Stuck at the Airport: Minneapolis St. Paul International

You didn’t plan to get stuck at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (MSP), or you would have worn more comfortable shoes. You wouldn’t have brought so much carry-on luggage. Maybe you wouldn’t have brought your kids. But what to do with them all, now that you have a two or three or more hour layover?

Get ready for some good news, finally, but first get your comfortable shoes out of your duffle bag. We’ll wait while you change.

Ok, ready for the good news? Lindberg Terminal, the much larger of the two MSP terminals, offers lockers at several gates inside the secure passengers-only areas. You can put down the extra carry-on’s, while you wait out your unexpected layover.

You can’t leave the kids in a locker, though. Tighten up the laces on everyone’s comfy shoes, leave the nice ones in the locker, and take a look around.

Ready for more good news? MSP has four video arcades. Are the comfy shoes making the kids’ loud and bouncy? For a few fistfuls of quarters (the games are more costly than in my childhood, but a bargain in comparative airport pricing) your children can blow off a fortune in steam. If you can stand the electronic cacophony of game music, no one is going to be bothered by your active child who will probably stay entertained at the airport for at least an hour.

Another good option is to bounce, or trudge, over to the Mall-the center of the Lindberg Terminal. Try a visit to In Motion, a movie rental business near the entrance to the food court, that rents DVD players and movies to ticketed travelers from six a.m. until nine p.m. daily, according to the MSP Airport official web site.

The players each feature two headphones. Watching movies is a great way to enjoy a surprise delay, though if you have more than two kids, you’ll need a second player. If movie watching turns out to be a really good way to spend your layover time, you can even rent extra disks and take the movie watching onto the plane.

Dozens of national airports have In Motion rental branches. You can drop off the DVD players and disks at any of them, if one happens to be your destination. Many of them even have night drop slots. If your destination airport doesn’t have an In Motion branch, or if you’re too tired to search for a drop-off when you arrive, you’ll need to mail the stuff back to the company. In Motion provides a prepaid, self-addressed envelope for that purpose.

Of course, if you are solo, or just without kids during an enforced travel pause at MSP, there’s nothing to stop you from renting a movie anyway, buying a fat novel at one of MSP’s four bookstores, or just catching up on current events with material from one of the dozen news stands-and why not peruse your media with a drink? The bluntly named Tequilaria is not far from the more appetizing Wolfgang Puck’s Express, ringing the Mall, by the G gates. Both venues offer full bars. If you set your movie player down on the bar counter at Wolfgang Puck’s, though, while you savor your pricey airport cocktail, be prepared for the smell of pizza to get you. You’ll probably have to plunk down an extra ten or so dollars for a personal sized comfort treat.

The much smaller Humphrey Terminal only offers one sit-down restaurant, but in some ways it’s one of the best.

Are you ready for one more surprise? Passengers enduring longer layovers, or who are waylaid overnight, can jump on the light rail from right inside the MSP airport, and ride it to the Mall of America.

Be sure to note how long your ride there takes you, though. Allow at least an extra half hour for your return trip to the terminal-you want to be sure you reach your gate before your flight, or your layover in MSP may never end.

So you see there are many ways to spend extra time in the MSP International airport. If your layover puts you there, you’re in luck.