An Airport Layover Survival Guide

Hangin at the airport
Maybe you can’t avoid a layover, but you can prepare for one.

“I love airport layovers!” said no person, ever. Airport layovers rank pretty high on the list of major travel bummers, right up there with travelers’ illness and being stuck on an overcrowded bus next to a guy with a snake in a pillowcase. (I sadly have been the victim of all aforementioned plights and can say honestly the snake was the best of the worst.)

I’ve also seen almost every length of airport layover imaginable, from a five minute dash from one terminal to another, to a 36 hour stint in JFK one unfortunate December. And from long to short, economy class to luxury, (just kidding – there’s no such thing as a luxury layover,) there are a few tricks to minimizing the misery and maybe even enjoying yourself.

Attitude is Everything

A friend and frequent traveler once told me he didn’t mind long airport layovers because, in a busy schedule packed with travel, work and social obligations, they were some of the few fleeting moments of personal time he had. I’ve never looked at layovers the same way since.

Think about it – once you’ve made it through security, your mobile service is probably crappy, the majority of your belongings have already been checked, and every device you own is somehow suddenly on its last battery bar. I imagine this is what the early 80s were like, only with fewer parachute pants (to my chagrin.) Everyone knows you’re catching a flight, which means they’ve stopped expecting anything of you. Kick back and enjoy a few minutes (hours? days?) of uninterrupted you time.

Don’t Go Naked

If you know you’re up against a long layover while making a trip, factor that in when you pack. Airports are always too hot or too cold, generally charge for Wifi, and their stores boast an outrageously high markup.

When dressing for “too hot or too cold,” layers are your best bet. Wear clothes you can layer on or off to adjust for extremes. And don’t forget to wear shoes you can run in, in case your layover is of the stressful, last-minute-dash-to-catch-a-plane variety.

Also, before you even get to the airport, just go ahead and assume you won’t be able to get on Wifi. Don’t make that indignant face; you knew it would be like this. Bring a book. (They had those in the 80s, too.) Bring your iPod. Bring a journal or a sketchpad or an abacus. Just make sure your entertainment contingency plan doesn’t rely on the use of the internet.

I personally have a hard time not snacking while in the midst of an airport layover, because, well, I’m bored out of my skull and nobody’s watching. But make sure you bring a variety of resealable munchies with you to avoid paying double for M&Ms from 2007. And no tuna; that’s just inconsiderate to the dude sitting next to you.

Honesty is the Most Entertaining Policy 

I know your old Russian Lit professor Mrs. Finkelstein would be just tickled that you’re planning to tackle War and Peace this summer, but she’s not here right now. It’s just you, six hours and that guy eating tuna in the seat behind you. What you need is quality, captivating entertainment, not a verbose examination of the human psyche.

Do you queue documentary films on your Netflix just to fall asleep to reruns of How I Met Your Mother? Perhaps Beyonce features more in your Top Played playlist than Chopin, even though you “only listen to her when you work out.” Whatever gets you tapping your foot, turning the page or watching another episode, an airport layover is the perfect time to indulge in those guilty pleasures. You’re literally staring down the barrel of one of the most boring situations known to modern man. Bring some entertainment that actually entertains. Mrs. Finkelstein will understand.

Don’t be this guy…wear your tennis shoes and plenty of layers.