From a 5-hour direct flight to a 24-hour itinerary including lengthy layovers, the journey to the destination can range from short and sweet, to tedious and tiresome. As an American Airlines Executive Platinum and Southwest Airlines A-List frequent flyer who has visited over 70 countries on all 7 continents, I’ve endured my fair share of layovers in airports worldwide. While flights with long layovers may be cheaper than a direct flight, travelers delayed in a terminal for hours on end may wonder how to pass the time, or at least make the wait more bearable. For travelers who want to do more than stare at the clock on the wall, consider these tips for making the most of your layover.
- Stretch your legs: Make the next leg of your journey more bearable by stretching your own! If you just disembarked from a cramped seating arrangement, take advantage of the layover to make a lap or long walk around the terminal, or look up whether the airport has a designated gym or yoga room. Increasing blood circulation and moving around will help raise endorphin levels and burn off some of the mid-flight snacking.
- Catch Some Z’s: It’s easy to become tired, even exhausted when juggling a long itinerary with different time zones. Research the short stay sleeping pods, or self-enclosed cocoons for napping or relaxing that can be rented by the hour at many international airports. A growing number of U.S. airports provide similar options like a capsule private room with a bed in the terminal; specifically Atlanta, Philadelphia, and DFW. Most airports have adjacent hotel accommodations or lodging. Check TripAdvisor or Hotels.com to find your best option.
- You’ve Got Mail: Most airports have free wifi, so take the time to answer the email that has accumulated during your travel. Taking care of simple administrative tasks during a layover can help take some of the stress out of travel - especially for travelers needing to confirm their destination appointments.
- Savor the Layover: Enjoy a cappuccino, latte or tea. Nosh on a salad or hot meal. Most airport restaurants offer diverse and appetizing options for hungry travelers. Take advantage of sit-down restaurants such as Piquillo in JFK, or Maudie’s Tex-Mex in Austin Bergstrom International Airport to enjoy the regional quality cuisine.
- Use the Airport Gym: If the layover is at DFW, get in a workout at The Grand Hyatt Hotel in the DFW airport. It offers cardio equipment, weight machines, free weights, pool, and a steam room. Book a spa massage or body treatment. It’s open 24 hours a day! A day pass is about as expensive as a 2000 calorie lunch.
- Enjoy Unique Amenities: During a layover at the Kuala Lumpur airport, enjoy the experience of going into a rain-forest-like setting and meditate or listen to music with headphones. The Singapore airport has a butterfly garden, a sunflower garden, an area where children can paint; and movie theaters. Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea, has a 330-yard golf driving range.
- Lounge Around: Join an Executive lounge like the Admirals Club, Centurion Club or United Club.
- Turn a New Page: Buy a hard copy book and read. Most airports stock popular best sellers as well as international newspapers and magazines, so you’ll never be bored in the bookstore!
While spending several hours stuck waiting for your next flight may be tedious, airport layovers don’t have to be boring. Use one of these tips for your next airport interim, and make the most of your time on the ground!
Sharon Schweitzer, J.D., is a cross-cultural trainer, modern manners expert, and the founder of Access to Culture (formerly Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide). In addition to her accreditation in intercultural management from the HOFSTEDE centre, she serves as a Chinese Ceremonial Dining Etiquette Specialist in the documentary series Confucius was a Foodie, on Nat Geo People. She is the resident etiquette expert on two popular lifestyle shows: ABC Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend and CBS Austin’s We Are Austin. She is regularly quoted by BBC Capital, Investor’s Business Daily, Fortune, and the National Business Journals. Her Amazon #1 Best Selling book in International Business, Access to Asia: Your Multicultural Business Guide, now in its third printing, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015. She’s a winner of the British Airways International Trade Award at the 2016 Greater Austin Business Awards.