I chose the latter when my mother and I recently had five hours to kill between flights at Amsterdam's Airport Schiphol, where long layovers are common.
There are plenty of worse places to be stuck. Schiphol ranks No. 8 among the world's best airports, according to Skytrax, a research firm that surveyed nearly 9 million travelers. The airport is packed with amenities (pedicure, anyone?), including a small branch of the world-famous Rijksmuseum, with free admission. But what I appreciated most was how easy and quick it was to escape to the city.
The train ride from the airport to Amsterdam's Central Station, which puts you right downtown, takes about 15 minutes. Hear that, CTA?
We put our carry-on bags in a locker for 5 euros ($7), walked a short distance to the train station in the airport and paid about $10.50 apiece for round-trip train tickets into town. In no time we arrived at Central Station, just a couple of blocks from the myriad canal boats offering hourlong tours -- the perfect way to see the city.
Since we arrived very early Sunday morning, the canal tours hadn't started yet.
"Should we go to one of those coffee shops? Isn't that what you do here?" asked my mom. Mom doesn't drink coffee and, as far as I know, doesn't dabble in Amsterdam's more notorious coffee shop offerings. So we spent the morning walking over the canal bridges, admiring the colorful houseboats and pointing out evidence -- mostly in the form of discarded Heineken bottles -- of what must have been a rowdy Saturday night.
We meandered past Anne Frank's house, where people were lining up before the 9 a.m. opening. Canal cruises also start at 9 a.m., so we squeezed one in ($17) before grabbing one of the frequent trains headed back to the airport.
How have you made the most of an airport layover?