Many people prefer direct flights – getting from point A to point B in as little time as possible. Sometimes the necessary layover leaves us sprinting to catch our connecting flight or alternatively, leaves us bored and looking for things to do. These days, an increasing number of travelers will purposely plan longer layovers (or stopovers, which are 24+ hours) with the intention of squeezing in some extra tourist time.
A layover doesn’t have to be bad news. If you find yourself with some time to explore, consider the following tips to make the most of an airport layover. Why not spice up a long travel day?
Short to Moderate Layovers – 1 to 5 hours
- Always find your next gate first, as it may not be as close as you think.
- Freshen up, relax and people watch.
- Eat! If you have the time, treat yourself to a nicer sit-down meal.
- Stretch or go for a brisk walk.
- If your airport has a therapy dog area, go get some snuggles in!
- Have your device ready so you can read or listen to a podcast.
- Recharge your devices and take advantage of free Wi-Fi.
- Write in your journal or craft a letter.
- Browse the airport shops – often there are great shops in major airports.
- Treat yourself to a massage, manicure or pedicure.
- Go wine or beer tasting.
- Take advantage of kid-friendly play areas, scavenger hunts or “walking trails” designed to keep families moving.
Interesting options to explore at major airports in the United States:
- If you don’t have access to a lounge as a frequent flyer, see if your layover airport offers a Minute Suite rental, which offers a private room to nap, watch TV, relax or work. Some suites even offer showers and offer discounts for pilots, airline employees and military personnel. Alternately, many major airports offer day-rate lounges that have refreshments and reliable Wi-Fi. A growing number of airports now offer nap pod rentals, some with Netflix!
- Find out if your airport has a movie theater, such as Portland’s historic Hollywood Theatre or screening room like Minneapolis/St. Paul’s 18 Film cinema.
- Catch live music in Seattle, Austin or Nashville. With rotating musicians, there’s music to enjoy most every day. Love art? Seattle also offers nearly 100 rotating international art exhibits.
- Perhaps the airport has a museum, like San Francisco’s Aviation Museum and Library.
- Enjoy some ice skating at Denver International over the holiday season.
- Stretch out those stiff muscles with some yoga in Dallas and San Francisco.
- Pamper yourself at a spa, such as XpresSpas that offer locations in the U.S. and abroad.
- Persue fresh plant in the Aeroponic Garden, do some yoga, enjoy art or hit the health club at Chicago’s O’Hare.
Can you leave the airport during a layover? Yes! If your layover is over 6 hours and you have the energy, why not consider a mini-vacation and explore what the area has to offer?
Longer Layovers – 6 to 24 Hours
Longer layovers can open up windows of opportunity, and while it’s tempting to wing it, don’t. Be sure to think about the following important factors before leaving the airport:
Domestic or International
If you’re flying domestically, factor in time to get through security a second time. If traveling internationally, you’ll need to go through immigration and security again, and plan to return 2 hours before your connecting flight. Use a resource like toandfromtheairport.com for details on how to get to and from any given airport and estimate the time you’ll need.
If you checked your baggage for the full itinerary, you’re probably good to go. If not, you’ll need to pick up your luggage and take it with you unless the airport offers a secure luggage hold service or lockers. Always check to be sure, and do some research ahead of time to figure out your options. Always keep your ID, money and other vital information with you.
As soon as you leave the airport, you have officially entered the country. Certain countries can be entered Visa-free, others have strict rules. Double check the Visa requirements of the layover country to be sure you actually have permission to be roaming about. For certain countries, advance Visas can take some time and may cost you quite a bit. Do your research to decide if it’s worth it.
Distance & Time of Day
See how far your layover airport is from the city you want to visit. Consider how long it would take to get there and back with time to spare. What time of day is your layover? If at night, think about evening options and what is safe or not.
Traveling internationally? Consider if you’ll need a different currency in the layover country and plan accordingly.
Find Out What the Airport Offers
See if the airport offers complimentary tours, designed specifically for layover guests. If there’s a tour you can book in advance, save some time and book it.
Whether your layover is intentional or not, it doesn’t have to be boring! With a little planning and research, go ahead and spice up your trip with our layover travel tips. Keep exploring friends!
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