Sometimes it’s inevitable that you have to spend some of your travels ‘in transit’. This could be seen as an awful waste of time or an amazing opportunity to do something new, fun or relaxing. Here are a few cool ways to turn the long wait into something much much better.
1. Get on a Free Tour
I took one of the free city tours with Turkish Airlines from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport and it was one of the best excursions I’ve ever been on. We were taken in a small minibus with an English speaking guide on a really wonderful round up of Istanbul’s best bits. The tour started with free breakfast, a buffet of scrummy delights on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the city. Wowzers. Then we were given entry to the Hagia Sophia Museum, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and the Hippodrome Square, with no waiting in line and for free. At lunch, we were presented with a delicious complimentary meal and afterward, we had some time in the afternoon to wander at our leisure in the Grand Bazaar. At the arranged time we were picked up and taken back to the airport. Brilliant!
Check if your airline offers something similar, it may only be applicable for certain tickets etc. Here is a handy list:
- Incheon, South Korea
- Taipei, Taiwan
- Changi, Singapore
- Doha, Qatar
- Narita, Japan
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
- Guangzhou, China
*Don’t forget to adhere to the tours terms and conditions, e.g. book in advance/turn up at a certain time before the tour starts and make sure your passport is valid for the tour. Contact them before you leave if you have any questions
2. Get Out of the Airport
If you have a long layover that allows you to get out of the airport to a place of interest and then back again, with enough time to go through security, then do it. Personally, I would only consider this on layovers of eight hours or more.
- Check your visa requirements, often countries have one day passes for this purpose but you need to make sure you can get out and back in before you leave.
- Check the transport to and from the airport is fast and frequent (i.e public transport or places where there is little traffic).
- Decide on one or two things to explore.
- Remember to factor in any wait times, I always add a half hour to the plan just in case of any hiccups.
3. Get into a Lounge
There are two types of lounge at the airport. The first one is the airline lounge, run by airlines for their business and first class passengers, as well as elite reward club members, which are usually quite fancy. If you have either of these statuses, then get in there.
The second type is airport lounges, which you can access for a small charge or sometimes for free. Although not as posh as the airline’s offerings, you can still get a nice spot to recharge you and your devices, relax and grab some food. This site has helpful reviews of nearly all the world’s lounges so you know in advance whether it is worth the fee.
Alternatively, some credit cards and bank accounts offer free airline passes or you can pay for access using airline frequent flyer points schemes. If you do travel often (more than once a month) it may be worthwhile buying a year long pass but do check the value first.
If it’s particularly quiet you may also get free entry by dressing smart and making friends with the lounge staff. Just ask nicely, you never know!
4. Get Some Exercise
I’ve literally walked tens of miles when freezing to death in Dubai’s air conditioned airport, so a few circuits can definitely be a great way to exercise in between flights. You can also use fitness apps such as Sworkit anywhere in the world, so find a corner out of the way and get squatting, lunging and planking.
Some airports have gyms, which for a small fee can give you access to not only cardio machines and weights equipment but also pools, spas, and showers.
You may find that your airport now has a dedicated yoga facilities. Some offer videos to follow but you can also use an app or just a good cycle of sun salutations. These airports offer free spaces for practice:
- London Gatwick Airport
- London Heathrow Airport
- San Francisco International Airport
- Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Midway Airport (CHI)
- Burlington Airport (BTV)
- Hong Kong (HKG)
- Helsinki Airport and Jet Blue at JFK Airport (HEL)
- Miami International Airport (MIA)
Additionally, airports at Schipol Amsterdam, Raleigh-Durham and San Diego USA also have meditation rooms.
Check out your airport’s exercise options as you may be pleasantly surprised.
5. Meet New People
Airports are places where you are essentially confined in a space with other travellers and airport staff until your next departure. Sounds awful but actually, it can be really cool, there are plenty of really interesting people in the same situation as you, in the same place! I’ve met some people with fascinating stories, been given great travel and destination tips, swapped business cards etc. You never know who you could bump into. Airport bars are a good start, as are the coffee shops, as well as assistants who are working on stalls that seem pretty quiet.
6. Get Some Sleep
Travel is exhausting and a long layover can be an opportunity to catch up on some sleep. Check with your airline if you are entitled to a free hotel room, it often depends on the length of your layover and the type of ticket you bought. It’s worth a try.
Some airports offer free rest areas or at least reclined seats where you can try and nap. Bring an eye mask and a set of earplugs in your carry-on, plus a small blanket as it can be cold. There are often cheap hotels next to the airport with free shuttles or sleep pods in the airport’s lounges. I’ve used my frequent flyer miles before to get a couple of hours shut eye at a hotel close to the airport before, totally worth it.
7. Catch up with Friends and Family
Most airports have free wifi which can be used to get in touch with your friends and family. It beats sitting on your own and can help with any feelings of loneliness. Remember all those times you promised to call your grandparents, friend from high school, your cousin? Seize the day, use this ‘spare’ time to connect.
8. Take Advantage of Freebies
Some airports offer great freebies, including movies at Changi Airport, Singapore, Sony gaming systems at Hong Kong’s International Airport and books at Schipol Airport, Amsterdam, Netherlands. You can also check out art installations, floral gardens and music concerts.
Don’t forget to check if the water is safe to drink and then fill up your travel bottle at a drinking fountain to save money and stay hydrated.
9. Be Creative
I’ve taken advantage of a few spare hours in between flights to catch up on some useful tasks before. Writing postcards, updating my journal and researching the next destination has been productive ways to fill in the hours. If you craft, take it with you. I like to read a novel, play travel board games with my trip companion and complete adult colouring in books.
What are your tips for busting boredom at airports?
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