Travel 101: How To Survive A Layover

A layover can be some of the worst parts of traveling.

airport layover
UNSPLASH @alecfavale

Especially when returning from an international trip, the last thing you want to do is sit around an airport and wait to sit some more on yet another plane. After a journey from Cape Town to South Bend, Indiana that took over 52 hours complete, I came to the conclusion that the only way to put up with these hours of seemingly worthless time is to embrace them. Airports (granted, some more than others) are filled with interesting things to do and see and when you’re stuck in layover limbo, so you might as well make the most of it.

So here’s a brief guide for making the most of your layover:

If your layover is…

Under 1 hour:

Run like the wind! It can take almost an hour to get from one terminal to another at some airports. Before you give in to stopping for the bathroom, make sure you know how far away your next gate is.

1-5 hours:

You have it pretty easy. You can leisurely make your way to your plane. Stop for a meal or a drink (since you’ll probably be paying a cringe-worthy amount for it, you might as well take your time to survey the options before committing to a restaurant or bar). This is also an ideal amount of time to recharge your electronics and to plan or relive your trip (depending on if you’re departing or returning). Many airports offer numerous things for you to take advantage of and if all else fails, people watching is always promisingly entertaining.

5-10 hours:

Now you’re starting to have some more options. At this point, it’s sometimes worth checking out the airport lounges (especially if you can’t find a free internet connection anywhere else) but make sure to check what the lounge has to offer before paying the fee (some are more worthwhile than others).

Most airports offer numerous things to promote their host country (see the giant Gollum statue hovering over the Wellington Airport’s food court). Walk around and get a taste for what it would be like to have this layover city as your actual destination. A lot of airport spas and yoga/meditation rooms have started popping up, this can be a nice way to relax before your next flight and to take a mental break from flying. Some of these airports even have showers in them for you to freshen up. If all else fails, people watching is always promisingly entertaining in airports.

10+ hours:

Leave the airport! Hopefully you’ll be somewhere that allows for this (visas can make this tricky in some countries). But some of my best travel stories are from impromptu trips into a city due to flight delays or cancelations. Do your research before venturing out (like figuring out how far the city center is and if your layover airport has lockers for you to ditch your stuff) and then make a day of it!

Lizzy Monroe

Originally from Eugene, OR, Lizzy graduated from Stanford University. She's a coffee & street market enthusiast, her travel style involves planning ahead but never hesitating to improvise. Her favorite country is South Africa, she never travels without her Swiss Army Knife - mostly because of the hidden pen, tweezers and corkscrew.

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