No one is ever too thrilled to sit around in an airport all day on the way from Point A to Point B, but sometimes an airport layover is unavoidable. Whether yours is a couple hours or even longer though, it doesn’t need to feel interminable—you just need to come up with a plan for what you’ll do while you wait for your connection. Here are some tips:
Buying food at the airport can get expensive, so if you know you have a layover, you may want to think ahead and bring some snacks with you. There are some TSA restrictions as to what food you can carry through security with you, but there are plenty of things you can bring. Nothing makes a layover (or a flight) drag like being hungry the whole time, so make sure you’ve got something to munch on!
Bring a drink
You can’t bring large liquids through security with you, but there’s nothing stopping you from bringing an empty water bottle through with you and refilling it at either the drinking fountains or (depending on the airport) the water refill stations set up specifically for that purpose. Remember that you can also bring small bottles of alcohol through security as long as they’re less than 3.4oz in size and fit into a quart-sized Ziplock. Again, things at the airport tend to be expensive, so rather than shell out the big bucks to keep hydrated, bring your own beverages.
Figure out where things are
Looking for restaurants, play zones, restroom locations, airline lounges or something else? You can use the GateGuru app to find everything you need, or see if you can spot an airport map. If you’re really turned about, remember that you can also ask security guards or gate agents and they can usually point you in the right direction.
I’m not really a big shopper, but usually when I have a really long airport layover, I take a little time to browse through the duty-free shops. Many airports offer a broad range of shops where you can buy everything from souvenirs to electronics to books and more. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it can be fun to do a little window-shopping—plus, you’ll be able to stretch your legs a little before you get on your next flight!
Think about getting out into the city
If you have one of those long layovers (5+ hours), you might be able to head out of the airport and explore the city. You should look into visa requirements if you’re traveling internationally, and you’ll need to make sure you leave yourself enough time to get into the city, back out to the airport and through security. But there’s no reason you can’t turn your long layover into a fun part of your trip. Some airports even offer free packaged tours, so you don’t have to figure out the logistics on your own.
Stream a movie
We’re all used to streaming movies on flights, but if you can find WiFi in the terminal (it’s becoming increasingly more common these days), you can stream Netflix. Of course, if you’re traveling abroad, you may be faced with an error message since Netflix restricts its services by country because of contractual agreements with the owners of the movies’ rights. But you can install a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your smartphone, tablet or laptop and use that to hide your real location. It’ll send Netflix a fake IP address, making it appear as though you were back in your home country.
Brush up on your language skills
If you’re traveling abroad and want to learn the local language prior to your arrival, the airport can be a great place to cram in some last-minute language lessons. There are a lot of language-learning apps that can help you out, but my personal favorite is Duolingo, which incorporates reading, speaking, listening and writing activities into one app. You can use it to learn a bunch of different languages, from Spanish to Ukrainian—and best of all, it’s totally free!
Play airport bingo
There are some things that you only see in an airport. If you’re traveling with friends or family, turn your layover into a friendly competition by printing off some airport bingo sheets ahead of time. You can find plenty of free sheets online, or create your own. Next thing you know, it’ll be time to board.
Airports aren’t known for having the most comfortable seating in the world. Depending on how long your layover is, it might be worth springing for that airport lounge or a dayroom at the airport hotel. Or just check out Sleeping in Airports to see if there are any quiet, comfortable areas in your airport where you can relax for a bit.
Take a nap
You want to enjoy yourself when you arrive at your final destination, don’t you? Traveling can really wear you out, especially if you’re dealing with late-night flights or changing time zones. You’d be surprised at how fast the time can pass when you’re snoozing away your layover—and no, you won’t look homeless if you camp out in the airport for a few hours; we’ve all been there.
Do you have any other tricks to make a layover pass a little faster? Share your tips in the comments!