Ah, the dreaded long layover… We all love the convenience of direct flights to our destination. But there are times when long layovers are simply unavoidable, especially when you’re traveling internationally.
Thankfully, most airports these days offer plenty of fun and productive things to do while you wait for your next flight to be called, regardless of whether you’ve landed in the middle of the day, or the middle of the night.
With these great tips on what to do during a long layover, you’ll be seeing your next one as an opportunity rather than a hindrance.
Visit Airport Lounges
They may cost a bit, but airport lounges are always worth the expense when you’ve got a long layover. Nothing beats the comfort, service, and amenities that lounges offer. With free food and drinks, showers, sofas, quality magazines and newspapers, and free Wi-Fi, you really can’t go wrong.
One of the best things about airport lounges is they always have much more luxurious bathrooms, which get cleaned more regularly than those in the public terminal. Some lounges you find might even rival the hotel room you have waiting for you!
Entrance to airport lounges typically requires a high-level frequent flyer status, membership in a loyalty program, or perhaps ownership of a particular credit card. But there are several independent airport lounge access programs that you can subscribe to, some of which offer locations worldwide. And many airport lounges allow access to anyone willing to pay an inflated one-time fee.
Explore the Airport
Airports are becoming quite entertaining places to be these days. High quality shopping, incredible restaurants, lively bars, and more all come together to make a rather enjoyable place to be. Should you find yourself traveling with children, you can sometimes find great kid zones that offer games and other activities. Some airports even have aquariums; you just might be amazed at what you can find at airports around the world. Concerts, museums, libraries, art exhibitions, and even ice skating can be found in some airports. Singapore Changi even has a Butterfly Garden; you may find that you wish you could miss your connecting flight!
Watch Your Luggage/Belongings
One of the biggest headaches on a long layover is having to lug around your carry-on baggage, especially if you’re traveling solo and have nobody to look after your belongings.
Simple things like going to the bathroom become cumbersome as you try to fit you and your bag inside a stall. Look to see if your airport offers lockers, and make use of them. Some airports may even allow you to place your bag in a “left luggage” office, so ask at a help desk.
If you do decide to carry your bag with you, make sure to keep it near you at all times. The first reason is the obvious security risk involved with an unattended bag at an airport. Should airport officials find it, they’ll likely have it removed and/or destroyed. But theft is another reason. You should always use luggage locks on any zippers, turn pockets towards you, keep your arm or leg through a strap, or go all out and bike lock it to your seat if you decide to take a nap.
Head into the City
Long layovers can be a great opportunity to explore a city you might not otherwise visit. There are many hidden gems to discover in places we would least expect. So catch a taxi and ask them for recommendations regarding great restaurants or attractions. Just getting out of the airport to enjoy a nearby park or garden can leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and ready for your next flight. Many airports offer free city tours if your layover is an especially long one. But if you’re planning to leave the airport, you should always make sure you have any visas you might need, And make sure to leave plenty of time to get back for your connecting flight, as airport traffic in some cities can be brutal!
Get Caught Up on Your To-Do List
Since most things these days can be done online, use your ample free time to pull out your laptop and tackle that list of to-dos. Get caught up on business matters or homework, fire off some emails, pay some bills, or take the time to write a loved one and tell them how much they mean to you. You could also take the time to edit and organize your travel photos, or write about your travels if you’re keeping a journal or blog. Most airports have power stations available throughout, so you won’t have to worry about running out of juice.
Binge Watch Your Favorite Show
Pre-plan your long layover and download an unwatched season of that TV show you’ve been dying to watch. Park yourself next to an electric outlet so that you don’t run out of battery, plug in your headphones, and get lost in the escapism that Hollywood is known for.
We’ve all been there: We scored a great deal on red-eye flights, only to realize that it involves an overnight layover. That means hunkering down in the airport until the connecting flight leaves in the early hours of the next day. Though a nice bed would be tempting, it’s often cost-prohibitive to waste money on a hotel and transportation for just a few hours. Most restaurants and shops will have been long closed down for the day, so you can’t head into the city. What to do on a long layover when most of the attractions aren’t open?
Head to the International Terminal
If there is an international terminal in the airport, start there! You’ll usually find more comfortable seats, TVs, and electronic charging stations. Domestic terminals often have far fewer amenities than international terminals do.
Get Some Food
Be sure to grab your late night dinner and snacks before midnight, as most international airport shops usually shut down by then. It’s always a good idea to pack some emergency food in your carry-on, too.
Bring An Overnight Bag
If you know you’re going to be stuck with a long layover overnight, pack your carry-on as if you’re going to a sleepover. It’s always great to feel fresh before and after a flight. So pack things like a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, face cloth, contact lens solution (if you need to take out your contacts before you sleep), and any other toiletries you usually use before turning down for the night.
Get Some Sleep
Sleeping in an airport is never going to result in sweet dreams. But there are several things you can do to make it a bit more bearable. First off, be sure to pack an eye mask and ear plugs, or some relaxing, sleep-inducing music to listen to. You can bring your own travel pillow and small blanket, or use your jacket and backpack as a substitute. Many airports have a supply of blankets and pillows they keep on hand for weather-stranded passengers. Just put on your best smile, pick out the friendliest looking employee, and hopefully you’ll score a few precious sleeping comforts! You can also pack a cheap, lightweight blow-up pool float and you’ll have yourself a nice little air mattress.
Stay in a Pod
Some airports, like Amsterdam’s Schiphol, have the option of booking a pod to relax in. These mini “hotels” within the airport allow you to book a very small cube—75 square feet, to be exact—by the hour. Surprisingly, they are quite cozy. Many manage to fit in en-suite bathrooms with showers and towels, beds that can accommodate 1-4 people, a TV, and more. The best thing is that you can check in and out no matter what time of day or night it is.
Get a Free Workout
If you have the airport all to yourself during your long layover, you basically have a free gym at your disposal. So why not work in some exercise! While you may need to get creative, you should usually have a few good stair climbs at your disposal. Walk against the flow of one of those moving walkways and you’ll have yourself a really big treadmill. The lack of people in the airport will give you ample floor room to do your push-ups, sit-ups, and yoga. In the end, surviving a long layover is all about getting creative in the ways you choose to pass your time.
Megan Jerrard is an Australian Journalist and the founder and Senior Editor of Mapping Megan, an award-winning travel blog bringing you the latest in adventure travel from all over the globe.