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The best gifts money can't buy: Six cool (and free) airport perks

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Fort Wayne International Airport

Weary travelers, rejoice! Cookies, flowers and even prime parking spots await you at some of the busiest travel hubs across the world—and they're free.

As part of promotional campaigns, some of the following airports offer up unusual perks to passengers who cross their threshold. While some are timed to holidays, others can in fact be enjoyed throughout the year. Here's a roundup of some of the more interesting gifts to help take the edge off of a lengthy layover or a long flight.

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—By Harriet Baskas, special to CNBC. Follow Road Warrior on Twitter at @CNBCtravel.

Posted 7 February 2015

Free cookies at Fort Wayne, IN

Fort Wayne International Airport

Since the late 1980s, volunteers at Indiana's Fort Wayne International Airport have been welcoming arriving passengers with a cheery greeting—and complimentary cookies baked and individually wrapped by nearby Ellison Bakery. By early December 2009, FWA had handed out its 1 millionth cookie in the sweet promotion. "More than 720,000 cookies have been distributed since then and we anticipate we'll hit the 2 millionth cookie sometime in 2016," said airport spokeswoman Kim Fuhrmann.

For those who land too late to receive a cookie from one of the treat-toting Hospitality Hosts, there's an after-hours self-service cookie stand.

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Flowers for Mothers, Valentine's Days

Jacksonville International Airport

On both Mother's Day and Valentine's Day, volunteers at Jacksonville International Airport hand out more than 1,000 colorful carnations to passengers. The promotion, which began at JAX in 2009, was adopted by Philadelphia International in 2014. This year, Philly has ordered 1,200 white, pink and red carnations to distribute on Friday, Feb. 13.

On Mother's Day in 2013 and 2014, passengers at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway Airports didn't get free fresh flowers; instead they got complimentary seeds packets so they could grow their own.


Heathrow: The turkey and stuffing bon-bon (really)

London Heathrow Airport

Concerned that more than 100,000 passengers flying on Dec. 25 would miss their traditional Christmas lunch, London's Heathrow Airport worked with local confectionery creators to craft Boarding Bons Bons. These, however, aren't any ordinary candy; they are made to taste like turkey, sage, onion stuffing and Christmas pudding. The bon bons were a great success, said airport spokeswoman Laura Greene: "Our passengers loved the uniqueness of them."

To celebrate Chinese New Year 2015 (the Year of the Goat begins on Feb. 19), Heathrow will begin handing out free horoscope cards on Jan. 29 to help passengers identify their Chinese animal. Planned activities will range from horoscope reading and calligraphy demonstrations, to specially curated Chinese menus.


Oakland, land of free parking?

Oakland International Airport

Parking at the airport can take a big bite out of the budget of any trip, so the free parking promotions at Oakland International Airport are a nice treat.

Through April 15, travelers leaving from OAK on any airline heading to any destination in Hawaii or Europe can get up to five days' free parking (worth up to $110) in the airport's Daily Lot. Passengers flying to any destination in Texas can get free parking (up to $66) through April 15 as well. Coupons and more details are available here.


Slip and slide in Singapore

Singapore Changi Airport

Singapore's Changi Airport is well-known for free amenities that range from city tours and themed gardens (including sunflower, cactus, orchid and butterfly), to movie theaters, arcades and children's playgrounds. However, a favorite pastime for passengers is a ride down one of the airport's indoor slides. There's no charge to ride the shorter (one and a half-story story) slide and, as part of an airport promotion, travelers get a free ride on the taller, four-story slide for each $10 spent in the shops.

'Cool customer service' in Denver

Denver International Airport

Flyers who spent a one-day total of $20 or more in the shops and/or restaurants at Denver International Airport this past holiday season were given a chance to draw for one of 100,000 prizes donated by airport concessionaires and local businesses. Prizes ranged from tickets to museums and attractions, and included meals, massages, toys, audio equipment and vouchers for flights and resort stays.

"It was a great way for the airport and our concession to express our appreciation for our travelers, while also promoting all the fabulous shops and restaurants that we have to offer," said airport spokesman Heath Montgomery, who promises another "cool customer service initiative" soon.