International travel can be exciting and many find it to be relaxing and liberating in comparison to the struggles of their daily life. Travelling abroad can also be a learning experience, especially if you are a solo traveller. However, the fun generally starts after your plane has landed at your final destination and you’ve gotten over the jet lag. The journey itself though, is far from pleasing, especially if you have to wait out long airport layovers in a foreign land. Well, you can change all that by making the most of an airport layover. This post covers some of the best things to do during an airport layover that will make the journey just as much fun as the destination.
Fun Things to Do During an Airport Layover
Airport layovers can be as short as 1.5 hours or as long as 6 to 8 hours in connecting flights, which are pretty common for almost all Pakistanis who travel abroad, since most of the airlines connect to our country via Dubai, Oman, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Thailand, and other countries in the Middle East or the Far East. Thus, if you want to travel to Europe, the UK, the US, or Australia, you’re bound to face at least one, and sometimes, even more than one layover of different durations.
Ultimately, if you’re travelling with a companion or your kids, keeping them happy and occupied, might make the time pass away quickly while also providing you with plenty of social interaction, but as a solo traveller, you need to find some activities to make airport layovers fun as you wait for your flight connection.
Here’s how to make airport layovers fun as an independent traveller. You can choose to get your kids involved in some of these activities as well. The activities you can enjoy at an airport include:
Check out a detailed explanation of the fun things to do during an airport layover below. Please note that while some of these activities to make airport layovers fun are ideal for both short and long layovers, other are only recommended if you have sufficient time on your hands between connecting flights so that you do not miss your connection.
Airports around the world are renovating their premises to make layovers fun for travellers. Thus, a range of free and paid entertainment options are being offered to all those who choose to wander around the airport and explore it to the fullest.
Jump from terminal to terminal if you can or simply explore the one you’re in. Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock so that you don’t miss your connection, while you get a chance to stretch your legs and walk about after a cramped flight, especially as an economy class traveller.
Airports are great places to make new friends. With people heading in different directions all the time, you might be able to help out someone in need of assistance, chat with a complete group of strangers, or even find a buddy to travel with on your connecting flight.
However, not all of us are equally social with strangers. If you fear for your safety by approaching people you don’t know and have free Wi-Fi or a roaming cell network, call up or text an old friend and catch up with them.
Airports are full of people and people-watching is a great way to tell more about different passengers and travellers. From a mother hurrying her kids to a gate and a couple on a honeymoon to an elderly man visiting his kids, there is such an array of people and personalities in a busy waiting area.
Even if you’d rather not approach someone directly, there’s a lot that you can learn about them, just by watching how they spend their time in the lounge. This doesn’t mean staring at people like a creep, but watching discreetly around you at the different people, their varying destinations, and the common pit stop amid all these intersecting routes that has brought you all in the same room.
Shops at the airport are duty-free but all frequent travellers know that these shops charge way more than what the same item would be worth in the city. Thus, we’d advise against shopping at the airport, unless you are buying a gift for someone you’re meeting at your destination or if it’s an edible item that couldn’t get past airport security at the entrance in your hand luggage, such as tinned foods and sweets.
However, while shopping at the airport might leave a dent in your pocket, window shopping and exploring the duty-free, going from shop to shop, is a great and inexpensive way to pass the time while you wait.
There are very few travellers who truly love aeroplane food, especially economy class passengers. The good news is that all international airports will have at least one or two eateries and a general store brand that can cater to the hunger of travellers. If you haven’t had a good meal on the flight, head to an eatery of your choice and grab a meal. The best part about buying food inside the terminal is that you get to carry it on the flight with you, so you can grab a takeaway to eat on the flight as well if you’re not hungry yet.
As a Muslim traveller, airports in Muslim countries will generally serve Halal food, but look for a Halal sign or ask at the counter about it before you order food in a non-Muslim country. if you can’t be certain about the origin of the protein, stock up on chips, biscuits, and chocolates after checking their ingredients instead, as they are generally a safer option with proper labelling helping you identify what’s consumable and what isn’t.
One of the best ways to wait out long airport layovers is to find a comfortable place in the terminal and take a nap. While many people sleep in the chairs provided, explore the terminal a little and you might find a more comfortable spot. Some airports even have special sleeping pods or lounger chairs for travellers to spend the night. This is extremely recommended for overnight flights, where you can only sleep in short bursts to gain energy, on-flight and at the airport terminals.
However, if you are travelling alone, make sure that you hold on to your luggage as you sleep. Using your hand carry as a pillow is one option to consider. Moreover, make sure that you set an alarm if you decide to take a nap during an overnight layover so that you do not miss your connecting flight.
With a lack of cell service or internet connectivity, most gamers dread travelling to unknown locations, but many games work completely offline after they’ve been downloaded into your smartphone or tablet. This gives you complete access to the game even while you wait in the airport for your flight, as long as your device is charged.
If using up the battery of your device is not an ideal option, carry a pack of cards or a small board game with you in your hand carry. This is one of the best things to do during an airport layover, especially when you’re travelling with small kids. Get them engaged in card and board games or a game of I Spy and the time will pass by quickly.
Books weigh a lot, but that doesn’t mean you have to use up your hand luggage weight limit to accommodate them. Most airports will have a bookshop in the waiting area. Browse through the books available and purchase one from there to pass the time away. This additional purchase does not count in your weight limit and gives you an entertaining book at hand to read during your layover.
Alternatively, download a few PDFs on your phone or tablet before beginning your journey so that you always have a book as your travel companion when you need to wait out long airport layovers. Audiobooks are also available online as required.
One way of making the most of an airport layover is to head out of the terminal and explore the city you’re in. This is only advised for long layovers of about 8 hours or more, but even then, don’t wander too far away as you never know about traffic jams in a foreign city. You would also need to set an alarm to ensure that you make it to the airport with plenty of time to spare and catch the connecting flight.
Please note that you can only exit the terminal if you have a locally accepted visit visa. For instance, if you have a long layover in Dubai, consider getting a short-term visit visa in advance so that you can head out of the airport as soon as your flight lands. Or, if you are heading to the UK, the US, or Europe on a visit visa, plan your flights in a manner to get a long layover in a country like Turkey that allows tourists with a valid UK, US, or Schengen visit visa to exit the terminal and visit the city without the need for a Turkish visit visa.
Making the most of an airport layover is all about smart choices and planning for your layovers in advance so that you know exactly how to pass the time at the airport. Here’s how to save money on plane tickets while travelling abroad and a guide on how to board an international flight from Pakistan. You should also know how to be a responsible tourist abroad, as well as some of the best tips and tricks when packing for a trip. Check out our travel guides to Turkey, Egypt, and Azerbaijan to know more about each of these popular destinations, especially if you’re heading there on your next vacation.