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Long Layovers: 10 best Things to Do in an Airport

Man looking at departure board

You’re geared up, you’ve made it through the first flight, and you’ve just landed at your connecting airport. What do you do now? Long layovers can be annoying and downright terrible, especially when you’re not expecting them (6 hour flight delays, anyone?). Here are 10 of the best tips for dealing with long layovers. With the right activities and state of mind, long layovers can be manageable, and even fun! 

Explore the terminals

In many airports you are free to explore more than one terminal. Check out an airport map to see restaurants, lounges, cafes, and other attractions. Some airports have unique offerings like mini-movie theaters, spas, gyms, and specialty shops. Some airports have incredible architecture or Instagram-worthy artwork on the walls. Sleeping In Airports features things to see and do in specific airports around the world. 

Finish unavoidable busy work

Perhaps not the most exciting thing on the list, but necessary. Go through and organize your inbox. Delete old files from your download folder. Do the little tasks that you’ve been avoiding so that they don’t bother you on your trip. 

Man waiting in terminal in front of window

Go shopping at Duty Free stores

Most larger airports have Duty Free shops, and many of those shops have free samples. Try out new perfumes and colognes.  Buy some gifts for your hosts, or souvenirs for your friends if you are heading home. Usually the products are priced competitively and without local taxes. Find out more information here

Read a book or magazine

This one probably seems obvious, but some maniacs I know don’t travel with a single book, magazine or newspaper. Now is the time to read that terrible romance novel you’ve been secretly eyeing, or that YA vampire fiction that’s your gross guilty pleasure. 

Some airports have shops that let you “rent” a book like a library through their “Read and Return” program. You can return the book for at least 50% of the purchase price at the same airport, or another airport with a participating bookstore.  

Go to a spa

Long layovers are the perfect time for pampering yourself. Many of the larger airports have a spa, massage parlor, or nail salon. Get a quick shoulder massage or a full Swedish deep muscle experience. Have your skin and nails picture-perfect for vacation photos. Some of these shops can be a little pricey, but worth it for a little extra pampering on long travel days. 

Watch a movie or TV show

Again, this is pretty obvious. Download a movie or a few episodes of your favorite show while home (and still connected to precious high speed wi-fi) to enjoy on the go. Binge watch something on Netflix or finally get around to watching that action movie you’ve been eyeing for months. Some airports have free wi-fi or hotspots, but I recommend downloading in advance instead of streaming. Most airport wi-fi is spotty and unsecure. 

Enjoy a meal

A long layover means more time to enjoy a sit-down meal or round of drinks. Many airports have incredible food options and friendly service. Some airports will even deliver food directly to where you are waiting – look for ordering stations or iPad’s outside of restaurants. Be careful not to over-drink, you don’t want to be the obnoxious drunk passenger on your next flight.

Visit a lounge

Some credit cards and airline rewards programs feature their own lounges for cardholders and members to enjoy. For those of us who are in economy class, you can also pay a fee to visit a luxury lounge by visiting Lounge Pass or Lounge Buddy. Many of these lounges serve free drinks and have comfy chairs and couches. Normally you can watch tv, access free wi-fi, or read a complimentary newspaper. 

Person looking at departure boards in airport

Mini trip into town

This is an option if you have PLENTY of time to make it back through airport security. This is easier if your luggage is checked through to your final destination. Many airports also have a “left luggage” area where you can store your stuff for the day while you are out exploring. I love having enough time to leave the airport and walk around whichever city I’ve landed in. Sometimes I specifically add in a super long layover so that I can head out into the neighboring areas for food and photos. This can also be a great idea as a little test to see if you’d like to make a longer trip back to the area later.

Add a stopover

If you have a flexible schedule, some airlines allow stopovers of a day or two (like Icelandair and Iberia) so you can actually get out and explore. TAP Air Portugal allows up to 5 days! The Points Guy has a great guide to which airlines allow stopovers and how long you can expect to stay. 

More advice for your next trip:

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