Discovering day rooms for long layovers at international airports

Written by admin on December 8, 2008 – 12:48 pm -

How many times have you had six to eight hour connections between planes and wanted to do something other than walk the airport’s corridors? There’s only so much shopping one can do or overpriced airport food a waiting traveler can consume. Many airports’ public spaces are so crowded and noisy that the concept of relaxing is an enigma especially since carry-on bags need watching like a hawk.

For a long layover, day rooms are are wonderful alternatives to simply wandering between Gate A-1 and G152. For intrepid travelers the choices for passing time have long been to leave the airport for a short local tour or meal or settling into one of the airport lounges with magazines, TV, snacks and endless drinks. However, both have their drawbacks.

Leaving the airport is fraught with anxiety and often just not practical. The thought of leaving the airport and missing my flight makes me itchy. Anxiety often overcomes the glory of the Eiffel Tower, the symmetry of Plaza Mayor in Madrid or a walk along the Rhine in Frankfurt.

Legally, I have heard, travelers are not supposed to leave the airport’s premises if they’ve checked bags for an ongoing flight or may need an entry visa during a layover to wander outside the airport corridors. And with airlines requiring passengers to be at the airport two hours before departure, there frequently just isn’t enough time.

Airport lounges are invaluable and some frequent travelers invest in yearly club cards so that if they’re traveling in coach class, they may access the inner sanctum, do some work, eat something or simply relax. But it is rare to find a business class level lounge that is good for catching up on sleep or freshening up.

The day room alternative
Airport day rooms are an alternative that I have just discovered after crossing the Pacific. A few airports have day rooms but finding them isn’t an easy Google search. With flights being cut and more travelers being forced to wait in order to get from here to there, day rooms undoubtedly have a growing future.

Here are a few day rooms or short-stay airport rooms that I have found after speaking with international travelers and browsing the Internet.

Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airports have “YOTEL” based on Japanese Capsule hotel models. Passengers don’t have to exit security to access these rooms. The small cubicles feel more like boat cabins than hotel rooms, but the serve their purpose. Occupants can sleep, read, shower, power up computers and use the free WiFi. No one would want to spend an entire honeymoon in a place like this but Yotels are a boon for tired travelers.

There are day rooms at Narita Airport in Tokyo but they’re rumored to be similar to slightly tacky plastic cubicles and are so small that people with claustrophobia want out as soon as they awaken. Others feel they serve their purpose.

The room was small, but we actually fit on the bed, which is more than we can say for most beds in China, including the one in our apartment. Soap and shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste[1], are all provided. They even do wake-up calls.

Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport — Day rooms are available for passengers on the 2nd and 4th floor of Terminal 1 & 2 at reasonable rates for six hours with soft drinks, Tel: 535-3710-24.

The Hong Kong airport has shower rooms for rent as well as rooms where mothers may take their infants to nurse.

Singapore Changi Airport offers 73 transit hotel rooms in Terminal 1 and 73 in Terminal 2. Rentals are in six-hourly blocks ranging between $37 and $42 for single or double occupancy. Showers, gym and sauna facilities are also available at extra cost for non-transit hotel occupants.

The Dubai Airport has 88 rooms in the 5-star Dubai International Hotel, on the arrivals level of Sheikh Rashid Terminal. But don’t they come cheap — expect to pay $41 to $62 an hour!

Travelers wanting to rest and relax between flights will most probably have to exit the customs area and head to hotels adjoining the terminals (such as the Sheridan Hotel at Paris’s CDG Airport or the Hilton or Thistle at London Heathrow) or motels and hotels within the airport complex.

Some will advertise “day rates” while others won’t accord occupancy. Many airports have reasonably priced hotel rooms available, depending on the season and whether or not conventions are taking place in the vicinity.

One suggestion: Access a couple of hotel Internet booking sites if you think you’re going to want a room between flights. Last minute rooms are frequently deep-discounted.

Be certain there’s a shuttle service to and from the property and the airport. If you have to hire a taxi, you may find yourself accumulating hefty bills as there’s a minimum charge for leaving and going to the airport. Plus, if a driver has been waiting in line anticipating a hefty fare, don’t be surprised if he or she is cranky.

If you know of other airports that have day rooms, please add them.

Another question for business and leisure travelers is would you use day rooms? If not, what alternative plans would you make? Very few travelers want to live in an airport. And eight hours in captivity feels as if it’s a life time.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis; and is currently in transit in Asia.

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