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By Shereen Travels Cheap
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Make The Most Of A Long Layover

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Sometimes you just can’t help ending up with a long layover. We’ve had ones from 4 hours to overnight and we’ve always viewed it as a challenge in fun. I am always disappointed when I only have an hour or so and can’t explore a new airport, because so many are becoming cultural hubs.

How much time do you have? Here’s how to fill it!

Under 3 hours

  • Check out the airport’s art collection. Lots of airports have art installations and some even have galleries. 
  • Grab a bite to eat. Most airports have restaurants from the local area that also have locations in the airport. Even if you don’t have time to check out the city, you can at least enjoy some local food.
  • Take a nap. If the airport you’re in has sleep pods, you can make the most of your layover and get some shut-eye. You can always camp out on a few chairs though. On our last trip, we witnessed a guy soundly sleeping in an out of the way section of floor.
  • Get some exercise. Some airports have gyms and/or yoga rooms, so fill your time getting relaxed or burning calories before you have to sit back down again. If the airport you’re at has neither of these, you can always just walk up and down the terminal. If you have kids, you might be lucky enough to be in an airport with a playground where they can burn off their excess energy.
  • Hit up the spa. Pamper yourself with a pedicure, manicure, or massage. 

3-6 hours
  • Take a city tour. I’ve been to airports, like Salt Lake City, that actually have free buses to/from the airport to the city center, where you can take a tour, check out some local landmarks and do a bit of shopping.
  • Watch a movie. We’ve done this before. We brought some movies from home, camped out in a very quiet terminal, and then watched two movies on our laptop. Now, it’s easier, because you can stream everything wherever you are. Of course, some airports even have theaters, including Portland International that runs an hour’s worth of locally-made entertainment around the clock.
  • Get a day pass to the airport lounge. Maybe you just want some quiet space and to get a little work done. If you feel like the cost of access is justified, most lounges have free snacks, drinks, nice bathrooms (some have showers) and desks with outlet. 

6+ hours
  • Rent a car and get out and explore. We once had 8 hours to spare in Vancouver, BC, so we hopped in a rental car, went to one of the city’s popular parks, got some walking in, visited the conservatory, had lunch, and then drove to the salt room nearby and got a bit of relaxation in.
  • Meet a friend. On an 8-hour layover in San Francisco, a friend came to pick us up at the airport, and we did some city things, hand lunch and dinner, then she dropped us back at the airport and we continued on our trip. It was like two trips in one.
  • Get a room. Once on a trip through DFW, we found a really great deal on an international flight to Ecuador, but we had a 14-hour layover. Even with a hotel room at the airport Marriott, it was a deal, so we checked in, hit the town, took in a movie, got a good night’s sleep in a nice bed, grabbed a continental breakfast and got back to the airport and onto our main trip. It was fun.

Sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad situation if you didn’t plan it or you’re trying to save money. If you end up with a long layover due to the airline’s fault, then make sure you get compensated.
  • Download the GateGuru app before you leave home so you can find all the shops, restaurants and amenities near your gate and everywhere else in the airport. 
  • Have some cash on-hand, just in case. you never know what might happen.
  • If you aren’t traveling with just a carry-on (and I highly recommend you do), make sure you have spare clothes, pajamas, and toiletries with you. I also suggest snacks, so you aren’t paying the crazy mark-up at most airline shops.
  • If your flight is delayed more than two hours (or you get bumped), you are owed compensation. Ask for cash, if possible. The airline regulations clearly state that compensation should be paid in cash, electronic transfer or checks, unless the passenger chooses to accept travel vouchers instead. If you choose travel vouchers, then you have rules you have to adhere to and can only use it on the airline you booked originally.
  • You can also sometimes finagle airport vouchers for drinks and food.
  • If the delay is responsible for an overnight stay, the airline owes you a voucher for a free hotel night. 
  • Some tips for getting the most from your cancellation/delay: 
  • Be nice. You need to keep your cool when talking to airline counter agents. They can’t do everything, but if they can, they are way more inclined to do it if you’re nice to them.
  • Ask. It never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is they’ll say no, but hopefully give you something worth more than what they were going to give you.
  • Know your rights. Make sure you know what you can ask for under which situation. Weather delays are not in the control of the airline, so in that case, keep the airline’s 800-number on-hand to call and rebook. Usually they will waive fees for you. If all else fails, take to Twitter to contact the airline for help.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve done on a layover?

Want to read more tips for traveling worldwide on a budget? Check out my blog at Shereen Travels Cheap or find me on Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also find product and website suggestions, packing tips, current deals and a whole lot more to help you travel better for less!


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