The Airport Adventure Guide

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From the wilds of the rainforest to mom and dad’s turkey dinner, there’s nothing quite as exciting and satisfying as getting out of your own city for a little something different. There’s just one thing that can cast a shadow over your traveling adventures: navigating the tangled web that is the US airline hub system. Whether it’s last minute bad weather cancellations, striking pilots, or long layovers, it’s often more of a surprise when things go right than when they go wrong.

But before you get aggravated just thinking about the upcoming holiday travel season, take a deep breath. There are more than a few ways to beat that airport boredom. Here we list our top 10.

1. Check into the airport lounge.

These days, most business and airline lounges sell day passes for around $50 a pop, even if you’re not a member of the elite. Here you’ll find drinks, snacks, Wi-Fi, comfy chairs and a little peace and quiet.

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2. Take advantage of mini-comforts from home.

Whether it’s a neck pillow, your toothbrush, or a tablet stocked full with books, movies and games, it’s always smart to pack slim versions of your home comforts in the case of delays and long layovers. Pack a physical book, too, in case you run out of battery and can’t find a plug.

3. Make a Friend.

Yes, it sounds like sacrilege, but you can, you know, actually talk to people at the airport. The best way to start is generally to commiserate about the experience and swap horror stories. “You on the Chicago flight that just got canceled? Yep, me too.” Asking people for tips on what to do is always a good way to go, as is inquiring about any books they’re reading. Just keep aware of “go away” social cues, like putting in earphones or responding only in grunts (always a bad sign). Or, use a tool like Google Latitude or Facebook check-ins to see if any of your friends are nearby. Turn that ridiculous layover into an opportunity for a college reunion.

4. Grab a Bite (or a Drink).

You know all of those restaurants and bars you regularly sprint past on your way to catching a close connection? Yeah, they’re there for a reason. Pull up a chair, indulge in something delicious, and wile away the hours, pretending you’re some place more romantic.

5. Snatch Some Zzzzs.

While those hardback airport chairs may not be the ideal place to sleep, you can always scour the airport for something more comfortable, and bigger airports will have stores that sell blankets. If you’re really stranded, consider checking into a nearby hotel. Some airports even provide small rooms in terminal, equipped with a bed and a flat screen for a minimum of four hours.

6. Workout.

Sure, you’ve probably tried powerwalking through the terminals before, but how about heading to an actual gym? Ask airport workers for recommendations, or check AirportGyms.com for listings of gyms in or near your airport. Don’t worry. They’ve got showers, and some of them even provide extra clothes.

7. Head to the museum

Many airports house museums with hands-on exhibits, though they do tend to be mostly flight-centric, so if that’s not your passion, make it so. Fast.

8. Shop.

From duty free to luxury goods, many big airports these days are the equivalent of upscale malls. If you know you have a long layover, plan to indulge in a little retail therapy.

9. Use your smartphone to your full advantage.

Your smartphone is really your best friend in the airport. Use your device to research airport facilities and potentially rebook your canceled flight over Twitter (which sometimes has faster customer service response times than the traditional routes) or just do it yourself on the airline site, checking with your trip insurance provider to ensure they’ll compensate you. You’ll also want to download your airline’s apps or an app like Trip Tracker to keep abreast of the latest changes. Or, use your smartphone to give up on the whole flying concept and book a car, bus, or train.

10. Explore the region.

When you know you’ll be stuck in the airport for awhile, turn your idle time into an excuse to see some place new. Most airports are well-connected to cities via train, bus or taxi, making it easy to bop into town for a good bout of exploration before continuing on to your real destination.

As aggravating as flying can be, it can also be an opportunity to relax. After all, how often do you have an excuse to just sit around and read? The important thing is to accept the situation for what it is, and then do what you can to make the most of it. So step away from the haggard airline representative, take a deep breath, and go for a stimulating ride on that moving walkway.

Stock photos courtesy of shutterstock

Rob Toledo is a world traveler with life goals of getting to over 100 countries.To know more of his exiting travels, he can be reached on Twitter @stentontoledo.
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