How To Survive Airport Layovers
Airport layovers can be a blessing or a curse.
There are basically 4 types of layover -
1. the planned or unexpected domestic flight layover
2. the domestic to international layover
3. the trans-world layover and
4. Chicago O'Hare.
I spent endless unplanned hours in the purgatory of Chicago O'Hare airport during delayed flight layovers this summer. As in every single time a plane I was on touched down at O'Hare I was hit with 3+ hour delays. 50% of it was courtesy of United Airlines, 50% of it was due to weather.
A word to the wise: If you have a connecting flight that you desperately need to make, avoid both United Airlines and Chicago O'Hare like the plague. Each are bad enough on their own, together they are a nightmare.
Some survival tips for layovers:
Endless sitting around doesn't do you any good. Taking a walk around the terminal not only gives you a chance to see what's on offer, but also stretching your legs feels great after hours of being cooped up on a plane.
The United Airlines/Chicago O'Hare axis of evil took care of that for us this summer, by changing the gate every half hour or so. An entire plane full of passengers waiting at the gate would have to up and walk across the terminal to another gate, which I suppose kept us busy and stopped us from rioting.
Go To The Club Lounge
|KLM Club Lounge, Houston|
Airport Club Lounges are wonderful. The are peaceful, well equipped for the business traveler with places to work quietly and to charge up your electronic devices. Some have showers and places to take a nap. Generally they have coffee, tea and cold drinks for you, some have alcoholic drinks as well. Depending on the airline there are also a variety of food options, the international club lounges offering more.
If you are not a member of the airline's club lounge you can often buy a day pass for around $50. If you have a sizable layover it's money very well spent.
The Lounge Buddy app lets you look at airports all around the world and see what amenities the various club lounges offer, plus the cost to go inside if you are not a member. It also tells you where in the terminal the lounge is.
Bring Healthy Snacks
Airport food tends to be heavy, salty, fatty, sugary - all the things you don't want at the best of times, and things that will only leave you feeling really crappy when you board that next flight.
Instead pack fresh fruit, protein bars, raw unsalted nuts or any other good, healthy food from home.
Pack Something To Do
Having a great book to read, emails to take care of, movies to watch on your iPad - anything to break the boredom.
Check Out The Amenities
Part of walking around the terminals is getting to see what’s on offer in the beauty/relaxation/health departments.
Plenty of airports have kiosks where you can get mini chair massages or reflexology, which are an excellent way to burn money during a layover – they relax you and also get the blood flowing, especially after a long flight, making them the perfect precursor to the next few hours of flying.
|Oxygen Bar McCarren Airport|
Some airports have oxygen bars, which are always fun to use. Doctors will tell you there is no scientific research to prove them beneficial, but if you try one out, especially after a long flight, you will find you get improved mental clarity, they calm your mind and stabilize your nervous system, you feel re-energized and your body seems to recover much more quickly.
|Luminotherapie Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris|
Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris has a Luminotherapie machine that uses white light to rejuvenate you. Auckland International Airport in New Zealand has calf massaging chairs, which get the blood flowing, shrink down swelling of calves and ankles, and are a slice of heaven after a 12 hour flight. I am convinced they are a huge part of how I avoid jet lag when I fly there.
There are all kinds of great escapes to be found without leaving the terminal. They not only rejuvenate you physically, but the mental break can work wonders too.
For Really Long Layovers…
If you have a really long trans-world layover, check out the airport ahead of time, as some have some pretty cool features. For example Singapore’s Changi airport, New Delhi Indira Ghandi Airport and many others have transit hotels -without going through immigration or leaving the transit area, you and your cabin baggage can check in for a few hours, take a shower, have a sleep in a clean bed and get a reliable wakeup call, make yourself a coffee, do any work you need to catch up on, and then head back to your connecting flight feeling completely refreshed.
|Transit Hotel room Eaton Smart Hotel, Indira Ghandi airport, New Delhi|
Other airports (especially the European ones) have great public transport, so you can buzz into town and wander around for a few hours, see something new, give yourself a mental break.
One of my very dear friends flew to Cape Town recently and had a 10 hour layover in Munich, so she blew into the city, had a good look around and got to eat a great meal before heading back to the airport feeling completely invigorated.
The worst thing you can do with a really long layover is just stay inside the terminal, waiting at your gate. You will feel ghastly by the time you catch your next flight.