How to Make the Most of Long Layovers

You’ve booked a flight and later realize your itinerary includes a lengthy connection. What will you do while you wait for next flight?

What to do During a Long Layover 

Sometimes a long layover is required due to scheduling and sometimes it can simply save you hundreds of dollars over flights that have a standard 1 to 3-hour layover. What you can do during a long layover depends on the length and if it falls during the daytime or overnight hours of the city you are connecting through. Here are some strategies on how to make the most of a long layover.

Leave the Airport and Explore the City

If you have a layover of 5-6 hours or more, that should be enough time to leave the airport and see some city sights. Some airports are closer to the city than others, but even if the airport is far from the city center, it can be a nice way to pass the time on longer layovers. Look up public transportation schedules or driving times beforehand so you know if this is a feasible option.

Leaving the airport just to get some fresh air or a better value meal can be a great way to break up your trip and save you from wasting hours away inside an airport terminal. You will have to go through security screening again so make sure you return to the airport with ample time to do so, and if possible, check-in for your connecting flight before you leave the airport. 

Some airlines and airports even offer city tours for long layovers that fall over daytime hours. Turkish Airlines has a Touristanbul program for layovers over 6 hours. If you’re flying Qatar Airways via Doha, you can explore the city on a 3-hour tour with a Discover Qatar tour. And you can do more than explore Singapore’s top-notch airport with a free tour of the city. There are also other airports across the world that offer both free and paid tours so check if one is available at your connecting airport.

Visit an Airport Lounge

The holy grail of any layover is the airport lounge. Complete with complimentary food and beverages and comfortable seating away from the crowds of the terminal, an airport lounge can be an oasis in the middle of the madness of an airport.

These aren’t just for business class passengers and elite status passengers anymore. There are many lounges you can have access to by simply purchasing a day pass or an annual membership in either a specific airline lounge program or an independent lounge program like Priority Pass. Better yet, there are several credit cards that will include Priority Pass membership or another lounge program in the annual fee.

If you have a layover between 4 and 6 hours and you don’t think it’s feasible to leave the airport, a visit to the lounge may be worth the cost of a day pass just to pass the time and experience a little luxury during your journey.

Check-In to a Hotel

Some itineraries may require overnight connections. In this case, it may be worthwhile to bite the bullet and get a hotel room for your short stay in a connecting city. Many airports shut down and become ghost towns in the overnight hours so you won’t find much to keep yourself occupied and sleeping on the floor of an airport terminal is about as desirable as going to see the dentist.

It’s really easy to find a hotel just a short shuttle ride away from most airports and a few even have rooms inside the terminals or directly adjacent. Onsite hotels tend to be relatively expensive, but if you have an early morning departure, it may be worth it. There is usually a budget option just a short ride away on a free shuttle bus.

For those schedules that require a long or overnight layover, some airlines even offer free hotel rooms to accommodate you for an extended stay in a connecting city. Most of the Chinese carriers offer this service and a few other international carriers do as well. Have a look at how to get a complimentary hotel room.

Even if the hotel isn’t free, getting a good night sleep and a shower will leave you refreshed and ready for your next flight. You’ll be thankful when you arrive at your intended destination without being completely exhausted from staying up all night at a connecting airport.

Exercise 

An airplane doesn’t offer much of a chance to get the blood flowing. Use the time in-between flights to get some exercise and you’ll feel better about sitting in a tiny airplane seat again. A few airports have a complete gym inside the terminal such as Roam Fitness at Baltimore (BWI), Hilton Health Club at Chicago’s O’Hare (ORD), or GoodLife Fitness inside Toronto’s Pearson (YYZ) airport.

If your airport doesn’t have a gym inside the terminal, simply walking around the terminal instead of sitting the entire layover will help you pass the time and get some much-needed exercise.

Get a Massage

Traveling can be stressful and one way to create some zen is to get a massage while you wait for your connecting flight. You’ll find many airports that have basic massage services as you walk from gate to gate and some airports even have full-fledged spas inside the terminal.

A few chain spa companies have branches at many airports such as XpresSpa and Be Relax where you can book your treatment in advance. Some other airports have their own independent spas giving you a sanctuary in-between gates.

Organize Photos and Documents

If you’re like me, you have thousands of unorganized photos on your laptop. Use the time during your layover to sort through, delete duplicates, and organize all those amazing pictures you just took on vacation or from previous trips. This can be a fun way to look back at previous travels or memories from home.

Photos aren’t the only thing that can be cluttered on your hard drive. Clearing your desktop and computer from all unnecessary files or organizing your paper documents can be a good way to kill the time during a layover at an airport when there might not be anything exciting happening to deter you from this often-ignored task. 

Eat a Decent Meal

There is no reason to eat fast food if you have a long layover, and if you’re flying long-haul, the food served on an airplane is just not satisfying. Take the time during your layover to find a decent restaurant inside the terminal, sit down, and eat a proper meal.

This will be more expensive than a quick meal from a fast food joint, but you’ll have a healthier, tastier meal, and be able to relax during a longer layover. You can find some top-notch restaurants at airport terminals these days, so splurge a little and enjoy a sit-down meal while you wait for your connecting flight.

You’ll be thankful you ate well when the in-flight food cart comes by with bland chicken or pasta. Instead of holding on to a meal tray for what can seem like an eternity, you can snooze through the meal service in-flight, and still arrive at your destination without being hungry.

Header image by Maridav via Shutterstock.

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