Layovers, in my opinion are incredibly stressful. Travel itself is stressful and layovers—especially a long layover—can add stress on top of stress. Not ideal. Whenever possible, I try to fly nonstop flights (I actually would prefer to travel by Amtrak to New York to fly out of JFK if it means my flight is direct. Crazy? Maybe. Beats chilling in an airport in many situations). I don’t love airports but have spent a lot of time in them but still, I try to minimize time spent waiting as much as possible. Sometimes a layover is inevitable, whether your job booked your flight for you (me next week) or if you booked a last-minute international flight to visit family and the cheapest flight available was a flight with a 7 hour layover in the Miami airport (me right now). When the undesired becomes your reality, it helps to be prepared. Here are my tips for surviving a long layover.
- Come Prepared
Prepare for your trip so you don’t need to worry about small details day-of while you’re trying to navigate a new airport. Do some research on the airport you’re visiting before hand. Ask questions at the airport. Make sure you know where you need to clear customs and find out if you need to collect your bag after your first flight or if the airline will take care of getting your luggage to your final destination. Find out if you need to change terminals and if its as simple as a walk down the hall or as complicated as the fcking Atlanta airport. Look up some of the food/coffee shops/etc you can expect in your arrival and/or departure terminal so you kinda know what to expect. Make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing. I love to travel and truly believe that being in control & preparing well is the key to success (of course, shit happens and flights are delayed etc but in those situations it’s still nice to know that you’ve taken care of everything you can control). I have written two posts that detail the importance of being prepared when you are traveling: one that helps with the days leading up to the trip (here), and one that helps make the day-of your vacation that much easier (here). Although these posts are focused on international travel, they’re applicable for all types of journeys and will help to a stress-free layover.
- Get Shit Done.
Whether you are in school, have a real-life salaried job where you’re expected to work all the time, or write a blog (hi), use your layover to be productive and get work done. Find a nice environment, a power outlet, and get to work. This is probably the most practical way to spend your layover and will benefit the most type A readers among us. While I do enjoy being extremely productive during a layover, I like to mix it up a bit. Take breaks and walk around/go shopping/drink some wine/etc. If you have a lot of work to get done, it can quickly pass the time in a way that’ll help you enjoy your trip a little bit more.
- Don’t rely on wifi.
Airports always nickel and diming you! It’s absurd! Food is expensive, drinks are expensive, those stupid neck pillows are expensive, and on top of that more often than not you have to pay for wifi! The airport wifi monopoly seems to be controlled by a company called ‘Boingo’ and they charge per hour, per day, or per month for you to get your web fix on. So, unless you want to pay for it ($8 a day. You decide if it is worth it I won’t judge) then come to terms with the fact you may not get to spend a whole lot of time of wifi. Save your cellular data for this trip or enjoy one of the other things on this list. Just make sure to download any playlists/books you may need before getting to the airport.
There is no question that airplane food is garbage. It’s filled with sodium and it’s job is to keep you full and like I’m convinced it is whatever the minimum requirement for ‘food’. It’s a good idea to eat something during your layover so you’ll eat less plane food later. Although airport food isn’t amazing, it is much much better than the freeze-dried airplane food (or however the fuck its prepared I really don’t care it’s garbage). You can at least find a delicious burger and fries or a salad—whatever floats your boat.
Grab a drink while you’re at it. One thing airports have a lot of is alcohol. And if an airport is not the most socially acceptable place to drink alone, I don’t know what is. Make sure to stay hydrated and drink water (yawn) but treat yourself to a glass of wine or three. Just make sure you feel okay and can walk straight when you board your flight. Don’t want you blaming because they left you in Minneapolis because you were too drunk to get on the plane.
Get lost in a book (or 5). Grab a copy of your favorite magazine (maybe this month’s edition of Baltimore Style Magazine, featuring your favorite bloggers *ahem its us*). Download some books to your iPad or borrow a friends’ favorite novel before you head out. There’s always the Hudson News that’s inevitably at every airport to stock up on reading material if you don’t come prepared too. Reading is a great way to pass the time—whether you choose to read The Iliad or this week’s InTouch, you’re bound to be enthralled to some degree.
- Treat yo self.
Whether it be big or small, make sure to treat yoself during this layover. Head to the Duty Free shop and snag a bottle of that Chanel perfume you’ve always wanted or enjoy some ice cream. Get a stupid neck pillow so I can make fun of you on the plane (and then curse your name when you’re snoozing away and I can’t get comfortable). Drink one more vodka soda (hehehe). Some airports have nail salons and massage studios to truly pamper yourself.
- Meet People.
Lol. Ok or not. People suck & I’m awkward. I’m not talking to anyone I don’t know unless I have to. But like if you’re good at this sort of thing by all means talk to the people around you. It could be fun you’re more extroverted and/or learning from others (sounds like torture imho but to each their own). To all my singles, this could be a fun way to swipe through Tinder? Maybe? Are the kids still using Tinder? If anything, talking to strangers could help plan your next layover destination.
Ok much better than *shudder* talking to people. Find a quiet area and get some snooze. If you check the Yelp/Foursquare page of the airport you’re laying over in, you may find sleeping tips from past passengers and you can enjoy nap-approved wings of the airport. This is especially important for overnight layovers, but sometimes you want to catch some daytime zzz as well. Also, some airlines (admittedly, mainly non-American airlines) have lodging policy, meaning if your layover is long enough they’ll pay for you to stay in a hotel. This is worth asking the question when you book your flight.
Get a little creative. Bring along an adult coloring book and get lost trying to color between the lines (EVEN THOUGH IT IS IMPOSSIBLE IN THEM THE LINES ARE SO SMALL OK). Take an artsy instagram photo oh the airport. Write some poetry. Knit a scarf. Put your energy into creating something that you otherwise wouldn’t give yourself the time to do. It feels good.
Ok ok hear me out. You just sat on one flight for who knows how long and you’re getting ready to sit on another one for perhaps even longer. In between those flights, you have more waiting. It’s good to take advantage of this free time and get your body moving. I’ve seen folks whip out their yoga mats and get into a couple of poses but I prefer to just walk the terminal. At a big enough airport, you can end up walking 3-4 miles if you keep doing laps. It’s also a great way to see what their airport has to offer (in terms of food, shopping, etc) so you can make good use of your layover. If you’re looking for something a bit more high-impact, just pretend you’re late for your flight and run around the airport telling people to move out of the way. You’ll really confuse people when you settle at the bar and order a beer!
This goes out to the adventurer in us all. If you’ve got a 5 hour+ layover, you can venture outside and leave the airport. Take into consideration you’ll have to go through security again (the worst) and most airports are situated *just* outside big cities and tend to be surrounded by traffic, but hey its your layover! Just get back to the airport with enough time to not miss your flight. If you choose to leave the airport during your layover, be a little prepared and find out what is close, what is cool, and what is ultimately the best use of your time.
“Enjoy” your layover and pay attention—my gate was moved an hour before my flight and I still showed up and the wrong gate at first. Be on time and don’t miss your flight. You’ve just spent too much time in an airport so get you’re ass on that plane!
Have any tips for surviving a long layover? Have a funny/tragic layover story? Let us know in the comments below!