Salon's Patrick Smith, pilot and aviation writer, has a great list of 15 things all airports should have, created in consultation with his readers:
Vancouver's airport is pretty good (the transit is coming this year, there's a good play area, and you can see the planes in several places), but in general we do a crappy job of these in North America.
If you're killing time at YVR, I strongly recommend a (slightly pricey) meal or drink in the lounge of the attached Fairmont Hotel. It's quiet, comfortable, the food is good, and you can both watch the aircraft and enjoy a nice view of our mountains. We try to go there anytime we're flying, or even dropping off or picking up family and friends.