How to Make the Most of Long Layovers


Hate long layovers? You’re looking at it all wrong. Layovers can be a great time to enjoy a new destination or get some work done, with a little bit of planning.

A few years back, on a bus route from Las Vegas, Nevada to Flagstaff, Arizona, I had a conversation with a 55-year-old traveling electrician named Larry (but let’s call him “Bo”).

Bo was headed to Pennsylvania, as requested by his employers, to help fix a cooling unit.

Since he was using a bus to travel clear cross-country, I assumed he wasn’t making enough money to use an airplane.

So, out of curiosity, I asked him how much he was getting paid for his services, and to my surprise, Bo was making substantially more than I could have ever imagined- on top of having all of his on-the-job travel expenses covered.

I then asked why he chose to take the bus instead of flying, to which he replied, “Well, Union keeps wanting to put me on those airplanes, but I just can’t stand the layovers. I could work anywhere in the world, and I would, if I could take a bus there.”

If you, too, have experienced having your patience threshold overrun with the addition of each minute added to the anticipated flight arrival time, then, perhaps you can understand why someone like Bo would choose never to fly again.

Bo had a severe case, of what I like to call “Extreme Layover Anxiety” (ELA).

Like Bo, countless numbers of people have dealt with the agony layovers can bring. I get it, I’ve been there- all packed and ready to go, only to discover that the flight has been delayed for 6 hours!

Oh no! What to do?

Well, one could choose to coalesce with the ever-growing angry mob at the terminal gate, or alternatively, you may consider this allotted time extension an opportunity for you to have a mini vacation.

Traveling is all about ceasing the moment, so why let the fun stop at the airport?

Especially when many airports are now designed with the delayed passenger in mind.

Think about it, if planes and people showed up on schedule, according to the times listed on the itineraries, then there would be no need for souvenir shops or restaurants; airports would be monochromatic with boring furniture and little, if any, artistic expression.

However, this is far from truth, as many airports offer more than just keepsakes.

Some Ideas to Pass the Time on Long Layovers

You could spend your layovers getting pampered at various airports that offer full service spas including Newark Liberty International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Nashville International Airport and JFK International Airport to name a few.

Try some wine tasting at Vino Volo in Sacramento Airport, get married at Schiphol in Amsterdam, golf at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and, for longer layovers, venture outside via shuttle and feel the electric vibe of south beach in Miami for $2.00 per ride.

You can hop on a train from Frankfurt Airport and get a chance to see the city, drink a beer and, depending on the time of day, enjoy a little nightlife.

According to sleepinginairports, a wonderful resource with bountiful information on airports around the world, Singapore’s Changi Airport was ranked best in 2010 for its wide range of activities available to travelers.

Changi has seven gardens, two koi fish ponds, a swimming pool, Entertainment deck with 3D experience zone, three movie theatres, free wireless internet and so much more. With all that is to offer, there’s really no reason to leave the airport.

These are just a few examples of the wide range of opportunities available to travelers worldwide. Layovers can provide plenty of options, and, with a little bit of research, you could be on your way to having an enjoyable addition to your vacation.

So next time someone asks you what you’re going to do when your flight gets delayed, just tell them, “having fun!”

What are some of the best and worst layovers you’ve had? Favorite places to get stuck?


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  1. When I moved to Buenos Aires I had a 12 hour layover in Miami. I had my dog with me so I couldn’t leave the airport at all. Luckily, it was during the world cup so I was able to catch 3 games on TVs in the food court area. I mostly read, ate and strolled around with my dog. Had I been alone I definitely would have gone out into the city.

  2. I had a great layover in Zurich! There’s a train that takes you from the airport to the the city in just minutes. And because Zurich is such a walkable city, even if you only have 4 hours between flights, you can still see quite a bit.

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