20 Secret Perks For You at Major Airports
You won't believe what you'll find in these terminals!
Although taking a vacation can be a major stress-reliever, the prospect of spending hours milling about a crowded gate is rarely a highlight of anyone's trip. Thankfully, the experience has been getting much better thanks to a slew of incredible airport perks. From tropical gardens to indie movie theaters, several airports around the world are stepping up their game in the hopes of luring weary travelers to their decked-out terminals. While frequent fliers are likely well aware of these tricks of the trade, the average traveler probably isn't. With that in mind, we've collected a list of some of the best airport perks out there. (Keep in mind things are in flux due to COVID and some of these may not be valid this year; check with the airport directly.)
Munich International Airport: Christmas Market
For the past two decades, Germany's Munich Airport has turned into a veritable winter wonderland during the holidays. Running from late November through the end of December, the Christmas market includes a free skating rink, 40 local vendors offering everything from local treats to traditional handicrafts, as well as live music after 6 p.m. And if you happen to time your trip just right, you might even get to participate in the Christmas market's famous wreath-making workshop.
Portland International Airport: Movie Theater
Portland, Oregon, has long been one of America's epicenters of hipster cool. The addition of a free movie theater within its airport—along with an old-Hollywood style marquee announcing its presence to those who pass by—only further cements that reputation. The one-of-a-kind "microcinema," located within Concourse C, is free of charge for all visitors with a boarding pass.
Since you probably won't have time to sit through an entire summer blockbuster, the location shows screenings of short flicks by Oregon filmmakers. The complete schedule can be found online and, if you're a local, you can even submit your own work for consideration.
Singapore Changi Airport: Tropical Garden
One of the biggest aviation hubs in Asia, Singapore Changi Airport has been consistently ranked within the top best airports in the world—and it's not hard to see why. Let's start off with its newly opened $1.3 billion entertainment center, Jewel Changi Airport, which borders Terminal 1. The focal point is The Rain Vortex, a 130-foot cascade and the world's largest indoor waterfall that thunders from the ceiling of the glass dome. On the upper floors of the rainforest garden, you'll find Canopy Park, which is filled with mazes, playgrounds, and a topiary trail. Plus, with 280 stores and restaurants as well as a hotel, you can literally have a mini-vacation here while waiting for that connecting flight.
San Francisco International Airport: Yoga Studios
San Francisco's reputation as a wellness destination even extends to its airport. Case in point: the yoga room at the San Francisco International Airport. Stocked with yoga mats and cushions, and featuring floor-to-ceiling mirrors, soft lights, and walls painted in calming shades of blue and yellow, the two fitness-friendly rooms are "devoted to relaxation, self-reflection, and practicing yoga." The only stretch you won't be practicing here is the reach-for-your-wallet, as the facilities are free of charge.
Denver International Airport: Therapy Dogs
While some airports are making it easier for travelers to bring their pets, Denver International Airport offers up furry companions of its own. Meet the DEN CATS ("Canine Airport Therapy Squad"), a team of over 100 dogs, plus one cat, who roam the airport in blue plaid vests that urge visitors to pet them. From a "friendly wag" to a "furry cuddle," this team—made up of a variety of breeds from German Shepherds to Toy Fox Terriers—is determined to make sure your time in the terminal is a real treat.
Seoul Incheon Airport: Golf Courses
During a stopover in South Korea's Incheon Airport, guests can avail themselves of the SKY72 golf course, the largest course in northeast Asia. Featuring the 54-hole Bada Course and the 18-hole Haneul Course, the SKY72 offers plenty of options to accommodate players of all levels. Flight getting in too soon to enjoy a full game? Feel free to hit the practice range—the world's largest, according to the 2006 Guinness Book of Records.
Vancouver International Airport: Aquariums
Vancouver International Airport happily plays host to two satellite locations of the acclaimed Vancouver Aquarium. With a main tank housing over 5,000 species—including wolf eels and kelp greenlings—as well as a smaller tank that's home to their jellyfish exhibit, these locations are so much more than advertisements for their sister establishment. In fact, they even take part in marine research studies, under the watchful eye of some of the main Vancouver Aquarium's foremost experts.
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: Art Museum
Since 2002, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol has been offering visitors a preview of the country's world-famous Rijksmuseum. The exhibition is comprised of eight to 10 travel-inspired "masterpiece paintings" from the likes of Van Gogh and Brueghel. The rest of the airport houses larger pieces of sculptural art, as well. Admission is free, but make sure you get there before 8 p.m. local time, when the gallery closes for the day.
Indianapolis International Airport: E-Bike Chargers
Some airports have begun offering exercise rooms, while others have begun filling their terminals with charging stations. At Indianapolis International Airport, they're doing both. Since 2017, the airport has hosted four "human-powered charging stations." These stationary bikes are connected to small generators, allowing travelers to break a sweat and stretch their legs while recharging their devices for the journey ahead. Burning off that Cinnabon is just an added bonus.
Daniel K. Inouye International: Japanese Garden
While airports are typically hectic places, Daniel K. Inouye International in Honolulu provides some much-needed respite for the weary traveler. The airport's Japanese Cultural garden is the antidote to stale airplane air and crowded terminals, thanks to its waterfalls, koi ponds, and nightly Luau torch lighting.
Spokane International Airport: Car Wash
At Spokane International Airport, in Washington state, visitors parking in one of their two garages or outside parking lots are entitled to a free car wash. The automatic machines are able to easily handle the more than 200 cars they receive every week, and are reportedly very helpful in removing the salt and snow remnants that vehicles accumulate during those famously-freezing Spokane winters.
O'Hare International Airport: History Collection
Chicago's O'Hare International Airport is the take-off location for countless trips—including one back in time. Visitors to O'Hare's Terminal 1 get the unique experience of coming face-to-face with a 72-foot-long brachiosaurus skeleton on loan from the Field Museum of Natural History. Want more modern marvels? Head to the fighter plane exhibit in Terminal 2, which explores O'Hare's role in WWII.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport: Indoor Rainforest
Just finding yourself in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, in Malaysia, is pretty exotic to begin with. Add the fact that the airport houses a walkable indoor rainforest, and you'll really feel like you've been transported to a whole new world. However, despite the boardwalk that passes through its dense vegetation, it really is a rainforest—intense humidity included—so make sure to bring your umbrella and a pair of waterproof shoes.
New Chitose Airport: Hot Springs
Need a break from the soreness caused by hours stuck in a cramped airplane seat? Check out the hot springs at New Chitose Airport in Sapporo, Japan. For a small fee, visitors can soak in the airport's sodium chloride springs, which have circulation-promoting properties.
Zurich Airport: Playrooms
Traveling can be hard on anyone, but it's particularly onerous for kids. Fortunately, at Zurich Airport, they've got the perfect place for little ones to expend some excess energy. In the departure areas, there are fully-stocked playrooms where children can run around before boarding. Just make sure to get there early enough to use them and enjoy the rare peace and quiet of taking a flight with your kids fast asleep.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport: Dog Park
Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport is a favorite among your furry friends thanks to its many animal relief stations, scattered throughout the terminals. And if your four-legged pal is just looking for a little socialization, check out the 1,000-square-foot dog park, replete with complimentary biodegradable bags and original sculptures paying tribute to man's best friend.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport: Rocking Chairs
Sometimes, the simplest perks are the best—just ask the visitors to Charlotte Douglas International Airport. In 1997, the airport installed a group of rocking chairs as part of an exhibit exploring Charlotte's culture of "Porchsitting." After the exhibition's end—and the chairs' subsequent removal—the outcry from the public was so strong that the airport decided to bring the chairs back, and they've been kept as an amenity for travelers ever since.
Fort Wayne Airport: Freshly Baked Cookies
The Midwest is known for its hospitality, but even by their standards, the cookies at Fort Wayne Airport are quite the friendly gesture. Every guest arriving at FWA is met by so-called Hospitality Hosts who, along with providing recommendations, directions, and information, hand out freshly baked "welcome cookies." (Rumor has it they've handed out over two million cookies!)
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport: Recombobulation Areas
No one enjoys going through airport security. The long lines, the gross bins, sorting through all your stuff—we know the struggle. Luckily, Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport has designated "Recombobulation Areas" to help you from feeling discombobulated. They're equipped with chairs and benches for passengers to get a hold of their belongings and slip back into their shoes. Is "recombobulation" a real word? Nope. Should all airports start having their own recombobulation rooms? Absolutely.
Sydney Airport: Showers
Flying to Sydney Airport from just about anywhere is bound to be a long journey. In light of this, the good folks down under offer a variety of locations within their airport where you can shower at no cost. The only downside? You still need to supply your own shampoo. If your passport is expiring, don't worry because these are the 13 Coolest International Destinations You Can Visit Without a Passport.