How to Survive a Long Layover

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For many travellers, a long layover is one of the worst things possible. The last thing you want is to be wasting time at an airport when travelling, but at the same time, having a long layover might just be a requirement for your itinerary. Obviously, if you have enough time, you can go out and explore the city, but that’s not always possible, so how do you survive a long airport layover?

Well, let’s be realistic, a long layover isn’t the end of the world. Many airports these days have plenty of things to keep you entertained these days such as gardens, viewing decks, movie theatres and more. It just depends on where your layover is occurring and how much money you want to spend. Here are some tips on how to survive a long layover.

Survive an Airport Layover

Research Your Destination 

One of the most difficult elements of surviving an airport layover is quelling the excitement of reaching your destination and putting it on pause for a few hours. Instead of wrestling with this excitement and trying to tone it down, why not indulge yourself and spend your time researching your destination?

If you haven’t done so already, read up on things such as how to take public transportation and if there are any museum passes or discounted attraction tickets available. Now’s also a good time to quickly locate any supermarkets near your accommodations if you want to save money on eating out.

Go to the lounge

If you’ve got a long layover, hitting the lounge might be the best thing to do. Some of the best travel credit cards in Canada include a free Priority Pass membership and gives you free lounge passes. Heck, the American Express Platinum card gives you unlimited access to lounges so this is a great way to refresh, fuel, and recharge while on a long layover.

Even if you don’t have a credit card with lounge access, consider paying for the access. Sure a 2-hour visit may cost you $50 Canadian, but here’s the thing, no one is timing you. You could easily stay in the lounge for 5+ hours and no one would care. Remember, most lounges also have snacks and drinks so you won’t need to spend any additional on food.

Go see the sights

Let’s assume that your layover is long enough that you have time to leave the airport to see the sights. You’ll need to budget at least 2 hours to arrive before your flight and say an hour each way to get to and from the airport. That means you want a minimum of 6 hours to comfortably leave the airport to see the sights. If you have more time, great, but I wouldn’t leave if you have less than that much time.

You’ll obviously not be able to see everything, so pick one or two attractions that you want to see and head straight for them. If you can, purchase tickets to them in advance so you can skip any lines. Alternatively, some airports such as Taipei, Tokyo, Seoul and Istanbul offer layover tours that you may have enough time for.

Catch up on e-mails or with friends

When you’re travelling, it can be hard to respond to e-mails so why not do it when you’re at the airport and you have nothing better to do? I personally catch up on as much work e-mails as possible since it can be difficult to answer them when I’m travelling. This is also the best time to send e-mails to friends and family or to catch up with them on Whatsapp. What you shouldn’t do though is go on speakerphone or do a loud video chat. Respect everyone else’s space! 

Do some work

If you’re a digital nomad, long layovers are the perfect time to get some work done on your laptop. As mentioned, lounges are the best place to relax even if you have to pay for it since they typically have better Wi-Fi than what’s available in the public areas. When you’re ready to start working, just focus on a few tasks that need your attention, such as answering emails you received on your previous flight. If it’s a really long layover, you can start working on your next project so you won’t have to spend as much time on it when you land.

Get Organized

When travelling, you often find that you spend a great deal of your time running around like a madman. With so much to fit in and the inevitable constant change of plans, it’s hard to find the time to sit down and get yourself organized.

Fortunately, your airport layover could offer you exactly this. If you’re flying out, take this time to double-check reservations and ensure you have all your important documents handy. If you’re flying home, you may want to start doing what you can to get ready such as putting your house or car keys in an easy to access pocket so when you clear customs at home, you’ll be ready to go.

Final word

Many travellers, no matter how experienced, dread airport layovers. Sure, you can sit around and do many things for free, but spending a little money during your layover could be well worth it since it’ll help you save your sanity.

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  1. karenswyszcz on May 25, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    After having done one too many layovers during my trip to Peru, I now try to book direct flights or just one stop if possible. I’ll usually read a book or listen to music. Sometimes I’ll even people watch for a bit. I’ve slept at the airport before during a layover. That was probably one of the worst sleeps of my life. 😛

    • Barry Choi on May 25, 2016 at 9:29 AM


      Yes, I try to avoid long layovers these days even if that means it’ll cost me more money. Every so often I’ll come across a really good deal but saving $400 and adding 10 hours of travel time is not worth it to me.

  2. jay on June 9, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    Most airports have spa’s $40 massage plus 3hr nap is a good deal ,also lay overs are good for networking ,you just need to setup the meetings before you leave …;-)

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