Many travelers dread the long airport layover. However, most of those people are simply not using the time efficiently, instead they just sit near the gate and either stare at their phone or computer the whole time. Long airport layovers are usually better than 30-minute ones, because you don’t need to risk breaking your neck racing through the terminal. While a layover will never be as fun as a day at the beach, it can be enjoyable if you take the time to plan.
- check out one of the new “nap” suites
- enjoy a decent meal
- find a quiet place to relax
- play some golf
- talk to someone interesting
- pass up a comfy chair
- act like waiting five hours is the end of the world
- overdo the electronic devices
- ignore the effects of sitting down for a long time
- fly unprepared
Companies such as Minute Suites are popping up in airport terminals throughout the country. Minute Suites operates in Atlanta, Philly, and Dallas/Forth Worth, and provides travelers with a small quiet room with a bed, HDTV, and desk, so they can either nap, zone out, or work. It’s the quietest place in the terminal for a nap, and can help prevent you from a strained neck.
While most airport food is dreadful (think about your last pizza food court experience) there are definitely some diamonds in the rough. This is a case where research pays off. Use Yelp or other similar sites to find the top-rated restaurant at your airport. Even if it’s in another terminal, take the time to walk for better food options. Even top-tier chefs such as Gordon Ramsey are getting into airports. His cleverly titled eatery Plane Food gives Heathrow travelers a culinary experience between flights.
If you fly a lot then you likely already have access to your airline’s airport lounge. If you don’t have free access and are facing a very long layover, then consider paying the daily fee for access. The lounges offer comfortable seats, snacks, and the chance to catch up on work. Some bigger lounges even offer shower facilities. If you can’t do the lounge, then find a gate area without any upcoming flights so you have some quiet space with access to outlets.
Your layover at Hong Kong International Airport can include nine holes of golf at the adjacent SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course. Get some sunshine and some practice in before you hop on your next flight.
Many people on a layover are just as bored as you are. Strike up a conversation at the bar or the lounge to pass the time and meet someone new. If you are traveling somewhere new, then talk to someone at your gate. They might be a local who can give you the best tips for food and fun. If you are a business traveler, then such conversations can open up new opportunities for your networking. If you’re single, then you never know if the person you talk to could spark an international romance!
Charlotte International Airport has two entire rows of rocking chairs that provide comfort way above the typical gray seats in the gate area. Snag a chair, put on your noise canceling headphones, and take a nice nap to get refreshed before your flight.
Many people take flying for granted and bemoan even short layovers. Take a minute to bask in what flying really means – you can travel thousands of miles in a few hours, in safety and relative comfort. Watch some planes taking off and landing and the concert of baggage going in and out to really appreciate all of the effort it takes to pull off mass air travel.
Sitting on a plane is bad for your back and neck. Don’t make it worse by hunching over your laptop during a five-hour layover. While a movie on your iPad will pass the time, don’t forget to stretch and walk around.
If you are facing a long domestic or international flight after your layover, then try to keep your body moving so you don’t feel too stiff upon landing. You can easily walk a mile or two during a long layover, or use the airport gym (if it has one) to get in a real workout. Just make sure you shower before hopping on your connecting flight.
The layover experience is greatly affected by what and how you pack. Make sure your bags are packed efficiently so you have less to carry and can move without strain. Ideally you want one roller suitcase and either a backpack or shoulder bag so you always have one hand free. Think about what items you’ll need on a layover such as your tablet, headphones, or snack, and then make sure they are easily accessible.
A long airport layover doesn’t need to be dreadful. With proper planning you can make the most of your time, whether it’s working efficiently, taking a nap, or enjoying some regional cuisine. If you have a very long layover at an urban airport, you can even leave, see some sights, and then come back in time for your flight. Remember that you own your time, so do what you want to do during the layover to arrive at your destination in a relaxed mood.