Long airport layovers are one of the occupational hazards of overseas travel, and unless you are in the position to pay the substantial premium involved in direct flights it is something which must be faced. Still with a little forethought this unloved part of the travel experience can be made more bearable and with a bit of careful planning even enjoyable.
The first thing to do is quantify the timing and length of any stop over when booking your ticket. This way you will know in advance when the delay is likely to occur in the journey and how much time you will need to kill. Here time zone knowledge will pay dividends as the time of day your stop over occurs on can dictate what you can do. So for example if you can schedule the flight so you will have two hours wait in the morning local time you can use this time to get a bit of exercise and depending on the location of the airport and visa requirements possibly do a bit of sightseeing.
Many city airports are within easy travel distance of interesting tourist attractions so if the layover is sufficient make use of the time. Also as refreshments are expensive in airports popping out to the local amenities could save you some money. A quick word of warning her though – check on visa requirements as some countries will not allow you out of the airport without one , and temporary ones are not always available at the airport. Another option here is to actually make a day of it by deliberately arranging the connecting flight for several hours or even a day ahead so giving you a chance to experience the stop over country.
If this is not an option then doing a bit of research on the layover airport is another option. You will be surprised at the facilities that some airports have, with even the smaller ones having bars, restaurants and shops, while some of the big city ones offer amenities such as gyms, and children’s play areas.etc. Most airports have web sites nowadays so the research process is fairly easy, and many have online maps which can be printed off making navigating them easy. If you are planning to leave the airport, check that there is a baggage deposit as lugging your hand luggage around will not enhance the experience, and you could have problems with security when returning. You can also use a short stop over as an opportunity to freshen up and grab something to eat or drink.
Another option for the regular or Business traveller is joining the airlines VIP club. This is not a cheap option, however if you are travelling a lot it could be money well spent, as they often come with complimentary food and drink, and they offer a welcome sanctuary from the hustle & bustle of a busy airport. Some offer day passes so it is worth enquiring before you fly. They are also great if you want to do a bit of work as many are equipped with office “hot desks” and internet access.
Another thing that will help is organising your hand luggage when you are on a layover. Here you can make the layover much more bearable if you have the items you need. This will of course depend on what you plan to do but the old adage less is more rings true here. Minimising what you have to carry around will make things much easier, and if you have carried out your forward planning you will know exactly what you need.
The stress of a layover can also be minimised by good time management and thinking ahead. If you are planning to leave the airport make sure you have checked the exact time your next flight leaves, and from which gate. The easiest way to do this is to ask an airline agent or you can check the departure board as soon as you arrive. The map you should have printed off will come in handy here as you can use it to gauge the distance to the departure gate and the research will let you know if there is a shuttle service available.
Another option if you are travelling alone is to see if there is a space on an earlier or later flight. Some airlines will allow you to switch to one of these flights space allowing at little or no cost. However if you are travelling as a group or family unit this is unlikely to be an option and here again some planning can make the layover more bearable. Children need entertaining and although the excitement of the travel adventure will keep them happy for a short time bringing items such as colouring books or handheld game consoles (fully charged) will ensure that the things go more smoothly. Also bringing a book or magazine also makes sense as airport shops are not the cheapest place to buy these items and the range on offer is often limited. Most airports will have Wi Fi so providing you don’t mind the extra weight taking your laptop computer with you and doing a bit of web surfing is another good way of passing the time; you could also do this with your smart phone.
So although the inevitable airport layover will never be the most enjoyable part of any journey with a little forethought it can be made a lot easier to bear.