My 5 Favorite Things to Do On Airport Layovers

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I’ve spent a lot of unexpected time at airports in the past three weeks, so have had plenty of time to rank my favorite things to do to pass the time.

5. Go Online

Yes, I procrastinate on the internet on a daily basis, but I do so through embarrassing methods when I’m in airport mode.  Suddenly, my time shifts from chatting online to even less productive endeavors like reading through clever messages.

Procrastinating on my iPad…

4. Eat and Drink

When possible, I try to schedule my flights to connect through Chicago O’Hare because I’ll never go hungry there.  I always stop at Argo Tea for an incredibly overpriced beverage, but that’s often supplemented with a sandwich from Tortas Frontera.  Other favorite airport restaurants are One Flew South at Atlanta and Ivar’s at Sea-Tac for their salmon chowder.  However, no matter where I’m stuck, I can usually find something decent to eat.

Try the Ginger Twist

3. Walk

After I’ve consumed 500 calories, I feel an urge to burn them off.  Luckily, airports contain miles worth of walkways, so head to the furthest terminal on foot.  You’ll get bonus points for power-walking, double points for carrying your suitcase rather than rolling it, and triple points if you take the stairs instead of the escalator.  If you try hard enough, you can work up a sweat.  Just try to keep that body odor at bay so your seatmate won’t be too annoyed on the next leg of your journey.

They say you only need 20 minutes of activity a day!

2. Read

Traveling with a Kindle has changed my flying life for the better.  I no longer bother bringing mediocre magazines with me or get frustrated paying airport prices for a new paperback when I realize that I have four more hours to kill and no more reading material.  Instead, I just pre-load my Kindle with a few extra books and have plenty of entertainment.  However, even if you’re still a fan of physical books, reading is still a great way to spend your time on layovers.

Pays for itself when you don’t shop at airport bookstores.

1. Head to the Lounge

There is one really important thing to know about lounges: they’re just icing on the cake.  While I’ve read reports of some awesome international lounges, I’ve never been to one that’s really spectacular.  What they are is the perfect addition to my favorite activities in #2-5.  You’ll get free wi-fi to procrastinate on the internet, basic snacks and drinks, a shower for after your terminal work-out, and a quiet place to read.  Sometimes the terminal is more fun (better people-watching and usually better food than the free offerings) and often I don’t have time to get to a lounge anyway, but on long layovers, the tranquility makes the wait easier to deal with.

I had a comfortable visit to the recently upgraded T2 United Club at ORD.

EDIT: This contest is now over.  Reader Sharon K. has graciously donated a United club pass (expiring June 30) to give away, which you can use at United Club locations before the end of the month.  Though I will make every effort to get the pass in the mail ASAP, please don’t enter unless you can use the pass between June 15-30 just in case it takes awhile for the pass to get to you. To enter the contest, please leave a comment on this post with your name (First Name and Last Initial), a valid email address I can contact you at, and how you typically pass the time on airport layovers.  I will draw a winner using on Monday at 5pm EST.

33 thoughts on “My 5 Favorite Things to Do On Airport Layovers”

  1. I usually eat. One of my favorites is Pappadeaux at DFW. $10.95 all you can eat lunch buffet and free wifi 11-1 every weekday with free wifi

  2. Love Tortas Frontera! I think Ivar’s is totally overrated though 🙂 Check out Beaudevin wine bar at MIA and Dickey’s barbecue at DFW.

  3. I enjoy my layover time browsing the overpriced souvenirs next to my gate. It’s kind of like seeing the whole state/city embodied in a display of t-shirts, key chains, and candy.

  4. Julia DiBernardo

    Julia DiBernardo. Just read this after looking for good books to read on my long flights. What a coincidence!

  5. I usually walk as you suggested…no escalators or walkways. I rarely eat at the airport bc I’m saving the calories to follow my food itin when I land. 🙂

  6. I usually find the food court or Starbucks (with outdoor seating) to be a great people watching opportunity!

  7. Have spent MANY hours in MANY airports this last 18 months all over the world, my typical time there is spent planning my next trip before that one has even ended when its all fresh in your mind of what you liked or didn’t. Great time to do reviews on trip advisor as well. We in fact got deported from India for not having correct visa so NEVER rely on just travel agent advice always do your own research as well. So after 15 hrs under armed guard best thing in New Dehli airport was leaving. We are going back next march with correct visa information 🙂

  8. I stash my bags at one of the DFW AAdmiral’s Clubs, put on my Nikes, and walk each terminal from end-to-end (it would look a little goofy to run). I usually start at the Terminal D AAdmiral’s Club, goto D-1 and back to D-40, walk to the high end of Terminal B and back to the skybridge, walk across to the high-end of Terminal A and go all the way down to the end and back, then to Terminal C low-end to high-end and back, and then across the skybridge from C to D and back to the AAdmiral’s Club. It takes about an hour at about a 3.5 – 4 MPH pace.

  9. I spend time in the bookstore picking up the local newspapers and maybe a new paperback to supplement the books on my iPad.

  10. Very rarely worth paying extra for, I should say. If it is free based on status or such that’s harder to argue value on, I say sitting in a lounge right now. 😮

  11. Typically, I plan on spending as little time as possible at the airport – running late for departure might something to do with this. 🙂 So, airport lounges are nice to be able to enter but not critical. In case I am delayed domestically, I’d read a book I brought a long (Kindle is a long way from acceptance in our household 🙂 However, having Star Gold status and being able to enter lounges on long international layovers are a definitely plus. The best lounge I’ve been to is the new(ish) one in Frankfurt – spent about 7 hours there between flights watching 380 jumbos in all their various international liveries loan and unload while munching on yummy food. Awesome!

  12. Food, drink and write letters…The old fashioned kind with (gasp!) pen and paper. And of course, doing it in a lounge is key.

  13. Catch up on reading on the computer (too many open tabs, read and close them all!) while listening to music.

    Also, fill up that water bottle.

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