Plan your airport layover with T+L’s Airport Navigator

I hate airports. I hate sitting around and waiting, and I hate being unable to escape the thought that soon my plane will be the one zooming down the runway and lifting off into the sky. So rather than arrive early to the airport and allow myself time to get anxious about flying, I prefer to arrive at the last possible second, so that as I run through security and down the terminal, I don’t have time to think about my fears.

Unfortunately, sometimes I have an unavoidable mid-length layover at an airport – one that’s too short for me to go out and explore the city and too long for me to just sit at the gate and wait for my next flight. At those times, I need to find something to do to keep my mind occupied. Often, this means that I end up wandering the unfamiliar airport for about an hour in search of something good to eat, before giving up and buying the next thing I see – usually an uninspired sandwich or a bag of chips.

Next time, I’ll check Travel and Leisure’s Airport Navigator for tips on my airport before I go. For each of 20 airports, T+L has put together a list of places to eat and drink, shop, things to see and do, and places to relax. They’ve covered several major hubs in Europe – London, Madrid, Rome, Paris, and Amsterdam among them – plus major Asian airports like Hong Kong, Beijing and Tokyo. They’ll give you the scoop on Sydney, Cairo, Dubai, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires and Mexico City, along with info on Vancouver and Toronto in Canada, but coverage in the US is non-existent.

Along with listings of each airport attraction, the guide offers reviews, websites, hours and price ranges.

The best and worst airports in America

Chicago O’Hare, my home airport, has been ranked by Travel + Leisure as the 2nd worst airport in the country for its delayed flight percentages. But despite flying to and from the airport fairly often, I’ve never experienced the major delays it’s best-known for. Maybe the airport gods know that, as someone who is terrified of flying, I’m already under enough stress and just couldn’t take the added panic of a delayed flight. Or maybe, I’ve just been lucky so far. Either way, I was surprised to find O’Hare ranked quite so high on the bad list (and to learn that it was #1 in 2008). Some of the other findings were surprising as well, and some others – well, not so much.

Salt Lake City came in at the number one spot on the “best airports” list, based on a 12% delayed flight percentage. Portland, Minneapolis St. Paul, Los Angeles (LAX), Detroit and Orlando also made the top ten list. The losers included Miami, Dallas Fort Worth, Atlanta and Philadelphia. New York was doubly shamed with both JFK and Laguardia on the list. Taking the top spot was Newark with a whopping 30% of its flights delayed.

The magazine also ranked the best and worst airlines in America, based purely on on-time arrival rates. Comair and American were among the worst, with Hawaiian and Southwest showing the smallest percentage of delays.

Travel and Leisure names Virgin America best domestic, Singapore best international carriers

The prestigious Travel and Leisure “World’s Best” awards were announced today, covering everything from best hotels to best islands to best airlines. Not surprisingly, no legacy carriers were in the top domestic airlines list — as we expected, Virgin America and JetBlue were the winners. And how couldn’t they be? With in-seat video, internet and hipsters on their side it’s hard to compete.

On the international side, Singapore Airlines wins once again, with all-star global service including private rooms on their delightful A380’s.

The full list of top contenders in the domestic category:

  1. Virgin America
  2. JetBlue
  3. Midwest
  4. WestJet
  5. Southwest
  6. Sun Country
  7. Hawaiian
  8. Frontier
  9. Alaskan
  10. USA 3000.

Check out the international rankings after the jump.
Top international airlines raked as such:

  1. Singapore Airlines
  2. Qatar
  3. Emirates
  4. Japan Airlines
  5. Virgin Atlantic
  6. All Nippon Airways
  7. Cathay Pacific
  8. Thai Airways
  9. Air New Zealand
  10. Asiana

Airlines were ranked on a number of factors (and we do love it when they publish methodology,) from cabin comfort, in-flight service, customer service and value. You can read the entire list here.

Chaacreek in Belize: Location for love

Travel and Leisure’s 2005 issue listed 50 romantic places. The description of Chaacreek in Belize was attention-grabbing. What does the “Screamer Room” sound like to you? The resort Web site doesn’t list a room with this name, but what a gorgeous looking place. Perhaps the reference is to the Honeymoon Sky Room–it’s set off from the rest of the hotel, perched among the trees.

The resort is a romance magnet, even if you stay in one of the cheaper rooms. First of all, it’s located in a nature reserve next to the Macal River and mountains. At the spa, there’s a menu of pampering treatments for those times when you’re not horseback riding, hiking, canoeing– or whatever you do to conjure up amour.

Romance or not, my kids would love this place. There’s a package called Family Adventure that looks terrific. Children up to age 18 stay for free. That lowers the price tag a bit. Head here before the middle of April for the best deals. The naturalist on staff is a bonus and there are a variety of package options. Even for a solo getaway, Chaacreek looks sublime.

More travel resolutions you might be glad you made and kept

When I did a search for travel resolutions this handy guide of 12 resolutions came up. Although it was published in Travel and Leisure in 2005, the tips still hold true, particularly as regulations and rules change. Even if you take the steps already, check to see if there is anything you shouldn’t update.

Andrea Bennet presents a through overview of those overlooked items that can make the difference between a smooth, uneventful trip if all goes well, and being prepared if things go awry. She also gives specific suggestions for what to consider when planning your next trip to get the best deal you can.

Check your insurance coverage:

  • Look into travel medical insurance to decide if you need any and how much.
  • Find out what your personal car insurance covers on a rental before you take a trip to decide exactly what you need before you leave home.

Review your Frequent Flier mile programs:

  • See if the regulations have changed
  • Do you need to update the credit card you are using?
  • Plan your next trip and book ahead in order to use frequent flier miles. If you wait, you’ll miss out.

Safety, security and regulations:

  • Duplicate all important documents and designate a person and place to keep them
  • If your passport needs new pages because there isn’t much room for new stamps, get the pages now
  • Get TSA approved locks for your suitcases

Keep in touch with family and friends while on the road:

  • Make a personal Web site to keep in touch with family and friends
  • Let people know how to get in touch with you (I wrote a post about this one)

Bennet gives specific details about each resolution and also offers the suggestion to build a vacation around a skill you’d like to learn. This is a read I recommend.