“The journey is more important than the destination”
— I bet whoever came up with that saying has not had to endure long layover in airports.
What can you do to make those dragging hours feel better?
Note: most of these suggestions only apply if you’re stuck in an international airport.
1. First stop: Google
Find out if what facilities the airport has to offer: a movie theater maybe? A quick massage, anyone? Most modern airports have made it easier and easier for passengers to kill time (and spend money) while waiting for their next flight.
You might luck out and discover that the airport you’re stuck in has a collection of awesome facilities that would make killing hours of time a breeze. Check out some of the sweet amenities that Singapore’s Changi Airport has:
- Hair & Beauty Services
- Nature Trail
- Swimming Pool
- And my favorite: The Slide @ T3
If you are into the spa scene check out this list of airports that has spa kiosks or spa lounges in their terminals.
Finding the help desk or a directory is another thing you can do to find out what/where these facilities might be. Sometimes these places are located in a different terminal, and/or require a shuttle/train ride and you won’t be able to find them easily by walking around.
2. Prepare your carry-on properly
One you do your research, make sure you pack your carry-on for the activities you’re planning to do during your layover— computer if you’re planning to do some work (don’t forget to pack the charger), gym clothes if you’re planning to check out the gym, toiletries if you want to freshen up, etc.
There’s nothing worse than being excited about playing an 18 hole game in the Hong Kong Int’l Airport’s golf course only to find out that you forgot to bring a change of clothing.
3. Catch up on your celebrity gossip
Have you ever stood in line in the grocery store and wondered who those people on the cover of tabloid magazines are? But you don’t want anybody to know that you actually read those magazines, right?
Well, being an anonymous joe-nobody at an airport in a city that you don’t live in is a perfect opportunity to catch up with what the Kardashians are up to nowadays. After you’re done, you can leave the mags on the chair for the next tortured soul to peruse.
4. Catching Some Snooze
This is definitely my preferred way to spend the time. Sick of sitting on my butt and unable to sleep with my knees up by my ear, I always take advantage of the quietest corner I can find, use my carry-on as a pillow, and (most of the time) fall asleep almost instantly.
Even if sleep alludes you, closing your eyes in a comfortable position in a quiet place can better prepare you for your next flight out.
5. Get Out and Explore
If you have an ungodly long layover, it might be worth it to find out if you can leave the airport and go explore the city a bit. Singapore’s Changi Airport has a free guided tour if your layover is longer than 2 hours. Many airports also have a direct public transportation line to the city center.
For example, our local San Francisco International airport springs to mind with a convenient BART station underground that would take you to the heart of San Francisco in 20 mins.
Just make sure to find out when the last train/shuttle run is so you won’t have a nasty surprise trying to get back to the airport.
6. Be productive
Those hours spent waiting is hours of your life you’ll never get back. Might as well use them by doing something productive.
Stretch those muscles out. Being stuck in one position for a long period of time will wreak havoc on your muscles and postures. You don’t need to bust out your yoga mat and assume the downward dog position in the waiting lounge, but some simple stretching exercises would do you good.
Tidy up your digital world
Since a lot of airports now have wifi (some are even free) or internet kiosk, why not use the time to do something productive? Write emails to old friends and relatives you haven’t heard in awhile. Organize your emails. Update your profile on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social medias. Check the latest news about the place you’re arriving. Confirm hotel reservations, flight reservations… Things you know you have to do in the digital world but never got around to do them.
Pick up new skills
Practice doodling. People sitting around or sleeping in airports make for prime doodling targets since they’re not moving much. Pick up a Sudoku book or one of those brain teaser books at the magazine store. If you’re heading towards a foreign country you can assume that some of the people waiting with you are flying home; bust out that phrasebook and ask the least intimidating looking person there if you can practise some of them. You might even end up learning some things or two about the country.
There’s only so much eating and window shopping that we can do and those above are some of the other things that we do when stuck inside an airport. I personally like to do #4 after a light stretching exercises while Jack prefers to kill time with one of his many electronic gadgets. And when feeling just a little daring, I might pick up one of those magazines too…