Travelling is super fun. What isn't? The airport. Airports are awkward pauses that delay adventures. Yet, they're essential. More than four-fifths of U.S. citizens have flown on a commercial airplane, and there are more than 50,000 airports in the world. Travel is more accessible than ever, and airports are starting to reflect that. More international flights mean more long layovers, and more long layovers mean more time to explore, relax and enjoy—and spend, of course.
These 10 airports are redefining how we travel:
1. The tiny regional Barra Airport, perched on the northern tip of a Scottish island, is the only public airport where planes land on the beach. There are only four flights a day—two in, two out—because at high tide, the runway vanishes. Though it’s only accessible from U.K. cities Benbecula and Glasgow, every single flight in June is already sold out.
2. If Barra is one of the world’s sparsest places, the Changi International Airport in Singapore has to be one of its most lavish. The wifi is free, and so are foot massages, feature films, rooftop swims and indoor gardens. There's also a tram that carries visitors into the city for two-hour tours. And if you somehow do everything, Changi also boasts a four-story slide (the nation's largest) that you can ride for $10.
3. If you can’t stay to discover Amsterdam, you can get your fix of art and literature at Schiphol International Airport. ProBiblio, a Dutch nonprofit, installed a 1,200-volume library there in 2010. You can read in more than 20 languages, but most of the books are almost guaranteed to teach you something about Dutch culture. If reading isn't your style, the national Rijksmuseum keeps a small rotating exhibit of Dutch art in an annex at the airport too.
4. King Abdulaziz International Airport near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the Persian Gulf’s second busiest (after Dubai). but it has an entire terminal that lies dormant for most of the year. Then, for six weeks, it opens to admit Muslim pilgrims making the Hajj. The outdoor terminal looks like a smattering of Bedouin tents under which the community can wait—sometimes for more than a day until there’s room on a shuttle—before starting the trek to Mecca.
5. Flying is stressful, and the folks at the San Francisco International Airport know that, so they installed a very San Francisco-style remedy: the Yoga Room. Silence inside the room is required, and it’s open 24/7 without a time limit for long layovers. Plus, the airport has a museum: SFO Museum is a hodgepodge of 20 rotating art, history and science exhibits scattered throughout the terminal.
6. It’s one thing to stop at an airport restaurant for lunch. It’s another to buy a pint from the airport brewery—but that’s what travelers passing through the Munich Airport get to do at Airbraeu. You can take a tour of the facility if you have enough time. And you'll earn some good karma, since everything is brewed using regional ingredients.
7. Incheon International Airport in Seoul has been voted the world’s best airport for seven years now. It’s pretty easy to see why: Before passengers even get through security, they can visit a spa, fill prescriptions and even get their teeth whitened, plus go ice skating on a synthetic rink and watch feature films. There are more massages in the departure area, where you can also use free computers, learn to make Korean crafts and watch cultural shows. If you somehow get bored, grab a shuttle to the nearby casino.
8. Instead of a museum, the Vancouver International Airport houses branches of the city's aquarium. Check out wolf eels, anemones, cabezon and jellyfish (more than 5,000 creatures in all, almost all of them collected from the ocean off the coast of British Columbia) between flights, then submerge yourself—in yet another airport spa, that is.
9. When consultants at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok tried to propose another taxiway, managers shut them down immediately—because the proposed pavement would’ve eliminated a fairway and a green from the golf course in the middle of the runway. Golfers’ paths are dictated by traffic lights so they don’t accidentally walk into a landing plane.
10. Next time you fly into Wellington International Airport in New Zealand, don’t leave without paying respects to this huge statue of Gollum from Lord of the Rings. As if the picture weren’t creepy enough, the sculpture itself is 42 feet long and weighs almost as much as a car.
This post is part of the GOOD community's 50 Building Blocks of Citizenship—weekly steps to being an active, engaged global citizen. This week: Get a Passport. Follow along and join the conversation at good.is/citizenship and on Twitter at #goodcitizen.