The Best Airports for Layovers

These airports in Tokyo, San Francisco, Qatar and Singapore offer much more than the typical terminal experience.
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Written by Josh Garber

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While many travelers try to avoid long layovers, there are a number of airports that have so many amenities that they are destinations themselves. Think restaurants, shopping, spas and other entertainment. If you have to spend hours at an airport between flights, make it one of these standout locations.

1. Singapore Changi Airport (Singapore)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

The Singapore Changi Airport is connected to the Jewel Changi Airport — a 10-story entertainment complex that features more than 280 retail and dining options, as well as other attractions. There’s so much to do at the Jewel that the airport recommends that travelers have at least five hours between flights to experience it.

In addition to dining and shopping, here are other ways to pass the time at Jewel Changi airport:

  • Visit the HSBC Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at over 130 feet tall.

  • Get lost in Singapore’s largest hedge maze.

  • Bounce around at the Manulife Sky Net, a trampoline-like experience over 80 feet in the air.

  • Book a pedicure at the Picota Nail Spa.

2. San Francisco International Airport (San Francisco)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has some great amenities, including an outdoor terrace, yoga room, duty-free shopping and access to local San Francisco restaurants like The Little Chihuahua and Café X. SFO is also home to lounges from United, Delta, American Airlines, Emirates, Air France and more, including an American Express Centurion Lounge.

While the amenities and lounges all help to make SFO a great airport for long layovers, what sets SFO apart is its proximity to San Francisco. With public transportation that connects directly to the airport, you can travel from SFO to San Francisco’s Mission District in about 22 minutes.

If you don’t want to drag your luggage along, you can store it at the Airport Travel Agency inside SFO for $20-$35 for a full day or $8-$10 per hour (depending on the size).

Once you’ve stored your luggage and arrived in San Francisco, you can easily spend a few hours enjoying the city’s famous sites including walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, dining on Italian food in North Beach, grabbing a drink in The Castro or eating delicious Mexican food in the Mission.

3. Hamad International Airport (Doha, Qatar)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

While Qatar’s Hamad International Airport is home to one of the top airport lounges in the world, the Qatar Airways Al Mourjan Business Lounge, you don’t need lounge access to enjoy a long layover.

The Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre is a great place to hang out for a few hours. It's slightly cheaper than a day pass to most airport lounges and it offers a host of amenities and activities, including:

  • Pool.

  • Golf simulator.

  • Hydrotherapy tubs.

  • Full-service spa.

  • Squash.

  • Gym.

  • Shower.

Access to the facilities at Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre is about $48, though you’ll have to pay an additional fee for spa treatments, squash or access to the golf simulator. It is located on the fourth floor of the Oryx Airport Hotel inside the Hamad International Airport and it's open almost all day and night (from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m.).

4. Tokyo-Haneda Airport (Tokyo)

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Tokyo’s Haneda Airport has a special amenity: travelers can pay to access an onsen with sweeping views of Tokyo and Mount Fuji. An onsen is a natural hot spring bath, where the water is heated underground by magma.

The Villa Fontaine Grand is a hotel with an onsen that connects to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. The facility (which in addition to the onsen, includes a hot stone sauna, regular sauna and dining) is open 24/7, although the onsen is closed for cleaning daily from from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The cost to use the onsen is about $32 for adults and includes a face towel, bath towel, robe and access to the hot stone sauna.

In addition to having access to an onsen, travelers with long layovers at the Haneda Airport also can access several observation decks, where you can see planes land and take off, and also see some famous Tokyo landmarks, including the Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree.

Final thoughts on the best airports for long layovers

If you’re flying through Singapore, San Francisco, Doha or Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, you might want to give yourself plenty of time to explore these airports' unique amenities. Some of these airports have spas or other entertainment options onsite. Others have easy access to public transportation and lockers to store your bags, so you can spend your long layover exploring the city outside the airport.


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