Sure, it was a cheaper airline ticket, but negotiating your own price often means taking roundabout flight routes with multiple stops and carriers. You can’t often control the length of your layover, but you can make the most of your wait time with our roundup of airport hub activities.
Washington Dulles (IAD)
Hub for:United Airlines
Pick up a last-minute gift: the Smithsonian Museum store, Terminal B
Handle to handle, these ceramic mugs form the Chinese design for double happiness. They’re basically the best friends forever charm necklaces for coffee fiends. One for you, one for me. ($20)
Ease your anxiety with a beverage: Starbucks Evenings, Terminal B
At this small-plates concept branch of the ubiquitous coffee franchise, baristas tend bar for more than coffee. Double fist a pumpkin-spiced latte and glass of cabernet sauvignon, just because you can. OK, maybe that doesn’t sound palatable, but balsamic glazed bacon-wrapped dates do.
Relax: 10 min Manicure, Terminal D
All aboard the Aerotrain to spa town! Commemorate your $35 splurge on an express pedicure by painting your toes with enough glitter to set off the TSA’s metal detectors.
At the gate: Take advantage of free Wi-Fi and charging stations by renting “The World’s End” on iTunes. Later, do mini bottle shots inflight to keep up with Simon Pegg on his onscreen boozy adventure.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta (ATL)
Hub for: Delta
Pick up a last minute giftL:Kiehl’s, Concourse F
Because your nieces are into all things scratch-and-sniff, your mom stuffs every stocking while hers hangs limp over the fireplace, and you may just lock lips with a hot townie at your hometown watering hole. Cover it all with this set of four scented lip balms. ($30)
Ease your anxiety with a beverage: Ecco, Concourse F
After crossing the Mason-Dixon line, albeit at 30,000 feet, not genteelly sipping a cocktail called Destination South — a blend of blueberries, basil, agave, Lillet, and top shelf gin and vodka — would be an affront to Southern hospitality, ya’ll.
Relax: Minute Suites, Concourse B
Two words: disco nap. You didn’t have enough miles for a first-class upgrade and now you’re twisted tighter than an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Stretch out for an hour on a bed in a soundproof suite for just 34 smackers instead.
At the gate: Since there are more magazine vendors than bathrooms in this airport, end the boredom before boarding by skimming a glossy. Drool over Bon Appetit’s December cookie issue.
Charlotte Douglas (CLT)
Hub for: US Airways
Pick up a last minute gift:Johnston and Murphy, Concourse C/D connector
Say iLove you with these smartphone-friendly sheepskin TouchTec gloves. Enable their bad habit of texting-while-everything this winter; save the resolutions for January.
Ease your anxiety with a beverage: Carolina Beer Co., Concourse D
So what if the captain never turns off the fasten seatbelt sign? You ingeniously packed your vacuum-insulated Hydro Flask growler to smooth out a bumpy ride. Fill ‘er up with a local microbrew for the next leg. Stay cool, folks.
Relax: The airport atrium
Send your tense attitude into retirement. Slow down, lean back and watch the planes go by in the classic comfort of a rocking chair. The best things in life are free.
At the gate: Use free Wi-Fi to stream the Pretty Much Amazing Best Songs of 2013 radio station on Spottify to catch up on anything you missed so far this year. Inhale the Foxygen.
New York John F. Kennedy (JFK)
Hub for: Jet Blue
Pick up a last minute gift:Muji To Go, Terminal 5
Keep it simple with pocket-sized products from this Japanese minimalist mart. When you and your brother were kids, the best toy you could bear to share was the box a present came in. Show him he’s as cool now as he was then with foldable cardboard speakers. ($38)
Ease your anxiety with a beverage:Your gate!
Order a Sam Adams longneck to be delivered to you from a Re:Vive touchscreen. How re:freshing.
Relax: Somewhere else — there’s dancing to be done here.
JetBlue teamed up with Rockbot to develop an interactive playlist. Download the app and DJ, and keep those records spinning. You may want to refrain from dancing in the aisles when you board, though.
At the gate: A book is the ultimate passport. Get yours stamped preflight at WhereTraveler Books and More, a travel-centric bookseller that opened this fall.
Miami International (MIA)
Hub for: American Airlines
Pick up a last minute gift: Desigual, Terminal J
Forget family — Florida is your gateway for running away to Rio. Treat yourself to this summer-weight versatile scarf for a pop of color on the praia. ($39)
Ease your anxiety with a beverage: Bacardi Mojito, Terminal D
Sip Bacardi like it’s your birthday — there’s eight hours of flight time between you and Rio.
Relax: XpresSpa, Terminal D
We wouldn’t call a bikini wax ($35) relaxing, per se, but Brazilians wouldn’t call your boy shorts a bikini, either. Now is the best time to groom your landing strip.
At the gate: Practice verb conjugation — having some grasp of the native tongue is better than pointing at things. Get 15 percent off an English-to-Portuguese dictionary at Books 4 Travel (Terminal F) on Nov. 30 or Dec. 1.