Mastering the long layover – Singapore and Changi Airport
Airports can make you feel like a lemming. Keep in line, one foot in front of the other and eventually you expect to get where you’re going. As an international flier, it’s even more mind numbing to run a gauntlet of long layovers in multiple boarding lounges before getting to your destination. So, it was a great surprise when I landed in Singapore’s Changi Airport and found that a 14 hour layover wasn’t long enough.
Barring bad weather, international travelers suffer the longest transfer delays between flights. The Singapore designers knew this and their challenge has been making the space work to take care of thousands of people going in and out from around the world daily. It’s worked and led to winning over 400 awards from business and leisure travel publications and organizations. It’s more than just the design of the concourse, there’s much behind the scenes that has been focused to create seamless experiences for travelers and at the same time, keep scores of pilots to baggage carriers happy.
My travels took me through Changi with a 6 hour layover at the beginning of my trip and more than double that on the way home. It was a good match. I had time to rest before returning home. Facing a long layover when you can enjoy it is much more fun than being exhausted from prepping for a trip. Just an idea.
Here’s a few of the wonders at Changi that I only hope other airports will copy:
Long transfer itineraries:
Depending on how much time you have, take the guesswork out of how to spend it by reviewing the options for a 2 to 5 plus hour transfer with these itineraries arranged by the airport staff.
I’ve had my share of nightmare layovers spent leaning on hard armrests, crumpled in tight chairs or braving a cold, hard floor, but not at Changi.
Travelers are encouraged to rest! Take your pick of a number of open and free lounges. One Snooze Lounge is tucked away behind an upstairs food court with low light and comfy recliners. Another is graced with a garden and the sound of running water from nearby fountains. They can be found in every terminal.
Working between flights? Need a shower or workout? Looking for a more relaxed rest area? You don’t need to be a member of elite airline programs to take advantage of several Transit Lounges. They do cost and ours was $29.50 per person. However it was worth it for the menu rotation and beverages, the WiFi desks, deep chairs and the Sunflower Garden next door.
Need more privacy?
Locate one of the Ambassador Transit Hotels in your terminal (one includes a rooftop swimming pool!) The costs are very reasonable, usually based on a 6 hour stay and pro-rated for more. Glamorous hotels lie just outside the airport but this is a great option for the more casual and budget minded. We spent the last 6 hours of one lengthy layover snoozing with abandon, taking long hot showers and sleeping soundly before being gently wakened by a call and had plenty of time to catch breakfast before boarding.
If you want relief from toting your suitcases or if you’re leaving the airport, each terminal has a luggage check in service. Prices are very reasonable for up to 24 hours or more.
Window shop to your heart’s desire from Armani galleries to Swaroski Crystals. There also a Shopper Rewards Program and retail options for visitors or transit shoppers, from the high end travel togs to the simplest souvenirs.
Restaurants for every taste:
Changi abounds with a wide variety of restaurants, coffee and pastry shops as well as fine dining selections. Those visiting the ‘Flying or not’ shops will have the 7% GST tax waived. See the full list here.
During the 2013 Holiday Season the little ones were entertained by exploring the ‘world’s largest’ Pineapple house, could visit with Santa and there was lots of Sponge Bob love to be had in Terminal 3, including the biggest ‘Bouncy Playground’ in Singapore.
Get up and explore: Perhaps you’ll land as we did in the middle of the night? While the concourses were definitely quieter not everything was closed when we strolled through en route to the transit hotel.
Don’t miss the exquisite Butterfly Garden, watch for flowering concourse displays. Ask where the Koi Pond is (not far from the Butterflies) and search out the rooftop Sunflower Garden. It was a great way to greet the sunrise. If you’re interested in taking in a free movie, enjoy screenings in a full theater setting upstairs next to the Ambassador Transit Hotel.
Four Story Slide:
As soon as I have a chance to return I’m riding one of the world’s largest slides in Terminal 3. It’s 4 stories high! Watch the video here: Slide @T3:
Departure looms, but wait! There’s more in part 2 of my Singapore layover. Coming next week.