Layovers are necessary means of getting to where we need to go, whether its five incredibly long and inconvenient layovers on budget flights, or a simple refuel stop over, each layover is an opportunity to explore new places. Layover time is time that you can utilize to learn about another country or region, not to mention you can also do certain activities to enhance your mental and physical health.
First and foremost, make sure that you know where and when you have to be when your next departing flight is ready for boarding. By orienting yourself around a central location like your departure gate, you will be able to navigate the airport while being conscious of how far away your gate is. Checking in is not only important to make sure that you know where you are in a foreign airport, but you might also find that there are openings on other flights that you could hop on to that could either give you an earlier departure or if the flight seems like it will be overbooked, airlines will give compensation to volunteers who will opt to take a later flight.
Explore the Airport
After you find your departure gate on the map, take a look around and see what the airport has to offer. There are usually a plethora of retail stores to stroll through, but the prices are much more expensive than what they would typically be at a store outside of the airport. Even if you aren't interested in shopping, getting your leg muscles moving and changing your environment is helpful for stress reduction, blood circulation and inarguably feels good after sitting on a plane for multiple hours.
Many believe that you can’t look good walking off a plane, but what those people didn't anticipate was the time during a layover that you can use to freshen up. Bring along a change of clothes, some moist facial wipes, your toothbrush and any other products that help you feel revived. Flying is very dehydrating, so make sure to drink lots of water and to apply extensive amounts of moisturizer to your face and hands to keep them from getting too dry.
To relieve your body’s sardine symptoms as a result of sitting in a cramped economy airline seat for the past several hours, take advantage of the time to stretch. Many of us rarely take the time to stretch, but especially after being stuck in the same position, your body will thank you for taking just five minutes to stretch. Your lower back gets very compacted from sitting in one position for so long so spend some time stretching your back, neck and hips. Try a lunge to stretch out your legs or rolling down your spine from standing to a folded position.
Grab a Bite
Airports usually have a diverse selection of food choices, as they want to have choices available for the numerous different travellers passing through everyday. You may have found the serving you received on the airline was not quite filling (or appetizing) enough, so once you arrive for your layover take a peek at the terminal directory to see what food options you can choose from. You can choose a sit down restaurant, a deli or fast food, but rather than sticking with your comfortable choice of Burger King, why not take advantage of the fact that you are abroad and try sampling some of the more local dishes. In Brazilian airports you can find typical Brazilian cuisine such as coxinhas, pao de quiejo and catupiry.
Take Care of House Keeping Matters
With the connectivity that comes from having a smartphone, we can check our emails, social media and other electronic scheduling and communication needs constantly. We can instantly respond to emails and text messages and post photos to Facebook, but sometimes our lives get quite hectic and we start slacking on posting travel photos and the emails stack up in our inbox. Use this layover time to respond to forgotten emails, go through the hundreds of photos you took abroad and even make some calls that you are overdue on. Think of the airport as your office, and just take care of all the things that you didn't have time for while travelling. If you are on your way to a new destination, having multiple hours on a layover can afford you the time for last minute research!
Crafts and Books
Instead of using up battery watching movies or playing games on your devices, give them time to charge and do something tangible. Bring along some thread and make a macramé bracelet, or a book that someone recommended to you. Bring along just enough crafts to keep yourself busy, as bringing along an entire tool kit of beads, paintbrushes and clay might be a bit excessive while travelling. Bringing along just one book won’t be that much of an addition to your pack’s weight and you won’t have to worry about losing it as much as your Kindle and you can read away hours without even realizing it. Even reading a newspaper can keep you occupied long enough to make your flight come faster.
Take a Nap
There’s no denying how draining flying can be, so when you have a long layover ahead of you it might be just the opportunity to catch a few winks. However there are two possible problems; you could oversleep and miss your flight and your belongings could get stolen. Before getting creative with sleeping positions on the airport furniture, tuck the straps of your bags through your limbs and position your bags close to your body. Set several alarms to make sure that you don’t miss your flight, and if you know you aren't good with waking up, check in at the gate and let the attendants know you’ll be on the flight. If they notice you still sleeping during boarding, they should wake you up. Bring along a shawl or scarf that you can wear but it can also serve as a blanket while you snooze.
For those of you who have extremely valuable belongings, some airports have lockers that you can check your carry-on sized luggage into. In Tokyo, the airport even has beds and showers that you can rent while on layover.
Start a Conversation
To fill your layover experience with some color and depth, try striking up a conversation with someone. It could be the cashier at the restaurant or the lady sitting next to you while you both charge your phones, but everyone has a story or at least a character to share. Meeting new people is such a large percentage of what makes each travel experience so special and unique. Take the time to listen to their tales and maybe share some of your own, you never know what commonalities or connections you share and you could even be meeting a future best friend.
Get an Extension
If you have a layover that causes you to be stuck in an airport for long hours, but without enough time to actually see the city or anything but the interior of the airport, you might think about making your layover really count by extending your stay there. Some airlines will charge fees for the alteration but some are grateful when they have overbooked flights. By extending your layover to a whole day or even a few days, you can make the most of an incidental destination. Just one day in New York City is better than being trapped at JFK Airport, and all you need to do is contact your booking agent or airlines and adjust it. If you do extend your layover and leave the airport, make sure to give yourself enough time to recheck your bags and go through any security or immigration processes.
Plan Ahead When Booking
When you book your flights, you are shown an itinerary that you will be following, complete with those nuisance layovers. Most of the time layovers are unintentional and rather a result of choosing the most affordable ticket. The cheaper flights have less comfortable and inconvenient routes, while the price increases, as layovers get shorter and trips more efficient. You will have to be the judge of whether paying the difference for one less layover is worth it to you. When booking, look carefully at the layovers to see if you can handle them or if you need to go back and select a different flight, because once you confirm the ticket, any changes will be subject to additional fees.