Airport Lounges. The Patron Saint of Layovers

I’d say I travel more than the average person, but only this year have I felt like I might be getting better at this traveling thing. I’ve recently upgraded to a nice, rolly carry-on suitcase, and the concept of “less is more” is finally resonating with me when I pack. On this journey to become a less-stupid traveler, I’ve learned an incredibly important lesson, which I’d like to share with the three people reading this.

Airport Lounges are a gift to us all.

 My incredible parents, meeting me after a 16-hour journey home to the states.

My incredible parents, meeting me after a 16-hour journey home to the states.

Well, all of us with long layovers. It’s amazing how much cheaper it can be to have connecting flights instead of flying direct, so 75% of the time I fly, I find myself with a few hours to kill in a new airport, chock-full of the same expensive food and mediocre coffee. But this year everything changed. While on a long layover in Lisbon, I wandered up to the “lounge level” to see what these fancy waiting rooms were all about. I stumbled into the ANA lounge, where I discovered you could buy a pass for the day, without needing to be a member of any loyalty program, and most importantly, without spending a billion dollars. A huge, open loft-like space, with peaceful lighting, more lounge spaces than I could count, fresh coffee, mimosas, salads and sandwiches, could all be mine, for 25 euros! When the average airport meal costs about 15 euros, lounges seem like the biggest “DUH” for a layover lasting two hours or more.

So I threw my credit card at the kind front-desk attendant, who threw the wifi password right back at me, and skipped inside to enjoy a few peaceful hours overlooking the runways. Did I mention there are sleeping nooks, fresh coffee, clean bathrooms, fresh coffee, and fresh coffee?!

It was the most pleasant, relaxed traveling experience I’ve ever had. Also, if you’re a somewhat health-conscious eater, how refreshing is it to eat small, healthy meals whenever you want, instead of gorging on one overpriced airport package deal? TEAM AIRPORT LOUNGE, BABY!

A Gallery of Happiness

I should mention, several airport lounges have capacity issues during peak travel times (9-11am) and don’t allow walk-ins during these hours. On my recent long layover in Amsterdam, one of the lounges was closed for walk-ins, but the ASPIRE lounge in a different terminal was open and waiting for me. I ran into its open arms and abused the coffee machine for the next three hours. Mint-infused water was a nice touch at this lounge as well. It’s these little things, like infused water and fresh salads, that are a game-changer for long layovers.

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DId I mention the Reading Material?

To be clear, I don’t think these lounges are the saving grace of every layover. You can easily find a healthy snack and a coffee in most airports for 8 euros or less, and be on your merry way. But with two hours or more, I find it impossible to relax under the fluorescent lights and constant noise of the airport terminals. I’d like to think of this post as my PSA for like-minded travelers. Should you be ok with spending $10/hour for peace of mind, then all signs are pointing to you checking out an airport lounge. Literally, follow the signs. They’re everywhere.