An airport layover can either be a great opportunity or the bane of your travel experience. You find yourself stuck in an (often new) airport where leaving is hard and everything is expensive. On the other hand, you have a lot of time to yourself and you can potentially meet a lot of interesting people. You might even get pushed to try new and exciting things.  It all depends on your perspective.

Here are a few tips and strategies to get you through the long haul at the airport:

How To Survive an Airport Layover

Exploration and Distraction

If you sit on a bench for six hours thinking about how long the layover is taking and wondering where the plane is, you are going to slowly descend into a special kind of traveler’s madness. You need to find ways to distract yourself and pass the time, and the airport you’ll find yourself in likely has everything you need. Many of them are huge, and even exploring them can pass a few hours without spending any money.  If you have cash to spare, you can entertain yourself very easily.

If you don’t know where to go or are wondering where you might want to eat lunch later, you can always ask some of the help desks likely located throughout the facility. Most airports also have maps and guides online that you can reference, and you can look up what other people recommend through various apps and tools (GateGuru is a popular choice). Every airport is different, so don’t assume anything about where you are. You can be pleasantly surprised!

Share the Load

Travelling with other people (assuming they’re adults) makes airport layovers a lot easier. You can each take turns watching the luggage while you go out and get food or use the restroom. One of you can read or watch something on a smartphone while the other takes a nap in an unoccupied row of seats nearby. You don’t need to worry about waking up or losing stuff because your partner(s) will be nearby to warn you or grab your attention.  I would recommend that you come up with a plan beforehand and a meeting place in the event that you are separated, such as the eventual departure terminal.

Time and Energy are Resources

While frugality is always a good habit when travelling and dealing with expensive airports, sometimes you have to realize that your effort is limited and that you have needs. Saving a few dollars by going to a restaurant on the other side of the airport might not be worth it if you aren’t interested in anything else there. You also don’t want to tire yourself out too much. You either have a great vacation ahead of you or you’re on the way home and tired after running halfway across the world. Your energy is a precious resource and you need to remember the hours ahead of you before you can nap on the plane.

Protect Yourself

Most airports have such good security that you never have to really worry about the safety of your physical person. Of course, you shouldn’t leave your personal items out and about, but the main security you need to worry about is the protection of your data and your identity. The networks you have to deal with at airports are usually unprotected, so hackers with a simple laptop setup can intercept any account or financial info sent or received on the network. This can easily lead to identity theft, which can utterly ruin an otherwise perfect trip.

The best tool you can have at the airport for your computer or smartphone is a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which is a service that connects your device to an offsite secure server with an encrypted connection. The encryption will protect you and the server will mask your IP address, keeping you anonymous online. If you are travelling outside the United States, you will find some additional uses from it, such as watching US TV wherever you want and bypassing most regional restrictions you’ll find online, making your own entertainment much easier.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Social

Other than in a couple of major cities, you will never find a more diverse group of people than those waiting for their flight at the airport. Many of them will not speak a common language with you. Others will be sleeping or may be less than thrilled with the idea of talking to strangers. Yet if you look around, you’re likely to find sociable people with whom you can strike up a fast friendship (or at least learn a different perspective from). If you are talking to people, you can lose track of time quickly and the layover won’t seem so daunting.

Take a look at bars and other gathering places at the airport (you’ll find one wherever you look, even if it’s just a busy section of a terminal). Be polite but forward. Remember that you don’t have much of anything to lose from approaching people. Unless you want to, you will never have to see these people ever again.

An airport layover winds up being what you make of it. You don’t need to stay in a seat all day and wait for the hours to pass to get through it. Explore a little and discover the small city some of the world’s largest airports contain. You don’t need to spend much, and if you get tired you can always camp out near your terminal later.

Do you have any interesting stories about how you spent your airport layover? Did you meet anyone interesting or new? Do you have any other tips for future travelers that might be useful? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation!

This Guest Post was written by Jess Signet.  Jess is a digital nomad and blogger who writes about technology, traveling and technology needed when traveling. Having visited places all over the globe, traveling is both her love and addiction. She does not want to be cured.  Read about Jess’ adventures at

cc image from Flickr: Airport Traveller by Nick Harris.

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