If you fly much, chances are that at some point you will get stuck in an airport for a lengthy layover. Relax. There’s no need to have a hissy fit over uncontrollable weather or incompetent airlines. There are lots of things to do if you are stuck in an airport for awhile, and most of them are free or inexpensive to do.
First, Check Alternative Travel to Minimize Your Layover Time
On one trip I flew out to meet my folks in Kansas City but got stuck in an airport nearly 500 miles from KC. The minute I found out that no planes were going out until the next morning, I started asking people about bus travel to Kansas City. My luck was with me on this trip, because I found out that there was a bus terminal on the lower level, and that a bus for Kansas City was leaving in 10 minutes. I made the bus.
So do check about alternative travel if you are stuck in an airport and anxious to get to your destination – by rental car, bus, train, other airlines, or even through other airports. Sometimes in extreme situations, people will partner up to rent cars. This happened right after 9-11 when a lot of planes (and people) were grounded. A lot of people partnered up to either rent cars or to drive to airports to pick up their loved ones who were stuck in airports all over the country.
Ask the Airlines for Freebies
When you’re looking at a long layover, some airlines will give you a meal voucher to be used at one of the many airport eateries. Others will even put you up overnight in a hotel for free or at a heavily discounted price if you find yourself stuck in an airport overnight. For a more relaxing time during your long layover, ask the airlines for a free pass to their lounge or club for the day. Chances are they will give it to you.
Don’t get down about being stuck in an airport; keep your spirits up. The things you can do to entertain yourself when you’re stuck in an airport are virtually endless. Find an entertainment center in the airport, such as an arcade or even a bank of computers where you can play online games or get caught up on your email. Read a great book or a mindless magazine. Rent a DVD player and watch those movies you’ve always wanted to see. Play games on your cell phone or other portable device.
A long layover is also a good opportunity to learn about the art in the airport. Some airports even have art galleries. Or you can take the shuttle and go to the international airport terminal and do some serious people watching. If you are stuck in an airport for an hour or a day, there are thousands of ways to entertain yourself if you just use your imagination.
People who are stuck in an airport like you are likely to be bored. Most of them will welcome some sympathetic conversation. Whether you are sitting in the waiting area, in a shop, or having a beverage in the airport bar, don’t be shy. Ask them where they are going, what they are reading, or how long have they been waiting. The openers for talking to other passengers who are also stuck in an airport are super easy. Who knows? You might even meet a new lifelong friend or uncover someone famous during your layover. Trust me – it happens.
Even if your money is limited, you can still browse through the shops if you are stuck in an airport on a short or long layover. Some airports are virtual mega-malls and have unusual shops you might not see anywhere else. If you have time during your layover, go to another section of the airport to shop for fun. Oftentimes, different airlines have different kinds of shops.
Go on a Tour of the Local City
If there is enough time on your layover, and leaving the airport won’t jeopardize you getting a flight out, consider going on a tour of the local city. It’s a perfect opportunity and a great way to spend your time, especially if you’re stuck in an airport overnight. On various long layovers, I took Greyline bus tours, visited the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, flew over New York City in a helicopter, and once even had a knowledgeable taxi driver take me on a tour of the town. As things to do when you’re stuck in an airport go, this one tops the list for me.
Buy a Day Pass to an Airline Lounge
If you can’t convince the airline to give you a free airline lounge pass, some airlines will let you buy a one-day pass to their exclusive lounge or airline club. If you have the money, do it. It is well worth it, whether you’re stuck in an airport for a few hours or a few days. It is so much more comfortable, quiet, and relaxing – and they often serve free drinks and snacks. Staff in airline lounges are usually very experienced and may even be able to help you rebook your flight.
This one is a no-brainer and best of all, it’s free. Go for a run or walk. I have even seen people in airports practicing their tai chi or karate forms, doing push-ups, or stretching. Clear the cobwebs out of your brain. It will help with stress and boredom that are almost certain to come during a long layover.
Make the Best of It
Often, if you are stuck in an airport on a long layover, there isn’t much you can do except wait for the next flight. So relax and try to make the best of it. There is no sense in getting all frazzled and tense when the problem is pretty much out of your control. So as long as you’re going to be stuck in an airport, make the best of it – relax and have some fun!