Monday, January 13, 2014

Guest Post: 14 ways to pass the time at the airport

Flight delays, missed connections and long layovers usually lead to bored, cranky travelers. And while muttering under your breath and asking the ticket agent for updates every 15 minutes may seem like your only options, there are actually more proactive -- or at least enjoyable -- ways to pass the time. So whether you have five minutes to spare or several hours, here are 12 fun ways to pass the time at an airport.

Get out of the airport (don’t go too far)
If you’ve got a few hours to kill and the airport is not in the middle of a field, get out and explore the area. For example, just past the taxi line at Puerto Vallarta’s airport are food stands. For just a few dollars, you can sample local tacos and watch the people go by. Not too keen on street food? Order a soda and people watch.

Get Out of the airport (go far)
If you’re in London, Amsterdam or Vancouver, for instance, take advantage of the train connections and explore the city. Pick a stop with tourist attractions, or, if you’re really up for an adventure, pick any stop, get off and explore.

Whether you’re alone or with a travel companion, pick a bar and make sure to actually sit at the bar. That way, you’re more likely to meet people. At the very least, someone’s bound to have a good story!

If you’re stuck in an international airport, use the opportunity to sample some local cuisine. No local cuisine? Find a McDonald’s and try something different. Try the Shaka Shaka Chicken in Singapore, the McVeggie in India or the McSahara if you’re in Morocco. Or just order fries and marvel at their ability to taste the same all over the world.

Tacky Souvenir Challenge
Yes, you could use the time to shop for souvenirs, but your family and friends will know that you bought their keychain/pen/snow-globe at the last minute in the airport. Why not go all out and try to find the tackiest souvenir as a memento of the longest day in your life? Or, if you’re with a friend, buy each other the most embarrassing t-shirt you can find. Whoever keeps it on the longest wins.

Get a Room
Many hotels located near airports offer special rates for travelers on layover. For example, the Ottawa Days Inn, just 2 kilometers from MacDonald-Cartier Airport, offers a $99+tax rate for a standard room with two double beds where you can stay between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sleep the day away or use the hotel’s pool, hot tub and gym.

Kick it Old School
Take things back to 1999 and actually call someone. Yes, your smartphone can be used for speaking to people! Another blast from the past idea: Put down your Kindle and go buy a cheesy romance or mystery novel. Leave it in the airport for the next bored traveler for good karma points.

Talk to a Flight Attendant
If anyone’s having a worse day than you, it’s probably a flight attendant. Find one that looks especially bored/jet-lagged/disoriented and keep each other company. They’re bound to have good tips for most major cities.

Airport Bingo
Take people-watching to a new level. Make a BINGO grid but instead of numbers have items like ‘frazzled ticket agent,’ ‘man with sunburn’ or ‘frantic family running to their gate.’ Stay in your chair or turn it into a scavenger hunt. Tacky souvenirs for the winner!

Help Someone
Flying can be stressful and emotional for travelers and airport employees alike. Offer to help a mother travelling with young children with her luggage, or send a sympathetic smile to aforementioned frazzled ticket agent.

Work Out
Many airports have fitness centers where you can buy a $20 day pass. San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth Airports both have free yoga studios featuring yoga mats and a looping video to follow.

Zone Out
If your airport doesn’t have a yoga room, find your own quiet corner and make a meditation zone of your own. When is the last time you simply sat quietly with your thoughts?

Get creative with your smartphone
Take pictures of the art, architecture, views, people sleeping with their mouths open, etc. Make a video set to music about your day at the airport. Or, download the Karafun app ($5.99 for 48 hours) and host a karaoke party. Particularly applicable if you’re still at the bar with your new friends.

If you’re one of the fortunate ones that can sleep anywhere, find a row of chairs or a spot on the floor and take a nap. If you’re a really heavy sleeper, set a phone alarm.
How do you pass the time? Any advice you'd add to this list? As with all delays in life, prepare as best as you can (water bottle, snacks, change of clothes, electronic devices fully charged) and try to cultivate Zen-like calmness. That’s something airports could use more of!

(This post was sponsored by James Houde from iProspect, the Chicago-based leading digital marketing company. Thanks so much for continuing to support So About What I Said's wonderful sponsors!)

[Photos via We Heart It]


  1. For all the time I've spent in SFO and DFW, I've never seen either yoga room! I must not spend enough down time at the airport, but you won't find me complaining!

  2. My husband is in the army, so if we have a long layover we will hang out in USO. We also love to people watch.

  3. This is a great list - I like the idea of being proactive about how to spend those long waits, instead of just, well, waiting :)

    onebreath @

  4. great tips!! layovers can be the worst! xo jillian - cornflake dreams

  5. Great tips :) I love the airport bingo idea heh Last winter I was delayed in the airport on my way to Mexico for 8 hours due to mechanical issues with the plane - I was travelling alone to go visit friends so I was solo for any entertainment - I could have used these ideas there :)


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