Flights with layovers are often the way that we go to be able to afford overseas travel. Since it usually minimizes the cost of a flight, we try to choose them if we can. However, that often gives us a ton of time that we don’t know how to spend in the airport, usually during which we sit restlessly or walk around and look at stores that we can’t buy anything from. When something absolutely amazing, like a plate of pasta in Italy or the beaches of Tahiti are awaiting us, we tend to avoid actually doing anything in an airport.
But what if we used that time to our advantage? Making the most of a layover means getting off of your butt and actually doing something while you are there, whether you have three hours or six to spend. You can’t expect to just sit there are people watch for that long and airports are becoming increasingly useful at providing activities that will keep you satisfied. Here are a few of our favorite options?
You go on vacation to see the world, so why not start early? Many airports offer affordable transportation into the cities they serve, including Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago, and Toronto. Spend a few hours exploring and see the city. Even if you aren’t going somewhere exciting, it might still be worth your while.
Make sure to plan in advance what you want to do so you can get there quickly and without any problems. Save some wiggle room so that you don’t get caught in traffic and miss your connecting flight.
You already know that you are going to eat way more than you should when you go on vacation, so why not start fighting the flab early? Many airports now have designated yoga spaces and yoga mats that you can borrow. You can go on a run around the outside of the airport without too many people looking at you, or just walk around to get your heart rate up.
Even better, many airports are now offering gyms where you can use the treadmills or ellipticals or even lift weights while you wait. They’ll have showers available as well so that the person who sits next to you in coach doesn’t hate you.
Once again, you have to play ahead here because you will want to bring a change of clothes so that you don’t have to workout in the same leggings you plan to sit in on your flight.
Book a Hotel Room
If the longest part of your flight is behind you but you have a layover that is substantial, consider getting a room. Plenty of hotels offer short-term lodging options that will allow you to rest your eyes on a comfortable bed. Many of the hotels are the capsule or pod style hotels, so you won’t get a lot of room, but it will be just enough. There are TVs and desks so you can unwind or get some work done. You can even freshen up in the shower, which can feel amazing after a longer flight. Space is limited, but it might be better than cramming into a terminal.
Plan ahead for this feature to get the best rate. You can check rates online for airport terminals to determine if there are any deals going on that you could take advantage of – and jump when you see an extremely low price.
Sleeping is a fantastic way to avoid getting into a new city with jet lag (of course you have to figure out whether or not it will help you). If you don’t want to get a whole hotel room, there are many airports that have designated “sleep zones” where you won’t have to listen to crying toddlers or use your jacket as a pillow. Comfy lounge chairs, closed off cubicles, and even padded benches make for a great couple hours of sleep. Just make sure you don’t outstay your welcome – security guards aren’t known to appreciate sleeping guests.
Airplane food is notoroiously inedible at best, but airport food doesn’t always have to follow that rule. Many airports have amazing cuisine that ranges from affordable to gourmet cuisine. At the very least, you’ll be able to find a fantastic burger and fries or a great cup of coffee. Go to certain airports and you can enjoy the regional cuisine, like lobster roll in Maine or cheesesteaks in Philly.
Make sure to choose food that won’t upset your stomach or make you smell too ripe on your trip.
Play a Game
From a game of billiards to Monopoly, many airports are starting to offer game zones where you can have a little bit of fun with your travel companions or with a stranger. It is a fun way to pass the time and where else will you hope that a game of Monopoly lasts and lasts?
Of course, you can also bring your own games if the airport doesn’t offer them. There are plenty of travel versions of your favorite board games or you could just download the app version, but that isn’t as fun.
Meet New People
One of the best things about international travel is that you get to expand your horizons and meet someone new. Hit up the airport bar, the lounge, or the game room to find someone who will just sit and talk to you for a while. Older people are usually great choices to talk to, as they can tell you stories for hours. If you are going somewhere you’ve never been before, talk to someone near your gate to get travel tips. Maybe you’ll find a great restaurant that you’ve never heard of before or a fun bar that only the locals know about.
Layovers don’t have to be the end of the world. In fact, they can be something that you look forward to if you know how to spend your days at the airport – and that doesn’t include watching something on Netflix for a few hours.