Airport Hacks to Make the Most of Your Layover

Those three hours in between flights could very well be the best part of your trip.

Unless you’re really into fast food and long lines, air travel isn’t usually a whole lot of fun. If you know where to look, though, there are lots of ways to make the whole process as painless as possible. Here’s how to do it.

Relax Like a King

If you’ve got a first class international ticket, the right credit card, or if you buy your way in, you can hang in one of the airport’s moderately swanky lounges rather than at your gate. If you’ve got a long layover at an airport where there’s not much else to do, it’s money well spent.

Keep Your Gear Charged

Finding an available outlet isn’t usually an easy feat. Solution: pack a portable charger in your carry-on. The USB ports won’t charge your laptop, but they will work to keep the rest of your mobile gear alive so that you can read, work, or play Candy Crush while waiting for your flight.

Scope Out Great Food

There’s nothing wrong with a rare airport indulgence in some Auntie Anne’s or McDonald’s – we won’t judge. But if you want to upgrade, there’s a slew of killer airport restaurants that offer mouthwatering options miles beyond your fast food options.

Bring Your Own Booze

You know those mini bottles of rum, whiskey, or whatever that you can find for a dollar or two at the liquor store? Buy as many as will fit into a clear plastic quart sized bag and bring the whole thing through security. Then just ask for a cup of ice or your preferred mixer and surreptitiously make your own drink without being subjected to in-flight prices or bottom-shelf liquor.

Master the Security Line…

Memorize this order for putting your gear on the security belt: belt and shoes, coat and everyday bag, laptop and liquids, and then your unzipped carry on. That way it comes out staggered in the right way, so you can put your shoes and belt back on, throw your coat on, slide your laptop and liquids into your bag, and then pack any loose ends into your already open carry on.

...or Bypass it Almost Entirely

If you’re flying to or from Washington Dulles or Indianapolis, bring a few forms and eighty five bucks to opt into TSA’s new PreCheck program. One twenty minute interview later and you’ll be cleared to go through security without taking your shoes, jacket, or belt off, and without removing your laptop from your bag. Which doesn’t sound all that great, but here’s the best part: you get to go through an entirely different (and much shorter) security line, which takes all of five minutes.

Outsmart the Rental Car Agencies

If you can’t get a last-minute car at the rental desk, there might be another way. Because of some odd inventory management where companies keep a number of cars on the lot as a buffer for expected (but not yet made) reservations, you may be able to hop online and make an immediate reservation that way.

Take Advantage of Insanely Cool Amenities

You won’t find these kinds of things in most of the bland, no-frills cities you might find yourself in. But if you make it to any of the below cities, you may as well go ahead and plan on an extra few hours of airport time. You’re gonna want it.

  • Singapore - Free movie theaters, a butterfly garden, 40-foot slide, zen-like quiet zones, and a rooftop pool. Yes, seriously.
  • San Francisco - A yoga room, spas, impressive museum galleries, and an aquarium.
  • Dubai - A sprawling 58k square foot duty free shop, open air gardens, and vendors selling gold bars in case you need to pick up an ingot or two.
  • Munich - Have a pint at an enormous indoor beer garden – Europe’s largest – complete with chestnut trees, a glass roof, and plenty of lager on tap.
  • Amsterdam - Need something to read? There’s a free library of more than 1,200 culturally-minded books, both physical and digital, by Dutch authors translated into 30 languages.

Now all you need is somewhere to go.

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