Considering that it is the fourth busiest airport in the world (based on number of passengers), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) can seem a little underwhelming when you’re stuck there on a long layover.
LAX is huge (with nine terminals arranged in a horseshoe shape) and busy, and lacks the facilities of other, better-designed airports in the U.S. However, if you know how to navigate this massive international hub (and you’re armed with a few of our patented aloSIM airport hacks), you can have a much better experience …
Get a day pass for a lounge
There are 19 lounges at LAX. If you’re traveling business class, you may find that lounge access was included with your ticket. However, if you’re traveling economy, don’t despair — some offer day passes that you can purchase.
Check with your airline or credit card as to whether these will allow you to purchase lounge access. If you’re a frequent traveler, consider joining the Priority Pass program, which gives you access to a variety of lounges (the Virgin Atlantic, KAL, and Alaska lounges at LAX) worldwide for a reasonably low annual fee.
Visit the on-site museum
The Flight Path Museum and Learning Center at LAX’s Imperial Terminal is dedicated to Southern California’s aviation history, complete with model planes, Howard Hughs’ DC-3 aircraft, plenty of photographs, and a fun collection of vintage flight attendant uniforms (all of which serve as a reminder of how glamorous flying used to be). Visiting the museum is free, and it is a great way to spend a few hours when you have a long layover.
Look for puppies
The LAX PUP (Pets Unstressing Passengers) operates in all terminals, with volunteer dogs wandering around to offer up stress-relieving petting and snuggles (accompanied by their owners). Awwww!
Grab a decent meal
Just like pretty much every other airport in the world, there are plenty of terrible food options at LAX, but there are some pretty great choices, too. Enjoy tasty burgers and the creamiest shakes at Shake Shake (Terminal 3), local and international craft beers and decent food at Rock & Brews (Terminal 1 and 5), champagne and caviar at Petrossian (International Terminal), French dip and great cocktails at Cole’s (an LA institution that has an outpost in Terminal 4) and upmarket sandwiches at Ink Sack (International Terminal).
Overnighting at LAX
If your layover is overnight, LAX can be a challenge. Thanks to armrests on every seat, reclining to snooze is impossible. Plus, most of the airport shuts down from midnight to 4 a.m., so finding something to eat can be tricky (though there are some vending machines in the lower level of Terminal 7).
Our fave airport hack for LAX? Book yourself in at one of the airport hotels for the night instead of propping yourself up on an uncomfortable bench or camping out on the dirty floor. There’s a Sheraton, Hyatt Regency, Super 8, and Courtyard hotel all within two minutes of the terminals. If you’re stuck at LAX all day between flights, you could also ask for a day rate at one of the airport hotels if you just want to chill away from the crowds, have a snooze, or a shower.
Armed with this intel, and reasonable expectations of what to expect at LAX, you should be able to make the most you have out of however long you’ll be spending there. Be sure to check back for more of our airport hacks!