Flights with layovers are often cheaper than direct flights, but despite the savings, many travelers will pay more to avoid the extra time in the airport. Can we blame them? The thought of sitting around in an airport for six hours is only vaguely more enticing than a dental appointment. And who would want to prolong their travel time more than necessary, especially when an oceanfront villa in Thailand or an Amazon River cruise awaits at the end of the journey? Here’s the good news: In response to this woeful trend, a handful of well-managed airports around the world are taking their services and amenities up a serious notch.
Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore’s hub has the amenities a business traveler needs, but it stands out for its other offerings: a butterfly garden, a Balinese-themed rooftop pool and a Kinetic Rain sculpture made up of 1,216 bronze “droplets.” It’s the first airport available on TripAdvisor’s new dedicated airport pages.
Tip: If you have a five-hour or longer layover, sign up for one of the airport’s free, two-hour city tours, which are
London Heathrow Airport
Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 houses an 11,000-square-foot Harrods and, for the culture-minded, a gallery showcasing sculptures by emerging British artists.
Tip: If you’ve got to spend the night, check into the Sofitel London Heathrow (from $147). It’s connected to T5 via a walkway and has a spa, 24/7 fitness center and 45 meeting rooms.
Schiphol Amsterdam Airport
You can enjoy Dutch masters such as Jan Steen and Ferdinand Bol at the airport’s Rijksmuseum Amsterdam location or take a reading break at the world’s first airport library.
Tip: A five-star Hilton Hotel will open here in 2015; in the meantime, stay at the Sheraton, which can be accessed via the airport’s arrival and departure halls.
It’s no surprise that the Munich Airport would offer some of Germany’s finest beers at Airbräu.
Tip: If you’ve got a three-hour-plus layover, consider taking a 20-minute taxi ride to the renowned Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan for a pint, bratwurst and views over the quaint town of Freising
This recently renovated airport offers sleeping and showering rooms, cell phone charging stations and most importantly, fine chocolate at the Sprüngli Café.
Tip: Indulge your yen for fine chocolate at the Sprüngli Café.
Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong’s airport hosts outposts of Michelin-starred and other restaurants as well as the Regal Airport Hotel, named
Tip: The Regal Airport Hotel, connected to T1, has been named World’s Best Airport Hotel two years running by Skytrax.
Incheon Airport, Seoul
Incheon offers the standard traveler amenities but also has seven gardens throughout the airport, movie theaters playing Korean and Hollywood hits, an ice skating rink and an 18-hole putting course.
Tip: The airport is directly connected to Seoul’s subway system, so it takes less than a half hour to get downtown.
San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco’s airport hosts an SFMOMA Museum Store and seasonally sourced local food.
Tip: The new 150-square-foot yoga room in T2 caters to those in need of a jet-lag-blasting downward-facing dog.
Vancouver International Airport
Known for its lovely use of light, the Vancouver airport also features works by native artists and major exhibits by the Vancouver Aquarium.
Tip: Park yourself at the Jetside Bar of the Fairmont hotel, located above the U.S. Departures Terminal, to sip Okanagan Valley wine or a honey-infused lager specially made for the property by the Whistler Brewing Company.
Dubai International Airport
The Dubai airport has open-air gardens, the world’s largest duty-free shop at 58,000 square feet and a 24/7 gym with a pool and showers.
Tip: The Dubai International Hotel is accessible from Concourses A, B and C. Don’t pass through Immigration and Customs as you’ll be denied access to the hotel until three hours prior to your flight’s departure.