Surviving and Thriving During an Airport Layover

By Meghan Brennan

It’s sure to happen sooner or later – the dreaded airport layover.

Whether planned or accidental, whether three hours or 13, no one gets excited about spending extra time in the airport. But with a little planning, they can turn into productive and even enjoyable interludes (though you’ll probably still be happy to bid the airport farewell)!


Long layover blues got you down?

airport layoverOn a long layover, your best bet is to get out! Many major airports have connections by rail, bus, or car into the cities they serve, ideal for a quick excursion. A bit of sightseeing can make your layover feel like an extra slice of vacation. Just be back in time for your flight!

Playing games on a laptop or smartphone is good, but playing for real is a better distraction. Pack a game or two in your carry-on (a travel version of a major board game or even a deck of cards) and pull them out while you’re waiting. Traveling solo? Strike up a conversation with another bored flier and see if they’re up for a game. You might even make a lasting connection!

Traveling with kids? Pack a small toy that’s reserved for the layover – it’ll still be exciting when you hit the ground. Alternately, head for the airport bookstore and pick up a book of crafts…as long as it comes with all the components! Trivia books are great too. Quiz each other on random facts and see who knows the most…the answer might surprise you!


Have access to the lounge?

Working out can be a great way to break up the monotony. Some airports have gyms, but you can always go for a jog around the terminal or grab a quick downward dog or two wherever there’s space. Just be sure to wash up afterwards, as a favor to your next seat partner!

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Credit: 1000 Words/

Of course, there’s always the airport lounge for when you get desperate. Many offer day passes, even if you’re not a member; check your options before you leave home.


Best Airports for Layovers

But did you know that, even in this age of airlines seemingly cutting luxuries left and right, there are some airports where you might actually enjoy a layover? It’s true, at these hubs (and a few others), the experience is so good that you might be tempted to miss your flight on purpose. Here are five of the world’s best airports for layovers:

Doha International Airport

(Credit: Paul Prescott/

Doha International Airport – At the Qatar Airways Premium Terminal, you’ll find everything you’d expect in an airport terminal plus some excellent restaurants, hotel-style bedroom suites, and entertainment for young travelers.


Singapore Changi Airport– Make your travel experience a little more zen with nap cubicles, themed gardens, and even a swimming pool (for a fee).


Dubai International Airport– Big spenders will love everything about Dubai, and the airport is no exception, with the world’s largest duty-free shop, plus a gym and open-air gardens.


Hong Kong International Airport – Fancy a round of golf while you wait for your next flight? Hong Kong International features a nine-hole regulation course. There’s also virtual basketball, soccer, and auto racing, as well as an IMAX movie theater.


Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (Credit: VanderWolf Images)

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol– Art fans will flip for Schiphol, the first airport to feature a museum annex – in this case the Rijksmuseum, one of the finest in the world. Plus, admission is free.


How do you pass the time during a long layover? And, since more and more airports are expanding their offerings, what hub would you most want to be stuck in?


About Meghan Brennan

Meghan_BrennanIn between jet setting around the world to research blog posts, Meghan enjoys eating caviar and attending polo matches with the Queen. She also has a highly overactive imagination. When persuaded to interact with reality, she spends a lot of time in used book stores and planning her next adventure.