It must be your day! You just scored the cheapest return flight after weeks of holding off on buying that ticket even as prices were already shooting through the roof – sometimes, you just get lucky! Everything seems to look good, but for one thing: the flight connection sucks. But no worries, you only have, wait, what? More than 8 hours of layover? You probably didn’t miss that when you were on the checkout page, but you weren’t really thinking about it then…until now. Come on, cheer up! If it had saved you enough to afford one or two more days going on food tours in New York, a long layover is a worthy sacrifice for that price. Let me tell you this: you will survive!
It can be quite distressing, especially if it will be your first time to get stuck at an airport THAT long. You know, I thought 3 hours was a long time, until I had to spend 16 hours at one of the worst airports in the world with hardly ANYTHING to do. That felt like growing a year older every minute – it was horrible. I didn’t know what to expect and I was not armed with enough energy to chat up with fellow travelers or stockpile of stuff to keep me entertained. But that was also how I became a pro at Snakes on my old Nokia phone – oh, the sweet old days! Hey, now it’s different! So you’re still lucky lasses and lads! Relax. Just keep in mind that to win any battles in life, you need to – first and foremost – be prepared! Do not EVER underestimate the power of Murphy’s law.
Dig up everything you can find about the airport
Sure, you will have enough time to explore once you’re there, but it’s always best to do your research before arriving and know where to find what you will need – sleeping pods, lounges, food courts, left baggage facilities, entertainment areas, if any! This will allow you to plan your “stay” well and give you enough information to decide what to do with your time there.
Sleeping in Airports is a site with information on almost every airport in the world and I have been using this site for as long as I can remember; it’s the most comprehensive guide to finding your way in these airports. Travellers keep the information on the site up to date by emailing the admins, like I did a few times. Don’t let its super simple web aesthetics which still give the 90s vibes turn you away!
Get your personal entertainment stash ready
Before leaving your house, make sure that all the gadgets you are taking with you are fully charged. There may be power plugs in the airport, but you never know if someone’s already hogging that corner. So if you go crazy without a smartphone or tablet to keep you entertained, they better be juiced up! Then load it up with all your favorite e-books, movies, playlists or whatnot! It’s useless without it; unless you just intend to take selfies or doodle on it to pass the entire time! When the wifi connection is way too slow to do anything online; these will keep you sane. Oh, and don’t forget your power banks, too! If you still travel with books, magazines and with a travel journal, you’re options just got wider!
Say no to starvation
I hardly travel without snacks in my bag – not after those times I went starving because I couldn’t buy acceptable food ANYWHERE. You’ll have better sleep and be in a better mood when you don’t “go to bed” hungry! Yes, it happens; when shops decide to close before you can even get yourself something to eat or when they just don’t sell anything apart from a three-day-old dehydrated bread lying inside the glass display counter at the only airport cafeteria. Just carry packs of healthy satisfying snacks to get you through – cookies, bread, peanuts, etc. and a bottle of water you can refill at drinking fountains, which most airports have.
Dress for the occasion
Put on your comfiest attire because you will never know where you’re going to end up on – the lounge chair or cold concrete slab. No, please don’t dress like a hobo unless you want to be picked up by the security and locked up somewhere (Hmm, maybe their custody suites offer better amenities? You wish!). Airports are more often than not, air-conditioned; so don’t forget your hoodie or pullover and a few extra scarves – just in case it gets colder than you expect and that’s mostly the case when you’re in one of those Asian airports. We can’t help it! We love minus degrees – in malls, buses and every space that is enclosed from the heat outside! You’ve been warned!
Bring your sleeping kit
Some airlines are sweethearts to provide you these travel/toiletries kits, which include an eye mask, earplugs, socks, toothbrush, etc. Keep it and use it in times like this! However, don’t rely to be extended with such lovely gestures on every flight, so always remember to squeeze your own kit into your carry on. If you want to get a good night’s sleep especially in a jam-packed and busy airport, you’ll definitely need to be armed with these and a neck pillow, of course! Traveling with someone? His/her shoulder or lap will do!
Pick a secure and strategic spot
Assuming you already know the sleep/rest areas in the airport, try to pick a spot close to an electric socket or where the WIFI signal is the strongest – sometimes you really have to choose! If you get there late, then these spots might already be taken. The most important thing is to find enough space for your exhausted self to plonk on for the night. While there is hardly any case of travellers being assaulted inside the airport, people have lost gadgets and bags as they sleep. Try to stay in well-lighted areas and relatively close to the concierge or airport security.
Guard your belongings
I either lay my head on my travel backpack or, if I am sitting upright, place my bags on my lap/beside me and loop the straps around my arms before I hug it tightly like my life depend on it. I once startlingly woke up to a sleepwalking child tugging at one of my bags and trying to snatch it away from me – and that’s the worst that happened so far. Luckily. When you travel with someone, it’s easy to take turns watching each other’s stuff, but when you travel alone, it’s best to travel light and just have one carry-on you can easily handle! Imagine if you have a lot of stuff with you and you have to go to the toilets. You have to squeeze everything inside that tiny cubicle with you and, ugh, kind of gross if it has to touch the toilet floor.
Make use of left luggage services
But then again, if you really have to carry all that stuff because some of the friends and family you’re visiting asked you to bring some things for them and your luggage is not checked through, locate the left luggage or luggage storage service counters and leave it there without worries. These are short-term and secure; you just have to pay a few bucks to keep it there for as long as necessary. Check their opening and closing times though, to be sure that you can get your luggage out when you can finally check it in. You don’t want to see all your unclaimed belongings at some lost luggage warehouse sale.
Be considerate to other (sleeping) travellers
Ever been stuck beside someone who loudly talks on the phone the entire time or a rowdy group of travellers who just can’t keep it down as you try to sleep at past two in the morning? Clearly, they are not being considerate. Do not be one of them. If you see people around you trying to give their tired selves a break, especially if it’s a lounge/rest area, please shut up. Go somewhere else should you need to exhaust your talktime.
Check for airline lounges and other facilities
Okay, you don’t really have to sleep rough in the airports if you can afford it. Yes, really, you have a choice! If you have some cash to spare for a nice lounge with sleeping pods or even for a night’s stay at a nearby hotel, why not? Pay lounges open their facilities even to non-airline passengers. Have a breakfast buffet, massage, shower and a cushy seat! If you need a bed, the airport hotel might be more to your liking. While some are easily accessible from the main halls of the airport terminals, you may need to take a shuttle to get to others. There’s no better backup plan for anyone who prioritizes their comfort and don’t mind shelling out a small portion of their travel fund.
Sign up for a free layover tour
Another option is to see if they have free layover tours. Some airlines even offer to sponsor your visas – isn’t that lovely? A number of the airports which offer layover city tours are Singapore, Taiwan, Seoul Korea and even Doha – ask the concierge and they should know what you can do with your time there. It will be great to get out of the airport and explore a new city – or even if you’ve already been there countless times! It’s something you should consider and take advantage of if their tour schedule matches yours rather than wasting away in the airport! If you’re short on time or you just missed the last tour, some airports have amazing airport attractions such as museums, lush gardens and even parades! You can learn so much about the place without even leaving.
Do you have any experience sleeping in airports? How was it? What are the worst and best airports for layovers?