Believe it or not, a dreaded day-long layover in Seoul turned out to be a gift. We had back to back 10-hour flights on our two legs to San Francisco from Bangkok. It just happened to work out that they were both red-eye flights, and those 11 hours fell during our one-year-old’s daytime.
People routinely ask me whether I’d recommend breaking up long flights with a hotel night midway. And usually my answer would be—with kids?—an emphatic “no.” It’s not worth collecting your bags, getting transportation to and from the airport, setting up for sleep in a new place, and going through security (and possibly passport control) all over again. Just get it over with. Rip off the band-aid, so to speak.
But this was an exception. Seoul has an in-airport hotel that will allow you to rent a room for a short block of time (I believe we paid for six hours) – this meant showers and naps for everyone, without our having to retrieve our bags or deal with customs. But even had we forgone that luxury in favor of a stroller nap and time at the play zone, there was plenty to distract us for the day: My husband had one of those in-airport massages; we spent time at the Korean Welcome Center (which even featured musical performances); and we tried unfamiliar (to us) foods at the food court. And of course we took turns chasing after a toddler and sitting in the various play zones.
But the best part of all? Our toddler, who had run all over the terminal, slept soundly through both of those 10-hour flights.
If you have a long, scheduled layover, call the airport’s service desk or look around online to see what they offer to entertain waylaid travelers. I’m afraid not all airports are quite as well-stocked with amenities as is Seoul’s, but you might be pleasantly surprised.
[photo my own]