You may often have a layover so quick that you only have time to make a mad dash from one flight to the next. Or, sometimes, the layover is so long, you have time to leave the airport and sightsee for a couple of hours before catching your next flight. More often than not, your layover will be somewhere in-between.

What to Do During a Short Layover

Here are our tips for what you can do when you have a 1-2 hour layover.

Find Your Next Gate

First and foremost, figure out what gate your next flight takes off from, and go there. If you are flying a different airline, it could be quite far away, so to save yourself from getting in a panic at boarding time, find out where it is immediately. Even if you are flying the same airline, it might not be as close as you’d think, so don’t assume the same airline equals close gate. Once you get to the general area of the next gate, then you can figure out your next steps. If you are flying internationally, check out where your second flight will be flying out of, before you leave. There is a chance it might be at a different terminal (especially when it is a different airline), and you’ll have to pass immigration before you can collect any checked bags (if flying a different airline) and make your way to the next gate.

Freshen Up

Take the opportunity to use a toilet that is not crammed into a tiny space, like you’ll find on the airplane. If you are a contact lens wearer like me and have an early flight, you could do what I do: wear your glasses on the first leg, and put in your contacts during your layover. Splash some water on your face, brush your hair, spritz some perfume, or whatever you need to do to make yourself feel better.


You should definitely use some of your time to eat. Every airport has somewhere to eat, and you should have at least a couple of options. If you are at an airport that has several restaurants to choose from, walk around and see what is available before settling on something. If your short layover leans on the longer end, have a sit down meal; if it’s short, grab something to go and bring it to your gate. While some people frown upon drinking alcohol while flying, I say go for it! Have a drink and make the most of your layover. Some of the top airports for food are Minneapolis-St. Paul MSP, Atlanta ATL,  Dallas/Fort Worth DFW,  San Francisco SFO, Portland PDX, and New York City JFK

Stretch Your Legs

No matter how short your flight may be, it’s important to get your legs moving while you wait for your next one. Taking that lap around to check out the restaurants is your first step, but after you eat, it’s a good idea to take another stroll while you digest. If your layover is super short, simply standing while you wait to board will be beneficial. Some airports even have rooms where you can work out or do yoga (including San Francisco SFO, Burlington BTV, and both  Chicago ORD and MDW), so if you’re not totally rushing to your next flight, and you want to take a few minutes to really stretch, you can check those out, too.

Relieve Some of Your Stress with an Airport Therapy Dog

The latest trend at airports is making therapy dogs available to flyers. Over 40 airports in the US have them, including Los Angeles LAX, Salt Lake City SLC, San Diego SAN, Orlando MCO, Hartford BDL, and Houston IAH. If the dogs happen to be near your second gate, take a few minutes to pet Fido, relieving some anxiety before you board for the next leg of your journey.

People Watch

If your layover is really short, and you can’t risk sitting down to eat or taking a few laps, the people around you can provide entertainment. You can spot the rookie flyers, the business traveler, the families, the honeymooners. And check out the variety of travel outfits! Heels, sneakers, slippers, hoodies, jeans, leggings, suits. You’ll be amazed at what you can observe from your seat at your gate. I have witnessed so many fights, people storming off, people in tears. It’s like watching a reality show live.

BYO Entertainment

It’s always a good idea to bring a book or e-reader with you when you are flying. I also always buy an entertainment magazine at the airport for some mindless reading while I wait. Before you set off for your trip, it’s always smart to download an episode or two of your favorite show, so you can put your earbuds in and watch it while you wait. Same goes with your favorite podcast. While listening to a podcast, you can also people watch, making it a win-win for entertainment in my book! Check out some handy e-readers here.


Most airports have WiFi these days, so it’s a good time to check in with family and friends, and let them know the first leg of your trip was a success. If you are meeting someone at your final destination, keep them abreast of your travels. Check your email so you don’t get too far behind. You can also look into your various social media accounts, and maybe even post an update. If you make a call, just make sure you don’t yell into your phone. The whole airport doesn’t need to know what you’re up to, so stick to a more confidential tone.


A layover is the perfect time to charge up your cellphone, tablet, e-reader etc.. Most airports have charging hubs set up now, but if not, you can usually find an outlet somewhere near your gate to plug into and make sure everything is powered up.

The best thing you can do before you travel is to prepare. Research your connecting airport, so you have a better idea of how long you’ll need to get to your next gate and what amenities await you.

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