Layovers. No one likes them, and they can be a pain to deal with, but they are an inevitable part of the travel experience. Layovers have the unusual ability to oftentimes be very short (30 minutes of so) or incredibly long (12+ hours). I’ve had to deal with both types in a wide variety of airports. While I’m definitely not a fan of layovers, I’ve personally found that a layover of between 3-6 hours is usually ideal since it gives plenty of time to get the gate and chill. However, for those travelers that have those dreaded very long layovers, there are luckily some ways to beat the boredom.
Here are 5 ways to deal with a long layover:
1) Catch Up on Sleep
If you tend to be lacking sleep, a long layover can be a way to help catch some much-needed “Zs.” However, I completely understand that sleeping in an airport is not the most comfortable place to get good quality sleep because of people walking and talking, announcements being made, and general discomfort of seats.
Depending on the airport, there are actually some airports that have “sleeping rooms” with lounge-chair types of recliners where one can sleep as long as they want free of charge. Doha Hamad International Airport in Qatar has several of these types of rooms. Admittedly, the recliners are hard and can be a little uncomfortable if laying down for a long time, but I have definitely made use of these before. However, rather than using the chairs, I laid on the ground, used my backpack and a couple scarves as a pillow and slept. Much to my surprise, I actually slept pretty well (3-4 hours).
Of course, not all airports have sleeping rooms, and oftentimes a traveler will need to find a place to get some sleep. If you want to learn more about sleeping in airports, check out Sleeping in Airports, which is a site that highlights the best places in many airports to have a snooze.
2) Relax in a Lounge
If you desire a step-up in comfort from waiting in the main terminal, a lounge can be a great way to spend time if you have a long layover. Typically, the lounges will have more comfortable seats, wi-fi, food (choices vary greatly), and some may even have showers, sleeping rooms, or massage rooms that can be used for an extra fee.
I am a frequent lounge user via Priority Pass (check out my own experience), which gives me access to hundreds of lounges throughout the world. Even though most lounges have a rule of a maximum 3-hour stay, I have never seen this rule enforced. There have been times when I have spent way more than 3 hours in a lounge, and the attendants have said nothing.
If you are a relatively frequent traveler, then a lounge might be a good choice. In that case, I recommend checking out the website for Priority Pass. I have been a member now for several years and have not regretted it.
3) Explore the City
If you have a particularly long layover, it is definitely possible to leave your carry-on bags at a checked bag desk at the airport and head out to explore the city that the airport is located in. Getting out of the airport and seeing a new place or revisiting an old place during a long layover can be a wonderful way to kill some time.
However, it is important to keep in mind that the airport might be a significant distance from the city center, and depending on the time of your arrival, traffic could be an issue. It is also important to be aware of the departure time of your flight and to be back several hours before since you will need to go through security again, and that could take awhile.
4) Participate in a Tour
For travelers who have a long layover, it is entirely possible to do a tour of a city. There are many tour companies that will take transit visitors on a tour of the city to see the main sites. They will pick you up at the airport, take you around, and get you back to the airport in a timely manner.
Some airlines also offer this service. For example, Royal Jordanian offers the Zuwar Stopover, which offers a variety of packages that are catered specifically to transiting passengers. Turkish Airlines also offers a similar program with a tour of Istanbul for travelers with at least a six hour layover in Istanbul. In the case of Turkish Airlines, the tour is free, but with Royal Jordanian, the different tours will be an additional fee. However, these are great ways to experience and see a new country if you have a limited amount of time.
5) Spend the Night outside the Airport
For travelers who have really long layovers of 12 or more hours, it is rarely worth staying in the airport for that amount of time unless it is absolutely necessary. Instead, when those unavoidable flights happen, I would recommend spending the night outside the airport at a hotel. Depending on the airline, they might automatically set you up with a hotel outside the airport free of charge (Turkish Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and Qatar Airways do this), but some airlines will not do this.
There have been times when I have flown into Dubai and arrived in the early evening and had a flight the next morning. In those cases, I usually get a hotel relatively close to the airport, and depending on time, I will take the train to one of Dubai’s famously-large malls or the Marina and walk around the area. Even though the cost of the hotel is an added expense, it still beats sitting in an airport for over 10 hours.
How do you spend long layovers? I’d love to hear your thoughts!