So you just booked your ticket for that trip you’ve been wanting to take. YAY you! But, you’ve got a long, unavoidable, seemingly annoying layover. Trust me, we’ve all been there. If anyone knows what you’re about to endure, it’s me. When flying to Sydney, Australia in early 2017 I had a 16-hour layover in Xiamen, China. SO random. I was flying Xiamen Air, booked through Skyscanner, one of the tools I use to find cheap flights. One of the pitfalls of cheap flights are the long layovers. And some would argue they aren’t worth it and say “You’ll end up spending so much money on your layover- it isn’t worth it.” I beg to differ. But sure, if you have the luxury of booking an expensive flight by all means, go for it!
You’ve got to be strategic with the way you spend your money and time on a layover. I’ve rounded up 13 tips and tricks on how to spend your time on your next long layover.
Pack snacks and a water bottle for your trip
First things first, FOOD. Amiright? One of my biggest expenses when traveling- especially when I am on a layover, have to be at the airport super early, or have a long travel day ahead of me. My carry on always has food in it. My go to travel snacks are RX Bars for their healthy ingredients and protein amount, small packets of almond butter, oatmeal, fruit like a banana or apple, almonds or homemade trail mix, and protein powder. Only so much will fit in your carry on so pack extras in your checked luggage so when you get to your destination you’re not spending money on nonessential food.
I’ve also been known to meal prep. I will cook something the night before a flight, usually eggs and a sweet potato. I’ll pack it in a disposable container (think: Cool Whip plastic tubs) then I will place it in a plastic bag to insure nothing leaks into my carry on. Voila, you have breakfast, lunch or enough for both meals! Whichever you prefer. Full disclosure: people will stare and salivate at your home cooked meal. Also, this probably isn’t for you if you don’t enjoy cold eggs.
Hot tip: if you don’t have time to meal prep or just don’t feel like it, eat oatmeal. This is one of the easiest airport travel hacks. Head to the coffee shop once you’re through security, usually a Starbucks if you’re in the states, ask for a grande or medium cup of hot water, double cupped. Once you’re seated, pour your oats into the extra cup, then pour some water over it and mix to the consistency you want. Add some almond butter and/or the banana and/or protein powder. If you don’t have a nut butter, again head to the coffee shop or find someplace like a Jamba Juice- they normally have at least peanut butter.
Research on your laptop/phone
Alright now that we’ve got the food covered, on to what to actually do. This might be one of the most obvious things that you could do. I always travel with my laptop, I have to! When I know I’m about to have a long layover I usually always dedicate time to research the destination I’m going to be in. This is when I make a loose itinerary and a Pinterest board. If I am not researching a destination, I’ll look up new music. Airports almost always have free Wi-Fi so take full advantage!
Walk around the airport
I always like to get my bearings in a new place, especially when I am about to spend hours upon hours here. If my carry-on isn’t too heavy or I can find a safe, locked place to store it I will. Then, I’ll roam about the airport go in shops and just people watch. Oh, bring headphones! Music helps.
Go to the gym
Yes, this is an actual thing you can do in airports. Many airports have hotels attached to them consequently meaning there will also be a gym. I’m specifically talking about the Vancouver Airport. The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel allows passengers on a layover to use the facilities for the day for anywhere from $10 to $20. When I was passing through, the front desk was so kind and let me use the facilities free of charge. The gym, pool and showers! This was just what I needed for the journey I was about to embark on all the way to Australia.
Hot tip: always research the airports you will have layovers in! Chances are they’ll have cool facilities like a gym, nap room or yoga room.
Access the lounges
Airports always have lounges. And you can sometimes buy passes to the lounge! SCORE. Sometimes they even have free pass promotions so always be on the lookout. Perks of spending time/money at the lounge? They provide pre/post flight amenities often including complete meals, snacks, beverages like coffee, tea, wine and beer, sleeping pods, charging stations, showers and virtual mini golf- all at no extra charge. My two favorite lounges I’ve been to, to date are the Turkish Airlines Lounge at the Istanbul Ataturk Airport and The Bridge, a Cathay Pacific Lounge in the Hong Kong International Airport. The money you will spend on a day pass will most likely cost less than what you would spend on two meals in the airport.
Here’s a look at some airport lounge passes:
Day Pass for $75
Day Passes for $59
Day Passes for $45
Day Passes for $40
Yearly Subscriptions with Priority Pass
You can get this pass by paying a yearly fee of $99 plus $27 per visit. There are three tiers to their memberships. Find more information on Priority Pass here.
Explore the city your layover is in
Many countries welcome travelers that are only passing through. Although I’ve never visited either places, Doha and Dubai both allow travelers to visit their cities on a limited visit Transit Visa. Just be sure to do your research on Visa restrictions on said location of your layover. A lot of this information can be found through the airlines website. Just do a quick Google search. Click here for information for visits in Doha and Dubai.
Find a cozy café or seating area
It is always important to be comfortable on a layover! I usually look for comfortable spots to base myself for a few hours. There is nothing worse than sitting in and uncomfortable seat for hours upon hours.
Read a book or magazine
This is a quick and easy fix. I’m not a huge reader but a book I love to bring with me is Eat, Pray, Love. For obvious reasons.
Charge electronics for your next flight
An absolute necessity. I don’t think there is anything worse than getting on a flight with a dead phone/laptop/tablet. Outlets in airports can be hard to come by. Purchase an adapter that turns one outlet in to three! This is my favorite. And this is my second favorite!
A given. Or, make sure your download and rent movies through iTunes. A friend of mine even has a hard drive dedicated to movies that she always brings with her!
Meet new people
I used to be so shy and keep to myself. It wasn’t until I started traveling that I found so much value in opening yourself up to complete strangers. Especially when traveling. There is just something about the people you meet in an airport or on a flight. An instant connection and seamless interaction. I can almost guarantee that you will meet people that you will instantly click with. I’ve had some of the best conversations with people in an airport.
I love chronicling my experiences in airports. It’s a fun way to show people this intimate part of your trip! If only just for friends and family.
Personally, prefer to stay awake on layovers. I find being in the airport to be a huge part of the travel experience. You can still get a sense of the local culture in some way. To be honest, I really just love listening to conversations in other languages and people watching.
After reading this, I hope you no longer dread long layovers in airports! There is beauty in the wait. What do you do to pass the time? I am always on the hunt for new things to do! Let me know in the comments.