10 Ways to Enjoy Airports: Your Trip Starts Here

How to stop seeing airports as hindrances and start seeing them as wide-open, liminal spaces where nothing is obligatory but everything is possible.

Airport layovers can either be hotbeds of extreme stress or peaceful paradises where you can recharge before or between flights. It's all about how you approach your brief time there.

Here are 10 tips for making your time in an airport a positive part of your travel experience, rather than an annoying hindrance.

Not every airport is as fancy as Singapore's Jewel Changi, but you can still make it workImage via The Points Guy

1. Get there early

As someone who hates being early on principle, I don't say this lightly—but your dad was right about this one: You really should get to airports early. Ideally, plan on leaving at least two hours between your arrival and your boarding time. This is absolutely key to making your experience enjoyable, or at least remotely tolerable, because there are few things more stressful than running late for a flight. Between getting lost on transit, getting stopped because you have toothpaste in your backpack, or realizing that you need to take three trams and a submarine to get to your terminal, it's just always better to leave ample time.

Don't be this guyImage via mpora.com

2. Check in the night before

Make sure that you read the instructions on your ticket well before the morning of your flight. Some airlines require you to check in 24 hours before your flight, and others require you to check in at the front desk—and will make you head back to do just that, even if you're running dangerously late. It's always better to prepare before you arrive at the airport, and if you're not sure, leave time to confirm your arrival at the front desk. Some airlines won't let you board if you fail to check in at your gate, or will give you huge fines for failing to print your boarding pass, so it's better safe than sorry when flights are at stake.

3. Have a small bag or pocket just for your ticket and passport

You don't want to be holding up the entire line while rummaging in your suitcase for your passport—so having a special pocket or bag for the necessities is always a good idea. On the other hand, never walk around holding your passport and ticket in your hands; you're so much more likely to leave it on a seat or in the bathroom that way. Use a strategy that works for you, and listen to the announcers when they tell you to keep track of your belongings at all times. You'd be surprised at how easy it is to lose track of passports, or how quickly airports will swallow up a misplaced handbag.

4. Check your bag for objects that might set off security alarms

Nothing can ruin an airport experience more quickly than getting pulled aside and interrogated by a disgruntled airport employee. You can avoid the whole process by not trusting your memory and always doing a quick search through your bag for things that might set off the alarm. If you're not sure, just take it out and leave it in its own bin. Some common culprits include shampoo, lotion, water bottles, perfume, Purell, laptops, scissors, and razors, so with all of these objects, just be safe and leave them in plain sight. Oh, also, leave the weed at home, for the love of God: There will be plenty of dealers in Cabo, Doug, and you don't want to wind up getting patted down in a foreign prison cell instead of drinking piña coladas on the beach.

5. Explore the airport like you would a museum

If you have a layover in a foreign country, or if you're about to leave one, airports can be extensions of your trip rather than pointless time-sucks. When you arrive at the airport (early, well-rested, checked in, passport in hand), start out by exploring the premises. A lot of airports have exhibits related to the country they're in, or they might boast surprising local shops or local foods. At the very least, you'll find some great souvenirs along the way. Personally, I love how futuristic and pristine airports are; they're like minimalist, alien labyrinths, and you never know what you'll find there. Some airports feature fancy architecture, golf courses, movie theaters, or amusement park rides, and others even double as apiaries for endangered bees.

6. Try out some local food and drink

Unless I'm headed for a red-eye, I almost always get a chai tea latte in airports—it's a tradition that makes me feel at home no matter where in the world I am. Airports aren't famous for their food (or their prices), but larger airports will often offer impressive culinary options, even boasting impressively delicious local fare. If you've got the time and funds, treat yourself to a delicacy or one last taste of that local bread or wine you can't get enough of, or develop your own airport dining tradition.

7. Test out the perfumes

You know those massive, labyrinthine Duty Free shops that somehow manage to look exactly the same in every airport no matter what country you're in? Well, these shops are the perfect place to test out expensive perfumes or experiment with makeup to your heart's content. I, for one, leave every airport I enter smelling like Chanel and wearing a coat of $70 hydrating lip gloss. Sometimes, you'll even find free whiskey tastings or chocolate samples in the Duty Free shops. While you shouldn't get your hopes up, be sure to check out the goings-on.

8. Find the largest window and watch the sunrise or sunset

Most airports have at least one wall-sized window, where you can sit and watch planes soar into the clouds or descend from the stars. If you find it, you'll be treated to an unparalleled view of the sky. You can watch planes come and go and relish in the knowledge that everything about where you are is temporary. You have no obligation to be anywhere or do anything during this time, because soon enough you'll be airborne, defying gravity and soaring through the clouds. I've always found peace in the liminality of airports, watching strangers float by, everybody rushing and going somewhere, but all caught together in a brief moment of stillness.

That's what I'm talking aboutnolayingup.com

6. Hit up the bookstore

Bookstores are a dying breed, but you can still find them (or at least, one or two shelves of $32 hardcover titles) in airports. Most Hudson News shops or comparable stores will have all the newest bestsellers, all of which will somehow have the word "Girl" in the title. They'll often have some brilliant classics and the latest E. L. James right next to the latest tabloids, so whatever your taste in literature is, you'll likely find something here. Even if you're not a reader, you might find some entertainment in skimming the titles, reading the latest Angelina Jolie headlines, and inhaling that new book smell.

Image via Time Magazine

7. Load up content for your flight

Most airports have pretty decent WiFi nowadays—or at least, most have a Starbucks, which appears to have successfully completed its goal of world domination—so you can use the time to get some work or writing done, or at least load up some content for your flight. Whether you want to download the newest Netflix show, curate and download the perfect Spotify playlist for a dramatic takeoff, or save a few journal articles that you know you'd never read unless you were trapped in an enclosed space for 12 hours, now is the time to make it happen. Airports are also perfect places to smooth out travel details, to finish up work, or to tell everyone you know to never contact you again because you're embarking on a soul-searching mission to find yourself, knowing full well that you'll be home with some stomach disease before too long.

8. Chat up a local

You never know who you'll meet in an airport. Strike up a conversation with the barista or security guard, and you'll get the chance to talk to a local, who might give you valuable advice about your trip. If you're not into talking to strangers, the people-watching opportunities in airports rival those of NYC. You can feel great about your life choices as you watch a million late people run past you, or just passively observe people from all around the world going about their business, letting down their guard as they wait in line or do whatever it is that normal, non-enlightened people do in airports.

9. Prepare for your trip

Now is the time to pick up all the things you might've forgotten. Need deodorant, tampons, money in the currency of the place you're going, a beach read, medicine, a SIM card, or anything else? Most airports offer these things—perhaps not at the most affordable rate, but filling in the gaps in your packing here will save you time on your actual trip, allowing you to enjoy the sights you came to see without worrying about not having a toothbrush.

10. Sneak into the first-class lounge

Airports are pretty great in and of themselves—solitude, coffee, people-watching, and AC; what could be better?—but if you're seeking a little more luxury, then you could always try to break into the exclusive Frequent Flyer lounge, or whatever the equivalent is. You might get kicked out of the airport, but at least you'll have gotten to inhale the sharp, clinical smell of people with too much money while eating candied almonds from crystal bowls.

Image via YouTube

There you have it: how to turn your airport trip into one of the best parts of your travels. It's all in the mindset, of course (but arriving early helps). Some other bonus tips: wear shoes that are easy to take on and off for the security line, use this time to charge up your electronics (there might not be a plug on the plane), get some snacks for the flight, use the bathroom, ride the moving fast-walk tracks back and forth, and whatever you do, don't be the first person to line up for a seat on the plane. You have an entire airport at your disposal, and hey, if the plane goes down, this could be the last time you're ever on Earth. Now go raid the Duty Free shop and have the time of your life.

Image via Cavotec

Subscribe now

Related Posts

It's no secret that the restaurant scene in New York City is one of the most impressive in the world.

Whatever you could want to eat, you can find it in New York—meaning that even if you have a slightly restrictive diet, like veganism, there's plenty of options for you. Local fast-casual chains like By Chloe and Superiority Burger are making New York one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, but the deliciousness doesn't stop there.

Between Manhattan and Brooklyn, there's been a boom of vegan restaurants that'll satisfy any craving. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Blossom(Upper West Side + Greenwich Village)

vegan restaurant

With two locations serving both Uptown and Downtown, Blossom is a go-to for local and tourist vegans alike. They offer an elevated dining experience (and a wide-spanning takeout radius) that puts a cruelty-free spin on classic main dishes like chicken piccata, rigatoni, and grilled salmon. Complete your dinner with a fresh, fruity cocktail and tiramisu—but reservations are strongly recommended beforehand.

Jajaja (West Village + Lower East Side)

vegan Jajaja

Jajaja is the ultimate heaven for Mexican food addicts. Get your fix of south of the border staples like burritos, street tacos, and enchiladas that'll make you second guess whether or not it's actually vegan (pro tip: The nacho portion is large enough to be a meal for one person). They also have a small but mighty menu of tequila and mezcal cocktails to kick off a night of LES bar-hopping. It gets crowded here quickly, though, so try to schedule your dinner early.

Urban Vegan Kitchen(West Village)

Urban Vegan Kitchen

We get it—eating vegan can get kind of bland sometimes. But that's not an issue at Urban Vegan Kitchen, the type of restaurant that'll have you wanting to order one of everything on the menu (but we recommend the "chicken" and waffles). Co-owned by the founder of Blossom, they boast a menu that's just as edgy and exciting as their decor. Their space is large too, making it a crowd-pleasing option for a slightly larger group.

Champs Diner (Williamsburg)

Champs Diner vegan

Located near the border of hip neighborhoods Williamsburg and Bushwick, Champs is a favorite of many young Brooklynites. Their menu is full of vegan alternatives to classic diner fare like breakfast plates, cheeseburgers, and even milkshakes that taste mysteriously like the real deal, while the decor puts a quintessential Brooklyn edge on '50s digs. Who said going plant-based had to be healthy all the time, anyway?

Peacefood (Greenwich Village)

vegan Peacefood

Conveniently located just a stone's throw from Union Square—near both NYU and the New School—Peacefood is a hotspot for college students, but vegans of any age are guaranteed to enjoy their menu. They specialize in comfort food items like quiche, chicken parmesan, and chili with corn bread—all plant-based, of course. While their "chicken" tender basket is to die for, make sure to save room for dessert here, too; Peacefood's lengthy pastry menu is a dream come true.

Buddha Bodai (Chinatown)

Buddha Bodai vegan

Dim sum restaurants in Chinatown are a dime a dozen, but Buddha Bodai takes the cake for the best veggie-friendly experience in one of New York's most bustling neighborhoods. Bring your family or friends along with you to enjoy this massive menu of buns and dumplings stuffed with any type of mock meat you could want. This is also a great option for gluten-free vegans, too, as much of their menu accommodates a gluten-free diet.

Greedi Kitchen (Crown Heights)

Greedi Kitchen vegan

Crown Heights might not be the first neighborhood people think of when it comes to dining in Brooklyn, but Greedi Kitchen is making the case for delicious restaurants in the area. Inspired by its founder's many years of travel, Greedi Kitchen combines the comforting flavors of southern soul food with the added pizazz of global influences. Try one of their po'boys or the crab cake sliders. Trust us.

Screamer’s Pizzeria (Greenpoint + Crown Heights)

Screamer's Pizza vegan

We know what you're thinking: Pizza without real cheese? Call us crazy, but Screamer's does vegan pizza to perfection. If you're into classic pies like a simple margherita or pepperoni, or you want to branch out with unexpected topping combinations, Screamer's is delicious enough to impress carnivores, too (pro tip: the Greenpoint location is small and serves most pies by the slice, while the Crown Heights location is larger for sitting down).

Learning a second language is one of the coolest and most rewarding things you can do in your spare time.

However, if hopping on a one-way ticket to your country of choice isn't an option for you, it can be difficult to find an immersive experience to learn, especially past high school or college.

The next best thing is language-learning apps.

We wanted to look at the top two: DuoLingo and Rosetta Stone. Duolingo is the new kid on the block; one of the top downloaded, this free app is a favorite. Then, there's the legacy option: Rosetta Stone. For over 20 years, they've been developing their language-learning software, and their app is the most recent innovation.

They're both great options, but keep reading to figure out which one is the best for you.

Key Similarities

  • Both claim you'll expand your vocabulary
  • Both are available as an app for iOS and Android users
  • Both have a clean user interface with appealing graphics
  • Both have offline capabilities (if you pay)

Key Differences

  • DuoLingo has a popular free version along with its paid version, whereas Rosetta Stone only has a paid version
  • DuoLingo offers 35+ languages, and Rosetta Stone offers 24 languages
  • Rosetta Stone has an advanced TruAccent feature to detect and correct your accent
  • DuoLingo offers a breadth of similar vocab-recognizing features, and Rosetta Stone offers a wider variety of learning methods, like Stories

DuoLingo Overview

DuoLingo's app and its iconic owl have definitely found a place in pop culture. One of the most popular free language-learning apps, it offers 35 different languages, including Klingon, that can be learned through a series of vocabulary-matching games.

DuoLingo offers a free version and a version for $9.99 a month without ads and with offline access.

Rosetta Stone Overview

The Rosetta Stone app is a beast. There are 24 different languages to choose from, but more importantly, you get a huge variety of methods for learning. Not only are there simple games, but there are stories where you get to listen, the Seek and Speak feature, where you go on a treasure hunt to photograph images and get the translations, and the TruAccent feature, which will help you refine your accent. Whenever you speak into the app, you'll get a red/yellow/green rating on your pronunciation, so you can fine-tune it to really sound like you have a firm grasp of the language.

Rosetta Stone costs just $5.99 a month for a 24-month subscription, which gives you access to all of their 24 languages!

Final Notes

Overall, these are both excellent apps for increasing your proficiency in a new language! They both feel quite modern and have a fun experience.

When it comes to really committing words to memory and understanding them, Rosetta Stone is king.

DuoLingo definitely will help you learn new words, and the app can be addicting, but users report it as more of a game than a means to an end.

With Rosetta Stone's variety of features, you'll never get bored; there are more passive elements and more active elements to help you activate different parts of your brain, so you're learning in a more dynamic and efficient way.

The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers only: Up To 45% Off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Languages & Free Tutoring Sessions!


So You Want to Try Workaway

Want to travel cheap, meet locals and kindred spirits, live off the land, and possibly change your life? It might be time to try Workaway.

Sitting in a house on a hill in Tuscany, Italy, watching the sun set and listening to the sound of music coming from the house in which I was staying almost rent-free, I wondered how I had gotten this lucky.

Actually, it was really all thanks to one website—Workaway.info.

Workaway Workaway

Workaway is a site that sets travelers up with hosts, who provide visitors with room and board in exchange for roughly five hours of work each weekday. The arrangement varies from host to host—some offer money, others require it—but typically, the Workaway experience is a rare bird: a largely anti-capitalist exchange.

I did four Workaways the summer I traveled in Europe, and then one at a monastery near my home in New York the summer after. Each experience, though they lasted around two weeks each, was among the most enriching times of my life—and I'd argue I learned almost as much through those experiences as I did in four years of college.

There's something extremely special about the Workaway experience, though it's certainly not for everyone.

Workaway Isn't for Everyone: What to Know Before You Go

I loved all the Workaways I went on, but the best advice I can give to anyone considering going is: Enter with an open mind. If you're someone who doesn't do well with the unexpected, if you're not willing to be flexible, if you're a picky eater or easily freaked out, then it's likely that you won't have a good experience at a Workaway.

There are exceptions to all of this. At the Workaway I stayed at in Italy, one of the travelers was suffering from stomach bloating, and the host helped cure her with a diet of miso. (I'm not saying you should go Workawaying if you're ill—this traveler's mother also came to oversee everything—but still, you never know what you'll find).

Workaway WoIsango.com

You should also probably be willing and able to actually work at your Workaway. These aren't vacations, and some hosts will be stricter and less forgiving than others regarding your work ethic. If you're someone who has no experience with difficult farm work, for example, it might not be a good idea to do a Workaway on a farm.

How to Choose a Host

The Workaway website boasts a truly overwhelming number of hosts. You can narrow your search down by location, but you can also search key terms that can help guide you in the right direction. You might search "music," for example—that's how I found the Italy location. You'll find hosts in busy cities and in the most remote mountains of India; you'll find opportunities to tutor and explore. You'll find shadiness, too, so trust your instincts.

Take time to actually read the host's entire bio before reaching out. Read all the comments, too, and if you're nervous or a first-timer, only reach out to hosts who have exclusively glowing reviews. I had the best experiences with hosts that had left extremely detailed bios—that showed me they were likely going to be dedicated hosts.

I also chose hosts whose bios gave me a good feeling, something like a spark of electricity or recognition. This instinctual method might not work for everyone, but it certainly led me in the right direction in all of my Workaway experiences. My Workaways gave me some of the best memories and deepest relationships of my life, and that was partly thanks to the fact that I chose places that were good fits for me.

For example, I chose to stay alone with a wizened academic in France. Something about his bio and descriptions resonated with me enough to trust him. (I also read some of his many thousand-page-long treatises on peace and compassion and decided that if someone could write this and be a psychopath, this wasn't a world I wanted to live in anyway). It was the right decision—and the two weeks I spent there were some of the most enlightening of my entire life.

When you reach out to a host, particularly if it's someone you really want to stay with, it's a good idea to frame your initial contact email as a cover letter of sorts—make sure you explain who you are and personalize your letter to fit each host.

Ixcanaan A Workaway painting experienceWorkaway

Travel Safely

Especially if you're traveling alone, it's always a good idea to choose a host whose page has tons of good reviews. Aside from that, a quick Google search and a scan of any social media pages related to your potential host can't hurt.

Ultimately, Workawaying requires a certain amount of trust and faith on both the host and the traveler's parts—you're either trusting someone to stay in your home or trusting a stranger to host and feed you.

But that trust, in my experience, also results in rapid and deep connections unlike anything I've experienced in the "real world." When you go and share a home with someone, you're also sharing yourself with them, and in that exchange there are the seeds of a powerful bond.

Participate Fully

Wherever you go, you'll want to open your mind and participate fully. Adjust yourself to your host's lifestyle, not the other way around, and take time to get to know your host and the others around you.

You might find that you become someone you never knew you were. As a lifelong introvert, I somehow managed to develop close relationships with many of the people I was staying with.

This might be because most people who are at Workaways are seeking something for one reason or another. In my experience, you find lots of people who are at junctures in their lives, seeking connection and meaning. With the right Workaway, you might just find it.

Workaway The Broke Backpacker - WorkawayThe Broke Backpacker