If you or your clients are flying on an economy budget, flying these days is hardly glamorous. But even if you don’t have a first-class ticket it is possible to feel pampered at an airport and make use of any expected, or surprise, downtime. From private sleeping pods to airport lounges, massages, and concierge-style VIP services, here are six of our favorite U.S. airports and their worthy amenities that’ll help you feel fresh between flights.
1. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL): Cat Naps and Dog Parks
They had us at Minute Suites. These mini hotel rooms are prime for napping and set right in Terminal B. Each of the five private suites offers a daybed sofa with pillows and blankets, a sound-masking system, an audio program that promises the perfect power nap, a workstation, and a TV loaded with Netflix and DIRECTV. Travelers can stay by the hour, with prices ranging from $42 for the minimum one hour up to $160 for an 8-hour stay. Add a shower for $20. (Discounts are available for pilots, airline employees, and military personnel.)
ATL (consistently ranked as the world’s busiest airport) also offers the Delta Air Lines Sky Club, an outdoor terrace lounge. Located on Concourse F of the international terminal, this lounge welcomes Delta Sky Club members and other elite travelers, but for $50, you, too, can get a day pass and enjoy the “Architectural Digest”-inspired decor and a glass of rosé from Haute Provence. One reviewer called it an “oasis among airport hustle and bustle!”
And if you’re flying with your canine partner in crime, head to the ground transportation area of the domestic terminal. In addition to the usual “service animal relief areas,” you’ll find a fully fenced-in, 1,000-square-foot (93-square-meter) dog park.
2. San Francisco International Airport (SFO): Just Say “Om”
If you find yourself with free time at SFO, it’ll be hard to decide where to start. You can head to one of the free, 24-hour yoga rooms (perfect for a downward dog with dim lighting, yoga mats, and floor-to-ceiling mirrors) in terminals 1 and 3. Or maybe your idea of relaxation at California’s second-busiest airport is indulging in a facial, manicure, or massage at XpresSpa, located in Terminal 2, Terminal 3, and the International Boarding Terminal.
Shopaholics can browse the Burberry, Hermés, Coach, and Gucci boutiques, while parents can show the kids around the small airport aquarium fish tanks, the free SFO Museum, or any of the airport’s four Kids’ Spots, areas with interactive displays and artworks. If you’re looking for a lounge to hang out in before boarding coach, leave the Centurion Lounge to American Express Platinum card members—the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse SFO has day passes available for $40.
And if all that isn’t enough to make you want to linger, a few sets of puppy eyes are sure to seal the deal. SFO is as known for its terminal-roaming Wag Brigade of trained therapy dogs as it is for its free WiFi, wine bars, and gourmet cuisine.
“A must visit place if you enjoy good wine or beer and thoughtful food to accompany it,” says one traveller.
3. Miami International Airport (MIA): Where the Art Is
The whole museum-in-airport thing is trendy, but what’s happening at MIA is a movement. The Americans for the Arts organization has declared the Miami International Airport South Terminal Gallery to be one of the best public art projects in the nation, and with multiple galleries showcasing art throughout the airport, it’s easy to step out of airport mode and slip into the culture of South Florida.
Other highlights that set MIA apart include The Shoppes at Ocean Drive, a 10,000-square-foot (930-square-meter) mini-mall with high-end apparel and luxe bites at North Terminal, Concourse D, and its three on-site spas, including XpresSpa in the North Terminal and the South Terminal’s Jet Setter Spa. Also keep an eye out for Casey, MIA’s golden retriever in residence who wanders the terminals to brighten the spirits of passengers pre-flight.
4. John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK): New York State of Mind
If you’re flying through Terminal 5 at JFK, you may need to allocate some time to hang out for a while. If you’re lucky enough to travel during one of JetBlue’s free, pop-up Live from T5 concerts, you could catch a performance from the likes of Taylor Swift, Vance Joy, and Aloe Blacc. And no matter when you’re in town, you can head up to the post-security T5 Rooftop Lounge, a 4,046-square-foot (376-square-meter) outdoor space open to all, regardless of which airline you’re flying. With green space, Manhattan skyline views, enticing food and beverage options available for purchase, and even a dog park, it’s one of the most popular spots in the airport. Another option for kicking back at T5 is the Airspace Lounge. Entry starts at $25 and includes access to showers (yay!), dedicated business areas, and a wide-ranging food and beverage menu.
It isn’t all about Terminal 5, however—Terminal 7 will soon get an Alaska Lounge, set to replace the $7 million Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse.
5. Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP): The Great Escape
MSP offers some much appreciated perks to visitors traveling through Minnesota—the ho-hum food court was recently replaced with Food Truck Alley, WiFi is free for the first 45 minutes (and $2.95 for the first 24 hours after), and if you’re on a long layover, a 12-minute ride on the Metro Transit can get you out of the airport to the Mall of America in Bloomington. MSP also has a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) walking path in Terminal 1 for travelers who have spent too many hours sitting in an airplane chair, plus three XpresSpa locations, multiple Caribou Coffee sites, and a popular wine bar in Terminal 2, Surdyk’s Flights.
But the real appeal for budget travelers who might get stuck at MSP is the Escape Lounge at Terminal 1. The $2 million, 5,000-square-foot (465-square-meter) facility opened in 2015 as the airport’s first common-use lounge—open to all flyers, regardless of airline. For $45 at the door (or $38 for children over the age of 6), you get access to food and drinks, iPads, high-speed WiFi, and comfy lounge areas set in front of a 50-foot-long (15-meter-long) picture window with skyline views. One reviewer says it’s the “best kept secret at MSP.”