Layovers are tricky. Should you leave the airport and find something local to do? Will you be back in time? Should you just sit and wait? If so, what can you do to occupy your time?
First, make sure your layover is long enough for you to actually do something. “If returning into the United States, you will have to go through customs and immigration before you are able to board your connecting flight,” said James Berglie of travel agency Be All Inclusive. “A one-hour layover may sound great, but may very well not be enough time to make it through customs and immigration on your return.”
If you find you do have some time, Berglie suggests enjoying a meal in the city you are visiting. “Just be sure to make it back in time to clear security and board,” he said.
The last time that Margie Lenau had a long layover, she looked at the departing flights and went to the gate of a flight that was leaving earlier.
“I asked if they had any seats available, and they did,” said Lenau, Travel Consultant of Wonderland Family Vacation. “I had only carry-on baggage and was able to board that earlier flight and arrive five hours earlier to my destination.”
Steve Griswold’s favorite purchase for travel this year has been his Priority Pass Select. “This card gets you and your guests into airport lounges all over the world,” said Griswold, owner of Pixie Honeymoons. “I like to get to the airport early to make sure I get though security in plenty of time, and this lounge access gives me a comfortable lounge with Wi-Fi, snacks and drinks while I wait for my flight to board.”
Griswold said travelers can get the Priority Pass Select membership for free as part of several credit card benefits, or pay to join for a year at prioritypass.com/en/Select.
“I love the lounges in Orlando, Atlanta, and even Nassau had some fantastic truffle oil fries and tropical drinks while I waited for my flight,” said Griswold.
Aside from shopping and eating, Karen Quinn-Panzer, Dream Vacations Franchise owner, said there are many airports that offer local tours if you have one or two extra hours.
“Salt Lake City, Utah, and Seoul, Korea, offer one- and two-hour tours at no charge,” said Quinn-Panzer. “Just go to the information desk at the airport. In Tokyo, Singapore and Taipei, you will need at least five to seven hours for the free tours offered at these airports, but just think how much you can see on a five-plus-hour tour. What’s even better is that no visa is required since you are considered an ‘in transit’ passenger. Just bring all your travel papers with you.”
Other airports are now offering spas, movie theaters and children’s play areas. “Nashville International Airport — Music City — puts on about 100 free events and regular live concerts for travelers and music enthusiasts alike every year,” said Quinn-Panzer. “San Francisco Airport has an art museum that offers 20 galleries spanning across four terminals, and Munich features an airport ‘Oktoberfest’ for travelers on their layover. Airbau, a Bavarian-style tavern complete with its own brewery and traditional German beer garden, serves homemade hops from the airport’s Terminal 1 for people lucky enough to have a layover in Munich.”
If you don’t want to leave the airport, consider just sticking around and enjoying what’s there. “I always enjoy finding a great restaurant and sitting, relaxing and people-watching,” said Denise Lorentzen, owner of Dreams Travel Consulting. “I like to walk around to get some exercise and stretch my legs after flying. If the airport has a large shopping area (like Orlando, for example), I like to window-shop and enjoy.
If you have children with you, be sure to have activities to keep them busy. “Bring games, small toys, books, etc.,” said Lorentzen. “Or have the iPad charged so you can watch a show.”
If you know you’re having a layover, plan ahead so you know what’s available when you land.