All I want for Xmas is airport peace, quiet and wifi
December 12, 2012 1:10 PM   Subscribe

How can one keep sane with a 6 (six) hour layover in Detroit airport during the Xmas travel rush?

Arriving late afternoon, a few days before Christmas. Departing late evening on a flight to Europe. Carrying a laptop and an android.

Looking for:
- wifi, either free and/or reliable
- quiet spaces and places
- power socket

Shot-in-the-dark less likely options, but would also be nice:
- light and healthy meal option (no fast food, fries, similar)
- decent tea
- cat petting or viewing place (as will be missing mine)

Do these exist (together) in any specific non-lounge areas? If not, is there is a cheap / cost effective way of getting lounge access? Infrequent flyer (a few times a year).

Thank you.
posted by Wordshore to Travel & Transportation around Detroit, MI (20 answers total)
I was going to suggest paying for lounge access. The cost really depends on what airline you are flying. I have seen it as little as $35 when bought with the air canada ticket to $125 from the website. Check around but sometimes the cost is really worth it for the ability to relax. There are credit cards that give you free access (AMEX) but the annual fees are usually $300+ a year which will be far more than paying a one time fee.
posted by saradarlin at 1:15 PM on December 12, 2012

You're in luck in that the Detroit airport is actually rather nice these days. (well, at least the McNamara Terminal is - can't say about the North terminal.) I had a great sit-down Japanese meal there a few months ago - can't remember the name of the place off the top of my head, though. You should be able to find something decent there, no problem.
posted by deadmessenger at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The whole airport has wifi, so that's covered. What airline are you on? The MacNamara Terminal is very very nice and caters to a lot of Japanese business travelers, with pretty good restaurants etc. The North terminal is not bad, but not quite as nice. No cat petting anywhere, though, as far as I know.
posted by Missense Mutation at 1:28 PM on December 12, 2012

Response by poster: KLM in, and out.
posted by Wordshore at 1:29 PM on December 12, 2012

The McNamara Terminal is nice enough, but it's a hermetically sealed tube. If there are cats, they are well hidden. If there is decent tea, the cats have hidden it.

Ride the tram up and down the length of the terminal a few times. Do the moving walkway thing in the subway between concourses where there's a light/music display. Visit the (hilariously small, by European standards) duty-free shop in the middle of Concourse A; that's where the sit-down Japanese place is, and there are also a couple of delis and a Middle Eastern place by the gates. (Service map here.)

Definitely look into lounge access: Delta's one-day pass is $50, which is a bit of a gouge, but having done several relatively long layovers for DTW-AMS connections, there's only so many times you can ride the tram and stare at the CNN jumbotrons.
posted by holgate at 1:35 PM on December 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Second a day pass for lounge access. They were restorative a few years ago, at least.
posted by R2WeTwo at 2:00 PM on December 12, 2012

I'm not sure if you're looking to stay in-airport or not. If you're willing to take a taxi, you have some additional options:

1) Twisted Rooster isn't necessarily quiet, but you can get a decent meal and it's all Michigan sourced foodstuff. Good food, decent price. It's about 10 miles away from the airport in Belleville.

2) I haven't tried this tea shop, but it sounds lovely and is about 14 miles from the airport, if you're willing to take a taxi - Daydreams Cafe in Canton:

3) There's a shuttle that runs from DTW to Ann Arbor (about 20 miles away, 45 minutes according the schedule) that would put you in downtown Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is full of tea shops.

4) The only place I can think of that has lots of cats you can pet is the Huron Valley Humane Society. It's a pretty top notch facility (we've gotten two of our pets there) and they're totally cool if you just want to come in and pet the animals. However, it's near Ann Arbor so may be prohibitively distant for you.

Good luck, I hope you have a safe trip!
posted by RogueTech at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2012

Yes, this airport is quite nice, and there are decent food options. There are also some nice artworks/installations throughout.

The airport has wifi via Boingo Hotspot - you have to pay, but it might be cheaper than a lounge option. You shouldn't have trouble finding an outlet.

There's a bajillion coffee shops so I'm sure you can find some decent tea. There's also a massage place in McNamara (probably North Terminal too) which ain't cheap but might help on the sanity front.

As RogueTech notes, there are some nice tea shops in Ann Arbor ( and the shuttle is a pretty easy ride (with free wifi), though at a bit of a cost. The shuttle will drop you off right downtown so there are lots of coffee/tea places in easy distance.

As much as I wish there were cat-petting on site, that might be the one no-go.
posted by Ms. Toad at 2:34 PM on December 12, 2012

FYI: A rental car for one day would be cheaper than a cab and a shuttle.
posted by sandmanwv at 2:36 PM on December 12, 2012

A roundtrip to Ann Arbor on the Michigan Flyer (now "AirRide") is $22 if you buy it in advance. But check the schedule--depending on when exactly those 6 hours fall I doubt it'll work. Plus getting there and back and allowing time to get to the gate might eat into a lot of your 6 hours.

That said if it's possible, it is a pretty comfortable ride and does include power and wifi, and as others say drops you off right in downtown. The main public library branch, right across the street, could be a reasonable place to sit and work (power and wifi, places to sit, not too noisy) or there's plenty of cafes and such. I think downtown home & garden on Main has a cat....

I believe a cab ride is about 45 minutes and $50 one way.
posted by bfields at 2:53 PM on December 12, 2012

Best answer: If you sit on the soft chairs by the Delta club at the juncture of the B and C gates (top of the tunnel near the Einstein Bagel), the free wifi leaks out. The Japanese restaurant referenced above is at gate A-35. I don't know about cats, but sparrows live in the trees by the fountain near the center tram stop (by Starbucks) and you can feed them. If you hear the sounds of distressed birds it's just a tape they play to discourage them from going near people.
posted by carmicha at 3:14 PM on December 12, 2012 [3 favorites]

There's a hotel INSIDE the airport with a nice restaurant and bar. I think it's a Westin? There's only the one. You exit security, but at least at certain hours the hotel has its own security station running.

The food is pretty good, and the bartender was very nice to me once.
posted by kestrel251 at 3:34 PM on December 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I meant to add -- it's a relaxing, open lobby, with a foresty vibe.
posted by kestrel251 at 3:37 PM on December 12, 2012

The Japanese place is good. If I had that much time the Westin bar might be worthwhile, too.
posted by J. Wilson at 3:46 PM on December 12, 2012

I'm not sure about McNamara but I've flown in and out of North a bunch. The Earl of Sandwich place has great deli-type breakfasts and lunches, with a huge wall of windows next to it (at least in the D28 area) so you can sit and look outside for a bit if you want. (the chairs are not comfortable, so it's not a long term situation)
posted by getawaysticks at 6:22 PM on December 12, 2012

Nthing Japanese place, Westin bar, looking at fountain and also unless they've hidden it, that terminal has a SPA. Really Detroit is one of the best airports going. (Changi it ain't, but among crappy American airports, definitely high on the list.)
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 7:31 PM on December 12, 2012

No specific recommendations for Detroit, but my go-to recommendation for anyone planning to hunker down for a while in an airport (or cafe, etc) with a laptop/phone is to bring a power strip/squid. You can get a cheap one with five or six outlets for less than $10, and the odds of you finding an empty outlet to plug into are exponentially lower than the odds of being able to ask someone who's using an outlet, "Mind if I unplug you for a sec and then plug you back into this strip?" and get a "yes" as an answer. It will also make you super-popular with your other fellow travelers (in a good, praise-the-gods-he-brings-us-POWER way!), which can't hurt.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 7:34 PM on December 12, 2012

The McNamara Terminal is nice and modern but the put the damn Express Train inside the terminal up near the ceiling. So every minute or so you get this awful rumbling roar as it goes by. The only real way to get away from it is to go to the one of the far ends where the train doesn't reach, even then you can hear it a little bit.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:15 PM on December 12, 2012

Another vote for the Westin lobby.

No cats, but there are birds throughout the terminal. One might think they were there by design.

There is a nice water sculpture in the middle of the A concourse. It will entertain you for a while.
posted by megatherium at 8:36 PM on December 12, 2012

if you're going to bring a power thing, I suggest this device, as it gives 3 outlets and 2 USB device chargers (which experience tells me WILL charge an iPad, so it'll almost certainly charge your Android Device). I've used it traveling (including by train across the midwest, so I was able to charge my iPhone in the food car when there was no plug by my seat), and in coffee shops ("Can I plug in here?" "Sure!" And people are happy) with minimal troubles. It probably won't work in Europe, but for a stop in the USA for that long, with the hilarity of the lack of power places, you may be a very popular person.

Also, if you don't leave the airport, find a different gate near your gate that has a plane leaving two hour or so before yours. Chances are that it'll empty out sooner, you can snag a plug, plug in, and keep going.

Also? Headphones and an audiobook may help if nothing else does.
posted by mephron at 4:37 AM on December 13, 2012

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