Higher prices. Crowded airports. Long lines. No empty seats onboard. No more room in the overhead bins.
It's beginning to look a lot like the holiday travel season.
If Mother Nature cooperates and the weather is pleasant in major hub cities on busy travel days this week, air travel should go very smoothly. Airports and airlines are prepared for the increase in crowds and will staff up in anticipation. But the weather is beyond their control, and if there are stormy skies in the Northeast or Chicago the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Sunday following it, you can expect mass chaos.
And of course, flight delays.
All airports are not created equal when it comes to passing the time. Here are six ways to while away those hours, depending on the airport you're flying out of or connecting through.
|Get a Flu Shot|
At Chicago O'Hare, one of the nation's busiest airports, the O'Hare Medical Clinic in Terminal 2 offers flu shots, immunizations, diabetes and cholesterol screening and more. No appointments are necessary.
In Atlanta, flu shots are available in Hartsfield-Jackson's AeroClinic in the main terminal. AeroClinic also has kiosk locations at Charlotte and Philadelphia airports, where flu shots are available. No appointments necessary.
At San Francisco's SFO, flu shots are available at the SFO Medical Clinic located before security on the Departures/Ticketing Level of the International Terminal Main Hall, on the A side. Appointments are required.
New this year, both Dallas-Fort Worth and San Francisco International airports have free yoga rooms. In Dallas, the yoga center is in Terminal D, and the airport supplies free mats.
At SFO, the yoga room is in Terminal 2. Light levels are set low in juxtaposition to the bright, light-filled concourse. Mats are available.
|Break a Sweat|
Dan Gellert, co-founder and CEO of Gate Guru, said most travelers don't know they can squeeze in a workout at an airport hotel's gym on a layover. He cited the Hilton gym at Chicago O'Hare as being "really nice" but said most airport hotels will sell travelers a day pass to its gym for about $20.
|Sample the Local Cuisine|
Gellert said airports have really stepped up their food offerings in recent years, with a focus on local ingredients and partnering with local chefs. He also said it's his favorite way to spend a layover. "Airports have realized the restaurants and food served is often a person's first impression of the city," he said. He cited Seattle's SeaTac, O'Hare, Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale airports as recently adding more local food options.
And while it may not focus solely on local food, fans of the Food Network will want to check out the first-ever Food Network Kitchen at Fort Lauderdale airport.
Philadelphia International Airport and Denver International Airport and San Francisco's SFO offer rotating art exhibits all year-round.
New at Los Angeles' LAX this month is "Let's Get Lost: Polaroids From the Coast," includes a 30-year collection of large-format Polaroid photographs by Jim McHugh, depicting pre-World War II era landmarks of Los Angeles and portraits of more than 50 Hollywood celebrities. It's on display in Terminal 3 Arrivals Corridor through February 2013.
|Celebrate the Season|
Airports often put on special events during busy travel periods, and this year is no exception. At Philadelphia International, strolling musicians, book signings, magicians and more are all on offer this holiday season. Most of the special events are in Terminals B and C.
At SFO, the popular "You Are Hear" series of live music will resume, with a wide variety of Bay Area musicians performing everything from salsa to a cappella holiday songs. Performances in Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 are post-security. Performances in the Terminal 1 Mezzanine and the International Terminal are pre-security. All performances are held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. There's a tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. on Dec. 4 for those passing through.
At New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, the JetBlue T5 terminal will offer Double Cross Vodka sampling 10am – 3pm on Wednesday Nov. 21 and Friday, Dec. 21. And on Thanksgiving Day and the day prior, there will be a Thanksgiving buffet available for purchase in the Food Court Hot Bar.