Some very busy holiday travel dates are on the near-term horizon, but your time at the airport doesn’t have to be drab and miserable. In fact, it can be a pretty jolly part of the holiday travel experience if you are transiting select airports that have decided to get into the spirit of the season with activities and amenities that go well beyond a well-decorated Christmas tree.
Believe it or not, this year, airports around the world are playing host to an ice skating rink, full Christmas shopping market and even a whimsical world where Harry Potter would feel at home. Here are some of the most festive ways that airports around the world are making holiday travel just a little bit more fun.
1. Ice Skate for Free at Denver International
It just doesn’t seem like Christmas without lacing up a pair of skates and hitting the ice. This holiday season, Denver International Airport has you covered with a fun pop-up ice skating rink located at the DEN Plaza, between the airport and the new(ish) Westin. Arrive early to skate before your flight, during a longer layover or do your best lutz after landing in Denver. The experience — including ice skate rentals — is free and will definitely lift your holiday spirits if a day of travel has got you and your family zapped of joy. Skate anytime between 9am and 9pm now through Jan. 6.
2. Explore the Wizarding World Holiday in Changi
The Changi Airport in Singapore dreams up cool high-end amenities and pastimes like no other. From free in-transit tours of Singapore to a beautiful butterfly garden, art installations and in-airport movie theater, there are plenty of things to keep you busy at Changi. But, this season you can’t miss the themed installations at three of its terminals that depict scenes from Harry Potter. A Wizard World Holiday at Changi gives passengers the unique opportunity to walk through Hogsmeade Village and Diagon Alley in Terminal 3, steer clear of the Whomping Willow in Terminal 2 and visit Newt’s Menagerie — from the “Fantastic Beasts” spin-off — in Terminal 1. Each installation will remain open from 10am to 10pm through mid-February 2019.
3. Shop Munich’s Christmas Markets in the Airport
Europe’s tradition of quaint Christmas markets that sell everything from hand-blown glass ornaments to gluhwein (mulled wine) in festive holiday mugs is alive and well at Munich Airport (MUC). MUC’s Christmas market features 44 stalls selling crafts and traditional foods. The market is actually an institution now celebrating its 20th anniversary. If you’d like to do some shopping, head outside security between terminals 1 and 2. Just be sure to shop from 11am to 9pm before Dec. 26 when Santa’s elves will bring the festivities back to the North Pole until next year.
If shopping isn’t your thing, you can also hit up the airport’s two ice skating rinks, enjoy live music in the evenings starting at 6pm, look at over 500 pine trees and take part in other special events and even guest visitors!
4. Special “North Pole” Flights
Speaking of the North Pole, you’ve got to hand it to United Airlines for their Fantasy Flights when they bring the holidays to some festive airport gates for some special families. For nearly 30 years, the team has created a holiday experience for children in need. The duo works with local hospitals and change up the recipient base annually.
This year, 16 routes were established to the “North Pole” from Newark, Denver, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Houston, Guam, London and Tokyo. These short flights actually take-off and give the kids and their guardians an inflight experience before landing at the North Pole where Santa and his elves (United employees and volunteers) greet children and throw an awesome holiday luncheon. If you aren’t yet feeling the holiday spirit, check out these pictures of the flight from Newark to the North Pole.
5. Meet Santa and Hear Carols at Hong Kong’s Airport
As you pass through Meeters & Greeters Hall at the Hong Kong International Airport, listen for groups performing Christmas carols onstage. If you time it right, you may also be able to meet up with Santa Claus from Dec. 21–26! And, for those traveling between Dec. 21 and Jan. 5, head to Central Concourse, Level 6 in Terminal 1 for a Christmas Light Show.
6. Board Early With an Ugly Christmas Sweater on Alaska
Some airlines have a better sense of humor than others, and on Friday, Dec. 21, any Alaska Airlines passenger wearing a “festive” holiday sweater will be granted the perk of early boarding. Holiday music and movies will play in the boarding areas across Alaska’s 116-city network. So, get out that ugly Christmas sweater you always wear to the company holiday party and be sure to wear it on your Alaska Airlines flight on Dec. 21.
7. Adult Fun at the Pop-Up Booze Shop at JFK
Holiday airport offerings certainly aren’t just for the kiddos. At JFK’s Terminal 4, until Jan. 1 you can find a Grey Goose Vodka holiday pop-up bar and shopping experience, complete with a Grey Goose Ferris wheel with cocktail recipes hidden behind the various doors.
We hope you’ll encounter holiday magic no matter which airports you transit through this season. But, if your trip ends up feeling like it was orchestrated by the Grinch instead of Buddy the Elf, here are some tips:
Retreat to an airport lounge where you can sit in relative peace and quiet, refresh and grab something to eat or drink. — even better if you can get into some of the world’s most exclusive airport lounges. Many credit cards confer airport lounge access and there are also policies for active duty military.
Dine at an airport restaurant courtesy of your Priority Pass membership that comes as a benefit with credit cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve®.
Take a deep breath and learn a few quick tips to survive holiday air travel with kids.
Featured image courtesy of Denver International Airport.