Tag Archives: airports

view of zurich airport runway from plane window

Smartest Airports for Making Connections

It seems like every day this summer, there’s been news of massive flight cancellations. And if it’s not cancellations, it’s lost luggage, long security lines, or extreme delays. It’s enough to make any traveler wish they had a private jet at their disposal (which is actually more affordable than you’d think). However, that said, most of us are going to fly commercial and we just want the easiest, most stress-free flying experience possible. Our top recommendation is to fly nonstop whenever possible (and there are great nonstop routes coming back online all the time), but we know that’s not always an option. So when you do have to make a connection, here are the airports that will make it as hassle-free as possible. (And, if you’re flying in business class, they have great lounges.)

Thanks to our go-to air-travel gurus for their input and first-hand experience recommending the best airports for connections: Brett Snyder of Cranky Concierge, and Gary Leff of View From the Wing. (Hear more from both of them in our Q&A travel talk on the best flights, fares, miles and seats.)

European airports

  • Zurich, Switzerland: Wendy chose this airport for her layover en route to Romania, and it was a breeze.
  • Munich, Germany: Wendy chose this hub for her flight back, and while the distances can be long, getting through is easy and efficient. Gary suggests this hub instead of Frankfurt airport, which can be confusing to navigate. However, he adds that while Frankfurt isn’t the most user-friendly airport, the upside is that it (and other similarly large but unpleasant hubs like Paris’s Charles de Gaulle) probably offer more flight options if something goes wrong. “While I often find smaller airports friendlier for transit,” he explains, “what I like more than a small airport with an easy layout is a place that has a lot of flights to your destination [like Amsterdam]. You can fly LOT Polish through Warsaw to a number of places, but if your flight is delayed, there may not be as many ‘backup flights’ to get on as traveling through the larger hubs.”
  •  Amsterdam, the Netherlands: The headlines this summer might make you think Schiphol is not a great option, but don’t be misled, says Brett:  “That’s really been for local passengers who go through security checkpoints, not connectors.”
  • Vienna, Austria

Asian airports

Pool at Doha Airport

Qatar’s Doha International Airport has a pool, a spa, and other amenities. Photo: Billie Cohen

It’s important to make sure you meet the entry requirements of any country you transit through in Asia. Some countries in Asia still have strict pandemic restrictions, so make sure you can actually get into whatever country you’re connecting through, in case you miss your connection and there’s not another flight that day. “Before the pandemic,” says Gary, “I’d have said that Hong Kong is a great airport. Now, there are fewer flights and I wouldn’t want to get stuck there.” With that in mind, he and Brett recommend:

  • Changi, Singapore: “There’s a reason Singapore is considered the best airport in the world by many.  It’s a marvel for everything it offers,” says Gary.
  • Incheon, South Korea
  • Dubai, U.A.E.
  • Doha, Qatar

South American airports

Brett feels that there aren’t any great airports for connections in South America.  Instead, his recommendation is that if you can connect in the US, that’s your best bet.

US airports

Even if your destination is international, it can be smart to make a connection within the US rather than overseas. As an example, Gary explains: “I live in Austin…so choosing between Detroit and Frankfurt is relevant if I’m going to, say, Paris.” Brett offers these recommendations:

  • Charlotte: “It’s a big airport, so you don’t necessarily want the really short connecting times.  But it avoids much of the airspace crunch that hits the northeast, so delays are less of an issue. Even better, if you are delayed, they have rocking chairs available for you to pass the time.”
  • Detroit: “The big Delta hub makes it easy to get to and from smaller airports in the northeast. It’s a big operation, but it’s not hard to get around. Besides, it has a train running back and forth in the terminal, and that’s just fun. It can be a useful jumping-off point for Europe and Asia alike, so it’s a good way to avoid the coasts.”
  • Seattle: “Seattle is a big and growing airport, just opening its new customs and immigration facility. If you’re heading to Asia, it’s easily the best pick of the three West Coast gateways. The constant threat of fog delays in San Francisco, along with the maze of terminal hopping that may be required at LAX, makes Seattle an easier experience. As an added bonus, it is closer to the great circle path to Asia from most US cities, so it can mean a shorter connection time.”
  • Salt Lake City and Phoenix: “People don’t think of Salt Lake and Phoenix as global hubs, and they’d be right. But Delta and its partners fly from Salt Lake to Europe, as do American and its partners from Phoenix, so for those in the western US, this is an easy way to get to Europe. The airports are easy to navigate and rarely have weather delay issues.”

Airports close to your final destination

If your connection is at an airport really close to your final destination, you give yourself more options if that flight is delayed. As Gary found out recently when helping out a cousin with a trip from Porto to Brussels. “I booked an award flight on Air France that included a train segment [from Paris] to Brussels.  And if he missed the last train of the night, well, it’s just not that hard to get from Paris to Brussels where he absolutely needed to be.”



teenager at airport at night wearing mask and looking at 2 phones

Tips for Surviving This Summer’s Flight Delays

After my fifth flight this summer, I wanted to share some tips for other people flying in the U.S. now because U.S. airports and airplanes are like the wild west. Anything can happen, and you may need to fend for yourself. Expect long waits, lines, closed services, and staff shortages.

Every flight I’ve taken during Covid (including my first one back in June 2020) has been delayed at least an hour and a half, and multiple times we’ve been on a six-hour flight for nine or ten hours. They may not serve drinks or food on the plane, and many shops and restaurants in the airports are closed, which means you might be thirsty or hungry for long periods of time. I’ve seen long lines for lost luggage, so do not pack anything with significant value. On a flight from San Francisco to New York, we were diverted to Cleveland and stuck on the tarmac for two hours in the middle of the night because there was nobody in the airport who had the proper certification to operate the gate. They had to go wake someone up at their house. The next morning, we had to stand in line for a paper boarding pass to get back onto our flight, since none of the check-in machines worked and we had to see an agent (who spent 25 minutes trying to get a dog ticketed for another flight). Our TSAPre didn’t work with the paper ticket either. In addition, boarding was alphabetical because they didn’t have a scanner at the gate.

Based on the flight problems I’ve seen and experienced this summer, here is my advice for families headed to the airport:

1. Bring two different types of masks that sit on your face differently. Because you could be in your mask for a very long time. From entering the airport to exiting your destination airport, it may be many hours before you can get outside again.

2. Pack for any climate. You could land in a place where the climate is completely different from where you expected to land. The air temperature on the plane can vary greatly too. So, if you’re wearing shorts and a T-shirt, bring long pants and a hoodie. And always have a spare toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry-on.

3. You might not have access to food when you want it, so bring enough snacks to last you. We were stuck on a plane for more than nine hours (on a five-hour flight) with basic snacks served early in the flight. A lot of airport shops aren’t open yet or are closed when you’re there. Especially if you need special foods like gluten-free or vegan, bring it with you!

4. Expect your flight time to change at the last minute. It could likely change multiple times. Make sure you’re getting notifications from your airline to your phone. We were getting updates on the phone while the pilot said she was getting none.

5. For long delays in the gate area, quickly find a spot off the floor where you can lie flat. Quickly because you may find yourself in competition with 250 other passengers. We found a very wide padded windowsill where we could sleep. Or at least lie flat and keep our carry-ons with us.

6. Use the restroom right before you get on the plane. Because of delays on the tarmac, you may not be able to get up from your seat for a long time after takeoff. You may be stuck in your seat for a while after landing too, because they’re trying to find a gate for your plane. So use it again before the landing process starts and the seatbelt sign goes on.

7. If you land in a different location than expected, don’t rely on the airline for anything. Be prepared to find your own hotel room and transportation to it. We were on the last plane to divert from Newark, so the other planes had gotten all the hotel rooms near the airport. The airline made an announcement that we all had to figure it out for ourselves because every room near the airport was booked. (They gave us a paper that stated their reimbursement policy of approx. $200 per passenger.) My older brother Charlie managed to find us a room in Cleveland at 1:00 a.m. because he searched for one downtown, farther away. He got us an Uber to get there. At the hotel, he had to explain our situation to the night manager so that she would waive the two-night minimum stay.

8. Don’t assume you’re getting back on the same plane you took off on. When you leave a plane, take everything with you. And make sure your bags have your mobile phone number on them, in case they get lost.

9. Fly nonstop when you can. On each delayed flight, the only thing that made it better was that we didn’t have to catch a connecting flight. A lot of people missed their connecting flights. So take nonstop flights when you can. And if you’re flying to an event you can’t miss—like a wedding or boarding a cruise ship—you might want to fly a day early.

As for our night in Cleveland, we wish we’d had either much more time there (to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or a Cleveland Indians game) or much less.



We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Smarter Airline Travel in 2021: Best flights, seats, and fares


In one of our travel talks for WOW Week 2021, air travel watchdogs Brett Snyder, founder of Cranky Concierge, and Gary Leff , founder of View From the Wing and Book Your Award, revealed what you can expect from airlines and airfares this year, when to buy your tickets, how to choose the safest flights, where to find business-class bargains, how to get the most value for your miles, and much more.

Our conversation included:

• Airfare pricing trends
• Domestic airfare vs. international airfare
• Business-class deals
• How frequent-flier programs have changed
• Airlines’ change fees and refund policies
• Health and safety while flying
• Airfare predictions for holiday travel in 2021
• Buying tickets through an online service vs. the airline or a travel agent

Here are excerpts from our talk; answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Airfare price predictions

Brett Snyder: It’s been an interesting roller coaster over the last year, to say the least. What we’re seeing with airfare now is that, as demand is starting to get a lot stronger domestically, a lot of those deals that we saw just a few months ago aren’t there anymore. There are still deals to be had, of course, depending on when you’re flying, but for the most part, fares are rising domestically.  Internationally, it’s a bit more of a crapshoot. I would say that, to some places that we know Americans can visit this year, it’s unlikely you’re going to find these amazing deals right now, and the airlines know that—they know where you can go.  But what we have seen a lot of is refundable fares that are much lower than they used to be in a lot of places. And that is really a nice option for people. The difference between non-refundable and refundable used to be so ridiculous that it just wasn’t worth considering. But that’s something that’s changed a lot. So, on the whole, if you see a hot destination where people are going, the chances are less that you’re going to get a better deal than if you’re going to somewhere else.

Gary Leff:  The general principle is the same that it’s always been: Where the price of airfare is driven by supply and demand, and where there are a lot of people wanting to travel somewhere, it’s going to cost more to get there. Back in March, I was able to buy $31 tickets from Austin, where I live, to Miami.  I’m not able to do anything like that anymore.  Airlines are going to scale back up their capacity—they’re beginning to do that over the next few weeks.  If the return of travel continues, as it seems highly likely to, we’re going to see airfares rise as well.

To Brett’s point about refundable tickets being cheaper:  There are deals on business-class tickets, but it varies by destination.  One of the things that’s changed is who’s traveling: The people who used to buy refundable tickets aren’t the ones who are traveling now or they’re not the ones buying the tickets for work. The people who were buying long-haul business class don’t have employers paying for it for business travel. And so there’s a compression as well to some extent. About a week ago, there were $900 roundtrips on TAP Air Portugal business class between the US and Europe. Now, that was a deal worth jumping on. It was before we saw some of the latest news about Europe’s opening.  United shared during their earnings call that, as soon as the word came out that Americans could visit Greece, the number of searches on their website skyrocketed, and the number of ticket purchases on their Athens flights skyrocketed. So, if you’re going where everyone else is going and searching where everyone else is searching, then it’s going to be more expensive, but not necessarily more expensive than it was before the pandemic. So we sort of need to attenuate our expectations. It’s not the $13 cross-country fares that we saw a year ago. But it is not outsized expense, relative to the past.

Bargain-hunting for international flights

Brett: It all goes back to supply and demand again, for the most part, but sometimes foreign airlines have mandates and just decide to do things that are less market-based than you’ll find from U.S. airlines. If China ever opens again, I would expect there would be a flood of low fares on the Chinese carriers. … Europe is a little bit tougher.

Gary: If you’re buying tickets now, you’re making a bet on the future. And certainly things have not always played out the way they’ve been expected to play out over the last year. And in COVID, we think we know what direction things are going,…but you’re making a bet on reopening and staying open. So it is certainly the case that you would be more inclined to have tickets on a carrier with some flexibility, and that you trust is going to, you know, be there. … I think there are going to be deals, and to Brett’s point, I think some of those deals will be on foreign carriers as they restart service, or as they attempt to gain traffic for the flights that they’re operating.

Frequent-flier programs in the Covid-travel era

Gary:  In some ways, they haven’t changed very much, although a couple of things that are worth highlighting: American Advantage, I really have to applaud something that they did, which is to eliminate cancellation and redeposit-of-miles fees. United is more flexible than they were, and if you cancel more than a month out, they’re not going to charge you a fee to put your miles back. American won’t charge any of their members at all for redepositing the miles on any of their awards. That means booking with them is something you can do, even if you think you might take the trip, and you can cancel later—and it’s really a risk-free proposition. Other than that, the miles you have in your account can only be used for ticketing one trip at a time. Giving that sort of flexibility and that kind of confidence is something that I think is really valuable.

But getting cheap fares is not really that different than getting award seats: it’s very difficult to get award seats when you’re looking to fly where everyone else wants to go when they want to go. … As a general rule, you get award availability when you’re flying where other people aren’t going or on the planes other people aren’t taking.

Holiday travel airfare

Gary: Holiday travel is always hard. In fact, holiday travel with miles and holiday travel with cash, you’re not seeing a whole lot of deals. This is one of the things that American Airlines Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja talked about on their earnings call: They’re not releasing their cheap fares for the holidays yet, because they’re taking a wait-and-see attitude on passenger demand. They could fill all these flights really cheap now, but they think they may have a shot at filling them at a higher price point later on. And so the old advice about booking three months out, but for the holidays maybe six months out, is maybe not quite right. I think it’s much more along the lines of: Look for the flight that you want, whether it’s revenue or on an award, and when you find it, grab it. There’s more flexibility than there used to be in terms of changeability and in terms of returning miles. So grab it, and then consider improving or, if your plans change, retaining a credit or putting your miles back, or if you see a better deal come along later.

Watch the video to learn more about how to get the best flights, seats, and fares in 2021.


We’re Here to Help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Centurion Lounge in Miami International Airport

An Easy Way to Improve Your Next Flight Delay: Airport Lounge Day Passes

You no longer have to be an elite traveler, a frequent flier, or even a passenger of a specific airline to enjoy the stress-free haven of an airport lounge. Over the past few years, several independent companies have nabbed real estate in the country’s busiest airports, bringing comfy armchairs, Wi-Fi, workspaces, snacks and drinks, and even spas and showers to anyone passing through the terminal with a few extra dollars to spare, usually between $25 and $50. And it’s not just travelers who’ve taken notice; airlines have upped their lounge game in response, with several opening their retreats to regular folks too. These lounges can be a life (and sanity) saver any time you have a long layover. And they are especially useful during the holiday season, when crowds are thick and weather delays common. Download the LoungeBuddy app (as well as other essential apps for holiday travel), and you’ll always know where to find the closest one.

Here are a few of the non-airline-affiliated lounges to look for. As for airline lounges, you can find one in most airports, and sometimes you can buy a day pass, even if you’re not flying that airline!

Lounge Pass
Fee: Starts at $19
What’s included: Lounge Pass is a booking site for day passes to more than 350 airport lounges in more than 100 countries. Prices start at $19 and the amenities vary by location.
Locations: There are too many list to here, but the website makes it easy to find the options in the airports you need.

Priority Pass
Fee: Annual membership from $99; free membership for Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, Citi Prestige card holders (among others).
What’s included: Priority Pass is like Lounge Pass, but it requires a membership fee up front—which then gives you free access. Amenities vary widely, but most lounges have complimentary Wi-Fi and snacks, outlets, TVs, and places to work; some have spas and private conference room. Members also receive discounts at airport restaurants and retail shops.
Locations: The Priority Pass network includes more than 1,300 lounges in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and North America.

Centurion Lounges
Fee: Free to AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Elaborate food and drink, often prepared by well-known chefs; Wi-Fi; video games; lots of couches and private nooks; assistance with dinner reservations, flight info, event tickets, and more; printers, fax machines, copiers; TVs, magazines and newspapers; conference rooms at some locations; spa services at some locations; showers at some locations; luggage lockers at some locations.
Locations: Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), Hong Kong (HKG), Houston (IAH),Las Vegas (LAS), New York LaGuardia (LGA), Philadelphia (PHL), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco (SFO). Coming soon to Denver (DEN), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), London (LHR), Charlotte (CLT), and Phoenix (PHX).

The Club
Fee: Varies
What’s included: Wi-Fi; snacks and drinks (including wine, beer, and liquor); workstations, printers, fax machines, phones; TVs, magazines and newspapers; showers; conference rooms for an additional fee. Purchase day passes to The Club’s locations via the Lounge Pass website (see below).
Locations: Atlanta Hartsfield (ATL), Boston (BOS), Buffalo (BUF), Baltimore (BWI), Charleston (CHS), Cincinnati (CVG), Dallas-Forth Worth (DFW), Jacksonville (JAX), Las Vegas McCarran (LAS), London (LGW), London (LHR), Orlando (MCO), Pittsburgh (PIT), Seattle (SEA), and San José (SJC) airports.

Airspace Lounge
Fee: From $20 (price varies depending on time of day); free entry for AmEx Platinum and Centurion cardholders and their guests.
What’s included: Wi-Fi; computers; power outlets at every seat; a credit for a free meal or alcoholic beverage (additional snacks, soft drinks, and coffees are available for free as well); printers, scanners; showers at the San Diego airport.
Locations: Cleveland Hopkins (CLE) and San Diego (SAN).


Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Singapore Airlines plane in the sky

Strategies for Flying Smarter in 2018

When George Hobica founded Airfarewatchdog.com, he solved one of the most frustrating challenges for fliers: how to tell if you’re getting the best price on a flight. But suddenly, by signing up for the website’s customizable low-fare alerts, fliers were receiving key fare information and assurance right in their inboxes. Over the years, the website has continued to come up with solutions for travelers, including a hotel-deal finder and one-sheets for domestic airlines that detail fees, contact numbers, and user reviews all in one place. So when we started wondering what 2018 is likely to have in store for airline passengers and how to make the best of any changes, we went right to George. These are his top five strategies for flying smarter in 2018.

1. Economy class seating will get tighter, so it’s never been more necessary to research before you book.

Those flying in economy class will see seats spaced closer together. Visit SeatGuru to see which airlines have added extra seats to rows in economy and which have added more rows per plane. JetBlue will remain the only U.S. airline with at least 34 inches of space between rows in economy (the others may space them 30 or 31 inches apart).  On the plus side, airlines are expanding their premium economy cabins on international routes, with United being the latest to announce they are adding premium cabins this year.

2. Business class will feel more private and get upgrades, so this could be a good year to consider splurging (or spending miles).

Singapore Airline's new first class suites are like mini apartments

Singapore Airline’s new first class suites feature a real bed. Photo: Singapore Airlines

Some airlines will be adding more privacy to their business class cabins, offering all-aisle access in a 1-2-1 configuration. Singapore Airlines’ new first class “Suites” will feature a real bed and a seat, not just a seat that turns into a bed (two people traveling together can turn them into a cozy double bed). British Airways is rolling out an enhanced business class cabin with quilted mattress pads and a fancier meal service.

3. You’ll fly more comfortably if you choose the right planes.

We’ll see newer planes on many more routes, but be sure to opt for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, if available, on ultra-long-haul flights. These aircraft lower the equivalent altitude inside the cabin by about 2,000 feet compared to other planes, meaning you’ll breathe easier and generally feel better on long flights. They also keep more passenger-generated humidity inside the plane; your mucous membranes will thank you for choosing one of these aircraft. Boeing shows where the Dreamliner flies and on which airlines. There are many similar sources for the A350 (just do a search for “A350 routes”). Or ask a travel agent.

4. Watch for new technology that will speed and simplify boarding.


britishairways biometric boarding gates LAX

British Airways has introduced biometric boarding at LAX. Photo: British Airways

We will see more airlines automate the boarding procedure by using self-boarding via facial-recognition technology. British Airways tested this on international flights from LAX in January and eventually all airlines will use self-boarding turnstiles to speed the process and make it more secure. (Scans of U.S. passport holders are compared to their photos stored by Customs and Border Protection; scans of foreign visitors are compared to photos captured by cameras at immigration.) I recently witnessed 180 passengers self-boarding a Dreamliner in less than 20 minutes. No need to show passports or boarding passes, just look into the camera and pass through the turnstile.

5. Spend more time in airport lounges—they’re improving.

Air Canada's business class lounge at Pearson Airport in Toronto

Air Canada’s business class lounge at Pearson Airport in Toronto. Photo: Air Canada

Passengers with access to airport lounges will find vastly improved pre-flight dining options. Air Canada, for example, has launched a new business class lounge at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, available only to paid business class passengers, that combines the traditional amenities found in airport lounges with a restaurant helmed by Vancouver-based celebrity chef David Hawksworth. Those operated by United, American and Delta, many of which were showing their age, are getting upgrades: new furniture, décor, and lighting, with places to charge your electronics at every seat, and a wider choice of edibles (Delta now serves a full hot breakfast in some of its Skyclubs). Most U.S. airlines will sell you a day pass for about $50 (think of it as three airport martinis plus free Wi-Fi and nibbles and it won’t sound so pricey).

How to Avoid Long Airport Security Lines This Summer

Airport security lines have grown absurdly long of late, thanks to more people traveling and fewer TSA workers. With the busy summer travel season upon us, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. Here’s how to minimize your time stuck in a TSA line on your next trip:

If You’re Flying Soon

Find out if your airport terminal has more than one security checkpoint.

Many terminals do. Before leaving home, go to the airport’s website and pull up a map showing the security checkpoints. (This map, for instance, indicates where the three checkpoints are in Newark airport’s Terminal C; this one shows where they are for all five terminals at Dallas-Fort Worth.) At the airport, ask an official which checkpoint has the shortest line.

Download the MyTSA app.

Available for free for iPhones and Android, this app gives you current security wait times at your airport, as reported by your fellow travelers. You can also view them here; just type in your airport code.

Arrive early and hit the club lounge.

The bigger and busier your airport—e.g., J.F.K., Chicago (O’Hare), or Miami International—the earlier you’ll want to arrive, especially if you’re flying at a peak time.  At least two hours early for a domestic flight, and three hours early for international, may be a good rule of thumb for most airports. To keep your stress level down, you might consider arriving really early and buying a day pass to an airport lounge club (if the club is gate-side).

If You’re Flying Later

Don’t buy airline tickets for flights at peak times.

Avoid Friday late afternoon and early evening, for example, because that’s when business travelers returning from business trips are hitting the airport at the same time as leisure travelers leaving on vacation, creating security-line pile-ups. If you’re taking a long weekend, consider flying on a Saturday morning and returning Tuesday. (That’s also less expensive than a Thursday-to-Sunday long weekend.)

Enroll in TSA PreCheck or, even better, Global Entry.

TSA PreCheck admits you into a priority lane where you need not remove your shoes, liquids, or laptop. The $85 fee covers you for five years. For an extra $15, though, get Global Entry (the $100 fee also covers you for five years), which lets you skip the long customs line on your way back into the U.S. from an international trip, and which automatically gives you TSA PreCheck. Not every airport has PreCheck lanes or Global Entry kiosks, so check whether yours does.

Buy access to the priority security line.

Many travelers who have elite status with an airline can use the express lane at the security checkpoint. If you don’t have elite status, some airlines let you purchase access to the priority security lane on a one-time basis. United, for instance, lets you buy access at 68 airports worldwide (prices start at $15), and JetBlue lets you buy it at 62 airports.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Concourse play area, Seoul Incheon Airport

How Not to Get Lost in the Seoul Airport

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is widely considered the second-best airport in the world (after Singapore’s Changi Airport); blog after blog sings its praises. Surely my family could while away a ten-hour layover in this epicenter of creature comforts, where the amenities, I read, would include leather recliners and free Wi-Fi—right? Well, I’m here to warn you that Incheon’s facilities might be impressive, but it falls down in one crucial area: signage. The chairs might be cushy, the shopping divine (for collectors of perfume, Toblerone, and other duty-free knick-knacks—I’ll get to that later). But to my mind, maps and signs that are easily understood by your jet-lagged, sleep-deprived customers should be every airport’s top priority. Let me explain:

I’d heard that Incheon had several play areas—perfect, I thought, for letting my four-year-old burn off some energy between flights. So upon arrival, I consulted a touch-screen map to find a play area near our gate. The map’s menu listed nearly 100 duty-free shops, but not a single kid space; when I searched for “play,” the single result was a playground on the Concourse, a corridor of gates separated from the terminal by a shuttle train. We boarded the train and made our way to the advertised play area, which consisted of a large cargo net hanging a foot or two off the ground like an enormous hammock, plus some small plastic balls to throw around. Somehow, after having read glowing reviews of this airport posted by fellow parents, I’d been expecting more. My son grew tired of the place within a few minutes, and so we went in search of a different—hopefully better—kids’ area.

Trying to retrace our steps, we saw not a single sign pointing our way back to the terminal, where our departure gate was located. When we finally made our way to the shuttle platform, a guard turned us around, explaining that the train takes passengers in only one direction. We finally found an airport employee who agreed to escort us back to the terminal, quietly chiding us the whole time for missing the signs that the shuttle ride was a one-way trip. (I suppose what makes Incheon world-class is that a guy in a suit showed us the way back to our gate; back home, a TSA officer probably would have kicked us out to the curb.)

Seoul Incheon Airport signage

Would you have known, based on the photo above, that by boarding the shuttle train you’d lose access to the entire terminal? Photo: Ryan Damm

I ask you, readers: Would you have known, based on the photo above, that by boarding the shuttle train you’d lose access to the entire terminal? I now see our mistake, but at the time—bleary-eyed after a red-eye from Saigon—I breezed past these signs, not realizing that “Concourse Only” meant we couldn’t return to the terminal.

When we finally found the Kids’ Zone on the second floor of the Terminal, I was again disappointed, this time by the wide-screen TV that was showing Jurassic Park (a PG13-rated movie) beside a climbing structure appropriate for kids under six. Way to go, Incheon: Let’s give little kids nightmares before they board a long-haul flight!

Kids area in the Terminal, Seoul Incheon Airport

The kids’ area in the Terminal at Seoul’s Incheon Airport was disappointing. Photo: Ryan Damm

As far as I can tell, Incheon is a glorified shopping mall with gates as afterthoughts, and little concern for the basic needs of travelers. In the market for a Swarovski bracelet, a Louis Vuitton suitcase (who buys luggage when they’re already on a trip, anyway), or fast-food kimchi? Incheon has you covered. A can of soda water, a bag of crackers, or a globally understood sign indicating DO NOT ENTER? In those departments, I found that Incheon was sorely lacking. Next time, I’ll be flying through Singapore.

Which airports do you think are the most kid-friendly?


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


If you’re flying through Barcelona-El Prat airport (BCN) and have a layover, you’ll probably be tempted to try to duck into the city and look around. The good news is that as long as you have at least seven hours, you can do it. We talked to Paul Bennett of Context Travel—our Trusted Travel Expert for short, cultural experiences in cities worldwide—for tips on how make the most of your Barcelona airport layover:

How to get out of the airport:

Taxis: Taxis are plentiful at the airport. A taxi to central Barcelona should run about 25 to 35 euros. The journey should take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the time of day..

Train: There is train service from the airport to the station Barcelona-Passeig de Gràcia in central Barcelona. The train line is the R2 Norte Aeropuerto – Sant Celoni / Maçanet Massanes. This train runs every 30 minutes for most of the day, and the journey takes approximately 30 minutes. You can purchase your ticket at the airport station before boarding. Finding your way to the train from the airport is easy—it’s clearly marked. The station Barcelona-Passeig de Gracia is in the heart of the Eixample district, where many of Gaudi’s works are located.

Bus: Try the Aerobus. There are two options—one leaving from Terminal 1 and the other from Terminal 2. The buses come frequently, every 5 to 10 minutes. They are affordable (about 10.80 euros per round-trip ticket), comfortable, and fast (35 minutes). You purchase your ticket from the driver while boarding or sometimes there is a person selling tickets at a kiosk by the bus (they are legit). The bus makes a few stops at various spots in the city—its terminus is Plaza Catalonia, which is ideally located just between the Gothic Quarter and Eixample district and is served by several metro lines. Its website is very easy to navigate. Don’t be alarmed if your bus is full when you arrive and you can’t get on, just remember that another one will come very shortly. It’s also very easy to find the Aerobus at the airport—it should be very well marked.

Note: The aerobus is generally easier to navigate than the train, as it’s designed for tourists. But if your time is very limited, or you have a very specific destination in mind, a taxi might be worth the extra cost.

What to do with your luggage: There is a left-luggage office in Terminal 1, on the first floor (Spanish floor 0) and it’s possible to leave luggage there for up to 30 days (fee per 24-hour period). If you’re arriving into Terminal 2, Terminal 1 is a short walk away. There is also a free shuttle bus that runs 24 hours a day. The charge for all or part of each 24-hour period depends on the size of your luggage: large locker (50x80x90 cm), €5.80; medium locker (35x80x60 cm), €5.10; small locker (35x80x45 cm), €4.50.

Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain

Boqueria Market, Barcelona, Spain. Photo: mertxe iturrioz/Flickr

If you have a 7-hour layover:

 Allot four hours for travel to and from the city in order to be back in time (two hours in advance) for an international flight. That will give you a nice three hours in the city, which is enough to get a feel for Barcelona’s medieval Gothic Quarter and its more gritty sister, the El Raval neighborhood.

Start with a quick look at La Rambla, the city’s ancient thoroughfare, which was once a stream located outside the city walls. (In fact, a “La Rambla” street exists in many cities and was derived from the Arabic word ramlah, meaning riverbed). If you’re hungry, head to the Boqueria to see the sites and smell the smells. It’s a tourist haven, sure, but it is a historic market worth taking in, with many authentic vendors and locals doing their shopping. Pinotxo bar is one of the best stands for regional specialties; try the bacalao (dry salt cod), which is ubiquitous. After a bite, wander briefly through the Gothic Quarter’s narrow streets, staying especially attuned to the neighborhood’s ancient Jewish Call (the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 but there are still traces, however slight, of their existence in Barcelona). Then head over to El Raval, on the Boqueria side of La Rambla. It’s an area that was once grazing land for the walled city and has undergone great transformation over the centuries. The last century was hard on the area (it became the red-light district); however, in the 1990s the city poured money into developing the Raval, and it’s now a bohemian center. It’s home to the Richard Meier–designed Museum of Contemporary Art but still a haven for trendy artistic types (check out the street art).

For those interested in learning about the Raval’s history with an expert, you could skip the stroll through the Gothic Quarter and consider Context Travel’s three-hour history seminar of the neighborhood: Revealing the Raval.


If you have an 8-hour layover or longer:

Take a taxi to the top of Montjuïc hill for a spectacular view of the city and a bit of exploration. The area is home to a 17th-century fortress (the Montjuïc castle, Carretera de Montjuïc); two Olympic stadiums (1936 and 1992); the International Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1929; the Palau Nacional (built for the World’s Fair and intended to be a temporary structure, but now the Museum of Catalan Art; a museum dedicated to the work of Catalan artist Joan Miró; and quaint secret gardens along the hill’s side. Later, board the cable car (near the Funicular de Montjuïc’s Miramar station; walk about a half mile along Avinguda de Miramar in the direction of the sea (east), or take the #50 bus, for a thrilling ride down to the port, where you can stroll along the seaside promenade and stop for a relaxing drink or bite to eat in the sun. After this break, depending on how much time remains, explore the area of Barceloneta just next door. It’s a neighborhood created in the 18th century to provide housing for families who were displaced by the construction of the citadel in the Ribera neighborhood. Many of Barceloneta’s original 18th-century, two-story houses exist today, and its comparatively wide streets are a bright alternative to the dark and narrow alleyways of the Gothic Quarter. Stop in at the lively neighborhood tapas restaurant La Bombeta for some great snacks before taking a taxi back to the airport.

For those looking for more structured time, try Context Travel’s three-hour Montjuic, Conquering the Mountain walk or the three-hour Barcelona and the Sea tour.


If you don’t have time to leave the airport:

There are a number of VIP lounges that are free for business-class ticket holders and open to other ticket holders for a small fee (26 euros per adult/12.50 euros per child). These lounges usually have food and beverage service, television, Internet access (sometimes even computers for use), newspapers, and books. The Joan Miró VIP Lounge in Terminal 1 is open to travelers flying only to non-Schengen countries and even has showers and a leisure area with pool tables.

Terminal 1 also has several air rooms, air showers (30 minutes; includes towel, gel, and slippers), and an air wellness program (read: massage). These should all be pre-reserved on the website.

There are a few play areas for children spread out around both terminals. They can be found on the interactive airport map.

The airport offers 15 minutes of free Wi-Fi to every traveler. Beyond that, it must be purchased.


More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Best Ways to Spend Delays in 17 U.S. Airports

For many of us, Thanksgiving and Christmas mean too much time spent in airports: The holiday crowds require you to get there early, messy weather can mean delays, and planes are so packed that, if your flight is cancelled, it can be untold hours before you get a seat on another flight. But some airports are far more tolerable than others. In some cases they’re even enjoyable. You already know the best way to spend a layover in 10 of the biggest U.S. hubs. Here, a selection of savvy globe trotters—from travel experts to my Facebook followers—share the best U.S. airports to get stuck in, and their favorite way to pass the time there.

Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ATL)
“ATL – One Flew South – sushi.”
—Willis McKee, reader

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
“If I had to choose one airport, it would be Austin, Texas, for the great local restaurants, including several that often have live bands.”
Scott Mayerowitz,  Executive Editorial Director, The Points Guy

Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT)
“Relax in the charming white rocking chairs scattered throughout the airport. Makes me think ‘Southern Hospitality’.”
—Kathy Belden, reader

Centurion Lounge in Miami International Airport

The Centurion Lounge

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
“I’ve been stuck for days at DFW, and it was just fine—I looked into declaring residency in the American Express Centurion lounge. The DFW airport grounds are bigger than the island of Manhattan, and the airport offers myriad amenities, including the American Express lounge and an almost-too-nice Grand Hyatt attached to the terminal with a pool deck overlooking the runways. What more could you need?”
—Gary Leff, founder, View From The Wing

Denver International Airport (DEN)
“Food, not too much shopping, lots of open-space feeling from the high ceilings and huge windows— and views of the mountains.”
—Carolyn Trabuco, reader

Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW)
“Detroit is the best airport in the USA at the moment. Great local restaurants. Beautiful and clean.”
—David Rosati, reader

honolulu airport chinese garden

Believe it or not, this is an airport. HNL’s Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian gardens were designed in 1962, when the airport was built. Photo: Courtesy HNL

Honolulu International Airport (HNL)
“I love the gardens in the middle of the airport.”
—Perri Collins, reader

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
“My favorite domestic airport to get stuck in is Los Angeles International (LAX)! They’ve brought in a bunch of local restaurants and shops which have made all the difference in the world. A lot of travelers don’t realize that your same-day boarding pass allows you to go into any terminal no matter which airline you’re flying! So if you like a restaurant in one of the other terminals, go ahead and check it out.”
—Johnny Jet, JohnnyJet.com

Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)
“Lots of good shopping and restaurants, and if it’s a long enough layover, in less than 15 minutes you can take the train to the Mall of America for a ride on the carousel.”
—Lori Bruns, reader

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 5
“I love the JetBlue terminal (Terminal 5) at JFK. They have that great store MUJI to GO, an Ex Officio shop, great restaurants, and a spa.”
—Paula Froelich, founder of A Broad Abroad

New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): Terminal 4
“I love the Delta lounge in Terminal 4. It’s so big that I can always find a quiet corner. The space is subdivided into a lot of different rooms, so it’s easy to have a different experience each time. Every seat has outlets and USB ports, which is key for last-minute charging. And there’s an outdoor lounge, which is just fun because I’ll take any oxygen I can before being locked in a tin can.”
—Pavia Rosati, founder/CEO, Fathom

Palm Beach International Airport (PBI)
“It’s low-key and truly Floridian, with a relaxing vibe. And if you forgot a souvenir, there are always those kitschy coconut candy treats.”
—Sharon Pomerantz Strelzer, reader

Portland International Airport (PDX)
“PDX has the best store: CC McKenzie has awesome clothes, shoes, and accessories. They also have the Dragontree holistic day spa, and Powell’s Books!”
—Brandy Audette, reader

San Francisco International Airport yoga room

SFO’s Yoga Room, the first ever in an airport, lets you get in a good stretch before you board your flight. Photo: Courtesy San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
“It has a spa for massages and a yoga room.”
—Deb Arora, reader

Washington, D.C.’s Reagan National Airport (DCA)
“I love taking a walk into the historic lobby in what’s now Terminal A. It’s usually pretty empty there, but if you stop for a moment, you can just feel the presence of all of the historic figures that have graced those halls since the terminal opened during World War II.”
—Brett Snyder, president and Chief Airline Dork, The Cranky Flier

What’s your ideal airport to get stuck in? Weigh in below!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Astonishing Business-Class Airfare Deal to Europe—But You Have to Act Fast


Every year I wait with bated breath for the day when business travel expert Joe Brancatelli announces that the airlines have started their secret business-class airfare sales to Europe. Today’s the day, folks—and this time the sales, which are usually for either the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays or for summertime, are actually for both! Joe has found outstanding business-class airfares to Europe for as low as $1,566 roundtrip from the East Coast and $1,616 roundtrip from the West.

If you don’t know who Joe is or why I think he’s the smartest guy in the room when it comes to getting the most for your business-travel dollar, you can read our interview with him here. You can also sign up for his Joe Sent Me newsletter as soon as you finish reading this; you’ll be glad you did.

But back to the sale: The low fares, which are on British Airways, are for travel between November 16, 2015 and August 2016, but you must book by the end of the day tomorrow, October 16. Fares available include:

  • Tampa to London for $1,566
  • New York to London for $1,605
  • San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, or Washington, D.C., to London for $1,611
  • Los Angeles to London for $1,616
  • Atlanta to London for $1,811

If you want to travel elsewhere in Europe via London, business-class fares start as low as $1,533 roundtrip.

But wait—it gets even cheaper: If you are an AARP member, says Joe, “you can drive your fare down below $1,200 roundtrip on some routes between late November and next August. (Yes, August, 2016.) And, yes, other carriers do seem to be matching. And, yes, there’s a great mileage bonus opportunity. And even a first-class sale.”

The key to many of these low fares is a Sunday-night stay, says Joe. Start reading about the sale at www.ba.com/2015, and then dig deeper with BA’s pricing tool here. The sale includes American Airlines, Iberia and OpenSkies, BA’s boutique carrier to Paris and Iberia. And, amazingly, Joe reports good availability.

So, if you’ve been toying with the idea of a trip to Europe, now is the moment to book. And if you were ever thinking, “I wish I knew about great business-class travel deals,” now is the time to become a member at Joe Sent Me. Yes, you’ll still get some great info if you opt only for his free weekly newsletter, but you’ll get the really good stuff—including breaking travel alerts and deals—if you purchase a membership. Starting at just $69 a year, you can see that it very quickly pays for itself.

5 Easy Ways to Avoid Airline Bag and Change Fees

In the first three months of 2015, U.S. airlines raked in a record-setting $1.6 billion in checked-baggage fees and ticket-change fees. That’s up 7.4% from the same period last year. With the airlines’ profits at record highs, do you really want to give them an even bigger chunk of your trip budget?  I didn’t think so.  So here’s what you can do to avoid these fees:

How to avoid baggage fees

1. Get a credit card that exempts you from them.

The standard fee for checking a bag is $50 round-trip but, depending on the size and weight of your luggage, can be as high as $400 internationally. Each of the three major U.S. airlines offers a co-branded credit card that waives such fees when you fly that airline. And these credit cards cost nothing for the first year, so you have little to lose by trying one for 12 months. United offers the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card from Chase; it provides one free checked bag to both the cardholder and one travel companion ticketed on the same reservation. American offers the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard from Citibank; it provides one free checked bag for the cardholder and up to four travel companions. Delta offers the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express; it lets you and up to nine companions check a bag for free. For all three cards, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. The United and Delta cards charge no foreign-transaction fees.

 2. Fly an airline that does not charge baggage fees.

Southwest charges no baggage fees, and some JetBlue fares still incur no baggage fees.

How to avoid or minimize ticket-change fees

1. If you think you may need to change an airline ticket, buy it with miles.

Change fees, which are typically $200 for domestic tickets and up to $450 for international flights, are more lenient for mileage-award tickets. American Airlines, for instance, lets you change mileage-award flight dates and times for free or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, for $75. United lets you change your travel dates for $75 or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, $100. Fees for changes to mileage-award tickets are lowered or waived for fliers with elite status.

2. Choose an airline that offers changes for free.

Southwest Airlines does not charge ticket-change or cancellation fees. Alaska Airlines offers free changes if you make them 60 days or more in advance.

3. If the flight is not very expensive, look into booking two one-way tickets rather than one round-trip.

Time was when two one-way tickets cost significantly more than one round-trip. Nowadays, though, more and more, they cost the same. So, if you’re unsure about either your outbound or return date, consider buying two one-way tickets, especially if each one-way fare is less than the airline’s change fee. Say a round-trip costs $300 and the airline’s change fee is $200. If you bought two $150 one-way fares and you had to change the outbound or the return, you could simply throw out the $150 ticket (and buy a new one), saving yourself $50. If you’re unsure of both your outbound and return dates, you’re probably better off buying the round-trip because you can change both dates with only one change fee.

Do you have any suggestions I’ve missed? I’d love to hear them—as, I’m sure, would everyone else! Please weigh in below.

Forbidden City Beijing China Red Door

Beijing Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame.


The great thing about an airport layover in China is that the country now offers 72-hour, visa-free layovers so that you can get out of the airport and into a few major cities for short sightseeing stints. Since Beijing is where many travelers to Asia first touch down, we talked to Context Travel’s Beijing experts to find out how to make the most of a PEK airport layover, no matter how short it is. Turns out that even just a few hours can give you the chance to check out Beijing’s art scene, food offerings, or historic attractions.


The Basics

How to exit the airport: Beijing immigration has a lane set aside for 72-hour, visa-free stopovers. When you arrive at immigration, be sure to have the boarding pass from your first flight and an onward plane ticket to (or airline confirmation for) a third destination—not the place from which you just came.

Taxi: Beijing traffic is notoriously terrible, but gridlock isn’t too bad outside of rush hour (7:30–9am, 5–7pm), especially coming in from the airport. Expect to queue for a cab for 15 to 20 minutes; the ride to the city center can take 40 to 50 minutes. Expect to pay around ¥70–¥80 (approximately US$11–$13) outside of rush hour; during rush-hour, the ride can take up to 80 minutes and cost up to ¥150 or so (about US$25). For your return to the airport, if you’re staying overnight and in a quiet area, have your hotel call a cab ahead of time.

Train: The Airport Express runs from Beijing Capital Airport to downtown Dongzhimen station in about 20 to30 minutes. You can find a train schedule here. Tickets are ¥25 each, and you’ll need to hang on to them to swipe out of the station. If you have an overnight layover and your hotel is walking distance from Dongzhimen or from a line 2 or 13 metro station, this is a quick and inexpensive way to get downtown. If you have heavy baggage, suffer from claustrophobia, or are not staying near Dongzhimen or metro lines 2 and 13, you’d do better to take a cab—even in rush hour. If you take the train to Dongzhimen during rush hour, you are unlikely to be able to find a cab once you exit the station.

Private tour: Context Travel has introduced a Beijing layover package. The five-hour package includes a scholar-led walking tour of both the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and lunch at a local restaurant with one of Context’s docents—all Beijing residents and experts in their academic fields. The price includes round-trip airport transfers, but you’ll still need five hours plus travel time to and from the airport. If your inbound flight is delayed, Context will do its best to adjust your tour schedule accordingly. Contact Context through Wendy’s WOW List to ensure VIP treatment and get the best possible experience.

What to do with your luggage: Stow your luggage either by checking it through with your airline company or leaving it at the Left Luggage service between T1 to T2 (¥20-¥50 per bag/day depending on the size).


If You Have a 6-Hour Layover

Save time and a headache by taking a cab to the 798 Art Zone. This pedestrian-only complex of former military factories-turned-galleries is only a 20-minute drive from the airport (about ¥25–¥30). For the return leg, be sure to leave yourself 20 extra minutes to flag down a cab on the main road outside the entrance to 798. Peruse the dozens of art studios and galleries, making sure to stop at Long March Space (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu; +86-10-5978-9768) and at Ullens Center (UCCA) (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu; +86-10-5780-0200) for its exhibitions and fantastic gift shop. Browse the books and grab a bite at Timezone 8 (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu, directly across from UCCA), tuck into vegetarian Chinese dishes at the delightful Buddha’s Bite (798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu 2 Jinxiangqiao Lu; 86-10-5762-6193), or kick back with a glass of wine in the courtyard of boutique hotel Grace Beijing (798 Art District, 2 Jiuxianqiao Lu, 706 Houjie; +86-10-6436-1818).


If You Have an 8-Hour Layover

Start off at the Temple of Heaven, which dates back to 1420. Surrounded by an enormous park, this is a good place to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. Particularly in the early morning, Temple of Heaven Park is a hive of activity, and you’ll see locals exercising and practicing tai chi. In the afternoons, you’ll find more locals dancing, singing, playing chess, and flying kites. From the Temple of Heaven, it’s an hour’s walk north to the Forbidden City (the subway takes almost as long; a cab will take 15 minutes). Spend an hour or so in the Forbidden City—more and you’re likely to fall asleep on one of the benches—and then get a bite to eat before heading back to the airport. The restaurants within walking distance of the Forbidden City are upscale; there’s continental cuisine at Capital M (3/F No. 2 Qianmen Street, Pedestrian Area; +86-10-6702-2727)—whose terrace view includes the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square—and at Brian McKenna @ The Courtyard (95 Donghuamen Daji; +86-10-6526-8883), where McKenna dabbles in molecular gastronomy. If you have enough time and energy, walk 30 minutes along high street Wangfujing to Peking Duck purveyor Da Dong (5/F, 88 Jinbaojie). It’d be a shame to pass through China without eating its national dish, and this could be your only chance.


If You Have a 9-Hour Layover or More

After the Forbidden City, head to Gulou (literally, the drum tower) and meander through Beijing’s hutongs. These ancient narrow alleyways, between courtyard houses, have been heavily gentrified over the last few years, saving them from certain destruction. Though they remain charmingly local, the hutongs are now dotted with boutiques, cafes, restaurants, bars, and even a boutique hotel—The Orchid (65 Baochao Hutong; +86-10-8404-4818). Go for dumplings at Mr. Shi’s(74 Baochao Hutong; +86-010-8405-0399), a craft beer at Great Leap Brewing (6 Doujiao Hutong; +86-10-5717-1399), and then retire to Zigzag (52 Wudaoying Hutong; +86-10-8404-0020) for a much-needed foot massage.


If You Don’t Have Time to Leave The Airport

Take advantage of the facilities at one of the nearby airport hotels. The Hilton (Terminal 3, 1 Sanjing Road; +86-10-6458-8888can be reached on foot. It has a spa, indoor pool, gym, and Chinese and Western restaurants—significantly better than the few options you’ll find inside the airport. The restaurants are open to the public, and if you make an appointment at the spa you’ll have access to the pool and gym too. Depending on availability, the Hilton also offers day packages that allow you to check into a room between flights. A less expensive alternative, though one that requires catching a shuttle, is the Ibis (No. 2 Tianzhu ; +86-10-6456-7799), which has rooms for around $30; it doesn’t offer day packages, but early check-in and late check-out are possible. The Ibis has few entertaining amenities, but there’s free Wi-Fi in the lobby and hourly airport shuttles (the roads right around the airport are traffic-heavy and not ideal for pedestrians).


More Layover Solutions:

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Larder at Tavern restaurant in LAX

Best Ways to Spend Your Connection in 10 U.S. Airports

As the storm season approaches and we brace ourselves for the flight delays and cancellations due to occur, we have a choice: We can either grumble about the time we waste stuck in airports, or we can turn them into new destinations to explore. You’d be surprised how many boring U.S. hubs have spas, museums, pools, legendary local restaurants, even golf. So the next time you’re connecting in an airport you hate to connect in, make the most of it with these suggestions:


Atlanta airport ATL Mini Suite

Minute Suites at ATL offer five private, noise-neutralized rooms where you can nap for $34/hour.  Photo Courtesy Minute Suites

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL)

See: A 31-foot-long Yangchuanosaurus dinosaur skeleton stands in the central atrium, a few steps from the security station. It’s on loan from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

Eat: One Flew South serves much-buzzed-about “Southernational” cuisine, from shrimp and grits to pulled duck sandwiches to kamikaze rolls (Concourse E). If you’re craving fast comfort food, though, try The Varsity, an outpost of the famed local institution dating from 1928 and serving chili cheese dogs and Frosted Oranges (Terminal F).

Shower: The Club at ATL provides showers, TVs, Wi-Fi, work stations, food, and drinks for $35 for a day pass (Terminal F).

Sleep: Minute Suites offer five private, noise-neutralized rooms where you can nap for $34/hour (Concourse B, near Gate B16).



Chicago airport's O'Hare Hilton Hotel

Chicago’s O’Hare Hilton sells day passes to its health club for $20.  Photo Courtesy O’Hare Hilton

Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Exercise: The O’Hare Hilton sells day passes to its health club (with an indoor pool reopening August 15) for $20 (Terminal 1).

Relax: Three Terminal Getaway Spa locations offer a menu of massages, from 10 to 90 minutes long (Terminal 3, near Gate H1; Terminal 1, near Gate B12; H/K Corridor, near the American Airlines Admirals Club).

Eat: There are three outposts of local celebrity chef Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera, where you can order up hand-crafted tortas and fresh guacamole made from top-quality ingredients from nearby farms (Terminal 1, near Gate B11; Terminal 3, near Gate K4; Terminal 5, near Gate M12).

Play: Kids on the Fly is a huge children’s-museum-slash-playground where parents can accomplish their pre-flight mission: exhausting their offspring (Terminal 2).



DFW Airport's Junior Flyers Club

DFW has three Junior Flyers Clubs, where toddlers can burn off energy climbing on mini cars and planes.  Photo Courtesy DFW International Airport

Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

Drink: Grab a Fig Fizz or an Isaac’s Apple in Grand Hyatt DFW’s Grand Met Lounge cocktail bar, home also to the airport’s only sushi bar.

See: Founders’ Plaza has telescopes and an Observation Area where you can watch aircraft take off and land.

Play: Run your toddlers in one of three Junior Flyers Club playgrounds (the largest is in Terminal B at Gate 12).

Relax: The Centurion Lounge offers showers, food, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a family room to American Express cardholders for $50/day and to AmEx Platinum cardholders for free (Concourse D opposite Gate D17).

Golf (yes, golf): The Bear Creek Golf Club is adjacent to the airport, just a five-minute cab ride away. Tee times are open to the public; you can even book online.



Denver International Airport pedestrian bridge

At Denver International Airport, you can stand on a pedestrian bridge and watch planes pass right underneath.  Photo Courtesy Denver International Airport

Denver International (DEN)

Eat: Denver chef Justin Cucci’s popular field-to-fork restaurant Root Down has an outpost at DIA (C Gates). Don’t have that kind of time? Grab handmade potato chips at Randy Petersen’s favorite DIA hangout, Lefty’s (B Gates, Near Gate B48).

Marvel: The pedestrian bridge that connects the terminal with the concourse passes right over the tops of planes as they taxi. Look down and be awed by the giant flying machines.

Detoxify: Choose from a range of massages and treatments, starting at just 15 minutes long, at XpresSpa (Concourse C, Center Core).


Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas McCarran Airport

American Express cardholders can grab food, Wi-Fi, or even a shower at the Centurion Lounge at LAS.  Photo Courtesy Centurion Lounge

Las Vegas McCarran (LAS)

See: The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum depicts a slice of aviation history (Level 2, above baggage claim).

Relax: The Centurion Lounge offers showers, food, drink, Wi-Fi, and a family room to American Express cardholders for $50/day and to AmEx Platinum cardholders for free (Concourse D, opposite Gate D1). No AmEx card? Buy a day pass to The Club at LAS for $35 (Terminal 1, D Gates; Terminal 3, across from Gate E2).

Relax some more: There are two XpresSpas here, offering manicures, pedicures, waxing, foot, neck, and back massages—the works (Terminal 1, near Gate D32, and Terminal 3).



The Larder at Tavern at LAX

The Larder at Tavern at LAX

Los Angeles International (LAX)

Gorge: Tom Bradley International Terminal now includes outposts of Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack; James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin’s Larder at Tavern; a Petrossian in case you’re craving caviar, blinis, or any of 20 types of vodka; and an Umami Burger that’s even open for breakfast.

Learn: Traveling with kids or model-aircraft nuts? The Flight Path Learning Center is a museum devoted to the history of aviation in SoCal (LAX Imperial Terminal; open Tues-Sat from 10-3; admission free).

Chill: There’s an XpresSpa in Terminal 5 as well as in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (between gates 154-156).



Miami Airport Training Dog Casey

Soothe pre-flight jitters by spending time with Casey, Miami airport’s therapy dog.  Photo Courtesy Miami International Airport

Miami International (MIA)

Drink: Grab a mojito with a panoramic view at Top of the Port, the rooftop bar and restaurant at the Miami International Airport Hotel (Terminal E).

Eat: Versailles, the Little Havana landmark that calls itself “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” has outposts in Terminal D.

Shop: It’s worth a stroll to the colorful Romero Britto concept store in Terminal D.

Snuggle: Casey, the therapy dog, is a trained golden retriever who wanders the airport delivering stress relief and smiles.

Golf: A 10-minute cab ride away, the Trump National Doral Miami’s golf course has tee times open to the public.



Metropolitan Museum of Art Store at Newark Airport

Find elegant last-minute gifts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in Newark Airport.  Photo Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Newark Liberty (EWR)

Ride: When my kids were smaller I could entertain them for hours simply riding the AirTrain from terminal to terminal. At sunset on clear nights the ride yields colorful views of the tarmac and the Manhattan skyline; keep your camera ready.

Dine: The outposts of two legendary Manhattan eateries, Gallagher’s steak house and the Grand Central Oyster Bar, may lack the ambience of their flagships but serve great grub nonetheless (Terminal C).

Shop: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store is the go-to boutique for elegant yet affordable gifts (Terminal C).



Yoga Room at San Francisco International Airport

SFO’s Yoga Room, the first ever in an airport, lets you get in a good stretch before you board your flight.  Photo Courtesy San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International (SFO):

See: There are serious art exhibitions throughout, as well as an Aviation Museum in the International Terminal dedicated to preserving the history of commercial flight.

Meditate: Make the world’s first Yoga Room in an airport your zen zone (Terminal 2).

Play: There’s a scavenger-hunt-style self-guided tour for children of all ages. It takes only half an hour, and you even get a prize at the end (Terminal 2). For younger ones, there are three Kids’ Spots for unleashing pent-up energy (Terminal 3, Boarding Area E near Gates 60 and 62; Terminal 3, Boarding Area F near Gate 87A).

Eat: My own kids can’t pass through SFO without steering me toward their favorite airport eatery, Fung Lum, for noodles, dim sum, and won ton soup (Terminals 1 and 3 food courts and International Terminal food court).



Max & Erma restaurant's Garbage Burger

You won’t go hungry during your flight if you fill up on Max & Erma’s Garbage Burger, topped with smoked bacon, cheddar, Swiss, American, mozzarella, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, guacamole, and marinara.  Photo Courtesy Max & Erma’s

Washington Dulles (IAD):

 Shop: The Smithsonian Store is like a mini-trip to the various collections that comprise the Smithsonian, including the National Zoo (Terminal B, Gate B37).

Eat: Max & Erma’s serves up an outrageous selection of gourmet burgers, including the “garbage burger that started it all.” There’s even an All-You-Can-Eat Sundae Bar (B Concourse).

Marvel: Just south of the airport sits a massive and thrilling branch of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where you can easily spend a day ogling everything from vintage aircraft to the Enola Gay to the space shuttle. You can reach the museum in about ten minutes either by cab or by the new direct bus service from the airport which starts July 26 (bus fare $1.75 each way). Forget that ice cream sundae and just go!


What’s your favorite U.S. airport find? Share it with us!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know. 

bicycle at Amsterdam Canal

Amsterdam Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

An airport layover doesn’t have to mean that you’re stuck in the airport. In this series, local experts in the world’s most popular hub cities recommend sightseeing itineraries for every time frame—even if you don’t have time to leave the building. This week, we spoke to the city experts at Context Travel—because they’ve sussed out the best walks in the world’s cultural capitals—to get tips for a rewarding and reinvigorating layover at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.


The Basics

How to get out of the airport: Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is a short train hop from the city center, and it’s well worth popping into town if you have an airport layover of more than four hours. Trains depart every five to ten minutes; allow 30 minutes to comfortably get from the airport to the city center, and remember you’ll need to be back at the airport about one and a half hours before your onward flight is due to depart. Train tickets cost €3.80 each way and can be purchased with cash or credit card at ticket machines in the station.

What to do with your luggage: Travelers can store their luggage in lockers when they leave the airport. Find them in Departure Lounges 1, 2 and 3, the Departure Lounge at Pier D, Arrival Hall 3 and the Baggage Basement Square at level -1 between Arrival Halls 1 and 2. Prices depend on the size of the locker and start at six euros for 24 hours.


If You Have a 4-Hour Layover

The train from Schiphol brings you straight into Centraal Station, steps from the heart of Amsterdam. A four-hour layover will give you time to stroll about in the neighborhood around the train station and enjoy the unique atmosphere without overly challenging your flight-fried brain.

As you exit the Station, head in a straight line along Damrak, the main thoroughfare. Beware of trams and cyclists coming at you from all directions and make sure you always look both ways when crossing the street. Pay particular attention to the cycle paths: They are clearly marked (light pink with white bicycles painted on the road) but often share sidewalk space, so remember to look down regularly. Cyclists rule the streets here, but things work when everyone keeps to their allotted section. After 10 to 15 minutes of strolling past numerous coffee shops (Amsterdam’s notorious marijuana outlets), restaurants, and hostels, you’ll arrive at Dam Square, home to the magnificent Royal Palace (Dam, Amsterdam; + 31 20 620 40 60; www.paleisamsterdam.nl) Built during the 17th century as the Town Hall at the height of the Dutch Golden Age, the grand building is today one of three palaces in the Netherlands at the disposal of the monarch.

At Dam Square turn left and walk two blocks until you reach a canal. Turn left again without crossing the water, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of De Wallen, Amsterdam’s infamous red light district. It’s also one of the oldest areas of the city, and as you walk along the canal you’ll pass modern shops and cafes amid 14th-century architecture. If you have time, drop into the Oude Kerk (Old Church), on your left as you head back toward the station (Oudekerksplein 23; +31 20 625 82 84; www.oudekerk.nl/en/). The 800-year-old Oude Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building; it still functions as a church and also hosts secular events and contemporary art exhibitions. As the canal narrows, follow the road around to the left, emerge opposite Centraal Station, and hop onto the train back to the airport.


If You Have a 6-Hour Layover

The Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum are world-class art collections, but we really can’t recommend them for a layover. Between flights you need fresh air and exercise, not standing in lines and battling hordes of tourists, then feeling too rushed to fully absorb the works of the Great Masters anyway. Instead consider an invigorating walk with a local expert, such as a journey through the grand canalhouses of the Jordaan to find out how trade, power, and art intersected during the 17th century to produce Amsterdam’s so-called Golden Age, or an exploration of Amsterdam’s reputation as a Model City.  The meeting point for these tours is less than ten minutes from the train station, and each walk lasts three hours. You’ll get a solid introduction to the city and learn a lot more than you would on your own, given your jet-lagged brain.


If You Don’t Have Time to Leave the Airport

If your layover is less than four hours long, or you’re simply too exhausted to embark on a whirlwind tour of Amsterdam, you could do a lot worse than chilling at Schiphol, which is a city in itself.  You can experience a wealth of Dutch culture, from cheese to tulips, and even a slice of the Rijksmuseum, which has an outpost at the airport. There’s also a spa, massage options, a casino, a Silence Centre meditation room for all religions, and—best of all—a huge public library with a focus on Dutch culture. The library holds translated fiction in 30 languages, plus local photo books, videos and music. If you’d rather read your emails or Facebook feed, the whole airport offers free Wi-Fi.


More Layover Solutions:

Beijing Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Barcelona Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Great Paris Hotels for an Airport Layover at Charles de Gaulle

London Heathrow Layover: Great Hotels for a Stopover at LHR

Madrid Airport Layovers: How to Make the Most of Them

Tokyo Airport Layovers: The Best Way to Spend Them

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.