“Healthy travel” may traditionally be associated with yoga retreats in Bali and surf camps in Brazil, but wellness-y things are also creeping into arguably the most stressful stop in your on-the-road life: the airport.
Gone are the days of spending layovers sitting in an uncomfortable gate chair picking at a gray sandwich and wishing you were anywhere else. With yoga studios, meditation rooms, plant-based food, and even full-fledged gyms, airports all over the world have gotten some seriously healthy makeovers, making them mini-wellness retreats in the making.
“A lot of folks are traveling for work, and they don’t know if it’s ‘me time’ or ‘work time,’ and that has had some influence.”
So what’s with the push toward making layovers more fitness- and wellness-friendly? “A lot of folks are traveling for work, and they don’t know if it’s ‘me time’ or ‘work time,’ and that has had some influence,” says Ty Manegold, the founder of ROAM Fitness, an in-terminal gym that opened its first location in the Baltimore-Washington International airport earlier this year. “The general shift of wellness as a whole among the millennial population has meant that our generation isn’t satisfied with unhealthy options in the airport.” Because after all, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey…especially when there’s a yoga studio, spa, and juice bar involved.
Read on for nine of the healthiest airports in the world, but beware: You may love the amenities (and the food) so much, you won’t want to get on your flight.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
One of the perks of having a layover at the second-largest airport in America is that there is tons of space to walk around. Take a stroll along the DFW Airport walking path, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association, or challenge yourself to a few hikes up and down the 55-foot staircases using your baggage in lieu of free weights. The airport also has two yoga rooms, four spas, a team of therapy dogs, and Minute Suites, where you can shower and nap somewhere other than in those uncomfortable gate seats.
Munich Airport (MUC)
Munich may be best known for its pretzels and beer (which, admittedly, are delicious) but its airport has its fair share of healthy perks—including two gyms. First, there’s the Hilton Munich Airport Fit & Fly, which offers two-hour passes for €22 (about $26) and has a 17-meter (56-foot) swimming pool, whirlpool, sauna, and steam bath. Inside the terminal, there’s Body Street Fitness, an electric muscle stimulation workout studio. You’ll also find an 18-kilometer (11-mile) bike path and outdoor park. For travelers looking to find their chill during a layover, there’s a meditation room, numerous nap pods, and an acupressure spa.
Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI)
Dubbed America’s healthiest airport back in 2014, this airport has impressive menu options: In fact, 92 percent of restaurants offer at least one plant-based food option. In addition to being the first home of Roam Fitness (where, by the way, you can rent workout clothes from Lululemon and Brooks), the Baltimore airport also has two American Heart Association-approved walking loops within the terminal. For a little fresh air, you can rent bikes from the airport’s Zagster bike share and make your way around a 12.5-mile hike-bike trail that snakes through a series of surrounding parks. After a thoroughly exhausting workout, those with extra-long layovers can make their way over to the meditation room or BeRelax spa.
Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
The vertical garden at this airport does double duty: Not only does it provide a green space for you to hang out in between flights, but it also happens to grow some of the produce used in its restaurants. You can get your cardio on at the Hilton Health Club, which offers a day pass that includes use of the gym, steam room, sauna, lap pool, and Jacuzzi. There’s also a full yoga room (complete with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and lots of natural light) and four spas within the terminal.
Incheon International Airport (ICN) in Seoul
There are so many activities at Seoul’s Incheon airport—wellness-related and otherwise—that you might even be disappointed when it’s time to board your flight. Fitness-wise, there’s an ice rink (yep, you read that right) where you can rent skating gear and a golf course with a 330-yard driving range and 18-hole putting course. For anyone looking for a more traditional walk/run/bike workout session, there’s also an easily accessible sky garden with walking and cycling paths. Rest and relaxation lounges are sprinkled throughout the airport, including one located within the rooftop observatory. With seven separate gardens and a Spa on Air, which offers services like massages and saunas, travelers may be tempted to skip their flights and hang out in the airport instead. In addition to the fitness and relaxation-related perks, there’s also a Cultural Experience Zone complete with daily performances, a museum, and opportunities to create Korean-inspired art.
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
SFO offers a wide range of California cuisine, which means a wide array of healthy choices. The Plant Café Organic has offerings including veggie burgers and Blue Bottle coffee, and 24th & Mission Taco House is a counter-service Mexican spot with vegetarian and vegan options. There’s also Joe & The Juice, a Samovar tea stand, and Three Twins, an organic ice cream shop. But the best part of any layover in NorCal isn’t the food, it’s the Wag Brigade, a team of more than 20 therapy dogs (and one adorable “therapy pig”) that walks around the airport helping to calm stressed travelers.
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
A layover here is potentially a vacation in its own right. Heathrow has dozens of restaurants—some of which are headed up by famous chefs, like Gordon Ramsey. “I recently flew out of London Heathrow and found a quinoa porridge with almond milk for breakfast, which was perfect for an early flight,” says Sadie Read of the wellness and travel site Hip and Healthy. There are also three luxury spas with multiple locations (one of which has relaxation rooms perfect for a snooze) and an in-terminal clinic where travelers can get a checkup between flights. And Victoria and David Beckham’s home airport is also set to be the first home of FlyFit, a full-scale gym offering cardio and yoga classes.
Dubai International Airport (DXB)
If you’re visiting Dubai for the first time, you’ll get to experience the city’s renowned over-the-top luxury the minute they land—starting in the airport. There’s a seemingly endless supply of great healthy restaurants at DXB (Giraffe, Le Pain Quotidien, and The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, to name a few) and a full-service gym. The numerous spas and Zen garden offer multiple options of places to relax. If you’re looking to take your chill sesh to the next level, there are two styles of nap pods, including igloo-style Sleep n’ Fly pods (which can double as workspaces in a pinch), and soundproof Snoozecubes that are basically mini hotel rooms with TVs, beds, and wifi.
Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
Changi has been voted the world’s best airport for five years straight, and when it comes to wellness, it indisputably lives up to the title. All three terminals offer state-of-the-art fitness lounges, where $13 SGD ($9.50 USD) will cover an all-day pass. Don’t miss the rooftop pool (yes, a rooftop pool) where travelers can take a dip, swim laps, and soak up the sun. There are luxury spas and multiple green spaces that include a water lily garden, orchid garden, sunflower garden, and cactus garden. When it comes to perks, Singapore Changi goes above and beyond with a movie theater, observation deck, and interactive art exhibits that include DIY wood-carving stations.
For healthy travel that’s located outside of an airport terminal, check out these picks for under-$1,000 wellness vacations, and while you’re at it, go ahead and add these dreamy yoga destinations to your bucket list.