Let’s face it: layovers suck. Who wants to spend hours upon hours sitting in an uncomfortable chair in an airport terminal, listening to announcements over the loud speaker, babies crying, and people coughing? Certainly not me. As a traveler, however, layovers are a fact of life. I’m a big fan of flying nonstop whenever possible. Sometimes, however, there are times when a layover is inevitable due to available routes, or direct flights being more expensive. In those cases, you just have to try and make the best out of your situation. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me make the most out of my layovers.
Make a long layover even longer.
Wait…what did she just say? I’m stuck in this horrible airport. I don’t want to be here even longer! If you only have a few hours of time, this may very well be the case for you. However, I’m here to advocate making your layover longer. Like, a lot longer. Allow me to elaborate. In 2007, I traveled to Italy for a few weeks. On the way back, I was to have a layover in Dublin, Ireland. Having never been to Ireland I really wanted to check it out. So, we extended our layover an extra two days, booked a hotel in Dublin, and had a mini-adventure at the end of our trip. I got to explore the Guinness Brewery, Trinity College, take a walking tour of the city, and ate at a lot of really cool pubs. We also spent an afternoon at the Bloom Festival, where we met a lot of awesome people, sampled local honey, and experienced firsthand the gardening culture of Ireland. All in all, I had a great time and got to discover things I hadn’t originally thought I would have time to do.
Even if you only extend your layover overnight, that’s enough time to check into a hotel, have a night out on the town, and maybe see a few sights before you have to come back to the airport, and that’s much better than sitting at gate 17A for 12 hours, isn’t it?
Pay for a day pass to the airport lounge.
If you’re going to be stuck in the airport for a while, but not necessarily long enough to leave and discover the town, I would highly recommend springing for a day pass to the airport lounge. Sure, it can cost around $50 (give or take- it really depends on the airport and the airline you’re traveling with), but if you’ve been traveling for a long time, a nice place to rest, eat, charge your electronics, and even sometimes take a shower can be just the respite you need.
Get some exercise.
Sometimes, when I’ve been stuck on a long flight and I know I’ll be laid over for an hour or more, I take the opportunity to get some exercise. I’ll walk briskly back and forth in the terminal with my headphones on. This not only kills time and burns calories, but also helps me get those cramps out of my legs from sitting in economy class. If you want to step it up a notch and get a real, actual workout in, check out airportgyms.com to see if there is a gym at your airport you can use.
Some airports have some cool features. For instance, Honolulu Airport has several really cool cultural gardens sites where you can chill out in a beautiful place.Phoenix Sky Harbor airport has museums and art exhibits to check out, and San Francisco Airport has a yoga room where you can chill out and stretch in a serene location. Before you travel, look online to see if your layover airport has any interesting extras. Even if it doesn’t have anything cool like these airports, you can still discover new cafes and shops in different terminals. Go exploring!
Get some sleep.
Flying is tiresome. It’s even more tiresome if you got up at an unreasonable hour to catch your flight, have been in the air for a long time, or if you’ve been crossing time zones. If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, it might help to catch some sleep while you’re there. Personally, I have no qualms about setting up on the floor in some corner with my travel pillow or rolled up sweatshirt being used in lieu of a pillow, and conking out. I like to use my noise cancelling headphones during this time to drown out all the airport noises. The only important thing to remember is to set an alarm on your phone so you can make sure you wake up in time to catch your connection!
If you’re not really into sleeping on the floor at the airport, there are still options for you. Some airports have designated sleeping sections or special sleep chairs designed for weary travelers to catch a few z’s. There’s a great site called sleepinginairports.net that offers guidance for weary travelers who would like to catch a nap in airports around the world.
Certain airports, such as London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Amsterdam’s Schiphol, and Paris’ Charles de Gaulle, actually feature Yotel, which is a small but comfortable hotel room you can rent right inside the airport terminal and catch a proper nap.
Head to the chapel.
Many airports have chapels in them. Even if you’re not particularly religious and looking for a place to pray, this can be a great place to get some peace and quiet away from the hectic world of the airport terminal that doesn’t require the $50 fee of an airport lounge pass. Most major airports in the U.S. have a chapel. Check your airport’s website for more details.
Hopefully you’ve found these tips helpful. Do you have any tips for travelers looking to make the most out of their layover? I would love to hear about it in the comments!