Traveling is fun. Seeing new places is fun. Waiting around in an airport for 5 hours? Not so fun. Layovers are just part of the territory when it comes to long distance travel, and can be a slightly frustrating time period in between “here we go!” and “we’re here!”
The sooner you realize that huffing and puffing, causing a scene, throwing a temper tantrum or complaining won’t make the layover go by any faster, the sooner you can embrace your extended period of free time and make the best of it. If you know you’ve got a long layover in your future, consider trying these 7 things to keep yourself sane as you wait.
Imagine knowing you have an extended layover, so you make plans with your favorite blanket and eye mask and snooze off, forgetting to A) set an alarm and B) have any idea where to board your connecting flight. Before you sleep, read, check your beloved Facebook, eat, make new friends or shop, find out where you need to be next and when you need to be there. Check flight schedules and airport maps so you know how long it’s going to take you to get from where you are to where you need to be. Ask about any changes in flight times or anything that could prolong you getting to your connection. Once you’re organized and aware of your next step, you can relax a little.
Depending on which airport you are flying into, you may have a food court full of culinary options when you land, or you may get to choose between a vending machine and a questionable pizza place. Either way, your body will probably be sending you signals that it’s running on empty, so take your time deciding on where and what you want to eat, and savor each morsel. Eat, chat with friends, and take pictures for Instagram (obviously) but keep in mind that you’re about to be in a tiny little space with an even tinier bathroom for an extended period of time, so choose your food wisely.
Refresh and Recharge
Some airports like the San Francisco Airport and Sydney Airport offer private showers to travelers for a small fee. Some travelers who have time to spare like to purchase a day pass from one of the local hotels and use their amenities such as gyms, pools, saunas, and showers. Some international airports, like Manchester, offer “shower and change” services inside of the hotels within the airport for a small fee.
While you’re in this “in between” time, take a minute (or hour) to browse the gift shops. Pick up a new book or magazine, some snacks, and a silly souvenir to document your quick visit to this new place. Some airports have expanded their retail options beyond gift shops and offer clothing, luggage, and electronic stores that’ll keep you occupied for quite a while.
Airports have come a long way in the entertainment department, and some offer activities or exhibits for travels to experience as they wait. From ice rinks and driving ranges in Seoul to free live music in Nashville, modern airports have stepped it up a notch in order to keep travelers happy and entertained as they wait for their next stop. And if your airport doesn’t offer anything fun to do, you can always hop on the Wi-Fi and binge watch your favorite shows on Netflix.
Explore The City
If your airport is relatively close to a major city and you have 4+ hours to kill, take advantage of the lockers and left luggage counters and get out and explore. Ask someone at the information desk for recommendations on things to do that are close by and use public transportation (or walk) to get to and from. Make sure to bring your ID and boarding pass so you can get back in the airport when you return.
There is literally no better place to people watch than an airport. There are so many different people in one place, all with different stories and destinations and experiences. Making up stories in your head about who these people are, where they’re going and what their story is can keep you entertained for hours. You never know what you’re going to see when you spend a few hours in an airport, from questionable fashion choices to chronic snorers to kids throwing tantrums and drunk people, people watching is the best at the airport.
One of the best parts of traveling with a group is that the camaraderie makes the wait more bearable. Some people sleep, some people chat, some people get lost in their phones, but at least you’re not dealing with an extended layover on your own. You can use this time to stretch your legs, take a break, and enjoy some personal space before you’re back on your next flight. Your layover is what you make of it, so make it bearable by being a little creative and a little patient, and you’ll be off to your final destination in no time.
Written by Diana Eastman