If you have a big wait between connecting flights, you might be wondering what to do during a long layover. I personally love a long layover (it beats too short of one!) and even purposefully know how to schedule a flight with a long layover now.
Long layovers might be a drag to some, but they give you an opportunity to approach your travel day with intention.
I've compiled a creative list of ideas for what to do in a long layover, organized from most time needed to least time needed.
What to do during a long layover
Escape the airport on your own to explore the city
Take an organized tour of the city
Book yourself into a transfer hotel
Try out the local cuisine
Indulge in the comfort food you've been avoiding
Take a shower
Phone a friend
Find a meditation room
Set goals for your trip
Journal about your experience
Check out the country's Netflix selection
Organize your memories and photos from the trip
Go luxe and enjoy an airport lounge
Go to town on samples in Duty Free
Post a mandatory Instagram photo
Research and plan for your next potential travel destinations
1. Escape the airport on your own to explore the city
If you have a really long layover, you should investigate the possibility of exploring the city you're in. Give this new locale a chance even if the location is far from the top of your bucket list of destinations. You may be surprised to discover a city you'd love to return to for longer.
Be sure to factor in customs lines and transit times to the city when planning your long layover. Don't overbook your time, be flexible with your itinerary, and don't hesitate to ask locals for help if you need it.
If you're wondering what to do with your luggage, the airport or nearby train stations may have luggage storage facilities.
2. Take an organized tour of the city
Some larger airports might offer an organized tour of the city that departs directly from the airport itself. Research options and book the tour before you land if possible. You will still have to go through security and customs as usual, but the organized tour might save you time spent figuring out public transportation systems and directions to major sites.
I have personally experienced a long layover city tour in Seoul, South Korea where the airport offers tours ranging in time from 2-7 hours. It was a low stress way to make the most of a long layover there.
3. Book yourself into a transfer hotel
Many large airports have transfer hotels that are made for weary travelers with long layovers. Some transfer hotels are located inside security, negating the need to allow for extra time. Others are located land-side requiring you to go through security an extra time.
Most transfer hotels are booked by the hour or half-day, making them surprisingly economical for those long layovers when all you really want is a nap.
4. Take a shower
Did you know that many airports offer free or low-cost shower facilities? If you want to feel refreshed, this is usually a great way to go. Check the airport gym or ask a help desk where shower facilities are located.
Most airport shower facilities also offer toiletry kits and towels for a low rental cost, just in case you didn't bring your own.
Even if the airport itself doesn't provide showers, many airport lounges do. Consider purchasing a day pass to an airport lounge to get access to showers (and usually free food, drink, and WiFi too).
5. Try out the local cuisine
Even if your layover isn't quite long enough to get out and explore the city, you can still find plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in local culture. Cuisine is often the most direct, and cheapest, way to experience a taste of a culture different than your own.
Seek out the local cuisine located inside the airport. You might be surprised by the immersive experience you can have without even leaving the terminal.
6. Indulge in the comfort food you've been avoiding
Alternatively, use your long layover to treat yourself to a fast food meal or comfort from home that you've tried to avoid during your trip. Get the french fries. Find the Tex-Mex. Indulge in a treat that makes your long layover more comfortable.
7. Phone a friend
If you've been traveling for a while, you're probably guilty of a major traveler faux pas. You don't keep in touch with family and friends as well as you should.
Use the time you have to waste on this long stopover to catch up. That friend you were always meaning to call back? Give her a ring right this second.
8. Find a meditation room
Even if you don't meditate, meditation rooms offer a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Give yourself a few minutes of quiet downtime during your long layover.
9. Set goals for your trip
If you have a long layover at the start of your trip, consider setting aside some time for goal setting. You may want to connect more deeply with your travel companions, find new ways to step out of your comfort zone, immerse yourself in a new language, or just take vacation relaxation to a new level.
Give yourself the time to ruminate on your travel (or life!) goals during your next long layover.
10. Journal about your experience
If you're on the tail end of your travel journey, a great way to spend time during a long layover is to journal. Your travel stories are fresh in your mind, so make sure to document them while you can.
11. Check out the country's Netflix selection
This isn't exactly culturally immersive or all that meaningful, but it can be fun to explore a new country's Netflix selection. It might give you a glimpse at what's popular in that country and might even help you with language retention.
I have fond memories of watching the Great British Bake-Off in London Heathrow when I was pouting about leaving Great Britain and my travel companions there behind.
12. Organize your memories and photos from the trip
I'm the worst at actually editing and organizing my trip photos after I travel. My camera's memory cards sit full for weeks and photos go un-cherished for far too long.
If you have a long layover when returning from your trip, consider this as a great idea for what to do on a long layover.
I find that it's easier to edit photos and document memories when I still have momentum from the trip. Spend a little while backing up your photos, choosing the best shots, and sharing with friends and family before you head home to the grind of daily life.
13. Go luxe and enjoy an airport lounge
I often think of airport lounges for first class passengers only, but those days are long gone. Now, you can purchase an airport lounge pass and enjoy free drinks, snacks, WiFi and sometimes even sleeping or showering facilities.
14. Go to town on samples in Duty Free
Bored with a long layover ahead of you? Make the duty free shop your friend. Get samples of all of the fancy lotions and perfumes. You might even be able to try some sweet local treats if they're offering samples.
15. Post a mandatory Instagram photo
You know that dreamy airplane window shot you took right before landing? You're given a free pass to post it, no matter how cliché or cheesy, when you're trying to make the most of a long layover.
16. People watch
Is there anything better than airport people watching? I love to imagine who people are, where they're off to, and how they might spend their time there when I people watch in airports.
Better yet, strike up a conversation and enjoy your long layover with a new friend.
17. Research and plan for your next potential travel destinations
There's no better time to get excited about potential future travel destinations than while traveling. If you have a long connection flight and are wondering what to do during your long layover, why not browse Worldpackers for inspiration for your next trip?
Need location-specific ideas on how to spend a long layover?
There are many resources available to you, regardless of where your long layover is located. I usually check the website Sleeping in Airports for helpful information on facilities and you guessed it, best sleeping locations.
For more information, your layover airport's website itself might also lead you to information about organized tours, facilities, or unique art to spot inside each terminal.
How do you like to spend a long layover? Tell me in the comments!
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Allyson quit her corporate marketing job in July 2018 and has been traveling the world through work exchange ever since. The highlight reel includes tutoring English while sailing in Greece and becoming a live-in nanny for a traveling family in New Zealand and Australia.