Let us be honest: Nobody likes waiting at the airport.
You don’t usually go to the airport to wait, you go there because you want to travel, fly, get somewhere else. So if you find yourself waiting for hours and hours on end, the reason is perhaps pure bad luck, karma, something you did not manage to avoid. Or, in air travel terms: a long layover or a delayed flight.
Yet, remember that wise people say: Every cloud has a silver lining! For a long wait at the airport can be fun and perhaps even lucrative (Yes, as in: can bring you some cash). How? It’s more than simple.
This is not uncommon. Long-haul flights between Europe and Asia, for instance, may vary greatly in duration - say, between 16 and 36 hours. The reason is that in some cases, there’s a rather long (7 or 8-hour) layover somewhere in between. And if you’re lucky, you may even get two of these.
Combine this with 16 hours of flying and throw the inevitable jet lag in the mix, and you get the script for a horror movie. Especially if you’re not among the chosen few who have access to the airport lounge.
Adventure time: Explore the airport
Big and beautiful
Some airports are gigantic and beautiful! Their architecture and interior design is pure art. For instance, if you are lucky enough to have your layover at Singapore Changi Airport, I envy you wholeheartedly. Some travellers plan an overnight stay to have the opportunity to marvel at this futuristic paradise - its giant glass dome, the soaring waterfall, the tropical sanctuary with its orchid flowers and butterflies.
International airports are like Olympic Games opening ceremonies - an opportunity to showcase the beauty and diversity of a culture. Whether it's the magical Edo-koji street at Haneda Airport with its lantern-lit tiny shops or the sand-dunes-shaped Hamad International in Doha, Qatar with its health club and impressive public art displays, they are marvellous! If you want to see them, plan a trip via one of the biggest airports in the world.
Alternatively, if you are at a smaller airport, you can still study its layout. You can start an expedition to find the best, most comfortable or quietest waiting area. Research all the bathrooms and nominate the cleanest of them all.
Find the shortest routes to the food area and the kiosks. Discover the baggage wrapping machines or a TV-equipped free lounge. All the electricity sockets and the best wi-fi spots (plus the wi-fi password!).
And if you’re travelling with kids, you may easily turn this into a treasure hunt: Find and take photos of all the electricity sockets. (Make them do all the work, keep them busy and relax, all at the same time - simply genius).
Drain the wi-fi
See, now that you know the wi-fi password, you can go online and do all the fun things you never seem to have enough time for. Watch funny videos, read your favourite blogs, check the weather report, read your friends’ posts on social media, like all those pictures on Instagram or even look at funny airport photos.
Why not choose an airport you’d like to be stuck in next time and plan a fun airport holiday.
Although shops at airports can be quite expensive, they offer great variety. You don’t really have to buy anything if you’re on a tight budget, simply browse.
You can explore the scents at the duty free perfume area and start a brand new X-mas or B-day wish-list. Some airport stores sell funny T-shirts and tiny cute plane toys that make for great gifts for your loved ones.
The shopping area is also a great opportunity to get some culture-branded presents - be it Stroopwafels from Amsterdam, camel milk chocolates from Dubai or green-tea KitKat from Tokyo.
Grab a bite (treat yourself, you deserve it)
And as expeditions and shopping quests require a huge amount of energy, you may already be hungry. All airports offer food - be it the universal sandwich at the kiosk or meals prepared by award winning chefs such as Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at Heathrow.
Go for sushi, yakitori or ramen at Narita Airport in Tokyo or enjoy the great family-friendly atmosphere and the fresh sea food at Auckland Airport, New Zealand.
Or maybe open your lunchbox, after all, eating healthy while travelling is very important!
Meet new friends
If you are travelling alone, don’t be shy and make some friends at the airport. This is a wonderful opportunity to share some ideas and stories. Remember: a good listener can make a good story-teller.
You may also get some tips about your travel destination, which can be especially good for solo female travellers on their first solo journey.
Update your Social media profile
Browsing social media may sometimes seem like a waste of time but it’s a great pastime while you’re waiting at the airport. Why not use the time to revamp your social media profile or write a few posts. You can even start a Best-airport-selfie challenge with your friends.
Call your friends
Keeping in touch is very important for solo travellers - it is always a good idea to have a trusted friend back home who knows your itinerary and follows your status.
But even if you’re not travelling solo, why not call your grandma or your sister and finally listen to their never ending stories.
Binge watch movies
A favourite leisure activity for movie-lovers, especially if you have unlimited wi-fi access (some airports do offer it!). Succumb to nostalgia and watch your favourite childhood flick. Or research the best black-and-white classics and enjoy their slower pace and fine humour. You can even watch an entire season of a new TV series - who has the time to do this during the work week?
Play the people-watching game
This can be a really amusing activity. Look around and choose a person in the crowd. What are they wearing? Why are they gesturing, what are they saying? What is their destination and why are they travelling? Are they married? What is their favourite food? Depending on your mood, you can make this person a character in a funny story, a romance or a thriller, all you need is your imagination.
Plan your trip
Why not buy a guidebook or browse the internet and make a list of things you want to see and do at your destination. Research ticket prices, free museums, street festivals and fun activities, dream a little.
Play games on your smartphone
Snowboarding at high speed, shoot birds, fight brawlers, go on quests and seek allies and treasures or command your own fortress and recruit your own group of assassins.
This may drain your battery but luckily you’ve already explored the airport and know where the electricity sockets are located!
Listen to your favourite music or podcast
When was the last time you could listen to an entire album? After all some of the best bands have concept albums that were made to be listened in one go. If you’ve never done this, give it a try. Perhaps, you prefer playlists or podcasts? This is your chance, grab your headphones and enjoy!
Do your daily dose of language learning fun
Learning languages expands the mind and can also be great fun with online platforms. These often send you daily reminders and bits of language you go through every day, so brush up on your Chinese or Italian while you’re waiting for your flight.
Play cards or pen-and-paper games
If you’re travelling with friends, card games can be an amusing pastime. Alternatively, if you’re travelling alone, you can still enjoy solitaire, for example.
For those who are travelling with kids, simple pen-and-paper games can be a great chance to spend some quality time together. Why not teach them Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe, Battleships or pictionary, or even charades?
Read a book
You can read books online, download these on your phone (there are plenty of apps) or simply visit the airport bookstore. This may turn into a great opportunity to research the latest popular titles or find a new favourite author.
Why not try reading 2 random pages out of each section to find your favourite genre?
Play the photographer
If you haven’t started the airport-selfie challenge, this is your chance. You can make fascinating photos of planes or find funny hidden spots worth photographing.
You can even make a funny video of yourself ‘’punting’’ while riding the empty moving walkway.
Take a nap
You must be tired after all of the above, so it’s finally time for a nap. You will need your headphones for this and a jacket. Remember that airplanes and airports can be quite chilly so it’s always a good idea to wear comfortable and warm clothes.
A quick reminder: don’t forget to set an alarm, you don’t want to miss your flight!
Go out and explore the city
Long layovers are actually a great opportunity to explore a city. We tend to think of these in-between stops on our journey as transitory but once you leave the airport, there’s a whole new town waiting to be discovered and experienced!
Ride the terminal train
Huge airports have special trains or buses that go around and connect all terminal buildings. Why not try and ride one of these and explore the area. You may be lucky enough to have the whole train to yourself, isn’t that a treat?
Write in your diary
Waiting at the airport means peace and quiet and time for yourself. Time to reflect and write in your diary, describe the most beautiful, the saddest, the most exciting, the most surprising. Or go Sei Shonagon style and make Pillow-Book lists: infuriating things, elegant things, rare things, etc.
Learn something new (or how to lace your shoes)
Explore the limitless width and depth of the Internet - fun ways to lace your shoes is simply and example. To be honest, it takes quite a while to try and figure out how to do it but it’s great fun and the result - quite fancy.
The Web can teach you lots of jokes, how to juggle, 5-minute crafts, the opportunities are endless!
Remember that you are eligible for compensation if:
Your flight departs from the EU, or arrives in the EU and is operated by an EU-registered airline
You arrived at your destination more than 3 hours later than scheduled.
Yet, if you are currently at the airport, waiting, and it’s been more than 2 hours, your right to Care kicks in - the airline should cover your food and drink expenses for the long wait.
In case the waiting extends overnight, you are also entitled to accommodation - make sure you ask the airline, they have to cover the expenses.
Moreover, if the delay causes you to miss your connection, check your rights. You may be entitled to compensation under EC261.
Finally, the worst case scenario: your flight gets cancelled. If the airline is responsible for the disruption, you can claim cancelled flight compensation for your troubles.
It’s fast and easy: simply use our free compensation calculator to see if you are eligible and leave the rest to our team of experts.