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The Best Airports for Layovers

When my husband and I traveled from New York to Bali for our honeymoon, our flight itinerary called for two layovers — one in Frankfurt and one in Singapore. A flight I was on the previous year had been routed through Frankfurt and I knew what my layover there had in store for me: absolutely nothing. Nothing interesting to do, nothing interesting to see, nothing interesting to eat.

With no knowledge about the airport in Singapore, I assumed it would be more of the same. But as it turned out, there wasn’t enough time to see, do and eat all the things I wanted to at Singapore’s Changi Airport. Bus tours of the city? Napping pods? A free movie theater? A swimming pool? It almost made me wish our layover in Singapore were longer.


It sure did get me thinking though. In a perfect world, we would all fly direct to our destinations. This is certainly getting easier and easier, even when traveling overseas. But when that isn’t possible (as with my upcoming flight to Naples, Italy), we often have the power to plan our routes in order to make our layovers as painless as possible — or, at the very least, know what’s in store for us at the interim airport.

We asked our readers for their suggestions; if you’ve got another, leave it in the comments below!

All the Comforts of Home

“I had an 18-hour layover at Amsterdam Schiphol. I had already done some research and knew about the small hotel inside the airport. It’s off to one side of the airport, on the third floor. They said they were full for the night. Forewarned, I asked to be put on the waiting list. One hour later I had a room, because someone else canceled. The rooms are quiet, clean and comfortable. (Yes, the WC is in the room. It has a shower, as well as the necessary.) I had a good sleep and the next day, on the long trek back to my terminal, I had an excellent breakfast and did way too much shopping. Dragging myself out of the candy shop was very hard. It was full of chocolate.” ~ InfaSis

Editor’s Note: Schiphol now has two hotels easily accessible from the departures area: Mercure and Yotel.

“I have always liked Melbourne, Australia as a place for a long layover. Good shopping, free showers, nice people.” ~ Angharad

“I am very fond of San Francisco International. The airport feels much like the city. Don’t miss the clam chowder in a traditional San Francisco sourdough bread bowl. When I lived there, we used to laugh at the tourists who bought loaves to take home. Now that I live thousands of miles away, I have become one of them. You can’t get that taste anywhere else in the world.” ~ Neo

Incheon International Airport in S. Korea is great. Spacious terminal, great food reasonably priced, and free high-speed Internet access for everyone!” ~ wtlftr

“I pick Zurich in Switzerland. After what amounted to all day travel from Jacksonville, FL to Miami to Zurich, I was a pretty sloppy looking mess and I had a connection to Kiev, Ukraine to visit my fiancee. Thankfully they had hot showers and some great gift shops! After the 2 1/2-hour layover, I looked well rested, neat and clean and had loads of Swiss chocolate for gifts.” ~ Chris BFL

Natural Beauty

“The airports in New Zealand are nice, just like the country. Domestically, I like the Charlotte airport — they have big windows with rocking chairs and palm trees. Nice to look at and even better to sit a while!” ~ mschrisann

“I have always found that the Vancouver International Airport is one of the prettiest I have been to, with a real eye towards bringing a sense of the outdoor beauty of the Vancouver area to the airport. Lots of natural light through the large sections of glass windows, plus the use of natural materials in the terminal make it a peaceful setting.” ~ GregW

“If you like a nice place to hang out, the Santa Barbara airport is small, friendly, has a nice gift shop, and a lovely little coffee shop where you can sit on the balcony, sip your favorite beverage, and be lucky enough to have incomparable views.” ~ Sadler-Wells

Arts, Entertainment and Food

“Best airport food in the world: New Orleans. You can get the best of what New Orleans has to offer — even at the airport! — and for very reasonable prices. But then again, I don’t think there is ANY food establishment in New Orleans which does not offer GREAT food — anything less than fabulous would quickly go out of business!” ~ Georgette

“Although our layover was only an hour, we enjoyed the large spacious central atrium and live piano music at the airport in Portland, Oregon.” ~ Big Bird

“Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is a great place. There is an art gallery and a casino, plus a train straight into the heart of Amsterdam. I had a six-hour layover there, and was able to get out of the airport and see a little of Amsterdam.” ~ GregW

For Shopoholics

“Best airport shopping in the world: Dubai Airport. You can actually get bargains, especially on gold and other jewelry, as well as on just about everything — and it is HUGE!! They even have a grocery store with foods from all over the world, and SO CHEAP! Food court is good there, too. All laid out very conveniently for shopping in between flights (if you don’t have a long layover) or for extended layovers.” ~ Georgette

“My best layover was at Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. With a four-hour layover and couple of bucks, there is a tram to take you to Mall of America. I almost didn’t make my plane back to Portland (Oregon).” ~ zoomiegal

“If you love to shop, the best airport I’ve experienced for a layover is Munich. Paris’s de Gaulle is also good for shopping.” ~ Sadler-Wells

“I was amazed at the shopping opportunities at Pittsburgh’s airport. It’s like your plane landed at the Mall of the Americas!” ~ GregW

What’s your favorite airport? Leave a comment below!

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–written by Genevieve S. Brown

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