Whatever the situation, time seems to stand still when you are waiting for a flight and trying to think of things to do in an airport. Whether you love or hate flying, I’m guessing we’re mostly all in agreement that hanging around the departure lounge for hours is boring as hell.
So, what can you do to pass the time? Here are some ideas:
Have a nap
This one is for people who can sleep anywhere – like me! In 2019 we flew to Florida for our honeymoon. Our flight was in the morning and we were a bit anxious about missing it, so we made sure we left with plenty of time. Somehow, we arrived at the airport 6 hours early and couldn’t yet check-in! We were confined to the foyer of the airport for around 3 hours with only some stainless steel seats, a cafe (which didn’t open until an hour after we arrived) and some toilets. I made the most of not having anything to do and slept for the majority of the waiting time until we were able to check our luggage in and move through to the departure lounge.
Go for a walk
If you are flying from a major airport, there will usually be plenty of shops and cafés to explore. Although I’m not a big fan of shopping myself, stretching my legs and having a change of scenery always makes a big difference in how I feel. In the US some airports have even set up walking routes for restless employees and passengers – see the article on USA today for more information.
Take in your surroundings
Yes, it might be boring and seem like forever, but waiting in an airport is part of the journey. For me, any time spent away from work is a bonus and I try to remember that – even when stuck in 6-hour long traffic jams! Another way I like to pass the time whilst sipping on my third latté in an hour (this part is not recommended by the way) is watching the other passengers as they go by. I like to imagine where they are going and why. Try not to stare though – that would be weird! You never know, you might strike up a conversation with someone interesting and pass some time that way too.
If all else fails, reading a good book on the Kindle or listening to some music can transport you from the hustle and bustle of the airport to wherever you want to go. For me, this usually leads to having a nap though! Ah well, at least this still passes the time. Some airports provide their own entertainment. For a list of CNN’s most entertaining airports, click here.
How to reduce airport stress
When booking your trip
- This one I learned the hard way – book an early flight as any delays roll-over and get worse throughout the day.
- Avoid peak times – Monday to Friday 7-10 am and 4-8 pm. Instead, try flying on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Unless you already have it, buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked. Be sure to compare a few policies and check what you are covered for before buying. I often use Money Saving Expert and there is a thorough travel insurance guide here, which includes information on how to find the best policy for you.
- Research your options for getting to your hotel once you arrive – compare the methods of transport, prices, journey times, frequency.
1 week before your trip
- At this point, it is a good idea to write a check-list so you don’t forget anything.
- If you’re traveling with a laptop, be sure you have a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag that opens quickly to full view.
- Make your luggage distinctive so you can spot it easily. We have black luggage with bright pink locks, name tags, and straps – not very classy but it works!
- Before starting to pack, check what your airline allows and doesn’t allow. This will save a lot of messing about at the airport.
- Pack things to keep the kids entertained – games, coloring books, music or films on a tablet.
- Pack things to keep yourself entertained – book, tablet, music – whatever takes you to your happy place.
- If you’re planning on getting any sleep, earplugs are a must.
- Check how early you need to arrive at the airport as each airline is different.
Just before you leave
- Check the weather forecast – if it looks like bad weather, phone the airline or checks their website before leaving to see if you will be affected by any delays or cancellations.
- Take snacks in case of a short delay.
- Keep important documents together – passport, boarding pass, departure card, visa, etc.
- Pack a pen and paper so you can fill out any forms needed.
- Put anything that you want to use on the flight in a separate bag inside your hand luggage for easy access when getting to your seat.
At the airport
- Get there early – even if it is a short flight leaving in the afternoon, allow for unexpected delays.
- If your flight has been canceled or your luggage has been lost, consider buying a one-day lounge pass. Usually, this will include free, reliable wi-fi, charging points, food, bar, and showers. There may even be some helpful staff who can give you some advice.
- For international travel, complete your departure card before getting to passport control.
- Save time and stress by being prepared for the security scanner. Put any items which are likely to set off the alarm into a pocket in your hand luggage before you get there. Then all you have to do is put your hand luggage on the conveyor belt and walk through the scanner – easy!
- When you finally get into the departure lounge, take note of your boarding gate before chilling out in a cafe or milling about the shops. Keep an eye/ear out though as your gate may change, sometimes at short notice!