If you ever find yourself trapped in an airport during a long layover or because your plane is delayed, the surprising thing is that there are a lot of things you can do there to keep you busy and entertained. We're not talking about wasting time at the airport bar or buying things at the duty-free shop. We're not talking about entering an exclusive private lounge because you've accumulated so many mileage points. We're talking about all the free things that normal folks like us can get while stuck in the airport.
Airport freebies include being able to make free calls--both domestic and international--if the battery of your phone is low, being able to get centered in the free yoga rooms, being able to work off that double-decker hamburger at the free gym, or being able to use the free Skype video booths in complete privacy to talk to your friend who is miles away.
But alas, there's no such thing as a real free thing. Most freebies are something you should never touch if you don't want to get sick. The water fountains, the phones, the yoga and gym rooms and many more are generally dirtier than your average bathroom.
However, if you refrain from the germ-filled things or places, there's still stuff that's free and safe to use. Some airports show movies in mini theaters decked out to look like real ones. Others have free museums, live concerts, lending libraries and free city tours. Where to find them? All you really have to do is ask an airline employee where these things are to take advantage of them. Do you want to hear more about the free stuff you should avoid and the free stuff you should embrace? Well, we've collected some examples that may just surprise you, so read on to find out!
25 Never Touch The Water Fountains
Some smart travelers know all about how the water on airplanes are full of bacteria. It's advised that you should never ask your flight attendant for water only if it comes straight from the bottle. Before you get on the plane, at the airport you can get free water from the water fountains to fill up your empty bottles. The last thing you want to spend at Hudson News is a $5 bottle of Evian. But did you know that one of the dirtiest things at the airport is the water fountains? According to Conde Nast Traveler, "the amount of bacteria found in the average kitchen sink" is comparable to the water at the airport.
24 Never Go On The Behind-the-Scenes Tours
Airport behind-the-scenes tours are getting popular these days. You hop on a bus to sight-see the runways, the cargo areas, or go on guided tours to see behind the check-in process and the security area. The CW 33, is all for the guided tours and said how great it was "to see the ins and outs of how airports really work." We don't know why people would go on these free tours. For those of us who have been manhandled at security, why would we want to see how the airports work? We just want to get on our plane.
23 Ask Where The Best Airport in The World Is Located
The best airport that will slay any boredom you have while waiting for your flight is, hands-down, the Changi International Airport in Singapore. This airport has many fun activities that are all for free. For example, there's a four-story indoor slide, a butterfly garden, a rooftop pool, a rooftop bar, more than 300 shops and free movie theaters. It just so happens that, according to The Daily Mail, Changi has been named the best airport in the world for the sixth consecutive time. So don't forget to bring your swimsuit!
22 Never Use The Free Electrical Ports
Of course we've noticed that airports have liberally installed electrical outlets to charge our phones or laptops. They're lifesavers, especially if your battery is low. But while these outlets are free, CNN Business suggests not using them even if you're desperate. The fact is, someone can collect information from your device when it is plugged in to a hacked outlet. "Just by plugging your phone. . . your device is now infected," said Drew Paik of Authentic8. If a port is compromised, there's no limit to what information a hacker could take from your devices, like emails, text messages, photos and contacts.
21 Ask Where You Can Make Free Phone Calls
This happens to many of us. When we make a call at the airport, we find that our battery is dead. Now there's a way you can make phone calls for free throughout the terminals, according to Cheap Air. Yep, free. All you need to do is ask where they are. Passengers can make local and national calls for free. International calls are free too, but only for the first 10 minutes. But keep it short so others can use the free phone. The suggested time is five minutes or less.
20 Never Use The Free Dog Park
Animal relief facilities are becoming more commonplace at airports because these days passengers are bringing along their pets with them during their travels. These places are outside, in a fenced-in patch that features both grass and dirt surfaces. Some are nice, some are just dirt. All have waste bins. These free facilities are great for Fido, but according to Smarter Travel, there is one glaring drawback. It's that have to go through security again after visiting the outdoor patch, and who wants to relive that when you just stripped like a minute before? Free comes with a price.
19 Ask For Help When You Need It
You probably don't know this, but airport employees will provide you with services for those who need that little extra help, according to Smarter Traveler. And it's all free!Disabled passengers have their choice of wheelchairs. There are programs throughout airports that offer assistance to UMs, tweens traveling without adult companions, the elderly, flyers who don't speak English, flyers who've lost their way, or who are blind, or who have lost their tickets. Just to name a few! JFK, by the way, has a program that assists with all of these things, and many airports have followed suit.
18 Never Use The Free Skype Booths
You can make free Skype calls at Skype video booths at many airports. Another free thing, the booth is ingenious, as it is private and you can talk to your mom without noise interference in the airport. Inside, there's a video screen and a headset. But this is another freebie at the airport that no one should touch. Germaphobes should not use the Skype booth. According to CNN Travel, there's evidence of viruses on all the surfaces that were tested and you should definitely not wear the supplied headphones.
17 Ask Where The Free Movies Are
Stuck at PDX? How about the San Fran airport? Or the Dallas or Minneapolis-St. Paul airports? Or even abroad, at Singapore’s Changi Airport or Lithuania’s Vilnius Airport? What all these airports have in common is that they are now showing movies for free for passengers who have a layover or a delayed flight. These movies are even shown in rooms that look like theaters, according to Travel + Leisure. For example, at PDX, the outside has a bright, 1920s-inspired neon marquee, seating for 17 and a state-of-the-art projection and sound system that blocks out the noise from planes.
16 Ask Where The Free Shoe Shine Is
It's no secret that if you dress in a presentable and stylish way, you will no doubt get extra treatment from flight attendants. Men who pair jeans with a blazer over a nice shirt or women who wear a nice dress or top is the wardrobe that will wow. So it's no surprise that some airlines have gone back in time to accommodate men who wear expensive shoes by opening up free shoe shines at airports. Yep, free, but we suggest tipping anyway.
15 Never Touch The Dirtiest Thing At The Airport
This isn't free, but since it reflects the free bathrooms at the airport, we've included it on our list. Do you know what surface at the airport is the dirtiest? It's not the bathrooms and their toilets. It's the security plastic trays that you use to get through security. We put our shoes and dirty bags on the trays, and thereby cause them to become full of germs, according to a new study published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal. The next time you use those trays, bring some hand sanitizer with you
14 Ask Where The Free Concert Is
All you have to do is ask an airport employee where the free concert is located so you can be entertained while you wait for your plane. Yep, free. But don't expect Madonna to drop by at JFK so she can express herself. The airports hire locals to sing and dance to keep travelers amused. According to News WHNT, there are many free concerts happening at many airports, including the Austin-Bergstrom, the Seattle-Tacoma, the Huntsville Alabama and several more.
13 Never Use The Free Luggage Tags
You need luggage tags if you check your bags. And you're in luck, because you can get free tags for your bags at airport ticket counters if you've forgotten to bring your own. But we would not use them at any cost. For one thing, they're flimsy, paper thin and can fall off the elastic that goes around the handles of your bags. For another thing, the place to enter your name and address is impossibly small and while using your pen to write, it will almost always smear because of the coating on the paper, according to Travel Stock Exchange.
12 Ask To Look For The Free Museum
The Rijksmuseum opened its very own branch of the museum at the Amsterdam Schiphol airport back in 2002, according to The Lonely Planet. Since then it has been renovated to include a special exhibition space. So now you can get some culture without leaving this beautifully-designed airport. This is the first museum at an airport and, yep, admission is free. There's a permanent collection of Dutch masters at the outpost--including some of the most famous artwork in the Netherlands--as well as temporary exhibits that change at certain times.
11 Never Use The Free Fragile Stickers
If you have breakable stuff in your checked luggage, airports offer you free "fragile" stickers to put on your bags. But according to Emirates 24/7 this has shown light on our worst nightmare. Don't bother putting on the stickers. A baggage handler told the magazine they aren't that helpful and don't even get noticed in the rush of loading bags because they have to get all of them on the airplane on time. Baggage handlers "throw passenger luggage into plane cargo holds quickly and haphazardly."
10 Ask For The Location Of The Free Airline Book Library
True book lovers would never leave for the airport without a few books in hand. They know to bring maybe three or four in case they get bored by one. Then they'll have backup. These bookworms, as Time suggested, would love Estonia Tallinn Airport because it has its own airport library. Travelers can borrow books to read for free as long as they return it once they are back in the country. In Taipei, the Songshan Airport has a self-serve library. The Helsinki Airport offers a free book swap service. And many other lending libraries are popping up in the U.S. nowadays.
9 Never Rely On Airplanes For Fragile Goods
Here's a way to avoid having your fragile items broken when you place them in your checked-luggage. Nothing is really free at the airport, or if it is, we would in no way touch it or be near it. Your checked-baggage will cost you a fee and you still don't get assurance from the airline that your fragile items won't be damaged, as we've already noted. The best thing you can do to protect your goods is by shipping them, as Emigrates 24/7 suggested. Not only is this method "extremely cost-effective, it could be a better way to protect your contents." Just remember to pack them properly.
8 Ask Where The CPR Kiosk Is
We should all know CPR. Yet who has the time to sign up for a thirty-minute course? Well, at some airports (and more coming soon) most passengers will know CPR due to new airport kiosks that offers lessons for free in five minutes. According to Goodnet, research by the American Heart Association says that "people who learn hands-only CPR. . . during a 5-minute kiosk class learned the movements just as well as those who enrolled in a 30-minute course, led by a certified teacher." Who knows. One day you may save a life because you sacrificed five minutes.
7 Ask If There Are Free City Tours
If you have a lengthy layover and are at the right airport, you're in luck. According to Time, several airports in recent years have incorporated free city tours. You can take a free shuttle tour of Salt Lake City at the Salt Lake airport. In Singapore, the Changi Airport offers city tours, one focused on architecture and another on city sights that is free for flyers who have a layover for at least five-and-a-half hours. In Seoul, the Incheon International Airport takes you on a tour to explore famed temples, bridges and palaces, to name a few.
6 Never Touch The Neck Pillow
A neck pillow is great if your flight is long. But you should always buy one before you fly so you can wash it in case it doesn't come in packaging. If you wait to buy a neck pillow at the airport, it will be ridiculously overpriced, according to Business Insider. Also, it will have been tried on and touched by other people, which means it might harbor germs. For savvy travelers, they know they can get a neck pillow for free from the flight attendant by just asking. We can't be sure these are clean as well, but at least in this case you're getting something free that you actually do want to touch.
5 Ask For The Free Showers
Sometimes you feel a need to shower while waiting for your long-distance flight. Whether you're sticky from the weather or sweaty from getting to your gate on time, airports offer free showers in a number of configurations. According to Cheap Air, Paris Charles de Gaulle has public showers on the concourse. The Abu Dhabi Airport and the Auckland Airport have free public shower facilities. And if you belong to a private airport lounge because you have amassed a ton of frequent-flyer miles, you can shower there for free. More are coming soon at the airport near you!
4 Never Touch The Yoga Floors
The San Francisco International Airport was the first to have an airport yoga room. Now the rooms can be found at a multitude of airports, from Dallas/Fort Worth to the Burlington airport, according to Smarter Travel. These free rooms are great to stretch out before you are confined to your cramped seat in coach. But we would never use these rooms. Most who opt for yoga don't bring their own yoga mats because they don't need them while traveling. Since yoga involves stripping down to your bare feet, you are susceptible to the germs on the floor. If you don't want to get sick, stay away from yoga rooms.
3 Never Think You're Getting Something For Free At The Duty-Free
There really isn't something free at the airport. Most have hidden costs or are too dirty to use. Take buying items from the duty-free stores at the airport. You go there because you think you'll save a lot on taxes, which screams "freebie" for you. But according to Business Insider, the tax savings mean nothing because all duty-free goods have been marked up. Why buy perfume for example? You can get it at a reputable department store that just so happens to sell it at a lower cost. No one's going to smell you while at the airport. All they'll smell is teen spirit.
2 Never Use The Free Gym
The San Francisco International Airport is one of the best airports around. It was the first place that offered the free yoga studio. The airport is the healthiest because it not only offers a free gym for a quick workout but also a jogging track that has since been copied by other airports. But we would never use the free gym. People get sweaty using the machines and there are no free towels around to use, according to CNN Travel. So basically, if you don't bring your own, you'll be handling the bars of a step machine, for example, laden with sweat from a previous user. Yuck!
1 Never Touch The Free Self-Service Check-In Kiosks
Here's something free we can use to save time from standing in line for the check-in desk. It's the self-service check in kiosks. Now we don't have to risk being late for our plane by waiting on line. But unfortunately, the free kiosk is something we don't want to touch. Besides the security check containers, it turns out the kiosks are "by far the dirtiest places in any airport," according to The Points Guy. That makes a lot of sense "when you think about the sheer number of individuals handling the ubiquitous touch screens every day."
Sources: Conde Nast Traveler, Time, Business Insider, The Points Guy, CNN Travel, Smarter Travel, The Daily Mail, Lonely Planet, Travel + Leisure, Cheap Air