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It happens to even the most expert travelers. Missed planes, delayed arrivals or nightmare flight itineraries are now just unwelcome components of the travel game. But I was still not thrilled to run from my delayed flight to Miami to my on-time flight to St. Croix, holding on to the thin possibility that I would catch the plane. I sprinted from gate 20 to gate 50, with sweat pouring down my back and my bags flying behind me, only to find that my flight had departed 20 minutes earlier and I was stuck roaming the busy terminals of Miami International Airport for six hours until the next flight.
I’m not going to sugarcoat — it was not a fun experience, even in the Ambassador’s Club Lounge, which was being renovated, in addition to being packed with travelers. With barely a seat left open or an outlet to recharge my electronics, I was forced to get creative. I discovered that MIA offers several options besides shopping and cursing ineffective airlines, when you’re grounded at the airport for more than three hours. Here are four interesting activities to help you pass the time at Miami International Airport:
Take A Latin Food Tour
Since Miami is the nation’s hotspot for Latin American culture and the airport serves as the main hub for flights to the region, an array of Latin food options are just waiting for bored foodies. It should be a given that in Miami, Latin mostly means Cuban, which is reflected in the restaurant range. But I also found a couple of non-Cuban selections. One caveat is that this is still airport food so prices and authenticity are a bit compromised. But when you’re trapped in an airport for endless hours, the stalest tortilla chips can start to taste delectable.
Start your tour at Ku-Va, for some of the best service and food in the airport. The menu of Cuban classics doesn’t disappoint, but try the medianoche, a Havana nightclub staple that combines roast pork, ham, swiss and pickles on sweet toasted bread.
Next, drop by Venezuelan Lorena Garcia Cocina for shrimp ceviche tossed with red bell peppers, onions and cilantro. Move on to La Carreta for a main course of Boliche, a Cuban pot roast stuffed with chorizo and served with beans and rice and plantains. Finish up at Jose Cuervo Tequileria with an ultimate margarita that will help you forget that you’re stuck in an airport.
Go on an Airport Gallery Walk
From the flower splashed Peace & Love sign (my fave) that adorns an escalator wall, to the bronze emblems of seashells and corals that cover the floors, MIA is filled with art. Each terminal displays public art pieces as well as other areas of the airport. Check out the art in the North and South terminals and then the exhibits in the MIA galleries for an artful layover.
Relax With Spa Treatments
Generally, I’m not a huge fan of spa services that you can just do yourself at home, but stressful situations call for stress-releasing remedies. In Terminal D,Xpres Spa delivers a variety of well-priced relaxation options that are perfect for reducing the tensions of travel. The spa provides a full body massage, a hand and arm massage, a neck and back massage and a foot reflexology massage, but I think the Stress & Tension Eliminator supplies the best bet. For $35 for 10 minutes or $50 for 25 minutes, the massage targets the head and facial muscles that you’ve been clenching in frustration, delivered in a relaxation lounger.
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Create A Spanish Immersion Class
You can brush up on your Spanish skills just about anywhere in the airport, but for high intensity immersion, there’s nothing like hanging out at Cafe Versailles. Roll up to the Cuban cafe, order a cup of cafe con leche and strike up a conversation with the local patrons who always surround the popular spot. Force yourself to use only Spanish and before your layover is up, you’ll be commenting on your flight’s arrival en Espanol.