Airport layover in the lounge

30 Things To Do During a Long Airport Layover

Stuck at the Airport? How to Survive a Long Airport Layover

What is a travel layover? A layover “is a period of rest or waiting before a further stage in a journey. It is a stop between flights.”

Usually there are a number of reasons for an airport layover:

  1. Planned – You plan for the layover while making your travel plans or a layover is the only itinerary that you could make work to get to your destination.
  2. Unplanned – Due to unforeseen circumstances such as weather, flight delays (which can then cause missed connections), mechanical issues, staffing, or canceled flights.
  3. Traveler Error – You miss your flight by not allowing enough time to get through security, customs, or long airport lines.
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Incheon, Korea airport layover

Whether your long airport layover is planned or unplanned, layovers are not always a fun part of travel.

Layovers are especially not fun when you are stuck on an airplane due to a mechanical issue. If you don’t have access to WiFi to help pass the time or even some snacks when you miss a meal, this delay becomes miserable as it drags on and on and on.

Let’s face it, when you arrive at an airport and have a long layover looming in front of you, sometimes you just want to invent time travel and beam ahead to your final destination.

The best thing to do is to plan ahead for ways to survive a long travel layover. If your airport layover is a scheduled part of your itinerary, you have the advantage of scoping out things to do in the airport (or outside of the airport) in advance.

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If your airport layover is unplanned, use this list of preplanned ideas and long flight layover tips to discover what you CAN do to help to pass the time. I recommend always packing travel essentials in your backpack or handbag.

While non-stop flights go straight from Point A to Point B, when your flight stops somewhere else en route to your final destination, it’s called a layover.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

>> Related: 10 Travel Accessories to Survive Your Travel Layover

What is the Difference Between a Travel Layover, a Connecting Flight, and a Stopover?

A LAYOVER is a stop between a flight that goes from Point A to Point B.

A layover vs transit or a CONNECTING FLIGHT involves a travel itinerary where you have to take two or more flights to reach your final destination. It means that you are traveling without any direct flights.

The difference between a layover and a stopover is the amount of time you spend in your stop before reaching your final destination.

  • Domestic Flights – most airlines define a layover as a stop that is less than four hours. It becomes a stopover if it’s longer than four hours.
  • International Flights – a layover is said to be a stop that is less than 24 hours; a stopover is defined as spending more than 24 hours in a city.

STOPOVERS give you the opportunity to explore a city that is en route to or on the way home from your final destination. It is like getting two vacations for the price of one; however, stopovers aren’t as available as they used to be.

  • See Tip #30 to learn more about Stopovers.

Top 30 Ideas to Survive Your Long Flight Layover

1. Sleep

Take advantage of your downtime during an airport layover to catch a few zzzzz’s. This is where ear plugs, noise canceling headphones, eye masks and neck pillows such as Trtl come in handy.

Be sure to have someone you trust wake you up or set a timer on your phone that you will either feel through vibrations or hear so you don’t sleep through the boarding for you next flight.

Stay healthy as you travel by getting enough sleep on your airport layover

If you are completely exhausted, you may just be happy with some floor space and not even care where you are sleeping!

Create the habit of always flying with a light jacket or even a scarf that you can use for a layover travel blanket. If you are traveling solo and wish to keep your personal items secure, try using them as a pillow.

2. Book a Minute Suite

minutesuiteforairportlayover
Image courtesy of Minute Suites

If you happen to be grounded for an airport layover in Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas-Forth Worth, Detroit, LaGuardia, Nashville, or Philadelphia, check into the new Minute Suites.

Minute Suites offer private rooms in airport terminals once you are past security where you can sleep, relax, work or enjoy a little quiet time. These suites are especially helpful if you are traveling with small children who could benefit from a nap.

If you know you are scheduled for an airport layover at one of the airports listed above, call ahead to reserve your space. The private retreats fill up quickly. The suites can be booked for one hour, two hours, an extended eight-hour stay, or options in between.

3. Read a Magazine or an eBook

flipstermagazine
Flipster Magazine Options

An airport layover is the perfect time to catch up on reading a book from your favorite author. I highly recommend eBooks as they can be downloaded to a tablet or phone and do not take up any extra space or add to the weight of your personal items.

Be sure to download your eBooks or magazines in advance. This is especially important if your delay is caused by an unforeseen issue (ie., mechanical or weather) while you are sitting on an airplane waiting to take off or deplane and do not have access to WiFi.

If your library participates, you can “check out” their online selection of magazines, audio books, movies, music, and ebooks that can be downloaded to your phone, tablet or PC at no charge. You will need a valid library card and time to download each item before you leave home or when you have access to WiFi.

Library services include:

  • Flipster
  • Hoopla
  • RBDigital
  • Libby

4. Watch a Movie or TV Show

Want to pass the time on an airport layover watching movies or binge-watching your favorite TV Show? If you do not have a WiFi connection, this is another one of those long layover flight tips where you will need to be prepared and download your entertainment options in advance.

If you have access to WiFi in the airport, you can possibly stream your entertainment options.

Where to find movies that you can download?

My husband ALWAYS reminds our girls to download their movies a couple of days before we leave on vacation. Inevitably they leave it until the last minute!

Did you know that you could watch a movie at the Hollywood Theatre at Portland International Airport? Once you are through security, enjoy the free 22-seat microcinema at PDX on Concourse C.

5. Catch Up on Your Favorite Podcasts

Do you love to listen to podcasts? When you have a little extra time due to an airport layover, catch up on your favorite podcasts or search for new and interesting content to add to your listening library.

What is your favorite podcast?

6. Listen to music

The benefit of listening to music during a travel layover is that you can do it while you also do a lot of other things on this list of long flight layover tips. Be sure to download your playlists, especially if you are using a streaming service such as Spotify.

7. Create a Christmas Wishlist on Amazon

It is always a perfect time to create a wishlist on Amazon, whether for Christmas, your birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or your next anniversary.

Whether you are new to travel or are an experienced traveler, you might be inspired with new gift and gear ideas to make your trips more enjoyable or streamlined.

8. Check and Post to Your Social Media

Do I really even need to suggest this idea? No doubt, if you have a spare moment or want to pass the time as you stand in line while traveling, you are checking or posting to your social media: Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

While you have a travel layover, you will have plenty of time to update your status.

9. Research Your Destination and Review Your Itinerary

An airport layover is also the perfect time to review your itinerary and do a little more research on your destination. You can make a dinner reservation, check for Broadway Play tickets, finalize your train schedule, or double check your hotel and apartment bookings.

Booking.com

10. Plan Your Next Trip

If you are still wondering what to do in an airport during a layover, here’s an idea: plan your next trip! Seriously! Do you have a bucket list? How about some frequent flyer miles to be used?

Hint * If you haven’t already signed up for frequent flyers miles, now would be a good time to do it!

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11. Play a Game

If you have had a long and tiring day of travel and now find yourself with hours to kill on an airport layover, sometimes the best option is to play a game that doesn’t require much brain power. Allow yourself some downtime.

12. Catch up on Travel Blogging or Journaling

Are you like me and have a long list of journaling topics to catch up on? Or maybe you need to blog about or journal your recent trip; an airport layover is a great time for writing.

I always travel with my iPad, a keyboard, a notebook, and a pen. When I travel, I record details and destinations, mishaps and memories all along the way that I can then use to create travel posts with detailed supplemental information.

If you keep a list of travel topics, be sure to snap a picture of your written page or keep a Note on your device for reference.

13. Meet New People

Are you the kind of person who strikes up a conversation with people around you? A travel layover allows you plenty of time to make new friends and meet new people. If they are on a travel layover as well, they may be the perfect sounding board for sharing your frustrations.

Or maybe you can begin to collect recipes or stories from the people you meet around the world.

14. People Watch

Interesting person in France

If you would just prefer to people watch, the airport can be a pretty entertaining place. #peopleoftheairport #peopleoftheworld #peopleofinstagram

Create a theme for your photos such as #peopleservingpeople. You’ll be amazed at the kindness you find when you look for it. Tag @simplyjolayne or use #simplyjolaynetravels. I would love to see what you share.

15. Exercise

Do your body a favor and just walk around the airport. Take advantage of this downtime to stretch before boarding your next flight.

Do a little research in advance to find out if your layover airport has a gym or workout facilities.

16. Charge Your Devices

What to do if your flight is delayed three hours or more. Make sure to charge your devices while you wait!

Most airports have updated their gate facilities and offer plentiful outlets to travelers. You may find the outlets at your seat or at a charging tower close to your gate. However, if this is not the case for you, I highly recommend traveling with a portable charger.

A portable charger is one of the top travel gadgets that I always recommend.

Having a charged phone is essential for a variety of reasons on your airport layover:

  • Use the alarm so you don’t sleep through your boarding call
  • Rebook to a new flight
  • Receive alerts
  • Entertain yourself
  • Connect with family and friends
  • Stay busy

17. Eat

Treat yourself to a nice meal. Depending on your seat assignment, you may not have the option of eating the “oh so delicious” airplane food later.

You might even luck out and find a nice restaurant serving local cuisine.

Always, always, always travel with snacks in your backpack or travel bag. Bring snacks you enjoy that will be filling as well.

Bonus * Use Code SJTRAVELS at checkout for 10% off your Built Bar purchase.

18. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is a basic need we tend to forget while traveling. If you don’t already have a water bottle, buy a water bottle from one of the snack shops at the airport. Refill as needed and stay hydrated as you wait.

19. Visit the Airport Lounge

Airport layover in the lounge

There are quiet places in an airport where you can get away from the noise and activity of the airport terminal. Airport lounges are great for spending time before your flight, but they are even more awesome if you are on a long layover and just need a place to relax and recharge. You will often find free food and drinks, lots of seating, and free Wi-Fi.

Some lounges have additional amenities such as showers and nap pods, spas, massage chairs, barbershops, and workout equipment.

Our family’s best airport layover experience was at the Incheon Airport in Korea. Not only was it a beautiful airport, but the lounge was top notch. I can now say that I have showered in Korea.

You may be able to gain access to Airport Lounges in a few different ways:

  • Credit card benefits
  • Purchase a membership pass with Priority Pass
  • First Class or Business Class benefits when you fly internationally on many airlines
  • Elite Status perks for loyal customers on some airlines
  • Purchase one-time access

20. Chat With Friends and Family via Texts or Facetime

A great way to pass the time while at the airport is to chat or text with family and friends. It is also important to let them know of the delay and potential change to your itinerary.

Just be mindful of keeping your device charged as video chats can use your phone’s battery quickly.

21. Explore the Airport

What to do during a three-hour layover?

If you have the time during your airport layover, explore your airport concourse. You may find access to a quiet balcony, locate a cool tourist shop, or find the perfect spot for lunch. The added benefit of exploring the airport is that you can get in some steps for the day.

If you have not checked your luggage, you will need to take it with you. Never trust a stranger to “watch your stuff”.

22. Catch Up on Work

My husband regularly has 1000+ new email notifications in his inbox. Not all are essential to check right away, but when he has an airport layover, it is the perfect time to knock out replies to a few of those emails.

If you are a travel blogger, this is a great time to work on your next post or brainstorm ideas for future posts.

23. Learn a Language

If you are traveling overseas and have layovers for international flights, take some time to learn basic phrases in the country’s language: thank you, please, hello, goodbye, where is the restroom?

If you are ready to dive deeper into a new language, how about a language app to help you on your journey?

24. Pamper Yourself

Have you ever thought about getting a massage, manicure, or pedicure at the airport? Most of the time you are busy getting to and from your destination without wanting to spend extra time in the airport. BUT… on a long airport layover, pampering yourself is the perfect solution.

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Xpress Spa operates in many airports around the world, offering neck and back massages, foot massages, pedicures, manicures, even virtual reality relaxation. When you have a few hours to spare at the airport, pampering yourself seems like the obvious solution.

25. Shop

Having stopped at a few airports around the world, I can say that the Incheon International Airport in Korea has the nicest shopping area that I have ever experienced in an airport. It looks as though it is a high-end mall with options such as Gucci and Prada mixed among the duty-free shops. In my opinion, it is one of the best airports for layovers.

Even if you are only window shopping, you’ll enjoy the break from sitting at your gate.

26. Ask For an Upgrade

No doubt you’ve already looked into the possibility of changing to an earlier flight, but if that isn’t possible, you could ask the gate agent for a seat change or upgrade, food vouchers for the airport, or vouchers to use on your next flight.

You won’t be the only one asking, so if you are going to check into an upgrade or wish to see if there is an earlier flight, time is of the essence.

27. Take Pics, Organize and Edit Your Photos

Raise your hand if you are still taking pictures at the airport while you wait. 🙋

You also have the time to sort through all of the photos you just took on vacation, reminisce over your favorites, and edit your photos with a photo-editing app such as Adobe Lightroom.

28. Freshen Up

There is something about travel that can make me look like a hot mess. You too? Be sure to have a layover travel bag packed with some essential toiletries to help you feel refreshed and ready for the next leg of your journey.

You may wish to:

  • Brush your teeth
  • Take a shower
  • Touch up your makeup
  • Comb your hair

29. Get Your Shoes Shined

With travel attire so informal, shoeshine services at airports may seem, like pay phones, to be on the way out. But in the most recent passenger amenities survey conducted by Airports Council International–North America, the number of airports with shoeshine stands (about 50) exceeds those with business centers and TSA PreCheck enrollment stations. 

USA Today

If you happen to be flying in or out of Denver International Airport, Executive Shine is a great place to stop. My husband, a frequent business traveler, is also a frequent shoe shine customer.

30. Plan Your Layover as a “Stop Over” and Take a Day Trip Out of the Airport

Take a day trip to Seoul on an airport layover
Day trip to Seoul, Korea

What? Can you plan a layover daytrip? Yes. If your layover is long enough, you can plan to leave the airport and explore your layover city. Feel free to sign up for a tour, rent a car for the day, go visit friends, or explore a new city.

A stopover is the perfect opportunity to add a new destination city to your itinerary.

Ever hear of United’s Excursionist Perk program to use with your stopovers? Members of United’s MileagePlus Program qualify with these stipulations:

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  • “The Excursionist Perk cannot be in the MileagePlus defined region where your travel originates. (For example, if your journey begins in North America, you will only receive the Excursionist Perk if travel is within a region outside of North America.) Travel must end in the same MileagePlus defined region where travel originates.
  • The cabin of service and award inventory of the free one-way award is the same or lower than the one-way award preceding it.
  • If two or more one-way awards qualify for this benefit, only the first occurrence will be free.” United

The Points Guy does a good job of explaining the ins and outs of the Excursionist Perk program and how to book a layover on United award travel.

As noted at the beginning of this article, stopovers aren’t as widely available as they used to be. If you happen to have the time on a stopover and wish to leave the airport, you will want to take note of the following:

  • If you need to recheck any baggage, be sure to budget enough extra time to wait for your bag to be offloaded and then rechecked before leaving the stopover airport
  • Be sure to pack a backpack to take with you
  • Bring your ID
  • Find out if you need a visa for your stopover country
  • Try to facilitate your stopover during the day
  • Check out available tours from the airport
  • Make sure you can use your credit card or carry some cash to exchange in a pinch
  • Plan enough time to go back through security
How to survive travel layovers

Improve Your Airport Layover with These Apps

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How to survive Travel Layovers

Final Thoughts on Things To Do to Survive a Long Airport Layover

If you have ever experience a layover, particularly an unplanned layover, you may wish to title this post, “How to Survive the Airport Layover from Hell” or “Surviving your Nightmare Airport Layover”. However you choose to describe the experience, a little bit of preplanning can go a long way in helping you to pass the time on your next layover.

Seriously, if I knew that I had a planned travel layover on the way home from Italy and scheduled a massage at the airport, I would be looking forward to that stop!

On the other hand, I have chatted with my husband on a flight layover or delay where his plane sat ten feet from the jetway for over two hours waiting for staff to be available to allow passengers to deplane. Those moments are frustrating beyond belief when all you want to do is go home.

Even in those frustrating moments, having a movie to watch or a book to read will help pass the time.

You may also enjoy these travel planning posts…

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32 Comments
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Kelly
Kelly
1 month ago

Great list of things to do on a layover, and very much needed these days. I LOVE that some of the US airports have added “suites” to their airports! I wish Toronto would get on board with the rest of the world and get their s**t together.

Lisa | Waves and Cobblestones

I agree that a portable charger is a travel essential!

Linda (LD Holland)
1 month ago

We are always happy when we have lounge access for a longer layover. It is nice to get a quieter space and some food and drink. We often use this time to catch up on social media and working on blogs. And if I need a break, I will grab a book and relax a little. A shower sounds like a great idea on a longer layover.

Michele
1 month ago

I love this post. You have such great ideas. I had no idea the minute suites were a thing. I’m holding that idea for future travel.

jetlaggedroamer
1 month ago

Such a great list! I definitely would book a mini suite!

Sarah
1 month ago

Lol, this is my list. I recently ended up with a 10-hour layover in Europe and I think I pretty much covered this whole list. Researching my destination is probably my favourite thing to do and see if I can get into an airport lounge. Like the idea though of turning the layover into a stopover !

Lasma
Lasma
1 month ago

So many fun things to do during a layover! I usually use the time to do some last-minute planning or work… I am a bit too paranoid about making the day trip from the airport, but that is just me haha.

Samantha
1 month ago

I can’t even lie… I would have loved this list about a year ago, when I was stuck in an airport for 12 hours. Awesome tips – I will be coming back to these during my next ultra-long layover. Sometimes you can’t avoid them!

Amber
1 month ago

Long layovers can be fun or a drag, I think it’s all about how you think about them! I love to use them to read a book I’d otherwise put off or check an item off my to do list. Airport time always feels like “free” time to me, so I sort of relish it! I love all of these suggestions!

Jenn | By Land and Sea
Jenn | By Land and Sea
1 month ago

Great post! I am literally the person working out in the corner or just walking laps!

Julie
1 month ago

All great tips for an airport layover! I personally love listening to audio books and people watching.

Mayi
1 month ago

Great list! For me spending time in an airport lounge is a must. Not only can you relax, get some refreshments, but you can also read some magazines, recharge your batteries etc…

Cristina
1 month ago

These are great ideas! I don’t often travel outside Europe, but when I travel somewhere far, I easily get bored. This will be useful for my trip to Bali next year. I will have to do a layover.

Terri
Terri
22 days ago

One of my favorite things to do on a long layover Is get a quicky massage. It is expensive but it is wonderful to get the deep rub in your neck and shoulders.

tiffy roxxx
22 days ago

This is such a great and helpful list! I’m always forever exploring airports and visiting the lounges lol But I’m definitely adding pampering myself with a massage to the list!

Ashley
Ashley
22 days ago

I usually end up going through my camera or reading. Definitely going to learn a language next time! Perfect time to do that