Flying can be stressful—but layovers don't have to be. From stretching into downward dog to petting a therapy dog, these calming airport attractions take the edge off of air travel.

By Alicia Underlee Nelson

The mustachioed stranger opens his eyes and gives me a little wave from flat on his back. His companion arches her arms over her head like a child stirring in sleep, eyes closed, face blissful. I place my yoga mat in the basket and slip soundlessly out the door.

Best. Layover. Ever.

Serenity isn't a word often associated with air travel. But the Yoga Room at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (located on the mezzanine of the Terminal 3 Rotunda) is just one of an increasing number of Midwest airport retreats designed to offer travelers an oasis of calm during a long layover.

Yoga Room
Yoga Room. Photo courtesy of O'Hare International Airport.

• Practice your swing, get new, custom fit clubs and score golf tips from PGA pros at PGA Lounge at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which was recently honored by the Airports Council International as the best airport in North America for its size for the third consecutive year. The lounge is on the mezzanine level of Terminal 1, so even non-flying customers can shop and play with a reservation.

Golf simulator
Photo courtesy of PGA Lounge/Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan Airports Commission

• Before you board, savor a full-body massage, mani-pedi or foot massage at Indianapolis International Airport's Enroute Spa, one of the few locally owned, non-chain airport spas in the country. The menu lists the duration of each treatment (organized with cheeky titles like "Easy Connection" or "Long Layover"), so travelers can time their excursion to Gate B6 perfectly.

• If a shared charging station isn't conducive to business, rent a private Jabbrrbox mini office at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International. Located on Concourse B, the offices look like a cross between a phone booth and vending machine, but offer Wi-Fi, chargers, a desk and (perhaps most importantly) a few moments of peace and quiet.

• Travelers rushing to a flight on the second level of Nebraska's Lincoln Airport can stop to pet Saber, a Belgian Tervuren therapy dog. He soothes nervous travelers and greets frequent flyers most Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as part of the airport's new Healing Hearts Therapy Dogs program, launched in January 2019. (The Minneapolis airport also has an animal ambassador program.)

Healing Heart Therapy Dogs
Healing Hearts Therapy Dogs program. Photo courtesy of Lincoln Airport

"It takes their mind off of what's going on," says his trainer Karen Lehmann. "I can tell that Saber absorbs all their fears and anxieties, because when we come home, he usually takes a good two-hour nap."

After experiencing a little airport Zen, travelers just might do the same. (Once they're on board, of course.)