5 Airports that will get you excited to Layover

by Tiffany Paul


When it comes to airports, most are simply a means to an end, a place to hop on a plane and go on your merry way. However, certain airports go above and beyond when it comes to delighting travelers and enhancing the overall travel experience. The Miami airport for example, hosts a therapy dog weekly sporting a “Pet Me” vest to entertain and ease travelers with some puppy love. Stop in at the World Duty Free store in London Heathrow airport to take advantage of a complimentary mini massage, facial or make-up touch up. Order up food and beverage to your gate with the touch of a button using complimentary iPads installed at both La Guardia Airport in New York and the Minneapolis St. Paul airport.

Airports are certainly upping their game when it comes to offering amenities that make your layover feel more like a “playover”. Here are 5 airports that will get you excited for your next layover.

Vancouver

Get in touch with nature during your visit to the Vancouver airport. Start by enjoying some sea life at the airports’ 114,000 liter aquarium hosting 850 indigenous sea animals and a 3,800 liter jellyfish tank with 100 moon jellies. From there, be sure to stop by the impressive 55 foot tall self-sustaining Green Wall featuring 27,000 plants. While you grab a bite to eat or do a bit of duty free shopping, enjoy the indoor creek that flows throughout the terminal. If you have a bit more time, stop off at Chester Johnson Park situated just outside the international terminal and escape in a tranquil oasis featuring lush greenery, a waterfall and pond.

Enjoy the indoor creek running through the Vancouver airport terminals

Enjoy the indoor creek running through the Vancouver airport terminals

Escape to Chester Johnson Park right outside the International Terminal at Vancouver airport.

Escape to Chester Johnson Park right outside the International Terminal at Vancouver airport.

San Francisco International Airport

Leave it to a CA airport to help you find your zen while traveling. SFO airport offers a 24 hour complimentary yoga room along with reflection and reading room for visitors. You can also relax at the Xpress Spa located in terminals 2, 3 and International Area G. If retail therapy is more your style, check out the 80 shops including high end stores like Burberry, Hermes, Coach and Gucci. Also on-site to keep you relaxed while waiting for your flight, is an Aviation Museum and Library, aquarium and several local art exhibits. If you have children that need to be entertained, check in at the information desk to get directions to a scavenger hunt taking place throughout the terminals. If you find yourself in Terminal 3 craving some local fare, check out Boudin Bakery for some clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl that’s sure to hit the spot.

Keep calm with a moment in the complimentary yoga rooms throughout SFO airport.

Keep calm with a moment in the complimentary yoga rooms throughout SFO airport.

Munich Airport

Munich’s famous Oktoberfest celebration is not the only place you can sample Bavarian brews and tasty treats. Munich’s airport is packed with restaurants serving authentic Bavarian food. In fact, Munich Airport was named the World's Best Airport for Dining in the 2013 World Airport Awards. Popular food venue Airbrau takes it to the next level boasting its very own brewery, which you can tour for a small fee. They also offer complimentary entertainment featuring local up and coming artists. If you’re lucky enough to fly out of this airport during the holiday season, check out the Munich Airport Winter Market featuring hundreds of decorated Christmas trees, an outdoor ice skating rink and venders selling crafts and local goods. If you’re flying out during the summer time, check out the indoor wave pool and give surfing a shot!

The Munich winter market features an indoor ice skating rink. 

The Munich winter market features an indoor ice skating rink. 

Catch a wave in the complimentary wave pool at Munich Airport each summer.

Catch a wave in the complimentary wave pool at Munich Airport each summer.

Hong Kong

Kill time before or after your flight with a round of golf at Hong Kong airport’s nine-hole golf course just outside Terminal 2. The airport makes it easy with luggage storage and club rental so all you have to do is show up. Not into golf? Grab a bite at their Michelin star restaurant Hung’s Delicacies, watch a movie in the airport’s IMAX theatre, or visit the Aviation Discovery Center. There’s also plenty for kids to do at the Dream Come True Education Park where children can explore different careers through a variety of interactive activities.

Skycity Nine Eagles 9-hole golf course offers club rental and luggage storage while you play.

Skycity Nine Eagles 9-hole golf course offers club rental and luggage storage while you play.

Singapore Changi Airport

Expect to be dazzled by this airport! Singapore Changi Airport has long been considered one of the world's best featuring one of a kind amenities like the world’s first Butterfly Garden at an airport, a 12 meter indoor slide and a Balinese-themed swimming pool. If you have at least 5 hours to spare before your departure flight, you can take advantage of a free 2-hour guided tour of Singapore highlighting all the main attractions of the city. What’s more, is this airport was voted one of the best in the world for sleeping, due to its several free rest areas featuring specially-designed snooze chairs equipped with head and leg rests.

For a small fee, enjoy the beautiful pool deck, towel service and a non-alcoholic beverage.

For a small fee, enjoy the beautiful pool deck, towel service and a non-alcoholic beverage.

Let your inner kid (or your actual kid) enjoy these mega indoor slides.

Let your inner kid (or your actual kid) enjoy these mega indoor slides.

Catch a few zzz's in these complimentary leather snooze chairs found throughout the airport.

Catch a few zzz's in these complimentary leather snooze chairs found throughout the airport.

These airport designs and amenities will make it impossible not to enjoy the normally mundane layover. If you ever have the opportunity to land or takeoff at any of these airports, try to leave yourself plenty of time to explore. Careful though, you may start to love your layovers! What's your favorite airport to layover in? 


City Spotlight: Austin, TX

by Tiffany Paul


When you think of Texas, you may instantly envision line-dancing, cowboy hats and southern drawls, but if you get a chance to visit Austin, the capital of Texas, I think you’ll get a whole new perspective. The city of Austin is the youngest big city in the US, with about 90,000 college and university students who reside there, so it’s jam PACKED full of exciting events, diverse social scenes and plenty of places to grab a good meal.

Don’t be surprised if the moment you get off the plane you’re greeted by live musicians performing outside your terminal. You’ll quickly realize that you have immersed yourself in a pool of culture and creativity. The city overflows with good vibes, hip crowds and tons of good music everywhere you go. After all, Austin is known as the “live music capital of the world.”

With so much to see and do in the city itself, you may feel like unwinding outside the city. Take some time to enjoy the natural beauty that exists in the scenery that surrounds Austin. Head twenty miles west and you’ll find one of my favorite spots, Hamilton Pool. This natural swimming pool was formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed. Here, you’ll find a ring of beautiful waterfalls, some as high as 50 feet! The limestone rock formations that surround and overhang the turquoise green water form a mossy, cave-like grotto. You’ll hardly believe this paradise is so close to the bustling city. 

Back in the city, here are my “Must Do” and “Must Eat” picks for visiting Austin:

Must Do:

Check out the music scene: Austin is famous for showcasing musical acts of all sorts, not just country. While you're there, be sure to check out some live music, whether it be at a local dive bar, club or historic Paramount Theatre (the city's oldest standing theatre). Learn about some of Austin's top rated music venues here. And let's not forget about South by Southwest held every year in March, where Austin plays host to a set of film, interactive and music festivals. Since the first SXSW event in 1987, the event has grown and attracted a wealth of talent and top-quality performers. Many people visit Austin JUST to experience this renowned event! 

Visit the SoCo District. This area is usually crowded with people taking in all there is to do and see! You’ll find glam boutiques, street performers and a variety of food to choose from (including a great selection from local food trucks). Make sure you stop outside of Jo’s Coffee, an Austin-area institution, to check out the iconic photo-op spot, where “I love you so much” has been tagged on the side of the building and now serves as a popular place for tourists and couples to get their photo snapped.

Catch a flick at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. If you’re a fan of dinner and a movie, this is the spot that combines the two! Watching a movie at the Drafthouse Cinema makes you feel as comfortable as sitting in your own living room, and it adds the convenience of someone waiting on you (so you don’t have to pause the movie to refresh your drink!). You can catch the latest Hollywood blockbusters or the occasional classic flick during special events. According to big fans like Quentin Tarantino and Elijah Wood (and pretty much the entire population of Austin), this IS the BEST movie theatre in the world!

Must Eat:  

Franklin Barbecue. Franklin Barbecue has some of the best barbecue in Texas (a state famed for its barbecue). It’s been popularly named Texas' top BBQ joint, and it’s made #5 on TripAdvisor’s list of 3,187 restaurants in Austin! You might get stuck in a long line getting into this popular spot, but have no fear! Staff members will pass by often with a variety of beverages to choose from while you wait, and you might even snag some free samples before you’re seated! The brisket is a MUST try.

Swift's Attic. If you’re looking for a good brunch spot where you and friends or colleagues can enjoy a chill atmosphere and pass around a variety of unique culinary treats, this is the spot for you! Think upscale bar food you’ve probably never tried before. Swift’s dishes out duck wings, grilled peaches and antelope steak frites to tantalize your taste buds!

Fonda San Miguel. This is not your typical TexMex fare. Fonda San Miguel is an Austin staple, and it has kept its classic charm throughout the years. You’ll go back in time when you enter the courtyard, and the hacienda-style interior enhances the experience of your meal. You’ll find a fabulous selection of wine and craft beer on their happy hour menu, and their small plate options let you sample more than one dish!

Make sure you look into these great little spots next time you plan a visit! Do you have other favorite spots in Austin?


City Spotlight: Maui

by Tiffany Paul


Hawaii is the perfect getaway if you’re looking for a tropical escape, without the hassle of international travel. You’re far enough away to leave the stress and worries of your everyday life behind, yet still surrounded by the familiarity of being in the U.S. The state of Hawaii consists of eight main islands with Oahu, Maui and The Big Island being the most popular tourist escapes.

This month we’re featuring beautiful Maui in our city spotlight. I finally got the chance to check this destination off my travel bucket list and it was well worth the wait. Maui entices vacationers with its miles of pristine beaches and lush scenery filled with extraordinary volcanic landscapes, orchid-strewn valleys, and culturally unique villages. I found the island's main charm to be its nature. Make sure you make your way off the resort and truly experience all the island views and vegetation.

Wailea, Maui

Wailea, Maui

The Iao Needle at Iao Valley State Park

The Iao Needle at Iao Valley State Park

Garden of Eden Waterfall

Garden of Eden Waterfall

Here are my 3 Must Do and Must Eat while visiting Maui.  

Must Do

Road to Hana

It’s worth the splurge to rent a car so that you can drive the meandering road to Hana and stop off at the myriad of scenic marvels like lush tropical landscapes, waterfalls and breathtaking brown, red and black sand beaches along the way. Even if you don’t make it all the way to Hana, it is still worth it to adventure down the Hana Highway and stop off for an afternoon hike or see the Twin Waterfalls. Don’t forget comfortable shoes and allow yourself plenty of time as this is an all day excursion, with the option to spend the night in Hana or turn back that evening. Click here for a great article on Road to Hana travel tips.

One of the many ocean views along the Hana Highway.

One of the many ocean views along the Hana Highway.

Visit the top of Haleakala

Haleakala is inactive volcano and the highest view on Maui at 10,000 feet above sea level. It’s the ideal spot to watch the sunrise or sunset as it provides a unique view above the clouds. The only caveat to watching the sunrise is that you have to get up super early (like 3:00-3:30) in order make your way to the top before the sunrise. If you’re coming from the mainland, it’s usually best to check this out the first morning since it should be easier to get up due to the time change.  Not sure whether to visit during sunrise or sunset? Click here for an article on pros and cons of both options. If you don’t feel like driving yourself, there are also several tours that can chauffeur you, including one option to bike down the volcano once you arrive at the top.

The sunrise from atop Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii

The sunrise from atop Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii

Visit the Beach

Of course no visit to Maui is complete without time spent at the beach. Although there are many popular Maui beaches, Hamoa Beach was my favorite surrounded by spectacular lava cliffs. Its postcard worthy setting is the perfect backdrop to any day at the beach. Kapalua Beach is also worth a visit and is a great spot to do some snorkeling. If you’re interested in checking out some great surfers, try Ho'okipa Beach Park located on the island's north shore.  

Beautiful half-mooned Hamoa Beach

Beautiful half-mooned Hamoa Beach

Must Eat

Mama's Fish House

There's a reason why Mama's Fish House is revered by locals and tourists alike: it features freshly caught seafood prepared with consummate skill. The name of the fisherman or vessel your seafood was caught is even listed on your menu, which is printed daily. Not only is the food unparalleled, but the ambience is unmatched, with the ocean as your view and the inside meticulously decorated with quirky, beach themed décor.

Mama's Fish House sits beach side.

Mama's Fish House sits beach side.

The Flatbread Company

If you're hoping to enjoy a reasonable but delicious fare, stop by The Flatbread Company located in Pa'ia on the road to Hana. Flatbreads are loaded with delicious ingredients of your choosing and baked in a wood-fired clay oven. It's a great place to enjoy a meal with family and friends. If you aren't sure what to order, Mopsy's Kalua Pork is a local favorite and a sure win.

Half Mopsy’s Kalua Pork, Half Pa’ia Bay Ohana 

Half Mopsy’s Kalua Pork, Half Pa’ia Bay Ohana 

Star Noodle

Star Noodle is a popular noodle eatery a bit off the beaten path. Located in Lahaina, this cozy wood trimmed restaurant features Asian shared plates with Hawaiian influences. Their signature garlic noodles and steamed pork buns are not to be missed.

Signature steamed pork buns at Star Noodle

Signature steamed pork buns at Star Noodle

Have you visited Maui? What have been your favorite things to do and places to eat?