If you’ve ever been stranded at an airport for longer than a few hours, you know how miserable it can be. Maybe you missed your connecting flight, or the plane you were waiting for got severely delayed. You planned for an easy, one-hour layover, but all of a sudden, your time in limbo has been dragged out into what feels like infinity.
A long layover can make even the sanest of travelers go a little stir-crazy. You might feel irrationally angry, or even trapped and powerless. But worst of all, you’re probably going to get BORED.
What do seasoned travelers do to while away lost time without losing their minds? Here are a few ideas:
- Sneak into the business class lounge
Don’t be that stressed-out schmuck huddled in the corner next to the airport’s only power outlet—desperately charging your phone while hordes of washed-up coach travelers also try to do the same. You can leave discomfort behind if you check in at one of the terminal’s comfy business class lounges. VIP travelers pay more money for private spaces, but if you’re resigned to a long wait, you’re better off waiting in comfort. Enjoy a complimentary coffee. Sit in a comfortable chair. Charge your electronic devices without having to fend other travelers away from your power outlet.
- Get comfy: take a shower
Well, maybe not a shower. But if you’re a savvy traveler, you packed your toothbrush and a fresh pair of underwear in your carry-on bag. When you’re into the eleventh hour of a stressful journey, remembering that you have these items with you will feel almost as good as Christmas. You might be bored and miserable, but at least you don’t have to be dirty. So find a decent bathroom and make yourself at home. Cleaning up is a good way to pass the time, and it will make you feel a million times better. Some airports even offer salon services, so if you’re a sucker for a good pedicure, you might as well splurge and treat yourself. This is a good way to relax.
- Use the moving walkway as a treadmill
If you’re fidgety from sitting in confined spaces all day, you can at least go for a walk and stretch your legs. Take a hike to the other terminal to check out what food is available there. Walk the wrong way on the moving walkway. Stop at the duty-free shop and try on all the designer sunglasses, or buy a corny t-shirt and a smutty romance novel at the airport newsstand. Maybe you’re the kind of person who would never willingly go into airport stores, but if you’re going to be trapped inside a random jailhouse airport for the next few hours, you might as well get acquainted with your surroundings. Go exploring.
- Find the best available restaurant bar to meet a stranger at
Airport food is expensive, and usually it’s gross. Also, eating alone can be depressing. So when you start to get hungry, don’t buy a random, soggy sandwich to eat by yourself in the corner. Find the best available restaurant with a bar, and order your food there. Most importantly: find a stranger to commiserate with. If you’re lucky, you just might have a conversation that turns your waste of a day into a small adventure. Talking to strangers in unfamiliar places like airport bars can be exciting, even. It’s an unusual day for both of you, and your encounter is so random. You’ll never see each other again. Maybe it’s the perfect opportunity to confess your wildest secret. Or have an hour-long love affair. Or, you know, just talk about the weather.
- Do work, draw, or write a letter to a friend
When you’re stuck on an extended layover, work might be the first anxiety on your mind. Or it might also be the furthest. At some point, though, you should make a point of taking out your laptop and digging into some business. If you’re able to cross an item off your to-do list while sitting in a boring, ugly airport lounge, you’ll definitely feel better. If you’re not in the mood to work, try doing something else that is productive: draw or write a letter to a friend. Airports might be annoying, but they also have a way of making us nostalgic. When was the last time you traveled? Where were you going? Who were you leaving behind? If you’re not opposed to a little sentimentality, take your layover as an opportunity to appreciate your feelings for someone. Put your feelings down in writing.
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I once had a 52 hour trip from Orlando to Taipei (but who is counting? I did!). A onboard heart attack returned us to Anchorage, with an overnight stay. Hotels were filled, so my young daughter and I ended up in a brothel, unknown until we arrived! Okay, we slept on top of the sheets and were able to take showers, ignoring the comings and goings around us! Once in Souel our flight to Taipei was cancelled until the next flight came in six hours later. I lost it with the Korean airline rep. He was helpless and upgraded us to business for our last leg. That helped some as we were more comfortable and could sleep. A letter to the airline and we were offered two free round trip tickets to the US for our inconvenience. Sometimes it pays to be honest about your feelings!