When I have more than five hours to spare in between flights, I usually include possible side trips in my pre-travel research for my layover.
Rather than spending long hours in the airport, if you can hop on a bus or a train for a short ride to the city then do so. It makes for an interesting layover and you can spare yourself from a boring and tedious wait at the airport.
Even with just a few minutes ride in and out of the city to the airport, I usually allot at least two hours to cover travel time, airport inspection and immigration procedures (if flying out of the country).
This should be on top of the required minimum check-in time if advanced check-in is not allowed by the airline. Don’t time your return to the airport too close to your flight schedule. Remember, it is better to have to wait for your flight than to be left behind.
A good side trip should allow you to enjoy the sights of the city for at least two to three hours excluding the two hours allotted for travel time and airport security procedures. Anything less than this is nothing more than a waste of time and will leave you disappointed.
Side trips are usually best done where airports are relatively near the city or those serviced with a good rail transit system that allows you to visit your destination in not more than half an hour’s ride. Following are some of the cities where side trips are worth taking.
The historic center of Amsterdam is just 20 minutes away from the airport by train. You can easily enjoy a canal-boat ride, a jaunt in nearby museums such as the Rijksmuseum or catch some good bargains in Amsterdam’s shopping district for a few hours.
San Francisco is also ideal for layover side trips. A 30 minute BART train ride will take you from the airport to downtown San Francisco. Your choices abound with the City’s many museums and attractions that are all accessible on foot or by cable cars.
When in Chicago, the RTA trains can take you from O’Hare to downtown Chicago for less than 45 minutes. You can then enjoy several attractions, theaters and restaurants all within walking distance from each other.
The S-Bahn in Frankfurt will whisk you from the airport to downtown in just 15 minutes. Shopping is interesting in Hauptwache area where a good selection of restaurants as well as several museums can be found.
If you find yourself in Singapore, less than 15 minutes by train will take you to the heart of the city and an hour or two in an open deck hop on hop off tourist bus will allow you to see all the attractions in the city. Almost all attractions are accessible by train so you don’t have to worry about traffic when going around the city.
If you don’t feel like leaving the airport, check if there is a nearby hotel where you can get a day rate and enjoy a dip in the pool or a comfortable nap until time to leave!