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A to Z Challenge: L is for Layover

By Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This post originally appeared as part of the A to Z Challenge, and was called 'L is for Layovers"

It's no secret I love traveling, but let's be honest: airports are the worst. The lines, the security pat downs, wandering around trying to find your gate while running into other groups of people wandering around trying to find their gate. The expensive mediocre food, the worse cheap food, the waiting... I could go on.

Once you're in the air, you can settle in to read a book, or if it's a longer flight watch a movie. At least, you're moving, right?

But being stuck in an airport, just hanging around, trying to waste time until you board - that's frustrating. At our layover in Dubai between Chennai and Hamburg I tried power walking laps of the terminal, but with my bulky laptop bag and poor sleep the night before I didn't get very far. 

Or worse, what if your flight is delayed or cancelled and you're stuck there for a long time waiting for news?

Familiarize yourself with the Airport

Get a basic idea of the layout of the airport first, especially if you're transferring there. For example, if you fly British Airways into Heathrow, you'll have a long walk through the airport to immigration, and even further to get back to security if you have a layover. The first time I went through, I was sure I was going the wrong way because it was just so far.  When flying through Frankfurt we had to travel through long underground tunnels to get from one terminal to another, and if I wasn't traveling with someone familiar with the airport, I might have got lost.

While you familiarize yourself with the layout, you can also check if you will you have to go through security again if you have a layover (we had to at Charles De Gaulle in Paris even when we flew in from Biarittz).

Of course you'll check if they have free wireless, but even if they don't sometimes people post passwords to the WiFi on foursquare. Even if the airport doesn't have WiFi, the Starbucks in it might.

Pack the Right things

Keep your liquids in your purse or other hand luggage rather than in your carry on suitcase (at least until you're through security). I find it much easier to have everything I need to take out (tablet, netbook, etc) all in one place, and I can keep my suitcase of dirty laundry nice and closed.

Bring your own food - something you'll actually want to eat. Why buy expensive, stale airport food when you can bring your own snack with you? The two requirements are that it's good cold, and isn't liquid. Of course, if you have less than 100ml/3oz of salad dressing on the side you can put that in with your liquids, but no iced lattes or gazpacho.

Between Flights

Change your shirt after a long journey so you feel refreshed while you wait for your next flight, train, etc. Reminds me of fencing coach I had who preached the wonders of changing your underwear half way through a competition.
A free glass of wine in Vienna Airport

One of the Duty Free companies in Europe (common in Germany) is Heinemann. If you join their rewards program, Heinemann & Me you can get things like a free drinks as well as a 10 Euro voucher on your birthday.

Travel organizer TripIt suggests Write Postcards to Friends and Family while you wait.



TV shows are great because you come to a nice stopping point every 20 or 40 minutes when the episode ends. Consider re-watching your favorite show you know you love and will want to marathon.

Back when I had a better laptop (the screen broke) I could play the first Guild Wars in Rochester International Airport. OK, so that game wasn't exactly new and was meant to be played over dial-up, but if you do have a decent wireless connection video games may be an option.

Podcasts are great if you want to be able to keep an eye on your stuff or the time. I'm sure you've heard of the hit Serial by now (his legal team and friends are doing a follow up podcast called Undisclosed!), but another one I enjoy is Stuff You Missed in History Class.

Finally, I will leave you with this video of Nine Ways to Pass the Time in an Airport:

Via Laughing Squid 

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  1. One thing about a long layover is you get to see all the things you don't want or need to buy in this world. Great video. Passing time in an airport can be a challenge.

  2. One of our now good family friends we met in a six hour layover in a holding area of an airport.