How to Survive an Airport Layover

posted in: Travel, Travel Tips | 22

Long layovers can be a bit of a nightmare, but sometimes, they’re unavoidable. But rather than grimacing the whole way up to your trip, there are plenty of things that you can plan on doing to entertain yourself instead. In fact, your layover could even become part of your trip if you have enough time to kill. Here are some ideas to keep you occupied:

How to Survive an Airport Layover

Make the Most of It

If you have a long enough layover, there’s no reason why you can’t get out and explore the city you’re laying over in. Provided you get the appropriate visas and leave yourself enough time to get back through security, there’s no reason why an airport layover can’t turn into an impromptu exploration of a new city. In fact, some airports even offer tours directly from the airport. Do a little research ahead of time and see if it’s possible to turn your dull layover into an exciting mini-vacation en route to your final destination.

How to Survive an Airport Layover

Explore the Airport

By the time you reach your layover destination, there are probably a few things that you need—a restroom, a restaurant, or whatever else. But if you’re flying through a major destination, there’s often more to what an airport has to offer than just the basic necessities; in addition, you could find spas, museums, play places for kids, and a plethora of other things to keep you entertained. Again, if you do your research (or make it simple for yourself by using the GateGuru app on your smartphone or tablet), you might find a lot of things to do.


Watch Some Videos

You can often find free WiFi and in your terminal—use your layover as a chance to get caught up on your favorite shows! Unfortunately, if you use a streaming service, such as Netflix or Hulu+, they often refuse to let you access their streaming catalogues if you’re traveling abroad, but all you have to do is install a VPN prior to your trip and use that to hide your real IP address. The VPN will cloak your location by sending it through a third-party server located in the country of your choice, and your streaming service will never know you’re sitting in an airport hundreds of miles away. Voila, you’re successfully unblocked!

How to Survive an Airport Layover

Make it a Game

Turn your time in the airport into a game to keep everyone entertained. Print off some airport bingo sheets or an airport scavenger hunt. You could even come up with prizes for winners or challenges for the losers when you reach your final destination (for example, the losers have to buy the winners a meal or pose in some silly pictures). If each person or team has a smartphone, you can require photographic proof for each thing—or just play for fun.

How to Survive an Airport Layover

Catch Up on Sleep

Make your layover disappear in the blink of an eye! The thing is, when you’re traveling, especially if you’re going through a bunch of different time zones, catching sleep wherever you can en route means you can actually enjoy yourself a little more once you arrive at your final destination. If you can’t find a comfortable spot in the main part of the airport, you may want to look into whether or not your airline’s has a paid lounge where you can relax, or check out the day-rates at the airport hotel.

Although suffering through a long layover is never fun, especially when you’re super excited to get to your final destination or you’re just ready to get back home, there are definitely things you can do to make the time pass. What else do you do on your long layovers? Tell us your tips and tricks in the comments!

About the Author: Jess Signet is an avid traveler and enjoys writing about her adventures at Knowing there’s more to the world than the bubble she lives in makes her want to travel even further. Traveling is her drug, and she’s addicted. (Please, no intervention!)

What do you do to pass time during a layover?

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How to Survive an Airport Layover

22 Responses

  1. Chris Travels

    I had the longest layover ever last year when I landed in Istanbul for a very long 17 hours before continuing on to my final destination. I’ve been asking myself ever since if it was worth the $250 savings in airfare to do that. IF I had the knowledge I now have, I might still say an enthusiastic “yes”! Reason being I have since discovered that for long layovers in Istanbul they offer FREE bus tours of several important tourist sites. They even pick you up at the airport and drop you back off in time to catch your next flight!

    • Dang Travelers

      What a great option, right? It always seemed daunting to leave and have to return back to the airport in such a short time, but if it’s all planned out for you it is so simple.

    • Wow, that’s fantastic! *quickly starts researching flights through Istanbul*

  2. I love making the most of layovers! Usually, if I see that a layover is more than 8 hours, I schedule my flights out so it lasts for a few days instead (that’s how I visited the Philippines this Winter!) 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      That’s a great idea Lisa! We were thinking of doing that with Iceland on the way to Europe when we go next.

  3. I’ve never had a super long layover but I have an 8 hour stop in Abu Dhabi when I come back to the UK from Nepal in May. And I’m not looking forward to it. Hopefully these tips will help though and there’ll be somewhere to grab some sleep in the airport!

    • Dang Travelers

      8 hours is pretty long. Hopefully our tips will keep you busy! Sounds like a great trip. Safe travels!

  4. Some great tips here – the one about games is unique – I never heard that before. Have you tried it ? How was the experience ?
    I really had fun exploring Singapore airport – there is so much to do there but then long layovers in airport like Addis ababa can get really boring where these tips can come in handy.

    • Dang Travelers

      Haven’t had to pull out the games just yet, but I think they would be great when traveling with children.

    • I completely agree, I think it’s a lot easier to spend time in a sophisticated airport. Singapore Airport even has a pool you can use.

  5. Some airports are just good to do these things. Just make the time worthy. I would either sleep or write a blog post. 😉

  6. Great post. I mostly take advantage of layovers doing some work and walking around 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      We do as well. It’s always a great time to get online and get some work done!

  7. For me layovers are the ultimate time for relaxation when on a tighter travel itinerary. Take a nap, read a book, have some yummy snacks.. and do all this super chilled out and without the bad conscience that you should rather be out exploring. Maybe it’s just me, but I always feel super refreshed afterwards haha

    • Dang Travelers

      We typically try to avoid super long layovers, but sometimes the price is right. We do all of the above. I think the tours are handy if you have a 15-20 hour layover which is a LONG wait!

    • That’s how I approach flights, I actually quite enjoy them as it’s time to get stuck into a good book or movie and just chill..

  8. I think the best option out of all of these is to get out and explore the city if you have time! If you can’t do that, I usually take a tour of the airport, read, write, work, or get to know strangers at one of the airport bars. I’ve had many interesting conversations at the airport. 🙂

    • Dang Travelers

      That’s a good point. We’ve met many great people waiting for flights!

  9. Great tips. As an insomoniac that last one is always a hard one for me. I envy those that can just sleep anytime and where.

    • Dang Travelers

      I can sleep on planes no problem, but when it comes to the airport I have a hard time too.

  10. My longest layover so far was in Rome. We were waiting for a plane to Malta. We visited Vatican city but had to return to airport too early, to pick up our luggage from the deposit counter, since they had very unpractical working hours. We had a very cold night trying to sleep in the airport. After that we learned to plan ahead and research airports beforehand.

    • Dang Travelers

      Sounds like a bit of a nuisance for sure. Having knowledge of the airport or things preplanned to do definitely helps make the time go by faster.

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