A layover is a long wait between two connecting flights. Unsurprisingly, flights with layovers generally cost less than direct flights – the additional, non-financial cost you bear is the inconvenience of the layover.
From aimlessly dragging your trunk luggage through a foreign airport, making futile efforts to find comfort on those uncomfortable metal chairs, and trying to keep an eye on your large luggage, a layover can be tiring and distressing.
That said, despite their less-than-stellar reputation, layovers do not always have to be this difficult. In this guide, we will discuss a few ways to make the most of your layover.
1. Explore the City
If your layover exceeds 4-5 hours, what better way to spend this time than to grab your pink suitcase and check out the city you are in?
However, in order to avoid wasting precious time, do a bit of research, decide on a mode of commute, and draft a rough itinerary before setting off. You might want to stick to a single neighborhood or location to save time and avoid overcrowding your itinerary. Always make provisions for transit times, security screening, and custom lines before you step out. You may also want to find a locker facility so you do not have to lug your large luggage around with you.
Also, do check if the city airport offers any resources for such exploration. Some airports and airlines even offer their own tours for long layovers: Turkish Airlines, for example, has a ‘Touristanbul’ program for layovers exceeding 6 hours, while Qatar Airways offers a 3-hour ‘Discover Qatar’ tour. Many airports around the world offer similar free and paid tours, and you may be able to come across one at your connecting airport.
Certain cities like Washington D.C, Chicago, Amsterdam, Toronto, and Sydney even allow you to use public transportation to get from the airport to the city center.
Finally, remember to have all your paperwork sorted, since some countries will not allow you to exit the airport without a visa. Be clear about the protocols for exiting and re-entering the airport, and make sure to be back at the airport at least a couple of hours before your connecting flight.
2. Check Yourself into a Transfer Hotel
Many airports around the world offer transfer hotels for travelers with lengthy layovers. Some of these hotels are within the security, meaning you will not have to use up extra time to get yourself and your trunk luggage through security checks. However, others are located land-side and require you to pass through security.
Transfer hotels can be booked for half a day or even on an hourly basis, and are surprisingly economical for weary travelers who just want to set their pink suitcase down and take a brief nap.
3. Try Out Local Cuisines
If your layover is not long enough for you to step out of the airport, checking out the local foods is another immersive way to pass your time. Thankfully, almost every airport has at least a few local restaurants and cafes.
From fine dine extravaganzas to locally-inspired classics, the right meal can not only help make the layover less boring but also give you the burst of energy you need for the remainder of your journey.
4. Take a Shower
You may not know this, but quite a few airports offer low-cost or even free shower facilities. If a splash of cold water is what you need to feel refreshed, this may be an excellent option for you. You can either visit the airport gym or enquire about shower facilities at a help-desk.
Most of these shower facilities also offer towels and toiletry kits at a low rental cost, so you do not have to endure the hassle of digging through your large luggage.
Even if the airport itself does not have a shower facility, the airport lounge might. Buying a day pass to the airport lounge will not only provide access to the showers, but also to a number of other lounge facilities such as free drinks, food, and Wi-Fi.
5. Stretch, Meditate, Exercise
Stretching out your stiff, tired body and getting the blood pumping is another way to make your layover count. Alongside gyms, many airports even offer meditation or prayer rooms you can use for this purpose.
Even if the airport does not have a dedicated space, you can always sit straight on a seat or cross-legged on the floor, and close your eyes. If you want, pull your headphones out of your pink suitcase and play some calming music. Meditate for a few minutes – after a long, wearisome flight, a few minutes of quiet downtime can go a long way in rejuvenating you.
Also, as discussed in the previous point, many airports contain gyms inside their terminals. Even if a gym is not available, simply walking around the terminal instead of spending the entire layover period seated can help pass the time while also getting in some much-needed physical activity.
6. Call a Friend
If you are a regular traveler, you may be guilty of not staying in touch with friends and family as much as you should.
A long stopover offers the perfect opportunity to catch up with your loved ones. That college buddy who you were meaning to reconnect with? Well, now is the time to convert intentions into action.
7. Play a Game
Plan to make new friends on your layover but are not quite sure how? Well, pack a couple of games in your trunk luggage and encourage a stranger or two to join in on the fun. This allows you to look away from your screen (although crossword smart-phone apps are quite addictive, we must admit) and interact with an actual human being. Talking to a stranger may feel hard initially. However, conversation will soon begin to flow and, before you even realize, you would have made a new friend in a new city.
If you are not big on conversations, grab a newspaper (airports have free newspaper services), and crush your Sudoku goals.
8. Set Goals or Journal
If the layover is at the start of the trip, you could use up some of that time to establish goals for your journey. These goals could include making new friends, immersing yourself in a new language, doing something out of your comfort zone, or simply focusing on relaxing and recharging yourself. You can also visualize yourself achieving the things you want to achieve on this trip.
On the other hand, if you are at the back-end of your journey, you could use the layover as an opportunity to journal about your experiences, and whether you were able to achieve the travel goals you had laid out for yourself at the start. Your stories and adventures are fresh in your mind, and it is best to strike while the iron is still hot.
For most people, layovers are painful inconveniences that cannot end soon enough.
However, that need not be the case – in fact, a layover provides an excellent opportunity to immerse in the local culture, make new friends (or get in touch with old ones), and even to explore your own self.
We hope that the ideas discussed in this guide will help improve your relationship with layovers and even make you look forward to one the next time you decide to act on your wanderlust.