Skip to content

11 Tips for Surviving a Long Stay in the Airport

March 18, 2018
7 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Running to the gate may be a beginner’s move, but the real challenge comes when you have too much time to make a connection. There’s nothing to do in airports besides spend money or mindlessly scroll through Instagram — or is there?

Turns out the terminal doesn’t have to be deadly. In fact, it’s possible to transform a very long layover — or, worse, a delayed flight — into a decent experience that won’t have you reaching for your sleeping pills before you’ve even boarded. The next time you’re stuck, remember our tips to kill time and survive — maybe even thrive! — with assistance from our astute TPG Lounge members found on Facebook.

1. Dream up a legit plan

Looking at two or three or eight hours of sitting is enough to make you want to crawl into an overhead bin and, well, die. But c'mon — life’s not so bad. Your first order of business should be to actually brainstorm things to do. It’s like waking up on the weekend; if you don’t have plans, the best-case scenario is that you’ll do nothing. But if you’ve got brunch with a friend, a rock-climbing class and a fun date, you’ll bounce from activity to activity with a sense of purpose. So think and think hard: Do you want to finally finish that novel on your Kindle? Explore a new lounge? Treat yourself to a decadent meal surrounded by airport ambiance? Go wild.

2. Hunker down in the lounge

Too obvious? Yeah, well, not for me. I’ve slept on airport floors — and been vacuumed around — when sucking it up and buying a day pass would have made the wait infinitely more bearable. Meg G. from the TPG Lounge kills time by showering: “Usually my longest layovers are on international flights. Showers perk me up.”

Alternatively, you can play the field and lounge hop.

3. Do something — anything — productive

People always say they’re too busy to do certain tasks. Now’s your chance: lots of uninterrupted time surrounded by (hopefully) free Wi-Fi and a bookstore with crowd-pleasers. Crack that book on how to be a better manager — or how to manage your money. Or grab a glossy magazine and learn about the hottest travel destinations in 2018. Trip down the Internet rabbit hole by investigating your destination or watch Gordon Ramsay’s MasterClass. You can do anything! You’ve got nothing but time!

Perhaps like Christopher N., you could simply observe your fellow passengers: “Sometimes it’s great just to post up and people watch.”

Or Katie R., who makes excellent use of her airport hours: “If I'm on my way home from a trip I will take time to edit/weed out photos and upload a few to Instagram. If I have a lot of time, I may upload them all to Facebook also.”

4. Eat and drink like royalty

Perhaps the most popular suggestion in the TPG Lounge was to eat, drink and be merry. Plus, all that walking from restaurant to restaurant will stretch your legs. Scott M. has a hot tip: “Sky Club or a visit to the counter to ask if they have any vouchers which can then be an exciting food hunt in the terminal.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Whiskey. People also like to drink a lot of whiskey.

5. Catch up on work

Calling all Type-A obsessives! Extra hours are your narcotic. Now you have time to answer those lingering emails, set up meetings for when you return, take a final peek at your inbox, or rewrite your out-of-office reply to sound less braggy. Just because you’re in the airport doesn’t mean you have to turn off your work brain (if you don’t want to).

Waiting for a night flight in airport. (Photo by SamuelBrownNG/Getty Images)
Waiting for a night flight in airport. (Photo by SamuelBrownNG/Getty Images)

6. Fill your head with entertainment

If you’re unable to stream Netflix in the airport, just tap into all those TV episodes you downloaded on your computer before coming the airport. Oh…you didn’t download anything? Well, now you know better for next time.

Or, like Christy F., you can create your own entertainment and bring a sketchbook, or zone out in creative bliss like Anna K.: “When things get really dire I buy coloring books and colored pencils. It's soothing and fun (and a great way to make friends!), and I like using that time to do something that I enjoy but would never do otherwise.”

7. Treat yourself

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that calories consumed in an airport don’t count. That explains the wild success of the in-terminal Cinnabon. Reward yourself for your patience with an indulgent snack, foot massage, manicure, or some duty-free shopping. If a little luxury will calm you down and help with the wait, just give in…

8. Head into the city

…or go out! You’re not trapped, you know. No one’s holding you against your will. If you have a good chunk of time and the airport’s near public transit and interesting sights, why not turn your layover into an impromptu city visit? The worst thing that could happen is…well, you could miss your flight, so stay mindful of your boarding time.

9. Call an old friend — or make a new one

You’ve been meaning to phone your mom or your best friend, so why not now? You can actually focus (for once). Or make like Stephanie A. and bond with your fellow bummed-out passengers: “We had a delay due to a storm at the Gold Coast airport in Australia, [and] the shared experience of everyone in the lounge caused a resigned-to-have-to-stay-and-relax attitude. Unlimited booze and plenty of snacks meant we had a party and met some fun folks!”

10. Sleep like the dead

Red-eyes are smart (in theory), but they rarely afford you the eight hours of sleep recommended by doctors and every smug person who actually gets eight hours of sleep. So if it’s late, curl up in a lounge chair — or, if the situation is super desperate, in one of those cots they give people during massive, airport-wide delays — then set your timer and take a well-deserved snooze.

11. Consider the bigger picture

You may be compelled to whine. To complain. To make rude comments to the gate attendants, who can’t shorten your delay — even if they wanted to. Please, for the sake of your nearby fliers, resist this urge. You are not the first person (nor the last) to be inconvenienced in an airport. This, too, will be resolved and you’ll soon be on your way. Focus on your destination an remember traveling is a privilege, flaws and all.

Featured image by Getty Images

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers