How to Make the Most out of Any Airport Layover

An airport layover is a connection point between two cities that can range from 30 minutes to 23 hours long. They can be viewed as annoying or an exciting way to have fun! With the right planning and attitude, you can use those bonus travel hours to get out and explore or even contribute towards your future travels.

Here is how to maximize your layover of any duration:

15-23 Hours

If your layover is anywhere between 15-23 hours, I recommend booking an accommodation in your connection city so you can have a good night sleep, relax, shower and then explore. Or, depending on your time of arrival, explore and then get a good night sleep. Emirates Airlines offers a courtesy connection program where passengers who have a layover for more than 8 hours in Dubai are given accommodations, meals, ground transportation, and visa costs. And yes, this is offered to economy class customers too!

Prior to your arrival in your layover city, check:

– If your airline offers any courtesy connection benefits. Most of these connection programs require you to reserve your room at least 24 hours prior to the flight.
– Visa requirements and whether or not you can get one on arrival
Once you arrive, head to the information booth to pick up maps and guides. This will give you a good idea of things you can see within the time you have available. Long layovers are also a perfect time to connect with old friends. On our way to Bangkok, my friends and I had a 13 hour layover in London. During that time, we took the tube to meet up with a college friend, enjoyed a traditional English breakfast, stopped at an H&M for a hat because it was colder than we’d anticipated, and walked around for a bit. On the way back home, we again had a 17 hour layover in London, although I unfortunately spent the majority of that time in urgent care because of an ATV accident I had in Krabi.

7- 14 Hours

Depending on your time of arrival, with a layover of 7-14 hours you may be ready to explore as soon as you get off the plane or you may need a little more rest. If you need rest, but don’t necessarily want to purchase a hotel room, I would look into the following options:
  • See if there are reclining lounge chairs available.
  • Airport lounges. You don’t have to be a member to get into these lounges; most offer a flat fee for non-members. Check to see if your credit card gives you lounge access. My Chase Sapphire card provides me with complimentary access to over 900+ airport lounges. You can read about the benefits of Chase credit cards here.
  • Napping  pods. Not all airports have these, but they are a great alternative way to catch some R&R and have some privacy.

Prior to leaving the airport, you should know:

-For international flights, you typically want to be at the airport for at least 2 hours before departure.
-Be generous with the amount of transportation time you give yourself. If you find out it should take 45 minutes to get from the city center to the airport, give yourself 1.5 hours. You don’t want to be at the mercy of unexpected transportation delays.
– In the likely event that you don’t want to drag your carry-on with you while you explore, drop your bag off at your airport’s luggage storage. For a small fee, you can store your bags and explore in peace. This should also be factored into your exploration time because luggage storage may not be in the same terminal as your departing flight.
On my way to Cape Town, I had a 13 hour layover in Munich, during which my friend from Austria came to visit and explore with me! Cheers to great friends!

6 or Less Hours

I personally wouldn’t leave the airport for a layover that is 6 hours or less. I don’t think it’s worth the hassle to just be able to explore a city for 3 hours. However, many airports have a lot of things to do right there in their facilities. Make sure to visit the information booth to get an airport pamphlet. One of my favorite things to do is explore art exhibits in airports. Some alternative ideas on maximizing your time during a short layover are to:

Build that travel fund!

  • Depending on your job duties and flexibility, perhaps you can work remotely. In this case, you should ask your supervisor if you could work extra hours during your layover. That would be a great time to complete the mindless tasks that keep getting pushed back. I wouldn’t do any tasks that are stressful (because, after all, you are on vacation); however, earning paid time off while on vacation sounds like a win to me!
  • Complete surveys! Devote an hour or two of your layover time to answering  paid surveys. Here are some of my favorites.

Plan trip activities!

If you haven’t already done so, use this time to do some detailed trip planning. Some of my favorite websites for planning are Pinterest and Lonely Planet.

Contact loved ones!

We all get busy and probably have a few people that we’ve been meaning to contact for a while. Use this time to reconnect and check in!

There you have it – some conventional and unconventional ways to maximize your layover of any duration! What are your favorite things to do during a layover?

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Jewels Rhode

Frequent Flyer. Chief Enjoyment Officer. Helping you make your travel dreams a reality!