Ever been bored to tears at the airport while waiting for a flight? We hear you! If you're a regular traveller, chances are you would have experienced a plane delay, or even worse, a cancellation at some point.
In Australia alone, nearly 20% of all flights fail to depart on time. And that is just the average, for some airlines the figure is over 30%.
Yet beyond cancellations and delays, a long airport stopover is often unavoidable for those who travel internationally.
So, whether you're waiting at the airport for a connection, or you're stuck there because of an unforeseen delay, it's helpful to have things to do to save you from going insane.
Here are 21 fun things to do while waiting at an airport
1. Use your time to plan your day-to-day highlights
With a bit of extra time on your hands, you can use it to plan activities and excursion for your upcoming trip. Whether you're travelling for business or leisure, it's comforting knowing what's on the agenda and where you need to be each day.
Just about every airport in the world has Wi-Fi or internet kiosks, so you can make the most of them to plan sightseeing tours, decide on where you are going to stay, or pick your dinner spots of choice.
Shopping at the airport can be expensive, but there are usually a great variety of stores to browse. Even if you are just window shopping and decide not to buy anything, it is an interesting way to pass time.
If you do have some money to spend, buy a gift for someone you plan on visiting during your trip. Or, if you're heading back home, buy a gift for a loved one.
Usually, airport meals aren’t Michelin-worthy but filling up at the food court is still a great way to fill the (time and belly) gap.
And just so you know, some airports are bona fide culinary highlights! Here is a list if you're looking for some inspiration.
4. Make friends
Airports can often be great places to meet likeminded adventurers and, guess what? You’ll find them looking bored-stiff and meandering around airports while they wait for their flight. Travelling alone? Gather the courage to strike up a conversation with a stranger, connect with others and share your travel stories.
You might just end up making a friend for life!
5. Surf social media
Sometimes, social media can be all-consuming and feel like a total waste of time. But when you're waiting at the airport, it can act as your live entertainment.
Jump on Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, LinkedIn... Whichever network keeps you interested for the longest period of time.
6. Watch a movie on your laptop
With services such as Netflix and iTunes offering movies on-demand and on-the-go, you can watch a great flick just about anywhere. As long as you have your laptop or tablet and a pair of headphones.
You could even choose to watch something ironic like "The Terminal" with Tom Hanks, to get you in the layover mood.
7. Relax in a club lounge
If you travel regularly, it may be worthwhile joining an airline’s rewards program that allows you access to their club lounge at the airport.
You can sit back and relax in comfortable chairs, get a nice platter of food, and forget that your flight was ever delayed in the first place!
Image Credit - loungebuddy.com.au
8. Try to get an upgrade
Sometimes flights are under-booked, especially in business or first class. When this happens, they may offer these extra seats to economy travellers on a random basis.
Since you have all the time in the world to try, why not ask if there are any upgrades available? You might be stuck now, but once you settle into your upgraded seat on the plane, it will all be worth it.
9. Get some zzz’s
If you’ve ever tried to get some shut-eye in an airport chair, you probably still have the sciatica to prove it. Thankfully, more and more airports are bringing in modern sleeping pods and designated sleeping zones that you can pay to use. Others, like Singapore's Changi Airport, offer unreal sleeping recliners, free of charge. This handy article lists the top 10 airports for sleeping, with both free and paid options included.
Oh, and if you're going to have a sleep at an airport, always make sure to keep your bag safe and close by.
10. Enjoy a tipple
Feeling stressed about waiting for your flight?
It's not for everyone, but for those of you who like a glass of wine or a beer every now and then, enjoying a drink to relax and fill in some time before your flight boards.
Image credit - executivestyle.com.au
11. People watch
Airports attract all types of people, and it can be quite entertaining if you just sit back and observe.
Watch what people are doing, how they interact, channel your inner fashion-police... or maybe look to see what everyone else is doing to fill in time, it might give you some fresh ideas.
12. Get your shoes shined
Shoe shining stands are quite common at major airports, especially when they are situated in cities with big business hubs.
Perhaps you've got a big meeting on after your flight, or you're trying to impress a new employer, or a first date? Get your shoes shined to fill in some time and sharpen up the way you look.
13. Play games on your smart phone
There are a LOT of extremely addictive games available from the Google Play and iTunes stores. Start getting into a game like Angry Birds, Candy Crush or Bejewelled and, before you know it, your flight will be ready to take off.
14. Write a diary entry (or a blog post)
Do you like writing?
Keeping a diary of your travels or sharing your experience through a blog is a great way to capture memories.
One day you will look back at your scribbles and be transported back in time to that exact moment. All the fear, anxiety, excitement, and exhilaration will come rushing back.
Use your airport waiting time to keep track of your journey.
15. Reply to emails
It's kind of boring, but replying to emails is a necessary evil we all need to face. Overloaded inboxes have a way of taking over our lives at times, and it can create anxiety and stress while travelling.
So, if you have a few spare minutes at the airport, use that time to clear out your inbox and de-clutter the mind.
16. Play cards
Pack a deck of playing cards, or buy one at the airport and fill in some time by playing single player card games like solitaire.
They are not only great for making that dreaded wait go faster, but they also get your brain thinking.
17. Listen to music
There's nothing like your favourite playlist to help you enjoy a bit of alone time at the airport.
Be prepared by loading up different playlists onto your smart phone, or sign up for a service like Spotify, and sing along to your favourite songs (in your inside voice, preferably) while you wait.
18. Take a walk
Airports are usually big, often with many terminals, shops and areas to check out. If you have some time to kill, think about going for a walk and seeing what else is around. You never know what you might find while you tick off your 10,000 steps for the day.
19. Read a book (or magazine)
Sometimes, it's hard to find the time to get a good reading session in and immerse yourself in a novel, book or your favourite magazine.
Waiting at the airport is the perfect opportunity to switch off your brain from all other surroundings and lock into an entrancing story.
20. Get a massage
Travelling can take a toll on your body. Whether you've been out hiking, or just cooped up in a plane seat for 6 hours, your body often needs a release.
Look for a place to get a massage and release the tension in your muscles, ready for the next part of your trip.
21. Call a loved one
Keeping your loved ones informed about your adventures is a great way to share your experience. But it's also a great way to stay safe, so that someone at home is always aware of your plans.
Make the most of your spare time at the airport to connect with people back home.
The 10 best international airports for long layovers
Long layovers need not be utterly painful. In some cases, they are fun experiences to be cherished. Here are the 10 best airports for layovers that might just entice you to hang around a little longer:
Changi has won numerous World’s Best Airport awards, for very good reasons. Between the swimming pool, art installations, rooftop gardens, butterfly garden movie theatre and bevy of shopping and dining options, Singapore’s main air hub is one of the city’s major highlights. No kidding!
2. Dubai or Abu Dhabi, UAE
Not only are both airports absolutely gorgeous, but they offer an array of affordable day-use lounges with gourmet food, hot showers, and plenty of relaxing space to sit back and chill. If that’s not enough, you’ll find wellness spas and luxury shopping galore.
3. Hong Kong
High-tech, entertaining and enormous, Chek Lap Hok is like a mini version of its host-city. Plus, it neighbours Disneyland so if travelling with kids and have at least six hours to spare, it makes for the ideal layover hub in Asia.
4. Incheon, South Korea
Seoul’s international airport, located 50km away from the South Korean capital, is an absolute layover wonder. Free showers, paid sauna and massage services and a pod hotel cater to your body’s needs, whilst a culture museum, ice skating rink, kid’s playground, multiple indoor gardens and over a dozen restaurants and bars will help you easily while away the layover hours.
5. Istanbul, Turkey
The Turkish capital is one of the most popular hubs for travel between East and West and, as such, offers a multitude of amazing amenities and attractions. Turkish airlines even offer a complimentary city tour of the enticing city if you’re on a layover of 6-24hrs!
6. Doha, Qatar
Hamad International Airport is out of this world, literally. The futuristic and super sleek hub, complete with 4* hotel offering hourly rates, a wellness spa, fully-equipped gym and swimming pool centre, makes enjoyable work of what is often a torturous wait. Much like Turkish Airline, Qatar also offers free city tours with long layovers.
7. San Francisco, USA
With United offering non-stop flights from Sydney to San Francisco, the bustling city is an insanely popular entry point to the US from our shores. Luckily, it also boasts one of the continent’s 10 best airports for layovers. With its 24hr cafés, several all-inclusive pay-for-visit lounges, nearly 60 shops, a Freshen Up shower facility, XpressSpa and two distinct yoga centres, your layover plans are well and truly set. OK, confession time: the best thing about layovers at San Francisco is the Wag Brigade… a tribe of two dozen waggy dogs whose sole job is to walk around and cuddle travellers! Because doggos!
8. Munich, Germany
Few airports the world over can offer a tantalising taste of the country’s best gastronomy. Munich certainly does the job. Offering world-renowned beers on tap and piping-hot sausages on the grill, your culinary layover plans are far too easy. Plus, if you travel to or through Germany in December, you’ll be privy to an authentic Christmas market, complete with mulled wine and gingerbread biscuits. Worth a reroute? You bet!
9. New Delhi, India
India’s multiple award-winning Indira Gandhi airport offers facilities specifically for families (including nursery rooms and play centres), as well as wellness spa, sleeping pods, several rest lounges and a handy Naps & Showers facility. Not to mention an array of shopping (luxury boutiques in Terminal 3!) and dining options. Given the airport’s very central location, you can even take in the city’s main sights, but you’ll need at least 6+hr to make that worthwhile.
10. Vancouver, Canada
Flying AirCanada is a pleasure at any time, especially if your route includes a decent layover in Vancouver’s international airport. Yes, you’ll find a comprehensive array of dining, shopping and wellness options in which to indulge but, primarily, you’ll find two astonishing aquariums! Check out the jaw-dropping indigenous sea animal centre on the 3rd floor (airside) and continue one more floor to see the jellyfish exhibit. With more than 5,000 sea animals to count, your layover won’t seem so long at all!
Waiting for hours at an airport can be frustrating, especially if you're already tired and stressed as it is.
But with a little bit of creativity and pre-planning, you can turn that dead time into some fun. These 21 tips are a great place to start! And now that you have your layover plan sorted, don’t get dragged down by heavy hand luggage – here are all the carry-on essentials you’ll ever need.
What other things have you done to fill in time while waiting at an airport?