in a strange city with a smile on her face. After you let out the requisite groan, stop. Take a breath. Relax. You, my friend, are a savvy traveler. You know how to stay smart and sleep well no matter where you are. After one brief moment of despair, you know that you have plenty of options to survive a layover. In fact, you could probably write this layover survival guide yourself!
Just in case you need a refresher, here are our favorite tips for staying sane on an extended layover:
Let’s face it, you’re going to be here for a while. A good meal will go a long way towards restoring your sense of adventure. Break out your smartphone and download Yelp or GateGuru (if you haven’t already) to search for the best restaurants in your new prison, I mean, airport. You may be surprised to find restaurants by top-tier chefs, like Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food at Heathrow, or the celebrity chef experience that is Terminal 5in New York City’s JFK International Airport. If it’s one of those trips, head to Munich’s Airbräu Brauhaus, the only airport restaurant with an attached brewery (they give tours, too!). No matter where you are, there is always a meal worth eating; now you have the time to find it.
Airports can be some of the best places to get work done. If you’re a broke college student and can’t afford the wifi (we’ve all been there), then there’s nothing for it but to finish that Freud chapter. If you’re on your way to a conference and your company is reimbursing you for your travel expenses, then by all of the wifi to hop online and YouTube how to add fancy graphics to your presentation. There’s no shortage of workspaces, either. If you enjoy looking up from your computer every now and then to enjoy some people watching, a busy terminal with a nearby coffee shop is the place for you. If you need peace and quiet, find an airline lounge and splurge on a day pass (usually around $50) for some privacy, comfy seats, and free snacks (and free booze, if you choose Delta). If you don’t want to pay the fee, head to the airport’s chapel for a little oasis of serenity.
Every good traveler knows to bring reading material with them, but what if you finish your magazine/book/pamphlet sooner than you expected? Or, worse, you’ve read everything on your Kindle twice and are craving something new? An excellent approach is finding your terminal’s bookstore and reading the first page of a book that seems interesting, and buying the one that you want to keep reading. If you prefer magazines, it shouldn’t be difficult to locate the latest issue of your favorite on the shelves of a terminal snack vendor. But why not branch out? Pick up a publication with fancy cover art in a foreign language as a souvenir of your trip. Find one in a language you haven’t spoken in a while to brush up while learning the local gossip.
You’ll probably be surprised at the variety of entertainment opportunities airports around the world may offer. If you’re a fan of golf, check out the Al Ghazal Golf Club’s desert sand course, adjacent to the Abu Dhabi International Airport, or the SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course adjacent to the Hong Kong International Airport. Visit the tour desk at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport for a quick tour of the city that never takes you farther than 6 miles from your terminal. If you don’t have time to go through security again, check out the airport’s rotating art display or museum. A notable favorite is the San Francisco airport, which has both. If you’re lucky enough to get stuck in Bangkok or Singapore, traverse the maze of moving sidewalks that will take you up and down the airport’s many levels. And, don’t forget the simpler pleasures! The Tokyo International Airport’s bathrooms are better than any playground, with a massive array of toilets with equally diverse sets of buttons and knobs. Enjoy everything from deodorizers to seat warmers to fake flush sounds!
Quite possibly the greatest invention of all time, the nap is always there to save the day. If you’re one of those lucky souls who can fall asleep anywhere, find a comfy chair and settle in for a snooze. Just be sure to protect your baggage, and stay in sight of a security camera. If you’re a light sleeper, consider services like Minute Suites, which offer short-duration rooms for the weary traveler. Some airports, such as Seoul Incheon and Singapore Changi, even offer specific rest and relaxation lounges in addition to transit hotels. Trust us, even a little extra shut-eye can go a long way.
Remember, travel is about more than reaching your destination. Be sure to take advantage of the unexpected, wherever it may find you.