Airport Layovers: Best Food & Fun While You Wait for Your Next Flight
Show of hands: How many of you actually enjoy spending time at the airport?
We didn't think so. But that may changing. While airport "entertainment" once consisted of only bars and chain restaurants, today many airports offer a number of fun ways to chill while you’re waiting to fly out. Here’s how to get the most out of a layover the next time you fly from one of the five busiest U.S. airports.
1. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
With more than 100 million passengers visiting it in 2017, Atlanta’s international airport is the busiest airport in the world, according to Airports Council International.
Flying with Fido? Check out the 1,000-square foot fenced-in dog park, which is part of the ground transportation center in Domestic Terminal South. It features flowers, grass, rocks, and benches—and has biodegradable waste bags for easy pet cleanup.
History buffs should check out "A Walk Through Atlanta History." Located in the Transportation Mall between Concourses B and C, the multimedia installation uses video, audio, murals, and photographs to take you through key periods in Atlanta’s development.
Have time to enjoy a fine dining meal? Hit up One Flew South in Concourse E. This critically acclaimed restaurant specializes in cuisine inspired by world travels, and it has a cocktail list that pays tribute to the flying boats (‘Floatplanes’) that carried wealthy passengers from Miami to Nassau and Havana so they could drink legally during the Prohibition era.
Art lovers will enjoy the airport’s permanent exhibit, “Zimbabwe Sculpture: a Tradition in Stone,” which features 20 stone sculptures from the South African country. Find it in the transportation mall between concourses A and T.
2. Los Angeles International Airport
Over 84 million people visited LAX in 2017. The second largest airport in the U.S., Los Angeles's main airport has an array of food and entertainment options for travelers.
The size of three football fields, the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) serves as the "Rodeo Drive" of LAX. It boasts tons of shops, including Fred Segal, which sells trendy clothing, accessories, and grooming products, and Sunset Strip's famous bookstore Book Soup. The caveat: it's not connected to any other terminal, so to visit from another terminal you'll have to go through security again.
Wine aficionados will enjoy Vino Volo, a wine bar that offers vintages from around the world and a food menu of locally sourced cheeses, smoked salmon rolls, and other light bites. Find it in the TBIT.
Need to pick up a snack for your flight? Los Angeles’ Original Farmers Market has a store in Terminal 5 where you can choose from a broad selection of meals, snacks, wine, and coffee from local vendors.
3. Chicago O'Hare International Airport
This is a major connecting airport for destinations in the Midwest. It’s also not a bad airport to be stuck in.
Parents traveling with children should take them to the Kids on the Fly interactive play area, which features child-sized model airplanes and a control tower. Find it in Terminal 2.
Enjoy the stunning display of 466 squiggly neon tubes above a moving walkway in "The Sky's the Limit,” a mile-long neon light sculpture that connects concourses B and C in Terminal 1.
Don’t depart without stopping by one of the airport’s Garrett Popcorn shops, located in Terminals 2 and 3. Go for the Chicago staple’s Garrett Mix, a combination of handcrafted cheddar and caramel popcorn.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
Spanning more than 17,000 acres, the busiest airport in Texas is also the fourth most-visited airport in the country. In fact, because of its size, it has its own postal code.
Find your happy place before you board a plane for a long trip by doing some pre-flight stretches in the free 24-hour yoga studio, tucked between Terminals B and D.
View works from more than 30 local, national and international artists in the International Terminal D. Also, check out the sculpture garden just outside the Terminal D parking garage on the arrivals level.
Let your kids burn off energy in Terminal B’s Junior Flyer Club, a 685 square-foot aviation themed play area.
5. Denver International Airport
A hub for Frontier Airlines and United, this Colorado airport handled more than 61 million passengers in 2017.
Eat like a local at the popular Colorado burger chain Smashburger in Concourse C, Elway’s steakhouse Concourse B, or Root Down, a veggie-centric restaurant in Concourse C that serves up tasty dishes like thai carrot curry and roasted beets with seed pesto and basil vinaigrette.
Take in a gorgeous view of the Rocky Mountains at the west end of Terminal C. While you’re there, grab some reading material for your flight at Denver’s famous Tattered Cover Book Store outpost.
Sip a glass of wine Lounge 5280 in Concourse B. Rated one of the best airport bars in the U.S., the establishment offers hand-picked wine selections from around the world and a beer list highlighting Colorado's craft brewers.
There’s an art to packing for a short trip—there are the essentials, and then there are the non-essentials that bring an element of comfort and joy to the journey. For those travelers who rarely let a weekend pass without hitting the open road or taking to the skies, we found five things to help make the most of those quick two-day jaunts, from packing to transit to maximizing your time on the ground. The Bag (Courtesy Lo & Sons) First things first: Start with the proper equipment. This classic-looking cotton-canvas weekender is roomy enough to hold the necessities for a short trip and has multiple pockets to keep things organized, but its best features may very well be its modern touches: a sleeve that lets it slip over a suitcase handle for easy transport and a zippered compartment that keeps at least two pairs of shoes separate from the rest of your clothes. And the whole thing weighs less than 2 pounds, so it’s easy to sling it over your shoulder and go—even if it's packed to the brim. Catalina Deluxe Small in Teal Blue, $128, loandsons.com. The Multitasker (Courtesy The Bali Market) With luggage space at a premium, weekend warriors need accessories that do double-, triple-, or even quadruple-duty, and this lightweight, high-absorbency Turkish towel fits the bill. At 40”x70”, it’s large enough to be used as a beach towel (or as a bath towel, for that matter), but it takes up way less room than terry cloth. Woven from quick-drying cotton, this thin textile can also serve as a wrap, a scarf, or a throw for a chilly plane, train, or bus ride, and it rolls up to practically nothing. That's a win-win-win-win. Perfect Classic Turkish Towel in Grey, $36, thebalimarket.us. The Wet One (Amy Lundeen) Wring every last drop out of a warm-weather weekend: Pack a stash bag for a wet bathing suit (and Turkish towel!), and never forgo that final swim again. This one has a beachy, tropical print and a vinyl-coated, waterproof interior, and it’s big enough to hold the sunscreen, too. Tropical Palm Extra Large Cosmetic Bag, $28, needleandoak.com. The Sleep Aid (Courtesy Bucky) If you need pitch-black darkness to get a solid eight hours of Zs, an eye mask is a must-pack accessory. Sure, you could go with that flimsy freebie you've been using since your last long-haul flight, but this silky polka-dot number is a playful alternative. With contoured foam eye cups that let you blink without messing up your makeup or putting undue pressure on your lids, it'll keep you snoozing, even if you're stuck in coach. Bucky 40 Blinks Sleep Mask, $13, amazon.com. The Soundtrack (Courtesy Bose) What’s a vacation without the tunes? This waterproof, drop-proof Bluetooth speaker clocks in at just under 4"x4" and weighs less than a pound, offering huge, bass-heavy sound in a tiny, silicone-rubber-wrapped package. With six hours of battery life, a tear-resistant strap for hands-free portability, and an app that can control the volume, pair another speaker, and switch between music libraries in various devices, it'll help get the party started wherever you are. SoundLink Micro Bluetooth speaker, $100, bose.com.
How to Have a Tick-Free Summer
Long sleeved shirts, long pants, hats, sprays, frequent body checks, and full-on inspections of kids before bedtime. Is that the summer you’ve been looking forward to? Unfortunately, the risk of tick bites - which can lead to Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) - has made those rather un-festive rituals a necessity in much of the U.S., where ticks are especially active during the warm months between April and September. But a new government study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Medical Entomology, suggests that insecticide-treated clothing may be one of the most effective tick-fighting tools out there. In lab tests, clothing treated with permethrin (interestingly, a synthetic compound similar to the insect-repelling compounds found in chrysanthemums) was shown to cause ticks to fall off the clothing or make the ticks unable to bite the person wearing the treated clothing. Permethrin is found in tick-repelling sprays, creams, and shampoos, but the new study underscores that permethrin-treated clothing is effective at all stages of a tick’s life, causing the ticks to fall off “vertical” clothing such as pants and, after a few minutes, rendering the ticks unable to move normally or bite. Further, the amount of permethrin used in insecticide-treated clothing is quite low, and that the compound is “poorly absorbed” through the skin of the wearer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. If you plan to spend the next few months hiking, camping, gardening, or other activities that most of us simply refer to as “summer stuff,” follow these important steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/ticks): KNOW YOUR RISK You’ll find ticks (or, more precisely, ticks will find you) in grassy, brush, and wooded areas, including parkland, forests, and even your own backyard, garden, or tall grass. Avoid high grass and “leaf litter,” and walk near the center of trails rather than near brush and grass beside the trail. TREAT CLOTHING AND GEAR Purchase permethrin-treated clothing such as the clothing tested in the recent government study mentioned above (rei.com is always a good place to start shopping for outdoor gear), or spray clothing, boots, and camping gear with .5% permethrin, which will hold up through several washings, then require retreating. USE INSECT REPELLENT Look for compounds such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or 2-undecanone. Important: Don’t use insect repellent on babies younger than two months old and do not use oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol on children under three years old. CHECK YOUR CLOTHING AFTER TIME OUTSIDE Check your clothing for ticks, remove any ticks you find, or tumble dry clothing on high heat for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks. (If you wash clothing that may be infested with ticks, use hot water.) SHOWER Well, this is always a good idea after a summer hike, but your risk of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite can be reduced by showering within two hours of coming indoors from a tick-infested area. DO A BODY CHECK Use a hand-held or full-length mirror to check your body for ticks, including under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, the back of your knees, in and around your hair, between your legs, and around your waist. While checking for ticks is serious business, it doesn’t have to be done alone and it doesn’t have to be a total drag. For inspiration, check out Brad Paisley’s hit song (and upbeat public service announcement) “Ticks.”For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
Summer Vacation Tips: Your Ultimate Guide to Safety, Adventure, and Fun
Summer is a time to relax and regroup somewhere else. Anywhere else. But before you set off on your sun-filled journeys, we've put together some must-know intel and helpful tips to make your vacation easier, safer, and, of course, more fun. 1. Swim Safely Even the most skilled swimmer can encounter troubles in the ocean, so when water is on your agenda, safety should be top of your list of things to remember. (Right up there with a portable grill, hot dogs, sunscreen, and towels, of course.) We checked in with BJ Fisher, Director of Health & Safety for the American Lifeguard Association (americanlifeguard.com), for tips on how to stay safe in the summer. The most important is probably the most obvious: no matter how much at ease you are in the water, always swim where there’s a lifeguard and never, under any circumstance, swim alone. “Swim with a buddy,” he insists. “Many drownings involve single swimmers. If you can’t find someone to swim with, at least find someone to watch from the side of the pool or on the beach.” It’s easy to be lured by the open expanse of the ocean and forget just how suddenly and drastically the ocean floor can change. That said, best not to use flotation devices, like inflatable rafts, in unfamiliar areas or places where you might not be able to swim. If you fall off, that’s trouble, informs Fisher. And then there’s the ocean’s stealth sneak attack: rip currents. If you’re caught in one, he says, don’t fight it. “Swim parallel to the shore till you reach a spot where the current is weak. Most rip currents are narrow,” he instructs. And for those who like to tackle the water head-on, protect your head and neck when diving and body surfing. For divers he advises, “check for depth and obstructions and remember that feet first is far safer than head first. When body surfing, make sure you have at least one hand extended in front of you.” And, needless to say, if you’re at a pool party or a beach fiesta, don’t drink and dive. Alcohol is a huge factor in many drownings, he says. 2. Get Ready for the Road For most drivers, cruising down the highway is a matter of reflex. But a long road trip requires a completely different frame of mind. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, you might say. One of the biggest problems on the highway is drowsy drivers. More than half of drivers involved in fatigue-related accidents experienced no symptoms before falling asleep behind the wheel, according to the American Automobile Association. “Drivers shouldn’t rely on their bodies to provide warning signs of fatigue. Instead, they should prioritize getting at least seven hours of sleep into their daily schedules,” says Tamra Johnson, AAA spokesperson. Other rules of thumb: travel at hours when you’d normally be awake, schedule breaks every two hours or every 100 miles, avoid heavy foods and travel with alert passengers. Even better: take turns driving. And then there’s that other major traffic risk: distraction. On city streets and highways, texting and driving has become astonishingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving—everything from texting to eating—is a factor in more than 10% of crashes. Nearly one in three drivers admit to typing or sending a text message or email in the past month, according to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey. It also found that 40% of drivers report reading a text message or email at the wheel in the past month. It’s a risk that is all-too easy to eliminate. “Safe driving is a complicated task that requires your full attention, so drivers need to put down their phones and focus on the driving task,” Johnson said. Best tactic: designate a passenger as the chief navigator and texter. Solo drivers should take care of everything before turning the key. Adjust the radio, phone, and GPS system, decide on your route, then take off. Speaking of GPS, AAA offers a free app that travelers can use to map route, map a route, find up-to-date gas prices and discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance. Even in our high-tech world, though, nothing is 100% foolproof 100% of the time. Road atlases and maps still work as effectively as they did for our parents and grandparents. Invest in a good one. And as an added bonus, it's a pretty dependable way to keep kids engaged and entertained. 3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors Summer is a prime time to heed the call of the wild. But while nature can be relaxing and rejuvenating, there are also plenty of factors that can put a damper on what would otherwise be a perfect trip. Most, however, are avoidable. Justin Wood, Manager of Program Development and Operations at REI Adventures (rei.com), an active-adventure travel company at REI, the outdoors retail behemoth, has some ultra-helpful hints. He breaks them up into three categories: before, when you get there, and when you’re ready to leave. The before-you-go phase is easily the most important. “About 99% of how your trip pans out is determined by how you planned. Research so you can craft your experience to meet your needs,” he says. First, check up on the site you want to visit. A lot of places require a reservation and can book up six months in advance. There are, however, lots of first come/first serve sites, but plan smartly. Try to get there mid-week to avoid the rush. Need to learn about options in a particular area? He recommends Hikingproject.com, which drastically reduces the legwork you have to do by providing information on an assortment of trails and cool destinations in any area for any level of experience. But first: to pack. Use a checklist. It’s worth the extra few minutes to download and print one. Get your gear—your tent, your stove—ahead of time so you can make sure everything works properly and all the pieces are there. “The worst thing that can happen is you get there and realize something’s missing. It could be a small thing, but it can really waylay a trip,” he says, noting that REI has a program where you can rent gear, like tents, to try them out before you invest in one. Of course, sustenance is not least among importance when it comes to deciding what to bring. “Planning a menu is an important part of camping—what to eat, how to prepare it, how to store it. Storage is critical, especially if you’re in bear country or if there’s mice around the camp,” he says. He notes that dehydrated food has come a long way with lots of great options ranging from Thai and Indian fare to classic American grub. Dehydrated foods are a great way to keep it simple, which helps with prep and cleanup. Regardless, however, “everything tastes better outside,” he asserts. And good news for the caffeine-fueled outdoorsy types: you don’t have to give up coffee. There are so many great solutions for brewing gourmet coffee in camp, Wood assures, like French presses and pour-over options. Once you arrive set up tent in an established site, not on a hillside or anywhere there are rocks around. Look overhead to make sure there are no branches over where you plan to pitch your tent. And whatever you do, make sure your tent isn't too close to your fire pit. Embers will burn holes in the tent. And definitely pay careful attention when using knives and stoves. Most injuries from cooking and cutting things, Wood notes. Being weather-ready in the winter time is obvious: bring layers and a warm sleeping bag. You can always pile on more clothes to stay warm. Staying cool in the summer is a bit trickier. Of course, make sure you hydrate. At night, it’s important to set up a tent with the rainfly off to keep airflow moving through. In warm weather, ignore that rule about avoiding cotton, an imperative in the winter because once it’s wet it stays wet. That’s exactly what can help your stay-cool cause in the heat. "There's a misconception that camping means rouging it—but it can be such a comfy, wonderful experience. And the best, most experienced campers are always comfy," says Wood. "If you have everything, you never have to worry about being comfy. That means the right size tent—do you want to stand up in it? Does it have enough room for everyone sleeping in it? Can you properly ventilate it? Stay dry inside? Bring a bag that's rated for the right temperature at night.” When you're leaving, do one last sweep to make sure you have all your gear for next time. It's easy to overlook a chair behind a tree. And the cardinal rule of camping: dispose of all your waste and leave the site better than you found it. Follow that wisdom and you're guaranteed the happiest trails. 4. Include Every Family Member in the Fun According to AAA, most American are planning to travel as a family this summer. That means a whole lot of hours of kids asking if you’re there yet. And kids, of course, are the toughest—and usually most honest—critics, so once you get there, you’d better be ready to impress. It helps, of course, when they have some skin in the game. “Make sure to get the kids involved in planning. This will get them more vested in the whole vacation and will likely lead to much less complaining,” says Rainer Jenss, President and Founder of the Family Travel Association (familytravel.org). “Letting the children choose activities will ensure they'll be more interested!” He also suggests getting actual cameras for each child, which will get them off their phones and tablets and much more actively engaged in where they are and what they’re seeing and doing. When they’re in the car, however, reading is obviously a better way to pass the time than movies and video games. “Bring along information on your destination, including low-tech options such as TourBook guides and maps, to make the most of your trip and as a source of entertainment for kids,” says Julie Hall, spokesperson at AAA. Jenss recommends Lonely Planet’s kid guides, a suggestion we wholeheartedly endorse, not least because Lonely Planet is Budget Travel's parent company.For travel inspiration, know-how, deals, and more, sign up for Budget Travel's free e-newsletter.
As professional travelers, we put in lots of hours on the road, and with that much time on our hands, we get to know our gear pretty well. The little quirks that don’t seem like a big deal up front can become full-blown annoyances after a week of travel, and likewise, the nerdy details that might not merit more than a shrug at first glance can easily become an obsession once we realize how handy they can be in practice. We put another round of carry-on backpacks through their paces to find our favorites—all of which will fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you on most jets, and cost less than $200. 1. For the Weekend Road Trip (Courtesy Topo Designs) Topo Designs makes some of our favorite accessory bags and Dopp kits, so it’s not surprising they make one of our favorite backpacks too—the brand’s bags and accessories are designed to work together as part of a modular system, and the 30-liter Travel Bag is no exception. Pack bags, Topo’s answer to packing cubes, cost a little extra, but they nest inside for a tidy fit, and the Dopp kit does too—no cramming necessary. (If you need more room, clip a smaller bag onto the outside of the pack, or go for the 40-liter version.) But enough about the accessories—the backpack itself earns rave reviews. It has organizational pockets galore: On the front, a large zippered compartment with two internal zippered mesh pockets, plus another section with two open pockets for snacks and chargers and a deep zippered one as well. The main compartment holds three or four outfits, with two big mesh pockets for additional storage. At the back of the pack, there’s a padded laptop compartment, and an external pass-through sleeve to stack the bag on top of your rolling suitcase; it also comes with a removable crossbody strap, so the shoulder and hip straps tuck away if you choose to use it. The zippers even have security loops to protect against sticky fingers, and the stiff nylon material is water-repellant in addition to being practically tear-proof. All in all, our number-one pick.Travel Bag - 30L, $189; topodesigns.com. 2. For the Urban Excursion (Courtesy Knack Inc.) Launched in late 2018 by a team of former Tumi execs, Knack makes a good case for ditching the luggage and carrying just a single backpack. With a slim profile, clean lines, and crisp suiting-inspired fabric, the expandable Knack Pack displays the attention to detail you’d expect from a contingent of industry pros. Unexpanded, the medium version holds just 17 liters; expanded, that capacity nearly doubles. The packing compartment unzips to lay flat, holding a few days’ worth of clothes with compression straps to lock it all down, with a zippered mesh pocket covering the facing side. One of its savvier highlights is the built-in sunglasses case, lined with fleece and conveniently placed at the top of the pack, but other travel-minded touches include a rain flap that covers the expansion zipper; a zip-away side pocket that hides a water bottle; and padded shoulder straps, reinforced with sternum straps, that tuck into the back panel. Two minor complaints: There isn’t a side handle, and the front pocket is a bit of a head-scratcher, a triangular flap that folds down to reveal pen loops, one strangely shallow pocket, and a row of small slots big enough to hold business cards...and not much else. But for a nice-looking bag with a deceptively generous capacity, we'll allow it.Medium Expandable Knack Pack, $175; knackbags.com. 3. For the Long Haul (Courtesy Rick Steves' Europe) This convertible carry-on from Rick Steves' Europe came on our radar by way of a reader's comment—and we have to say, it was a solid suggestion. At about 40 liters, it’s the roomiest of the bunch (and at 3 pounds, the heaviest too), a no-frills pack that excels in its simplicity. The main compartment is nearly suitcase-size, with compression straps, an elasticized pocket running the length of the lid, two loose mesh bags for laundry or smalls, and a document pouch that clips into place so important papers are always within reach. On the front, there are three pockets of varying sizes: a square one for a cardigan or a neck pillow, a small one for glasses, lip balm, and the like, and a really deep one for magazines, tablets, tech gear, and more. The pack can expand a couple of inches if need be, but beware of overstuffing if you want to use it as a carry-on. Though there isn’t a dedicated compartment for a laptop, the side pocket will accommodate one, albeit without any cushioning; additional features include a mesh water-bottle sleeve, handles on the top and side, outer compression straps, and shoulder and waist straps that tuck away as needed. This is the most old-school model we tried—those shoulder straps are only slightly padded, and the floppy nylon fabric gives it the feel of a classic gym bag—and while we tend to prefer more structure and more organizational components, you won't find many travel packs this size at a comparable cost. Convertible Carry-On, $100; ricksteves.com. 4. For the Outdoorsy Overnight (Courtesy Mammut) If outdoor adventures are on the agenda—with some work on the side—try Mammut’s Seon Transporter X. In something of a reverse mullet, it's business in the back—think: a padded, fleece-lined section for a laptop, tablet, paperwork, and reading materials, plus two orange-zippered mesh compartments and pockets for pens—and a party in the front, with a main compartment housing a ventilated, zippered section for hiking boots, with space leftover for toiletries and a change of clothes or two. (Though the bag technically has a 26-liter capacity, it's definitely for those who travel light—that shoe compartment claims quite a bit of real estate.) As for access points, the big pocket at the front is basically the height and width of the pack itself, with a zippered mesh pocket inside, and the small compartment at the bag's top is good for valuables, with two fleecy open pockets and yet another zippered mesh one. Smart elements include well-padded, ergonomic shoulder straps, top and side handles for ease of carry, and big looped zippers that pull without a hitch, all under the cover of a sturdy, weather-repellent material, in a camouflage print that makes it stand out from the crowd. Seon Transporter X, $190; mammut.com. 5. For a Few Days Away (Courtesy Solo New York) With a spacious main compartment that opens like a suitcase, incorporating a built-in bag for shoes or laundry and four small stash pockets (two mesh and two solid nylon) in the lining around its frame, Solo New York’s 22.6-liter All-Star provides the capacity of a duffel—minus the duffel’s tendency to turn into a black hole, thanks to its organizational touches. On the front, a zippered pocket holds the necessities you'll want to reach on the fly, like sunglasses, tickets, and chargers. The front is padded to protect the laptop section, which also has a sleeve that fits a tablet, so you’ll only have to dig through one pocket for your electronics when you hit the security scanners. Two side handles and one on top make for easy stowing on planes or trains, and the cushy straps tuck away when they're not in use. (It also comes with a long shoulder strap, in case you get tired of hauling it around on your back.) As a whole, the pack is lightweight and inexpensive—in fact, the lightest, least expensive one we tried. At this price point, and considering its five-year limited warranty, it’s a great option for a short trip. All-Star Backpack Duffel, $87; solo-ny.com.