Personally, I love the airport. I get all excited like a giddy school child and have my little rituals such as drinking overpriced wine to calm my nerves and spending every last bit of currency on foreign candy and Dunkin Donuts. It always amused me what Dom Joly (Britsh comedian and author of The Dark Tourist) said of his airport ritual of parking himself at the archetype “champagne and oyster bar” and gorging in a ridiculously decadent way that only an airport lounge could accommodate. I concur, but only on the champagne, naturally.

With that said, it’s one thing to rock up at an airport two/three hours ahead of your flight time and jet off into the sunset. It’s quite the other to be delayed or to have a mind-numbingly bland layover. But worry not! Here are some of the savviest ideas on how to spend your additional airport hours more wisely.

 

Explore the terminal

Depending on the length of your time gap, wandering aimlessly can be a fun way to kill a few hours. In larger airports, some terminals have all kinds of exciting add-ons, shops and viewing areas. You can usually catch the free shuttle/train between terminals and explore others if you have time. One of the world’s best terminals to wander has got to be the Hello Kitty terminal at Taoyuan Airport, Taipei. It’s like peeking inside a 13-year-old’s daydream. But I’ve got love for the Kitty, so I got time for that.

 

 

Read or watch movies

For those prepared a delay or layover is no sweat: simply pull out a hard drive of fresh Netflix downloads or a Kindle full of the latest hot teen fiction. Many airports have wifi, so streaming movies is a possibility, but in my experience wifi airport usually isn’t great. Just be sure to find a comfy spot to do this. It’s worth going for an explore first to seek out quieter seating areas away from the main hubbub of the terminal. And plug sockets – essential.

 

Get some work done or organise your laptop/phone

Being trapped in an airport lounge is a perfect time to check off those annoying tasks that never seem to get done. Log on to the airport’s wifi and complete inane tasks like sorting out your email inbox, finally. Or without a wifi connection clear up your desktop or downloads file. Finally, label all those “untitled 192839” files and come out the other end a better version of the person you walked in as.

 

Rent a hotel room or pay per hour pod

If you’re stuck overnight, a hotel can be a worthwhile option, but naturally, a lot of these are extortionately priced, depending on what country you’re in. Big, fancy airports like Hong Kong and Dubai have slightly more affordable pay per hour nap rooms/pods which you can pre-book, or simply rock up to and get a few hours of sleep before continuing on your journey; a convenient solution for those pesky Middle Eastern layovers.

 

Cosy down on the floor

For those unwilling to pay such high fees, the floor is a viable option! Seek out a quiet spot where you’re unlikely to be disturbed and/or can find a decently comfy bench or carpeted area to lay on. I keep my own “emergency sleep kit” on me at all times when travelling that consists of a pair of earplugs and eye mask plus a silk sleeping bag liner to cosy down in as they’re small, light and offer protection from icy AC and icky floor germs. Be prepared and look up Sleeping in Airports in advance to make sure the airport will actually stay open overnight (as some close if they have no overnight flights) or you might end up sleeping on the pavement outside Bali airport like I did one time – whoops!

 

Paid lounge access

A step up from the floor (and the pavement) is napping on a comfy lounge chair, all while jamming pastries into your face and plying yourself with complimentary champagne! Lounge access can be extremely affordable if booked in advance or through an offer. Check out Lounge Pass for some great deals. Most lounges will offer complimentary snacks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, wifi access, comfy seating. Some even have showers and full meals thrown in – bargain. Lounge access is usually limited to three hours, but it’s often possible to extend.

 

Check out the cultural quirks

The many hours I’ve spent wandering lonely airport terminals at 3 am opened my eyes to an array of unique cultural experiences that you should most definitely seek out if you have the time. Cinema rooms, roof gardens, bizarre little “smoking rooms”, massage chairs and more. Singapore Airport is well-known as the airport with the most bells and whistles in this regard, so if you have a long layover there, you’re likely to be entertained. For the most basic of cultural thrills at least sample a local menu item from McDonald’s.

 

Free layover tours

Some airports even offer free city tours to those on layover connections over a certain time period. I believe five hours is the minimum for most, as they need to make sure you are back at the airport with plenty of time. Read up on a few airports which offer this service here.

 

Take your own little trip into town

If you have plenty of time and have the right visa permissions, why not go on a journey of your own. Most airports have luggage storage (usually listed as “Left Luggage”) where you can store bags for a few hours or even a few days. Depending on the city, it can be worth the ride into town to catch a few hours of touristic fun. Most airports have cheap public transportation which means you won’t need to spend much, unlike taking airport taxis. However, if your time is limited and your money isn’t a private car could be your best bet. You can find out any airports transport systems by looking up “X airport ground transportation” in advance. The best example I have seen of this so far is China’s option to stay up to a week in certain major cities if flying through China from one country to a different onward one (so no return tickets.) China has an expensive and time-consuming visa process, so getting a free pass is awesome. I spent a random week in Shanghai this way that I could never have done otherwise.

Get drunk

Everyone’s favourite past time! Park yourself in the most reasonably priced bar and proceed to people watch over a few glasses, potentially chatting to other travellers or bar staff – you might even make some new friends. I’m told people have gone on Tinder dates even – they must really have had some time to kill! Just don’t get too drunk and miss your flight, or too drunk that they won’t let you on the flight. If you have equally low morals and funds like me, skip the bar and proceed straight to the duty-free section to stock up on mini wine instead! Remember: if it’s picnic-sized, it’s not antisocial (well, not as much, anyway.)

 

Happy flying!