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How to make air travel fun and enjoyable again

17 December 2022
How to make air travel fun and enjoyable again

Have you seen the TSA security checkpoint numbers lately? Or this year’s AAA holiday forecast? If these data points are any indicator of the kind of travel experience we’re in for in a couple of weeks, brace yourself.

Or maybe not.

Being stuck in an airport doesn’t have to be a nightmare―with a little commitment, it can actually be fun. Yes, I wrote fun. And a happy, relaxed traveler is a safer traveler so it behooves us all to find ways to make air travel fun again.

Here are all the ways to make air travel more fun this holiday season and all next year.

Learn about the airport(s)

As I’m writing this, over 17 thousand flights were delayed today. Ouch. Of course, the weather on the east coast is a factor, and that factor can, and likely will, continue to be a risk throughout the holiday season.

So, you’re stuck at the airport. What are you going to do?

Researching the airports that you’ll be traveling through is essential to having fun on your trip. There are a lot of airports that have fun built in. Like these:

  • New York’s JFK has the TWA hotel with a roller skating rink, gym, and a rooftop open year-round.
  • Pittsburgh’s airport has a futuristic robot repair shop you can explore.
  • Portland’s airport has a Hollywood theater, so you can catch a film while you wait.
  • Las Vegas’ Harry Reid has slot machines where you can try your luck (please gamble responsibly).

Find out everything you can about the cool services or features at each airport you’re traveling through on your trip, and you’ll feel happier already!

Exercise!

When you know you will be stuck in a seated position for some or many hours, you may not want to sit around and wait for your flight. Instead, get in some exercise!

When you exercise, your body releases happy chemicals known as endorphins. Endorphins trigger positive feelings that are similar to that of morphine. Exercise also lowers blood pressure and helps you sleep – both are good things if you’re going to be on a long flight. 
Some hotels have gyms built right into the airport, like the following:

  • Chicago’s O’Hare airport has a yoga room on the Mezzanine Level, Terminal 3. Even if you’re not practicing or stretching, it can be a peaceful place to zone out.
  • Baltimore-Washington has a gym that lets you borrow workout clothing and shoes.
  • San Francisco airport also has a yoga room with mats and dim lighting that are the perfect zen place to break away from the crowds.

Not all airports have gyms, but many have airport hotels that do. These hotels allow travelers to purchase a day pass to take advantage of the facilities. Here is a short and incomplete list:

  • Vancouver’s Fairmont Hotel has a fitness room and pool with a variety of passes
  • Dallas-Fort Worth’s Grand Hyatt has a full fitness room and day passes

If you don’t want to spend the extra money on a day pass, consider just walking the airport. It’s a great way to get the heart pumping and blood flowing before you have to sit still.

Go shopping

Many airports are large enough to have extensive shopping in them. Spending the last of your foreign currency before flying home is a great way to take advantage of duty-free savings while picking up gifts and souvenirs. 

Even if you’re not buying, take the chance to window shop while you wait for your flight.

Lounge around

If travel stresses you out, airport lounges are your new favorite place to hang out. With free Wi-Fi, video games, snacks, and drinks, who wouldn’t want to lounge around?

Airport lounges have become much more inclusive. You may qualify for access based on your military status, the credit cards in your wallet or your airport loyalty level.

Many airline credit cards offer once-a-year passes, and some airlines offer relatively affordable day passes.

Pro tip: some airports now offer tiny spaces called Minute Suites where you can relax, unwind, or get some work done

Pamper yourself

Many airports have in-airport spas where you can get a chair massage, manicure, or pedicure. If you have a long layover or delay, why not freshen up while you wait?

Some airports have massage chairs you can use by swiping your credit card.

Take a mini holiday

Depending on the length of your layover or delay, you might consider leaving the airport entirely and taking a mini holiday. Most major airports are near a city, and you can do a little sightseeing, take in a museum, and see the sights.

My family and I once spent a delightful day exploring downtown Portland when our flight was canceled. The light rail takes less than 40 minutes, and the ticket was cheap.

Pro tip: I recommend finding a place to safely lock up your carry-on luggage to lighten the load.

When you’ve had some fun on your way to your destination, your trip becomes all the more enjoyable.

Cost-saving travel tips for tough times

Tricks for getting through the airport faster

Holiday trip planning mistakes you don’t know you’re making

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Damian Tysdal
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DamianTysdal

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.

Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and he believes travel insurance should be easier to understand. He started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.