No one goes to the airport to hang out, but sometimes it can't be avoided. Airlines want fliers to check in early (a good idea, especially during the holidays). There's also the risk of weather-related delays, given snowy skies and full flights. Fortunately, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is the kind of place that a traveler, even a stressed one, might actually enjoy.

My top tip for easing tension: Get a massage at Xpress Spa (Concourse D; another will open soon in Concourse F). This relatively new place for pampering requires no appointment. Check out its full menu of spa services at, or reserve your time on the massage table by calling 612-727-2302. Several automatic massage chairs also work out muscle kinks in terminals C, E and F ($1 for 3 minutes; $5 for 15).

Surdyk's Flights, Ike's Food & Cocktails and O'Gara's Restaurant all offer paths to pre-flight relaxation in liquid form. The airport offshoots of these popular Twin Cities spots pour wine, beer and spirits and serve up more substantial delectables. (Surdyk's and Ike's are in the Airport Mall; Irish- inspired O'Gara's is in Concourse F.)

Other homegrown stores help little travelers pass the time. Creative Kidstuff gives children hands-on experiences with toys (Airport Mall). Red Balloon schedules storytime during the holidays (Concourse C, inside Authors Bookstore).

There's one more thing MSP does to please the harried traveler: It offers a free coupon book with discounts at airport shops and restaurants. Get yours at any information desk at MSP or print one at