Dayvee Sutton is a two-time Emmy Award Winning sports journalist, entertainment and lifestyle reporter, social commentator and entrepreneur. You can learn more about her at www.dayveesutton.com
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If you've taken a flight in the past few years you may have noticed that airplane cabins are fuller. That's because in the last decade, many U.S. airlines have merged, resulting in decreased competition and a sharp reduction in routes and air service. Ultimately, that translates to flights filling up quickly, and oftentimes, airlines overbooking their flights, requiring agents to "bump" passengers. Beyond getting involuntarily kicked off your plane, other unexpected scenarios such as inclement weather delays and mechanical disruptions can keep you stuck at the airport. But getting stalled in transit doesn't have to be a total drag. To help you pass the time, here are six fun ways to minimize stress and make the most of your extra hours at the airport.
1. Explore Different Airport Areas If you have less than five hours, check out areas outside of your concourse. Take the shuttle to another area with more amenities and dining options. Start by checking the airport's website for special installations and attractions, such as bookstores, museums and art exhibits. And if you're traveling over the holidays and you find yourself with time to spare at the Munich Airport in mid-November, check out Winter Market, where you'll find 400 brightly lit Christmas trees, vibrant market stalls serving mulled wine and an outdoor ice skating and curling rink. Or, if you're traveling domestically, and you're stalled inside the busy main atrium at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, check out the 31-foot-long skeleton of a Yangchuanosaurus dinosaur currently on display. And if you're detoured at Nashville International Airport, catch a show. The airport boasts Bonaroo-inspired displays and plenty of live music performances across its four stages.
2. Retreat to the Airport Spa If you're feeling frazzled after experiencing an unanticipated delay, pamper yourself with a massage or facial. XpresSpa offers a wide range of services, including full-body massages and facials in private treatment rooms, along with manicures and pedicures. Be Relax also offers full-service spas in airports across the U.S., Canada, Italy, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and France.
3. Savor a Memorable Meal October is Airport Restaurant Month with nearly 60 airport restaurants across North America participating. And while it's no secret that airports have expanded their culinary offerings in recent years, with an increasing number of top-notch restaurants and celebrity-helmed dining establishments, airport food company HMSHost's pop-up venues are taking airport dining to the next level. If you're traveling after October, turn to apps like GateGuru to discover nearby restaurants, as wells as special discounts, promotions and traveler reviews of dining venues.
4. Workout While You Wait Don't let a flight delay derail your fitness plan. Turn to sites like Airportgyms.com, which lists airport fitness centers across Canada and the U.S. At the Hilton Hotel in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, for instance, you can work up a sweat between flights for as low as $20 for a day pass. Meanwhile, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, you can take a few minutes to unwind at a free yoga studio located near Gate D40 between Terminal B and D. A growing number of international airports are also opening gyms, so check your airport's website to see if there are yoga or fitness areas are available.
5. Unplug in the Airport Lounge Did you know that you don't have to be an elite member of some travel program to experience an airport lounge? Alaska Airlines allows day-pass access for as little as $45; Delta, American and United can cost about $50. The benefits are free Wi-Fi, drinks and snacks. But most important for an extra long delay, are the cushy lounge chairs where you stretch out and take a nap. Access to space will feel more secure to sleep without one eye open on your things, and if you're friendly enough, request the host to wake you if there is an update on your flight. And if you're traveling overseas, consult LoungePass.com, which sells day passes to 150 lounges across the globe. Another company, PriorityPass.com, offers access to more than 850 airport lounges (for a membership fee).
6. Get a Room If your eyes are heavy after a seven-hour red eye, but you don't like the idea of dozing off in the public gate area and the airport lounge isn't private enough, consider paying for short-term lodging. It may be even cheaper than a day pass at one of the airport lounges. London's Heathrow, London Gatwick and Amsterdam's Schiphol airports all have YOTEL facilities, and are conveniently located within the airport terminals; they are inspired by Japanese capsule hotels. A standard cabin can be rented for a minimum of four hours, and comes with a bathroom with shower, a bed, a fold-out desk and a flat-screen TV, among other amenities.
Hotelsbyday.com is a new app that will find hotels near you that will allow for flexible arrival times. So you no longer have to wait for 3 p.m. to lodge. This service also presents places that will let you pay a discounted day-rate, which can be a low as $50, depending on the city.