Every week our Holiday Hero Neil Simpson takes an in-depth look at an important holiday topic, doing all the legwork so that you don’t have to. This week, he reveals how to survive long layovers on holiday flights.
Having a long layover in an uncomfortable airport used to be the worst part of flying to a faraway destination. Not any more. The world’s top airports are competing hard to keep passengers amused – and if you know where to look, you won’t have to pay a penny to enjoy the facilities.
Here are five FREE ways to make the hours fly by.
1. Free tours
The Instant Paris area at Charles de Gaulle airport (stock image shown) has a video wall with city views and ‘virtual windows’ with live images of the Eiffel Tower
Changi airport offers free tours of Singapore if you have enough time between connecting flights. Guides take you by coach past the earliest colonial buildings to the towers of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel. Sign up at ‘Free Tour’ desks in any terminal.
In Paris, you can see the sights from afar. The Instant Paris area at Charles de Gaulle airport has a video wall with city views and ‘virtual windows’ with live images of the Eiffel Tower.
2. Free exercise
Head out to the ‘airport park’ at Amsterdam’s Schiphol and there is a row of free exercise bikes. Plug in your phone and you can charge it by pedalling. If you would prefer to exercise your mind, Schiphol has a 24-hour library, or you can play something soothing on the terminal’s grand piano.
At Istanbul’s new mega-airport, complete your 10,000-steps-a-day target by power-walking around the world’s biggest single-roof terminal. Want something more relaxing? There are free yoga rooms at San Francisco and Dallas airports for connecting flights in America.
3. Free samples
Shopping is the main activity at all the main stopover airports – and you can get a lot more than free tester strips at perfume counters. Free makeovers and ‘skin-age analysis’ are on offer at Changi, and you can even sample a complimentary Singapore Sling in the upstairs Long Bar run by Raffles Hotel.
Personalisation is big in Istanbul – Duty Free is the size of nine football pitches and free personal shoppers are being employed for the summer. You can get your name (or a loved one’s) printed for free on everything from bottles of alcohol to boxes of chocolate.
4. Free entertainment
Back to nature: The spectacular Rain Vortex at Singapore’s Changi airport
For sheer spectacle, it’s hard to beat the hourly Las Vegas-style light-and-sound show on the Rain Vortex, the world’s biggest indoor waterfall at Changi.
It’s in the heart of the airport’s new Jewel extension, along with nearly 1,000 indoor trees, a new shopping mall and cinemas showing newly released films for free. Prefer to watch a movie on your tablet? Dubai says it has the fastest free airport wi-fi in the world for near-instant downloads.
5. Free everything
The British Airways lounge at JFK offers free cocktails at the bar – and there’s a Brewdog craft beer station
Join an airline’s frequent flier scheme, build up enough points and you can access business-class lounges, even if you’re flying economy.
This is where even more free stuff is found. The latest ‘best-in-class’ example is the revamped British Airways lounge at New York’s JFK. Step inside for free cocktails at the bar or pull your own pint at the Brewdog craft beer station. If you fancy a sugar rush, there are big glass jars full of chocolate-chip cookies and jelly beans.
There are comfy sofas, hot showers, spa treatments and chefs preparing restaurant-quality meals – all free for passengers who don’t really want long layovers to end.