How to manage your time while waiting for your next flight.
It’s almost embarrassing how little I spend on flying. Hey, us peasants want to see the world too. I was never taught how to save money. Growing up, I had no “travel dreams” or a “savings account”. I had a civil war and a city bustling with heroin addicts.
My country is fine now, by the way, wipe your tears. What I’m trying to say is you can be a financial cripple, but still get around the world on extremely cheap flights. Like any traveler on a budget (what we call poor people these days), you pay with time and not money. So you’ll get stuck with a 17-hour layover, or two.
How to Get The Best Out of Your Long Layover
Sitting in an airport for hours is a race with your patience and how you win that race depends on what kind of a layover you have. There are two types of long layovers. The ones where you get to leave the airport, or the ones where you get to sleep on a bench. Before all that, to optimize your time, do the following:
Find the answer to the following questions:
1. Can you leave the airport?
See if the country you’re going to needs visas to exit the airport, and make sure you have enough time to go to the city center and come back. If you’re allowed to leave the airport, congratulations, you’ve scored the jackpot of layovers. You can visit a new city, often the one you can’t afford to visit anyway. Some of us write about things to do in different cities in 24 hours at One Day Itinerary, so check it out if you need ideas on places to see.
2. Can you stay at the airport overnight?
Once upon a time, I had a layover in Naples, and to my surprise, we all got kicked out at 1 am.
While the sense of community is wonderful when you’re all sleeping on the floor in Italy, I would have prefered a bed. So, learn from my mistake and see if an airport is allowing travelers to stay overnight. I like to go to a website called Sleeping In Airports for all the information on that.
3. What are the working hours of airport facilities?
If you’re leaving the airport, you can drop off your luggage in the airport luggage storages, but check the hours of operation as they often close overnight. If the storage at the airport doesn’t work, you can always find one in the city centers or use something like Stasher. Stasher lets you arrange a luggage drop off in a hotel or a local business for a fee that’s usually cheaper than a locker.
Look up restaurant hours, of lounges you can visit with an economy class ticket. I used to drink a lot in the airport to relax before a flight (due to the crippling fear of flying, that I’ve solved since).I found that a lounge fee cost me as much as my drinking habit, but I got free drinks, snacks, and comfy chairs.
Utilize Airport Benefits
If you don’t want to go in a lounge, but want the super-fast lounge wi-fi, go into the lounge (confidence is key) and ask about their fees or whatever comes to mind. Most of them have a piece of paper somewhere on the desk with the lounge wi-fi password. Take it. Thank them for the information and leave with the password. Voila, you now have a speedy free internet. Some lounges have open wi-fi so you can just chill in front of them and use it.
Confidence and kindness can get you a long way. If you lose your charger, a USB cable or a power converter, find the airport’s lost and found. Ask them if they have any chargers lying around. They usually do and don’t mind giving you a spare one. Just be nice about it all!
The good thing about a long layover is that you get to explore the airport for a while. Find which gates are not in use and nap there. When you get tired of people watching, a very fun activity at the airport, find the airport chapel. It’s the quietest spot in the airport.
Airport food prices are ridiculous and yet we all insist on paying them. You can bring food on a plane. So bring it, just check the guidelines before your flight. You will save so much money by not eating at the airport, and you’ll eat a decent meal, not the vending machine chips for 7USD.
Self — Care
One of the disadvantages of a long layover is the time you spend without access to a shower. Some airports have showers you can use (benefit of the lounges!), but if you’re saving money bring a couple of life-saving items with you.
Wipes and Hand Sanitizers
Both are very affordable and sold all over the world. Buy baby wipes, they are the cheaper version of hand wipes that do the same job. Both of these things will save you! Especially now when the COVID is hanging out all over the world.
There are things called Jetlag masks, they do an okay job, but I found just a normal face mask does the same thing. Bring a couple of these with you. You can make a little “hydration pack”. A Ziploc bag with all your wipes, sanitizer, masks, deodorant, gloves, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.
An entire new outfit is a key step to feeling fresh on a long layover, so have it ready somewhere easily accessible. I mean everything, underwear, socks included. Bring an extra bag for your dirty clothes so it doesn’t stink up the rest of your stuff. Use your “hydration pack”, change clothes and brush your teeth. You’ll feel amazing!
— Wipe your tray table and your seat handles, they never clean those.
— Bring a little blanket with you (if you can fit one), you can use it as your seat cover or if you get cold.
— Smokers — check the Airport Smokers website. A lot of airports don’t have smoking sections once you’re past the gates. It’s better to know in advance.