How to Handle Long Airport Layovers + General Tips to Survive

by Sojourner

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Airports: you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. They are a hub of new beginnings, nerves, life-changing adventures, excitement and germs all in one. Airports can be the most relaxing of places as you wait to board…or the most frustrating when said flight is delayed or cancelled. After spending many days and nights in airports, I’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you get through waiting, hunger and uncomfortable sleeping arrangements.

Be patient

Whoever said “patience is a virtue” clearly hadn’t spent significant time in an airport. Bothering the service desk to get information on a flight delay or simply sitting in a waiting area is never fun and checking your phone every minute won’t help. Take a few deep breaths, avoid glances at clocks and just relax near your boarding gate. You don’t want to drive yourself crazy before your trip even begins or annoy the airport staff! They are hard-working people and it’s (normally) not their fault your flight is delayed. Take that up with Mother Nature.

Bring something to read (electronic and non-electronic)

For any trip, bring a mix of electronic resources such as a phone, tablet, laptop, kindle, etc. and non-electronics such as books, journals, word searches, crosswords and magazines.  Many airports have charging stations, however those can get crowded. If you’re on your phone while stuck for hours, it’s bound to die so those non-electronic activities will come in handy. If you do decide to use electronics, make sure you have all the cords, regular chargers and portable chargers you need. Though we could all benefit from disconnecting for a bit anyway.

Download all podcasts and music beforehand

WiFi  is hit or miss in airports. Some offer unlimited free Wi-Fi while others only offer 30 minutes and you don’t want to use your data all the time. Download any and all listening materials (your favorite podcasts, e-books, newest playlists, etc.) before the flight in order to have something to do to pass the time. Some of my favorites are Hidden Brain, Myleik Teele, XX Will Travel, Code Switch and Latino USA.


More and more airports are creating spaces for people to relax. From the massage chairs to removing extra armrests between seats, airport seating is becoming a bit better. In Lisbon, there was a line of reclining leather chairs available for my friends and I to sleep on.  Airport sleeping is never ideal, but for a cheap flight and a new adventure it’s worth it. I’m sure we’ll have bed stations soon enough!

Pack a neck pillow and an eye pillow

Yes, I’ve converted to the dark side. I was anti-neck and eye pillows for a while, but after taking 1am flights I caved. They are perfect for sleeping on all modes of transportation and making those uncomfortable airport seats feel like your bed at home. Well, not quite, but they come pretty close! Taking care of your body is a big part of airport travel and if your neck hurts it’ll make your trip less enjoyable.

Take a walk

Sitting for hours is not good for your body or your nerves. Plus, you’ll be in a seat for some time, if you’re traveling far, once you board. Get up and walk off those nerves and frustration. Almost every airport in Europe reminded me of a mall with all the restaurants and shops like Burberry, MAC, and Victoria’s Secret. You don’t have to eat or shop, but consider walking around and exploring if your delay is a few hours.

Buy snacks beforehand

Being stranded in an airport and hungry is a horrible combination. Don’t let it happen to you! You can bring packaged snacks through TSA. Of course they are available for purchase at terminal kiosks, but they are expensive. Save a few coins and go before heading out to the airport! Your wallet will thank you later.

Keep hand sanitizer around at all times

Lots of people = lots of germs. Hand sanitizer should be with you at all times while in airports. It’s better to be prepared because bathroom lines are too long sometimes and every so often you’re hustling to the other side of the airport for a  last-minute gate change. You’re touching seats that flight-loads of people have called “home” temporarily. No one wants to be sick while traveling.​

Having a long layover, delay or complete flight cancellation is not the end of the world. It may seem like it at the time, but it’s not. At all. Things happen with airplanes and sometimes we need a good cleansing so Mother Nature provides it on the very day you travel. ​When you travel, you need to be flexible and let go of control. Get it together and enjoy the ride.


Thanks for reading! Pin these tips to use for your next flight!


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