En español | I've come to think of layovers as travel opportunities, and so can you. Sometimes I even consider lengthening a layover to allow for a day trip. And, believe it or not, I've planned layovers that save money on overall airfare.

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My favorite international airports for layovers all have a few elements in common: a sense of place, elements of surprise and proximity to an interesting city. I relax and enjoy the local flavor and the stimulating feeling of being somewhere new. Sometimes I like to catch a ride into town, have lunch and shop a little before departure.

U.S. airports have also added dozens of amenities in the past five years. Whether large or small, many hubs now feature nail salons, massage therapists, yoga rooms and wine bars. And in a growing trend, many airports now have pharmacies and walk-in clinics.

Here are a few of the airports I've enjoyed. Search for them on the Internet to get more information and details.

Woman entering yoga room at an airport.
Having a layover isn't that bad when it's at one of these airports. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

1. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

This is one of the oldest international airports in the world and also one of the most relaxing. An outpost of the city's Rijksmuseum features works by Dutch masters. A bright, comfortable library in the center of the airport takes you out of the layover zone, with overstuffed sofas, tables, chairs you can recline in, multimedia content on iPads, and books in 29 languages. Shopping's no problem: I bought tulip bulbs and planted them in my yard when I got home. Getting into Amsterdam from Schiphol is easy, too. I was able to go in, have lunch and return within three hours.

2. Singapore Changi Airport

Decorated with soothing earth tones, this takeoff location is remarkably tranquil and unrushed. You'll find multiple gardens, including ones showcasing orchids and butterflies; a waterfall; and special exhibits to admire. Changi offers free two-hour tours of the city that leave at regular intervals. Other choices: gaming centers, a movie theater and a four-story slide.

3. Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport

Like many other airports, Detroit's has invested heavily in recent years to improve its design and upgrade the experience of its captive audience of visitors, imbuing its large open spaces with local art, culture and entertainment. The center of the McNamara Terminal features a soothing water sculpture that draws throngs of tourists to capture it in photos and videos. There's also a tunnel with moving walkways and almost 9,000 feet of LED lights that change colors — you'll think you're at a Pink Floyd laser show.

4. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

This airport is among those that have been stepping up their game in recent years, adding fine dining and other amenities to make for an enjoyable stretch between flights. You can get some mouthwatering Southern-inspired food at One Flew South, the airport's upscale dining option, which also offers creative signature cocktails and an international wine list. When you're full, check out XpresSpa in Concourse C for a massage, waxing or pedicure. Men are welcome here, too; there's a special facial treatment to ease the irritation of razor-burned skin.