How to Kill an Airport Layover

When we travel by plane, it’s a lucky day when the cheapest flight is also the one without any connections or layovers. It usually seems that, if we’re flying, we generally have to change airplanes somewhere along the way. Given that time is a precious commodity, I’m all about making the most of my layover time. My goals for layovers are twofold:

1. Make the time go by quickly.

2. Make sure that time is spent in the best way possible.

I’ve pretty much mastered the skill of sleeping on an airplane, so one of my top tips for killing layover time is to stay awake and alert. Though snoozing might be a great use of time, what happens if you miss the boarding call for your flight?

No worries … there are plenty of other ways you can spend a layover. Here are my top picks:

Pile of magazinesCatch up on computer time. Unfortunately, it is not yet a given that you’ll be treated to free internet access at airports across the world (though I have found it in a few small, relatively surprising hubs), so don’t count on being connected during your layover. Even if an airport does have wifi, the connection might be so weak that it takes longer to connect than it does to actually fly to your next destination. When I don’t have internet access, I use this time to type up blog posts, articles and emails that I can easily drop into their particular places once I’m back online. This uninterrupted access means I usually get a lot more of this work done because I’m not distracted by email and Twitter.

Read. How often do we spend time reading just because we can? If you’re anything like me, then it’s not nearly enough time. I always travel with a couple books on my Kindle, which is super thin and easy to pack, but I also pack a few magazines to flip through during take off and landing. During a layover, I like to grab some of this reading material and really dig into it.

Call a friend. My sometimes erratic schedule can make it hard for my family and friends to keep track of me. When I have time to kill in an airport, I’ll often find an outlet, plug my phone in and dial up everyone in need of a phone call. My parents, sister and friends from high school have all been on the receiving end of a call that starts something like this:

Them: Great to hear from you! Are you home now?

Me: Nope. I’ve got a layover and am currently in Salt Lake City / Denver / Oklahoma City / Los Angeles / fill in city here.

Trail mix and bottled waterGo for a walk. For the most part, airport terminals go on and on and on. Considering the fact that you’ll likely be sitting for the next few hours, you might as well take advantage of the climate-controlled conditions and go for a walk. There was only one instance (I don’t remember if it was Miami or Fort Lauderdale) where I was stuck in an itty-bitty wing that didn’t allow me to leave without going through security again. Generally, though, I’ve been able to walk for up to an hour at a time without passing the same thing twice. This is a stellar time to catch up on podcasts you have saved to your iPod.

Browse through the shops. Truth be told, I don’t generally like the standard shops that can be found in every airport, but they aren’t in a hurry to kick anyone out, so take your time browsing through the items available to purchase. Occasionally there are actual unique stores tucked into the corners of some airports, but these seem to be disappearing. My favorite, a shop that carried nothing but recycled goods in the Salt Lake City airport, was closed last time I was there. A few airports even have libraries.


One of the worst ways to spend a layover is burning through cash. By all means, grab a drink at the bar or (if you’re like me) a cup of coffee, but it’s no secret that it’s going to cost you. In order to save rather than spend money during your long layover, make sure you pack some snacks and even a sandwich. Just avoid anything gelatinous like yogurt as its likely to be pulled at security. Peanut butter and jelly, trail mix, granola bars and fruit are all good choices.

The other thing that can set you back during a layover is bottled water. There are usually water fountains scattered throughout terminals in countries where the water is safe to drink, so you can and should take advantage of them instead of buying bottled water, which helps save the environment and money! What I do is pack a water bottle (empty of any water when I go through security) and then fill it once I’m in the terminal. Drinking lots of water during my layover ensures I’m well hydrated for my flight.

6 Responses to “How to Kill an Airport Layover”

  1. Sophie

    Or, if your layover is, say 3 hours or longer – and the airport isn’t too far from a city (or an interesting town or village) – get out and explore. (If you’ve a layover in Iceland, you may even have time to go for a swim in the Blue Lagoon).

    • JoAnna

      Good call, Sophie. I don’t know how I could have overlooked that one. When I was in Seoul, I took a day tour into the city and it was fantastic! Much better than hanging out at the airport.

  2. Abby

    I admit that when I have a looong layover, I indulge. I am just so happy to be taking a trip that I can’t resist!

      • JoAnna

        You guys are all so cute. Nothing like a little overindulgence!


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