Should I stay in LAX for a 14 hour layover?
January 24, 2013 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I have a 14 hour layover starting 10PM tomorrow night at LAX before I leave on a 12:30PM plane to China the following day. I need help deciding between staying at LAX or leaving to go to a 24/7 cafe...can anyone comment on the free wifi at LAX?

I'm planning to stay up for the entirety of my layover as a way to beat the potential jet lag I'll have when I get to SH (plus I'll be knocked out for the 14 hour flight).

I have a couple of movies in my external I can watch and I plan to get some work done.

My two options that I see are to either stay at LAX and use their wifi (which is why I need someone to vouch for it...I think it will be slow and some woman on the internet claims that she got two viruses from connecting to the LAX wifi along with some other stranger...) OR I can take the bus and get to Pier 212 in Santa Monica. It's a seedy and kind of dirty (by the yelp reviews) 24/7 eatery/cafe. The wifi seems good though.

I'd normally try and explore LA but I'll be so tired staying up that I just want somewhere with wifi where I can chill out.
posted by bluelight to Travel & Transportation (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It might be worth your while to pay to get into an Airline Club Lounge, or hang out at the ReLAX Lounge.

It will be $50 for your 14 hours, and in my mind, well worth it. It's free with Priority Pass or Diners Club.

Here's what you get:

Your Lounge access includes complementary refreshments (coffee, tea, bottle water, juice and soda), sandwiches, cookies, muffins, danishes, fresh fruit, wireless internet, computer stations and up to 10 pages of printing.

Faxing and photocopying are available at an additional charge. Beer and wine are available for purchase.

I flew across country from Florida to LAX, then had a 6 hour layover before going to Japan. TRUST me, if I could have chilled and relaxed in a tranquil setting, I would have.

Another option is to get a hotel room on La Tiera, or some other close by place with a shuttle. You can do work, watch tv and have a nice shower before getting on the plane.

DON'T Take the Bus! Not to Santa Monica, not anywhere.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:29 PM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

@Ruthless Bunny: Thanks for the tip, but it says that the Lounge is only open 8AM - midnight so I won't be able to do that unfortunately. What's wrong with taking the bus?

Ooh also I am on a budget so I'm not willing to splurge on a hotel room.
posted by bluelight at 2:33 PM on January 24, 2013

While there's nothing ALL-CAPS SCARY wrong with taking a bus in L.A., Santa Monica is a long long way from LAX and could literally take hours to get to on the bus. I wouldn't recommend at all.

I'd second finding a nearby hotel with a shuttle bus. (The correct spelling of the street is La Tijera, btw, but you could just google/Yelp "LAX hotels.")
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:39 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re: the Pier 212 option: a few factors to consider in bus'ing it from LAX to the coffeehouse:

How much luggage will you be dealing with during your layover? How comfortable are you walking through a slightly sketchy area late at night?

You'll have a bit of a schlepp from where the Big Blue Bus drops you off at Lincoln Blvd. and Rose Ave. And that walk will be populated with colorful characters. It's a mix of partying 20-somethings, street denizens, and confused tourists. I'm not one to scare people away from my beloved 'hood, and I've not personally experienced any crime, but I think you should just be mindful that that area does tend to light up the cop scanners.

With that out of the way, I can tell you that Pier will keep you entertained all night. It's quite the human circus. Their wi-fi isn't the best you'll ever encounter -- different locations in the cafe have better connectivity than others -- but wow, what a fun people-watching place.
posted by nacho fries at 2:46 PM on January 24, 2013

Santa Monica is a long long way from LAX and could literally take hours to get to on the bus

I live in Santa Monica, right near the OP's destination, and the Big Blue Bus is my preferred mode of transport to/from LAX. It's no big deal -- takes me less than an hour from the time I set foot on the bus at Lincoln/Rose till the time I'm in the TSA line.
posted by nacho fries at 2:50 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

You could take the Flyaway bus to Downtown or Westwood and chill in a hotel there. The flyaway is a bit more expensive than the bus but way cheaper than a cab, and there are plenty of 24-hour options in Westwood. Downtown is . . . maybe not the best idea, but if anyone has suggestions, please prove me wrong. (I love Downtown LA, but it's not a 24/7, friendly sort of place).

The bus is $10 each way to go to Westwood and $7 each way downtown.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 2:51 PM on January 24, 2013

There's no wifi at LAX. The only terminal that even has food outside of security is the international terminal.
posted by kbuxton at 2:55 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Um, you might want to check your planned bus. Most Big Blue Buses run once an hour after 10 PM, and stop completely around midnight. You might have just one bus chance if your flight lands at 10 PM.

Similarly, the last Flyaway bus leaves at 11 PM. Note that with Flyaway, they start at terminal 1 and pick up people until they are full, at which point the bus departs. I have been left by flyaways at terminal 3 in the middle of the afternoon.

I recommend a cab.

To answer your question, I have never successfully connected with LAX wifi.
posted by holyrood at 2:56 PM on January 24, 2013

I suggest hotel, see if you can nab a steal using priceline. I have regularly gotten clean, just-fine 2 - 2.5 star hotels with free wifi for <$30 on priceline, just choose only LAX area for hotels and you won't get something in the valley.
posted by arnicae at 2:58 PM on January 24, 2013

And also note that the Metro find a ride lies, there is no direct way to get from LAX to a bus. You have to take a special shuttle bus that runs every 15 min. from the airport to the bus terminal (a patch of concrete about a half-mile from the airport). So add that into your timing to catch the bus.
posted by holyrood at 2:58 PM on January 24, 2013

Santa Monica is not thaaaaaat far from LAX. When I lived in Santa Monica, it took me like 20 minutes to get to the airport. That being said, I wouldn't deal with the bus if I didn't have to. I also would not want to schlep all my stuff through that particular neighborhood at midnight if I could avoid it. It's not technically unsafe -- I lived very close to there -- but "colorful characters" is a good way to put it. (I once literally saw a house 2 minutes from there on an episode of Cops)

THAT being said, WiFi at LAX SUCKS. It's "free" allegedly now -- for the first time ever and as of shamefully recently -- but rumor has it, it kicks you off after 45 minutes. The virus concerns I suspect are user error, but don't expect to get good WiFi from the airport. It has never worked for me once.

Personally, I would absolutely ABSOLUTELY splurge for a club lounge if you don't want to go to a hotel. You can use THEIR WiFi and even take a shower. You won't be able to camp out at any cafe for 10 hours without spending $50 on "leave me alone" coffee and sandwiches as a way to keep them from kicking you out, anyway.

But if you want to take a cab to Westwood, there is a Denny's that is 24 hours and apparently has free WiFi (per Yelp).
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:59 PM on January 24, 2013

There's no wifi at LAX. The only terminal that even has food outside of security is the international terminal.

And conversely, inside security at the international terminal is super-sparse. There are a couple of booths selling sandwiches and stuff but very little in the way of anything else. not great.
posted by andrewesque at 3:00 PM on January 24, 2013

In the interests of accuracy: the Big Blue Bus Line 3 runs on the half-hour till just after midnight (12:10), going in the LAX > SaMo direction.

If you decide to stay closer to LAX, and are a walking-type, you could kill some time near LAX at the nearby In-N-Out (open till 1 a.m.). There is also a free private parking shuttle (Parking Spot) that will drop you off at the parking structure adjacent to the In-N-Out, if you make like you've left a car at the parking lot (and of course it's nice to give the shuttle driver a buck).
posted by nacho fries at 3:06 PM on January 24, 2013

Maybe you can identify a nearby hotel with free wifi in their lobby and just go hang out there. A big enough hotel wouldn't even notice (or necessarily care).
posted by gubenuj at 3:13 PM on January 24, 2013

Ooh okay thanks for the input everyone.

I know LAX has wifi but I'll likely pass on it. It will probably suck.

On club lounges: I would consider the splurge but they all close around midnight. I'll be in the airport from 10PM - noon.

On hotels: I'm passing on hotel suggestions because of budget reasons. I'd be willing to spend the money for club lounges if they were 24/7 because of convenience (right in LAX). Didn't find anything on priceline.

I'm leaning towards going to Pier 212 tomorrow. I'll take the lot c free shuttle to the bus center, take the #3, and then transfer to another bus that will bring me closer to the place so I don't have to walk by myself (I'm a girl and I'll be putting my pepper spray in my checked luggage :( ) Hopefully I'll only have my small backpack with me.

@nacho fries: thanks for the reminder about that in-n-out. I'll probably have that on the way back to the airport in the morning haha

#gubenuj: I'd be there for like 14 hours...I think they would notice :(

I'm still open to other suggestions!
posted by bluelight at 3:16 PM on January 24, 2013

Here's the timetable and route for the Big Blue Blue service no.3. It takes 30 to 45 minutes between LAX and Santa Monica.

It costs a dollar per trip. I've taken it several times. It has always been safe (and I'm English). Taking a cab will save you a few minutes plus bus waiting time, but cost a ridiculous amount of money.
posted by Wordshore at 3:19 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ahh, it does look like I was wrong about the wifi. I didn't notice that being an option when I was stuck there for 7 hours at christmas
posted by kbuxton at 3:20 PM on January 24, 2013

To clarify, what I meant was using Priceline's bidding feature to get a cheap hotel room.
posted by arnicae at 3:23 PM on January 24, 2013

There is wifi at LAX, but it's not free and sucks.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 3:25 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

One last option to consider, even though you've clearly already ruled out hotels. Most of the airport hotels have a half-price "day use" rate for folks on layovers, so you might be able to find something in your price range yet. It may even get close to the cost of the airport lounge.

Just set your check-in and check-out dates as the same, and I'd assume you'd just check-in after midnight, with which landing at LAX at 10, is probably right.
posted by hwyengr at 3:38 PM on January 24, 2013

You can get free wifi at LAX. You have to connect through "one of our partners," which usually requires you to watch a video. But the speed does leave something to be desired.

I was stuck in LAX on a 10-hour layover recently. But not overnight. I would have left if I was looking at an overnighter.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 3:51 PM on January 24, 2013

I've done overnights in a lot of airports, but not LAX. I used the wi-fi there over Thanksgiving and I didn't think it sucked, nor did I pay for it.

Honestly, if I were you and trying to save money, I'd just do it. It's going to suck, but it's free. I will add the caveat that all the nights I've spent in an airport have been just prior to either going home to my bed or a short flight to a comfortable place to sleep. I don't know how I'd fare on a long, long international flight after "sleeping" on an airport floor, so that may be worth consideration.

Also, bring snacks and a water bottle to avoid having to spend money on overpriced airport fare, and make sure that the security people aren't going to kick you out of the terminal and make you sit on the tile floor at baggage claim all night like they do at La Guardia (worst sleep ever!). I'd bring something to cover your eyes and maybe a blanket so you're not rolling around on the dirty airport carpet. I slept at PDX in November (um, I don't try to make a habit of this sleeping at airports thing, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do) and was happy to have a big cozy scarf to wrap around my head and shoulders.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 4:03 PM on January 24, 2013

Correction: LAX wifi is free for an hour or two, but then you have to pay for it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:10 PM on January 24, 2013

U could try and Couch Surf for the night?

Also the Travelodge has a price of $69 for tomorrow night, and they have a free shuttle, maybe that might fit your budget:

And the reviews are decent:

And that's almost as cheap as a 5 hour night tour of LA!

Alternatively arrange a Metafilter meetup, it'll be Friday night and people will be out till at least 4am.
posted by zaphod at 4:23 PM on January 24, 2013

But if you want to take a cab to Westwood, there is a Denny's that is 24 hours and apparently has free WiFi (per Yelp).

There's a much closer Denny's with free WiFi in Santa Monica. And it's on Lincoln, the street a bus or cab will take you heading out from LAX.

OP, on a bus this would be easier than going to Main Street, on a cab not so much, but I just can't believe there isn't a better solution somewhere closer-by in Westchester or Marina Del Rey than schlepping to Santa Monica. (Which isn't really a huge schelpp, especially late at night, but still.)

I'd look in those areas.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:26 PM on January 24, 2013

LAX is a terrible place. I have had all of the worst layovers ever there, and this is just in the 4-5 hour range.

HOWEVER, since you will be there in the middle of the night, maybe just think about sleeping through it? Find yourself a spot next to a customer service or security desk where a number of people will be around all night, and sleep on top of your valuables. You probably won't be the only one doing this.
posted by snorkmaiden at 4:26 PM on January 24, 2013

Have you considered hanging out at a 24 Hour Fitness for a good amount of that time? There's one in Santa Monica. There's a shower, an indoor lap pool, even a steam room. You can get a 3 day membership for free. Not the worst way to pass the time.
posted by visual mechanic at 4:43 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

OK, I thought of a nice plan for you.

Hop on that Big Blue Bus 3, and hop off at Pico Bl and 4th Ave. Walk down Pico toward the ocean, and camp out in the lobby of the Casa del Mar hotel . It's a cool old historic venue, right on the beach. They have tons of cushy sofas and seating, and really great bathrooms. They've never hassled me about taking up couch-space for extended periods -- they're used to hotel-guests mossing out down there.

And when the sun comes up, you'll have an amazing view of the ocean and the pier.

You could also decamp to One Pico, another nice hotel lobby, right next door, if you start to get twitchy.

In the morning, you'll be in close walking distance of a number of cafes and eateries on Main Street. Dogtown Coffee opens at 5:30 a.m., and has very good coffee, and relatively cheap breakfast eats. It's also in a neat-o location (former site of a historic surf shop, with the surf-skate decor). It has wifi.

There are oodles of other options right near by for a.m. hanging-out.

City of Santa Monica provides free outdoors wifi as well in hotzones near Casa del Mar [PDF], if you want to sit outside under a palm tree and do some morning internetting.

To get back to LAX, just reverse your route -- walk two blocks inland, and catch the BBB #3 at Pico near 4th.
posted by nacho fries at 5:03 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had like a 14 hour layover at LAX, maybe a year ago. At that time there was no wifi and I didn't have a smartphone, and most of the airport was closed off to the public because remodeling, so it was really quite a dull event.

I took a hike to the beach and checked out the pacific ocean. I don't recommend that, it was a lot longer of a walk than I thought it was going to be and it wasn't pretty. It was worth it though, purely to walk into a real, omg it's not just in The Big Lebowski Ralph's for the first and only time of my life.

Even going to the in-and-out next to the airport, that I happened spot from when the plane landed, that was easily a two mile hike from the terminal. So I hope you don't have a lot of luggage.

Be sure to wake up for the plane landing though. The descent into cloud city (Geidi Prime?) is mindblowing.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 8:34 PM on January 24, 2013

Even going to the in-and-out next to the airport, that I happened spot from when the plane landed, that was easily a two mile hike from the terminal.

Next time, just get on the shuttle for The Parking Spot's Sepulveda garage (NOT Century). The In-n-Out is right next door.
posted by hwyengr at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2013

What free wifi at LAX? How have I missed that?

I personally hate LAX and don't see the point of leaving for anything less than 24 hours and especially going through security... again... BUT if you insist, you could always pay for a room at one of the close hotels. Last weekend I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which has a free airport shuttle. They also offer a free hot breakfast and wifi. I was happy there and definitely had a good experience.
posted by magnoliasouth at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Aggh. So I'm at the MSY Airport right now. I was actually considering just staying in LAX overnight but United just told me they won't be checking my luggage all the way through to China, I'll have to leave security once I get to LAX to pick up my bag from baggage claim and then re-enter security. But I can't re-check my bag until five hours before my flight at 12:30PM. And both my flights have been delayed. I won't get into LAX until midnight (or likely after given the number of pushbacks).

I'm not 100% sure what I'll do since I'll be getting into LAX a lot later that I thought I would be. I'm worried I'll look too conspicuous at Casa del Mar with my large backpacking backpack (I would have just had my little backpack before). No left luggage service at LAX. I'm mostly worried because I'll be tired out of my mind at that point since I'm already faltering now (very little sleep last night). :(
posted by bluelight at 4:55 PM on January 25, 2013

Just go to a hotel and get some sleep and have a place to rest your weary head. There are a kajilliion hotels by LAX. You are not going to be mentally with it enough to deal with traipsing all over LA in the middle of the night. I know you are on a budget, but this is something that is a good use of your money.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:15 AM on January 26, 2013

Just as a follow up to the thread, as I am now in China.

The free wifi at LAX is actually pretty good and fast (so long as you're there overnight, it starts getting a bit slower but still useable past 9AM)! And it's 100% free. There is a short video they make you watch every 30 min but I had adblock on so I just had to click on a link to be reconnected.

I ended up staying at the airport for my layover and it was not that bad. I did have to reenter security in the morning so I just took up some cushy bench space in front of United (they had an outlet) and got my work done.

Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't leave the airport though I did miss In-N-Out a lot.
posted by bluelight at 6:38 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

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