I just got back from a cross-country trip, which means I had to hassle airports and time zones. Airports have never been a great place to hang out, but when I was growing up there was still a tiny bit of Catch Me if you Can-style romance left in the notion of being part of the "jet set." In the last 5-10 years, that's evaporated completely. 9/11 was the beginning of the end - all the airports configured for people to wait at the gates for their loved ones became clusterfucks as we only let people with boarding passes through security. All the good restaurants and places to hang out are always on the wrong side of security (whichever side you're on), and nobody would willingly go through the strip-down procedure to get through more than once. It used to be that if I checked in early, a friendly gate agent would not only give me an exit row or an Economy Plus seat, but also put me on standby for any earlier flights that were available. Now, moving up into an empty Economy Plus seat costs $69 and going FUCKING STANDBY on a flight is $50. $50 for the CHANCE to get a seat that is otherwise going to be empty on an earlier flight. Fucking eh. Because of all this, my cross-country flights involved me sitting in tiny-ass coach behind a raft of open Economy Plus seats, and sitting in two airports for FIVE HOUR layovers because they would not put me standby on an earlier flight which left with empty seats onboard. I had work to do so five hours wasn't awful, but even at the larger airports the places to sit and plug in my laptop are haunted by ghoulish humans who monopolize them all. FOCUS: What are your tips for surviving long layovers in airports? What is your favorite airport to lay over in, and what's your least favorite? Do you have any tips for travelers with a 4-5 hour layover in a particular airport to get out and do something interesting, but get back before they miss their flight?