But a layover doesn’t have to be the least looked-forward-to part of your trip. Between awesome airport amenities and self-motivated fun, you can turn a seemingly useless stretch of hours into its own mini-vacation. Just don’t miss your flight.
1. Know Thy Airport
Some airports are better than others. Especially when it comes down to spending a couple of hours in one. Not that you can always choose where to spend your layover – but it pays to do a little research so that in case there are any great amenities, you won’t miss them. The Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, for instance, has a large array of boutique shops, spas, napping centers, a movie theater, fitness center and a free national museum, the Rijkmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol, which houses regularly changing exhibits of Dutch masterpieces. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have a layover at the Changi Airport in Singapore. This airport one-ups the offerings at Amsterdam by adding a swimming pool, five themed gardens (including two koi ponds and a butterfly garden), free calf massage stations, a free movie theater and gaming room and children’s playgrounds. You might just never leave the airport…
2. Freshen up
Sitting in a cramped plane for six hours isn’t anyone’s idea of a beauty treatment. Sweaty feet, fuzzing teeth, hours spent stewing in your own juices – let’s stop there. The first thing to do when you get off the plane on a long layover is to wash your hands and face, brush your teeth, put on some deodorant and reapply makeup (if you’re into that). If you have room in your carry on, bring a change of underwear and a fresh shirt. There’s nothing like clean clothes to make you feel like a new person.
3. Get a massage
Or a pedicure. Or a manicure. These little luxuries can ease the tension you’ve accumulated while sitting in that little airplane seat, while also passing the time. Unlike most things at the airport, massages and manicures aren’t much more expensive than what you’d pay at home – especially if you’re in Singapore, where a stranger will willingly touch your grubby travel-calves for free!
4. Learn Something New
On a layover, you have nothing but time. Use it to educate yourself a bit. Don’t generally read the newspaper at home? Buy a nice, bulky copy of the New York Times and get yourself caught up on what’s going on in the world. If news isn’t your thing, you can always grab a good book.
5. Caffeine nation
A lesson every under-caffeinated college student learns early on: when you’re tired, time’s a drag. From the lecture hall to the airport terminal – that little extra jolt of java can go a long way in making the time fly by.
6. Play a game
If you’re travelling with companions, pack a travel-sized board game or a deck of cards in your carry on. ‘Nuff said.
7. Scavenger Hunt
If you’re travelling in a larger group, spend your first flight creating a scavenger hunt. When you get to the airport, divide into teams and scour the terminals for things like a woman wearing Mickey Mouse ears, a dog in a purse, a hot-pink suitcase, or a family wearing matching t-shirts. Document your finds with a digital camera.
8. See something
When your layover is upwards of six hours, consider leaving the airport. Some airports even offer a luggage storage service. However, before you spontaneously decide to make a break for it, check to see how long it takes to get into the city. If you land at Gatwick, for instance, you’ll spend a little over an hour just getting into London. On the other hand, if you’re flying through New York’s JFK, you’ve got just enough time to take the A train from the airport to Canal St., buy a cheap purse and a bun and get out. Don’t forget that you’ll need to go back through security at the airport, so don’t cut your time too close.
9. Take a Walk
Chances are, if you have a long layover, it’s because you’re flying internationally. Sitting in a cramped space with little leg room can increase your risk of getting a blood clot, so not only should you move around frequently when you fly, you should walk around inside the airport as well. Taking a walk can also increase your energy levels, should you be feeling sleepy. If a simple walk isn’t enough movement for you, check out AirportGyms.com to see if your airport has a fitness center or even a yoga lounge.
10. Sleep It Off
If there’s really nothing else you’d rather do on your long layover than just sleep off the bad airplane food and the three action films you watched in a row and the cramped, fitful sleep, then just find yourself a nice place to stretch out and take a nap. Check SleepingInAirports.com to find out whether your airport has a sleeping lounge – or to gather tips on how best to sleep in the airport. Just don’t forget to set an alarm, or you might find yourself spending another six hours in the airport waiting for the next flight to leave.