Flight Tips: 30 Things to Do on a Layover

As an avid traveler, I spend a lot of time in airports, bus stations, train stations, and ferry stations. Layovers, regardless of what type of building they occur in, don’t have to be dreaded. Here are 30 things you can do while on a layover:

  1. Sightsee – whenever possible, capitalize on layovers by building in mini-excursions enroute. This takes a bit of pre-planning, but if you have the luxury of time, check out where you might be able to have longer layovers enroute to your final destination. Make sure you budget time (and money) to get to and from the airport, pass through passport control (organize any necessary visas in advance), customs and security, and store your luggage. In general, a layover of less than 5 hours is not enough time to leave the airport and explore. To capitalize on your time there, plan your transit, any major sites you wish to visit, and activities you wish to do, prior to landing at the airport.
  1. Catch up on news/work/business/. Don’t have an internet connection? You can often find free newspapers in airports or train stations, or can ask your flight attendant for one if embarking from a plane (or check the business class section as you leave). Many airports also have television screens set up in gate waiting areas where you won’t be able to change the channel, but more than likely, it’s set to global news.
  1. Find the best business lounge – complete with showers, luggage storage, food, drinks, WiFi, office services… If you have a long layover, and don’t have any premium membership status, it still may be worth your while to purchase access to a good business lounge. For sometimes as little as $15USD, lounges offer you comfortable places to rest, as well as free food and drinks, which can easily add up in an airport bar or restaurant.ammanairportloungepin
  1. Take an art walk – many airports are beautifully decorated (Vancouver) or have changing art displays (San Francisco) of various themes.
  1. Learn a new language – upload ebooks or audiobooks on your iPad or tablet before you leave, or practice speaking with other travelers around you.
  1. Connect with others – write that email/letter/postcard/thank you card/just because card/note or put on your headphones and Skype with your bestie. Most major airports also have postal services so you can send immediately.
  1. Listen to music – download your favourite tunes before you leave.
  1. Find a quiet corner – there are many non-busy sections of the airport available for you. Look at the airport screens detailing scheduled flights and find the terminal with the fewest flights, or unused gates. This is also a good strategy to use when you need to sleep in an airport.emptyairportpin
  1. Have a shower – you will probably need business lounge access to do this, although there are also many airports with hotels on site. Many of these will charge you a user fee if you want to use a shower (or pool) and are not staying overnight.
  1. Get a mini spa treatment – manicure, pedicure, shoulder massage…some of the larger airports even have hair studios or shave parlours.
  1. Watch inspirational videos – maybe reading isn’t your thing, but take time to download and watch something that inspires you, calls to you, or makes you laugh.
  1. Eat/drink – airport bars and restaurants are notorious for overpricing. If this is a concern for you, pack yourself a healthy snack, and carry an empty water bottle or insulated bottle (I love my mini thermos with built in tea strainer) to fill at a water fountain or make your own tea (almost any of the cafes will be happy to give you hot water for free).
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  1. Make a new friend – yes, have real conversations with people around you.
  1. Meditate – while you could meditate from any seat or area, try the prayer room. Prayer rooms don’t have to be used for prayer, they’re great places to go when you just need some quiet alone time, and the benefits of just a few moments of silence are immense. My other favourite zen spot is a seat facing a window. Airports have such great natural light, and if you can find an unused gate, you can bliss out with a runway view.
  1. Work – with most airports offering free WiFi, it’s fairly easy to dive into work, whether that means simply responding to emails, or writing reports.
  1. Nap/rest (but be sure to set an alarm) – the newest areas of the airport are usually where you will find the most comfortable seating. Carry a lightweight blanket (airline blankets are a perfect size/weight) or extra layer of clothing (scarves, shawls, or pashminas are also handy) to keep yourself warm. Most airports crank up the air conditioning, so come well prepared if you want to nap.copenhagen_aiportpin
  1. Use the time to review and catch up on your to do list (or create one!)
  1. Watch a movie – again, take advantage of technology. Download a movie you haven’t seen, put on your headphones, and grab a snack.
  1. Study – if you’re a student, a layover can provide some distraction free study time. Bring your textbook or download some articles before you leave. If you’re not a student, this is a good time to learn a new application, or improve your skills in an application or program that you are already using.
  1. Play a game – you don’t have to have children to play games. Pack a deck of cards, mini boardgame, or electronic game.
  1. Read – with an abundance of e-readers to choose from, it’s easy to port a whole library with you. Stock up on your favourite novel, or self-help book.mags2pin
  1. Get a better seat for your next flight – check online, talk to airline service agents…if you’re looking to be upgraded, the best time to ask for a better seat is 45 minutes to 1 hour prior to your flight’s departure. Gate agents usually have the ability to give you the best seats without an extra charge, but they aren’t released to do so until within the hour.
  1. Plan your travel itinerary – use the time to organize your upcoming travels, download maps, book shuttles/hotels/car rentals, and activities.
  1. Exercise – walk, stretch, yoga – many airports now have yoga rooms, and there’s a new trend in airport gyms! For those that don’t, you can also usually use the fitness center inside a hotel airport (complete with showers and storage lockers) for a small fee. You also don’t need a mat to practice yoga at an empty gate. As long as you’ve dressed comfortably in clothes that move, find a space, and move.
  1. Journal/write/draw/blog – maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer or artist, but simply getting your thoughts onto paper (or digitally) can be an extremely calming and reflective process.gatwickpin1
  1. Shop – the airport is a great place for small souvenirs. Just remember that you will need to put any liquids into your checked luggage. You can also take advantage of online shopping, and plan for your items to be shipped to you upon your arrival.
  1. Get your shoes shined, the old fashioned way.
  1. Declutter – your carry-on luggage, purse, wallet, travel bag, email folders, computer (organize your files or photos)…
  1. Create a gratitude or bliss list – make a list of all the things, people, places, and experiences that you are grateful for or make you happy (and/or passionate)…then aim to do more of what’s on the list.
  1. Plan your week – if your layover happens to be on your way home, it’s a great time to plan your week ahead. Remember that after any type of travel, regardless of whether it was for work or leisure, your body will need to adjust (weather, time zones, schedule, activities), so planning your next few days can help to save time and energy. Schedule any appointments, create or send necessary emails, pay online bills… ease your transition back into work and daily life.
  1. Go outside and breath some fresh air – airports can be stuffy, stifling, or blasted with airconditioning. Check if your airport has an outside patio or access way to the outdoors without needing to cross security. If it does, take advantage of this.

With so much to do, I look forward to taking full advantage of my layover downtime. Have a layover idea? Leave a comment! Know someone else who could use these travel tips? Share this post with a friend. Happy travels!

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