Bored before Boarding?

Okay, so security was a breeze, and now you’re at the gate, with 2 hours to spare. What ever will you do to pass the time? Oh sure, you could befriend that gentleman in the SARS mask, or aimlessly loaf around the news stand, but have you even thought to glance at that airport map? You may be surprised at what new-fangled amenities and features are right under your nose.

Calm those Nerves
Those passing through the McNamara Terminal of Detroit Metropolitan Airport need not be frightened. You are not boarding a flying saucer, and no one slipped anything funny in your drink. What you’re experiencing is the new synchronized light and sound show, stretched along the 685 ft long tunnel. And we imagine you’ll be so relaxed by the time you reach the other end, you’ll have forgotten all about how lousy that last flight was.

Know what else is guaranteed to sooth your nerves? Fish! No, not eating them. Watching them. And at San Francisco International, you’ll find a top-notch aquarium stocked with creatures from coral reefs and the Amazon.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
Wondering how you’ll get the kids to sleep after take-off? Tucker them out! Chicago O’Hare Airport has an indoor “Kids on the Fly” playground with a cockpit, air traffic control tower, and a ticket counter at the departure level of Terminal 2. Also, Munich International Airport houses Kinderland—a place where the kids can enjoy arts and crafts, a climbing tower, games, and other such attractions. Plus, for a minimal fee, they offer childcare.

What You Eat in Vegas, Stays in Vegas
Eat one too many fatty fried doodads from the buffet? You’ll find a 24-hour gym in the Las Vegas McCarran Airport, which includes a steam room, sauna, and massage therapists. It’s free for members, otherwise a day pass will cost you $10.

The Great Outdoors
Can’t stand another second under those fluorescent lights? North Carolina’s Charlotte-Douglas Airport holds a tree-lined atrium where travelers can sit in wooden rocking chairs while enjoying the sun. Although it’s indoors, the large windows let in lots of sunlight. Or if you’re in Honolulu Airport, slide on your Foster Grants and stroll through the beautifully landscaped Asian gardens. You’ll also find outdoor waiting areas in Palm Springs International, and Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City.

Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific

When strategic splashes of water just won’t do the trick, it’s time to hit the showers. Passengers at Melbourne Airport in Australia can freshen up with a free shower in Terminal 2. And in Amsterdam’s Schiphol, showers are available for connecting and departing passengers, for a fee of 12.50 Euros.

Ditch the Airport

Of course, it’s probably not so wise to leave the airport if you’ve got an hour-long layover, but for those with plenty of time to kill may as well do so in town. Zurich Airport is a 10-15 minute train ride away from downtown Zurich, as is Hartsfield International in Atlanta and Reagan National in D.C.

Shop, Drop, and Roll
Dubai International Airport houses one of the largest and most popular duty free shopping centers in the world, carrying over 35,000 product lines. We aren’t talking salt-water taffy and camel magnets here. Dubai Duty Free is for the serious shopper. And for high-rolling raffle fanatics, there’s the ongoing Finest Surprise Contest where $139 buys you a 1 in 1,000 chance to win a bourgie new car. Other duty-free faves include Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, London Heathrow, and of course, Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Why not squeeze in a few laps before that 10-hour homeward haul. If you happen to be in Singapore’s Changi Airport, look for the swimming pool and jacuzzi in Terminal 1. $10 gets you in, and includes access to showers, a towel, and a free drink.

Museum Quality

The Amsterdam Schiphol Airport partnered with the Rijksmuseum to create a first-class airport art museum. This isn’t the sort of yawn-inducing stuff you’d saw back in your room at the Ramada, no siree. Schiphol holds a permanent collection of works by Dutch masters and a temporary exhibition, which changes throughout the year.

Incheon International Airport may be known as Seoul’s smaller, alternative airport, but is certainly top choice among sports fans. Bored golfers can drop by the Incheon Golf Club for a 330-yard driving range, as well as game of billiards.

Sleep it Off
Let’s face it. There’s simply no configuration of slumping and tilting that will ever get you to sleep in that chair. If you really need to nap, and you happen to be in London Gatwick, Heathrow, or (soon to come) Amsterdam Schiphol, keep your eyes peeled for Yotel. Based on Japanese capsule hotels, Yotel cabins come complete with beds, showers, television, internet access and other basics. Not to mention the peace of mind in knowing that no one can see you drooling in your sleep.