You’ve likely been through it – waiting for hours at the airport. Maybe it’s because you found a good flight price that included a five-hour layover or because you missed your connection and are waiting four hours before the next flight. It can be tedious to wait, but now airports are adding entertaining activities to help us pass the time.

Standard Airport Pastimes

Many airport ‘entertainment’ options are standard and have been around awhile.

Shopping – The airport and airport businesses get you to spend money by shopping so they offer varied retail options geared to traveler needs: gifts for family, travel gadgets, a final souvenir, duty free shops for good deals, books, and magazines, and clothing shops for executives who don’t take time to shop during their home routines. Airports are like shopping malls encouraging us to open our wallets.

Restaurants – If you aren’t into retail shopping, then finding the best airport bars and restaurants is another way to pass the time. What with the sketchy airplane food’s quality and high prices, eating prior to boarding has become a necessity versus a luxury.

Airport Lounges – If you’re one of the lucky ones, you have access to an airport lounge. Lounges are accessible to frequent flyer-tiered loyalty members or for anyone using a credit card that enables access or for those willing to pay the lounge fee. They feature benefits like complimentary food, drink, newspapers and magazines, comfortable seating, and services like business centers, showers, private rooms with beds and some offer escorted access through the airport to your flight gate.  The ‘soft’ entertainment offered in lounges helps pass the time and makes you feel special.

New Entertainment Options

Unexpectedly encountering new airport entertainment options is a treat and many options are free for use.

Machines that print free short stories while you wait are available in Grenoble and Paris, France as well as Edmonton, Alberta. Amsterdam and others now have libraries with both printed and e-books to borrow.

If you’re dog-deprived while traveling, you can visit the doggie rooms at some airports. They usually include a dog relief area but can also include an exercise area which is perfect for visiting with people’s pets. Another trend gaining traction is the ‘pet-me’ dog kiosk where retired or active therapy dogs are happy to offer themselves for petting and snuggling.


Exercise options are more widespread with marked walking paths and yoga rooms at SFO, DFW, Chicago O’Hare, Chicago Midway and MIA. The San Francisco yoga room is eucalyptus-scented.

Hands-only CPR learning is available while you wait at over thirty airports, including St. John’s in Newfoundland. This idea seems to be spreading to non-airport locations too.

Portland, OR and others have movie theaters that screen short movies.

Of course, Las Vegas has slot machines that greet you upon arrival and to keep the fun going as you leave, are also available at departure.

Arcades and game centers are being offered to help keep children entertained. Children’s playgrounds can be found in Zurich and at many other airports. The Singapore airport features a space slide.

Entertainment for your Senses

Airports are integrating beautiful, eye-catching green spaces into their interior designs as well as art exhibitions and mini-museums. The Confiscated Items Hall of Fame in Cleveland is one unique collection. If I’m passing through Cleveland I’ll check to see if that collection is still on display.


Another way to put in time is to search out the nearest spa. Airport spas are offering everything from chair massages right up to full body wrap massages, oxygen therapy, and cosmetics make-overs.

The Taipei airport offers Prayer Rooms.

At San Jose, you can find a public piano to play. A nearby sign asks that you be gentle with the keys.

I’ve never been this lucky, but maybe you’ve happened upon an airport flash mob. The singing, dancing performances are a nice respite for weary travelers. An online search pulls up lots of these flash mobs. One of my favorites is ‘All Over the World’ – a compilation of many flash mobs edited together from worldwide locations.

On Your Next Layover

Could it be that airports are learning the value of positive branding to keep their travelers happy and coming back? Let’s hope so and let’s hope this is the start of a continuing trend!

So next time you have spare time at the airport, just ask the Information Desk about that location’s entertainment options. Discovering entertaining activities can make the difference between a tedious wait and an enjoyable one.

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