airport, Chicago O'Hare International Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
Quick tips, if you decide to buy and eat at 35,000 feet
- Avoid strong-smelling food as it can stink up the entire plane.
- Pick up your own plastic utensils. A lot of airlines won't have a fork for your spaghetti or a spoon for your soup.
- Consider foods wrapped in paper, foil or plastic. These are easy products to dispose of and don't take up much space.
- It's better to bring too many napkins than too few.
- Always grab a lid for your drinks.
Airport lounges are the last word in luxury. Upper Class Virgin fliers can relax in the airline's Clubhouses at New York, Newark and JFK, Washington and San Francisco airports. In San Francisco International Airport, Virgin's $3.2 million Clubhouse has multicolored, floor-to-ceiling windows with sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and the city's skyline. A rotating digital art exhibit showcases local artists, and in an extension of the Upper Class "Freedom" menu - where you're free to eat whatever and whenever you want - the Clubhouse serves light snacks and entrees at any time of the day or night. Washington, D.C.'s Clubhouse has a Wurlitzer jukebox alongside full business facilities and freshly made snacks.
Continental Airlines' President's Clubs are open to members of the club, but you may also entertain two friends or business associates, or members of your immediate family (spouse and children as long as they are under 21).
There are private airport clubrooms around the world and dozens in the United States. At Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, the wood-paneled club evokes a first-class lounge on a Cunard ocean liner. There is also a small bar, a separate TV area, and a section of cubbies with desks, as well as a private conference room.
Business travelers need 24/7 access to the office. You’ll be able to connect at most airports either through access points in public areas or in airline lounges and clubs. Almost all of the American, Delta, United and US Airways airport clubs offer Wi-Fi access through T-Mobile. Continental's Presidents clubs in Cleveland, Houston International and Newark also offer Wi-Fi.
Typical wireless networks can send signals over a distance of 300ft and such signals are not impeded by doors, walls, and windows - so you don't actually have to be in an airport club to use the service. To try it for free, sit close by the entrance.
The three major providers of Wi-Fi hotspots in airports are Boingo, T-Mobile, and Wayport.
On a budget?
Quick tips to while away your time at the airport:
- Enjoy the drama of people watching. You may see tearful goodbyes, joyous reunions, a frazzled mom dealing with a sulky teenager, and hundreds of fashion designs.
- Strike up a conversation with perfect strangers. You never know who you might meet at the airport bar.
- Freshen up: shave, shower, and exfoliate. Use the hand dryers to style your hair or quickly dry washed clothes.
- Catch up on your reading. Choose the latest New York Times bestseller or grab some celebrity gossip magazines.
- Sleep. Check out the budget traveler's guide to sleeping in airports.