How to pass time at an airport

Long layovers don’t need to be boring — or expensive.

If you have ever found yourself alone in the airport overnight, stuck in the terminal for a long layover, or miraculously breezing through the security line faster than expected (yes, it happens), you might be at a loss as to what to do with all that free time before boarding.

After all, there’s only so much pre-flight shopping, eating, and drinking a person can do.

But there are actually more creative, fun, and free things you can do to make use of your time before you’re expected at your gate. Helpful commenters on an AskReddit thread came up with a few good ideas for passing the time when you’re stuck at the airport.

Take a walk.

One user had the top suggestion of walking the entire airport while you wait. According to this user, if you “walk every leg of the terminal it’s almost exactly a 5k.” This of course varies by airport. But if you have the time, it’s a healthy way to burn some calories and stretch your muscles before a long flight.

Return some loose luggage carts for money.

If you’ve ever seen Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” you’ve probably had this idea. At some airports, you’ll get a small refund when you return a loose luggage cart. “One time my families [sic] flight was delayed by a couple hours and my brother and I made like $200,” one Redittor wrote. “Usually when I was flying home from somewhere I’d just return a few carts and make a few bucks.”

Play hide and seek.

If you and a travel companion are game, try out the old childhood favorite. It can get very interesting in a massive airport. This, however, is not recommended for people traveling with children.

Take advantage of free airport activities.

As one Reddit user pointed out, Brussels Airport has foosball tables, and there are free movies at Portland International Airport. Plus several airports around the country have museum exhibits.

Find the free Wi-Fi.

So many airports provide free Wi-Fi these days, so if you have the battery life to spare (or have a smart suitcase or access to an outlet), take advantage of this service and browse the internet.

Enjoy some time with the airport therapy animal.

Traveling is stressful for anyone. If you’re having a particularly long and terrible travel day, find out if your airport has therapy animals on hand. San Francisco International Airport’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, for example, usually post locations.

Talk to people.

This may be the most surprising yet simple idea, but if you find yourself next to another solo traveler who seems nice, interesting, and willing to socialize, strike up a conversation. Why not?

Play Pokémon Go.

If you’re a fan of the game, you may be able to find some awesome Pokémon while wandering your terminal. “I’ve traveled a lot since that game launched and every airport I’ve been to is awesome,” one Redditor wrote. “gyms, stops, usually pretty good pokemon selection.” [sic]

Take a free city tour.

Some airports, like Incheon International Airport in South Korea, Narita International Airport in Japan, and Changi Airport in Singapore will take you on a tour of the city while you wait for your flight.

By: Jenn Martin – Online Editor

When I was 16, I was stranded in Pearson International Airport for 12 hours. I was given a voucher to cover the cost of my dinner, and politely informed that instead of spending the day in Milan, I would be spending it in the airport. Luckily, I had a group of close friends with me and together we managed to pass the time playing cards and gorging ourselves on Tim Horton’s donuts.

Since then, I’ve spent many hours in various airports and have compiled some useful tips for staving off boredom, since not all airports offer a butterfly garden and a rooftop pool (like Singapore’s Changi International Airport) or a movie theatre, ice rink and extensive gardens (like Korea’s Incheon International Airport).

Here’s what to do if you need to kill time before takeoff:

Buy a pass for the first class lounge

Lounges aren’t just for first class travellers anymore. These magical lands of bottomless drinks and pillow-y seats are now accessible to anyone with approximately $50 to spare. A couple hours are easily and productively spent here, and they are great places to people watch (especially for those who are wondering exactly what kind of people travel in business class anyway). Grab something to eat, have a quick shower and grab your drink (or four) of choice to calm any pre-flight nerves.

How to pass time at an airport

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the British Airways lounge when some important European team plays some other important European team during the World Cup (it may have been England vs. Italy, I was more focused on the bar). But, be prepared to feel a tad underdressed if, like me, you wear your most casual clothes when you air travel (enough to elicit an “oh, I didn’t see you were flying business class with us today” from the girl who checked me in. To her credit, it was a fluke upgrade).

Go into town

Depending on where your layover airport is located and how much time you have to kill, it may make sense to see if you can pop into town for a quick visit. Here is a list of some cities that are an easy commute from their respective airports:

Boston: Logan International Airport – 5.8 kilometres from downtown
Las Vegas: McCarran International Airport – 6.5 kilometres from downtown
Miami: Miami International Airport – 8 kilometres from downtown
St. John’s: St. John’s International Airport – 11 kilometres from downtown
Vancouver: Vancouver International Airport – 12 kilometres from downtown
San Francisco: San Francisco International Airport – 21 kilometres from downtown

How to pass time at an airport

Reminder: If you do go into town, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to go through airport security on the way back in.

This may seem like an obvious thing to do given the reputation of airplane food, but many airports are investing heavily in expanding food options. The Airport Food and Beverage Conference and Awards is apparently a thing, and Toronto’s own Pearson International was highly recommended in 2014.

Sleep

Don’t be bashful. Every time I stretch out beside a window or under the seats in an airport I think to myself, “my, I must look strange.” But that thought is soon eclipsed by sleep. Just make sure to be courteous to your fellow passengers and not take up too many seats.

How to pass time at an airport

Also, make sure if you do decide to catch some zzzs that your carryon baggage is not accessible to anyone else (I use mine as a pillow; better yet, look for a locker to slip it in), and be prepared that while you may fall asleep peaceful and alone, you could wake up with hundreds of people staring at you.

Hit up the WiFi

Some airports have free WiFi that’s free for at least a half hour. You’ll be required to register with your email address, so if you have more than one email to your name you could potentially stretch that to an hour or hour and a half. Also, some airports have tablet stations with free WiFi (though these tend to fill up quickly). Check out this airport WiFi access chart for more details.

Go for a stroll

You’ll never know what an airport offers until you’ve perused a little bit. Vancouver has native art displays and an aquarium exhibit, while San Francisco has a popular airport museum. Plus, just walking around can be entertainment enough sometimes. I spent hours walking between my hotel and the airport in Rome, amused by the moving sidewalks, and this one in the Frankfurt airport made me feel like I was ready to party at a disco.

Exercise

This has never struck me as a sensible thing to do in an airport, but it is a possibility. That’s all I have to say about that.

Window shop

Duty-free shopping is one of the most obvious ways to spend time in an airport, but if you’re only starting your vacation you may be concerned with saving luggage space for souvenirs. Not to fret—you can still have fun while window shopping. Consider putting on a small spot of a free perfume sample if you haven’t had time to shower for awhile (but not so much that it will irritate your neighbours on the next flight). London’s Heathrow airport is a particularly fun place to window shop, especially at Terminal 5’s 11,000-square-foot Harrods.

Play games

If you know that you’ll be spending more than a few hours in an airport, pack some cards or compact travel games to keep you amused. Being a fan of words, I personally like Bananagrams, or I sometimes get creative with games like “stranger scavenger hunt” (looking for other travellers with a certain set of criteria, i.e. a family of four, a teenager with blue hair, etc.)

Plan ahead

This is a great time to hunker down with your itinerary and guidebooks to decide exactly what you want to do on your trip. The airplane is also a good place to do this if you have a long flight, but you’ll also have movies on the plane–so many movies.

What’s your favourite way to spend time in an airport?

Your bags have been checked, your boarding pass issued. and now you’ve got hours to wait before getting on your plane. What can you do with an airport layover?

Plenty, as it turns out. Here are some of our suggestions:

Exercise

Feeling your muscles atrophy from all those flight delays? Hit the gym! Many airport hotels have fitness centres in them with day passes available for the public; some are even open 24 hours. Don’t have a spare set of workout clothes? Get on your feet and take a brisk walk around the terminal, mall-walking-style – but avoid running if you don’t want to risk getting tackled by security.

Spoil yourself

Airport day spas and massage shops have become ubiquitous at international airports. Have a fear of flying? Melt away your jitters with a muscle-tingling back or foot massage, or treat yourself to a facial treatment and a mani-pedi. Just don’t get so relaxed that you forget your boarding time.

Lounge around

Once reserved for the hotshots in First Class, deluxe lounges can now be your home away from home – for a few hours, anyway – for a small fee. At minimum they usually have comfy seating, newspapers and magazines, a food buffet and free wi-fi (a real boon in those benighted airports that still charge for wi-fi access).

Some higher-end ones, such as the Plaza Premium Lounge in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, feature showers, free draught beer, movies and even a putting green. Fore!

People-watch

If there’s anything airports are rarely short of, it’s people. Take an interest in your fellow travellers: play detective and see how much you can figure out about them through your powers of observation (or play fashion police and judge their bad taste in clothing instead). If you enjoyed the film Love, Actually, reenact the opening scene by watching the emotional reunions at the international arrivals gate. Bring your own tissues.

Window-shop

Some airports these days almost seem like glorified shopping malls that just happen to have planes landing, and prices are high since there’s nowhere else to go. But you can have plenty of free fun playing with the travel gadgets and massage chairs at Brookstone, sampling moisturiser and testing fragrances at L’Occitane, browsing books in WH Smith and goggling at the price tags in Prada. Have some extra currency to get rid of? Spend it on some locally made souvenirs or sweets to bring home.

Get back to nature

If you’re flying through Southeast Asia, you can find a lovely green respite from the normal concrete-and-glass airport experience. Kuala Lumpur International Airport has transplanted a section of Malaysian rainforest inside the airport for visitors to explore, and Singapore’s Changi Airport has half a dozen different gardens throughout the complex, including an orchid garden with koi pond and a tropical habitat filled with butterflies, carnivorous plants and a waterfall grotto.

Take a day-trip

If you’ve got an extra long layover between flights, consider skipping the airport experience altogether and play tourist for a half a day. Many city airports have direct train service downtown, such as Chicago, Sydney and Hong Kong – where you can even check your bags and get a boarding pass at the station. Singapore’s Changi Airport offers free two-hour tours of town to passengers who have a layover of at least five hours.

Chow down

If you can’t bear the thought of tucking into a tray of single-serving generica on your flight, treat yourself to a good meal before you board. But forget a plastic-tray meal at the food court: airports these days have started featuring nice restaurants, often with celebrity-chef pedigrees. It can also be a good way to sample a bit of regional cuisine: if you’re a meat-lover transferring through Memphis, for example, try one of their four in-terminal BBQ restaurants.

Enjoy some quiet time

Most airports have chapels and ‘quiet rooms’ that are good for a little bit of solitary introspection, whether you want to pray, meditate or just contemplate your belly button in silence for a while. For those who feel like they need some pastoral guidance, London’s Heathrow Airport even has Anglican and Catholic chaplains and Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh ‘faith representatives’ on call.

Singapore’s superstar Changi Airport pulls out all the stops in providing boredom-killers for its passengers. Besides a children’s playground, arts and crafts workshop, three screening rooms with free movies and an entertainment area with free video games and music-listening pods, they’ve recently installed a four-storey-high slide so you can relive your playground salad days, as well as a half-size version for anyone afraid of heights.

And of course if you have one of those new-fangled iPads handy, you’ll be able to while away your layover reading e-books, playing i-games or surfing the w-web on the airport wi-fi. (You could even check out our new 1000 Ultimate Experiences iPad app for some – well, a thousand – travel ideas.)

What are some of your favourite ways to kill time in an airport? Tell us in the comments!

How to pass time at an airport

Airport layovers can be quite boring but not so if you learn to spend it in some real creative ways.

  • Airport restaurants are a great way to sample the area’s cuisine and experience local culture.
  • Many airports now offer free therapy dogs for passengers to pet between flights – San Francisco’s even has a pig.
  • Airport lounges are upgraded spaces where you can pay a flat fee to enjoy more comfortable seating, unlimited food and beverages, and other amenities.

There’s nothing worse than being stuck in an airport on a layover with nothing to do. Whether you have 45 minutes or six hours to kill, these creative activities are sure to prevent you from getting bored.

10. Take a walk

Traveling by airplane means spending hours stuck in a cramped seat with no opportunity to stretch your legs. Get some light exercise during your layover by going for a walk around the terminal. Since exercise releases endorphins, you’ll arrive at your final destination feeling happy and refreshed.

9. Listen to a podcast

Podcasts are free and can be downloaded to your smartphone in a matter of seconds. From politics to history to true crime, there’s a podcast topic for every interest. You might even find an interesting episode about the city your layover is in.

8. Browse the bookstore

How to pass time at an airport

An airport is a great place to check out the latest book titles and even rediscover some old classics. Spend some time browsing the selection and looking for good deals on discounted books. If you find one you want to buy, you’ll have another activity to help pass the time even faster.

7. Make some pocket money

How to pass time at an airport

Most airports offer free Wi-Fi to passengers on layovers. Image credit: Donald Trung/Wikimedia.org

Most airports offer free Wi-Fi to passengers on layovers. Why not take advantage of the complimentary connection and make a few extra dollars for your trip? Kill time by filling out online surveys for companies that will pay you anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars for your opinion.

6. Phone a friend

How to pass time at an airport

Calling up friends and family is a great way to spend time at the airport. Image credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net

We all have distant friends and relatives we mean to keep in touch with, but never find time to pick up the phone and call. A long layover is the perfect time to dial a loved one and catch up.

5. Pet a therapy animal

What better way to brighten your layover than with furry cuddles? Los Angeles, Charlotte, Miami, and San Jose are among the U.S. cities with airports that offer access to therapy animals. You’ll mostly find dogs volunteering their services, although San Francisco’s airport also boasts a therapy pig.

4. Visit an airport lounge

How to pass time at an airport

Naples airport lounge in the early morning. Image credit: Angelo DeSantis/Wikimedia.org

Airport lounges require a fee for entry, and the cost depends on the airport. But some lounges are more than worth the price. For as little as $30, you can get access to unlimited food and beverages, comfortable seating, power outlets, and sometimes even showers. Factor in the sky-high cost of airport food and this could easily pay for itself.

3. Try local food

How to pass time at an airport

A samosa cafe at Nadi Airport, Fiji. Image credit: Maksym Kozlenko/Wikimedia.org

Most airports feature restaurants that specialize in local cuisine to help highlight the area’s culture. If you’re hungry, venture out of your comfort zone by opting for one of these local hotspots and trying something new.

2. Spend time meditating

How to pass time at an airport

A prayer room at the Heathrow Airport. Image credit: Tiia Monto/Wikimedia.org

Nearly every airport has a chapel or prayer room that is free for all passengers to use. Whether you consider yourself religious or not, this spiritual space is the perfect location to spend some quiet time in prayer, reflection, or meditation.

1. Make small talk

How to pass time at an airport

Talking with co-passengers is a great way to spend your time at the airport. Image credit: Shankar s./Flickr.com

You may be surprised to find out how many other travelers in the terminal are also trying to find ways to pass the time during a layover. Why not introduce yourself? Don’t be afraid to say a quick hello to others who appear to be looking for things to do. If they’re interested in chatting, they’ll quickly strike up a conversation. Who knows? You might just make a new friend.

How to entertain yourself at any airport

Delayed in Dakar? Stranded in San Salvador? When that unexpected flight delay happens and you’re not lucky enough to find yourself at one of these amazing airports , it’s time to get creative. You don’t have to get stuck browsing social media for two hours!

For the solo traveler

1. Write postcards

Pick up a few postcards at a gift shop and write fun notes for your friends and family. They will love getting an actual, physical note in the mail for a change.

2. Random acts of kindness

Put quarters in the vending machine and don’t buy anything. Pick up trash in the food court. Buy a small stack of $5 gift cards for the nearest coffee shop and give them to the agents at your gate (they’re probably hating the flight delay just as much as you)!

3. Do a crossword

Bring them with you, look one up online , or comb the shelves at any airport store selling books.

4. Start a new show

This might be a good time to try that new Netflix series you promised your coworker you’d check out. Sometimes it takes several episodes to really get into something, so it might just happen if you’re literally stranded with nothing to do!

5. Learn a language

Download a language learning app and learn a few keywords and phrases to prepare you for your trip. A few great ones are Babbel ( Android , iOS ), Busuu ( Android , iOS ), and Duolingo ( Android , iOS ).

6. Plan your next adventure

Bust out a notebook and a pen and start planning your next dream trip. If you’re not sure where to start, look at some travel blogs for inspiration. You can choose based on seasons such as searching for best springtime or summer destinations . You could even look at theme trips such as adventure travel or pick a destination based on a favorite film !

7. Start a blog

You’ve always wanted to try your hand a blogging, but you just “never have the time.” Now you have the time, and when you reach your destination, you’ll have something interesting to write about. You can do this for fun, or perhaps even turn it into a source of income. Here are a few first steps to get you going.

8. Strike up a conversation

Step out of your comfort zone and get to know a stranger at your gate while you wait. Talk to a shopkeeper in one of the airport terminal stores.

9. Buy a magazine

Pick up a magazine about a topic you know nothing about and learn something new! Technology, art, cooking…maybe a travel destination you have never been to before?

For the whole group

10. Have a movie marathon

Send someone for the popcorn or soft pretzels. Bust out a laptop and work your way through a trilogy until it’s time to go. Movies are so much better with friends!

11. Airport scavenger hunt

Break into two teams and race to find a list of items throughout the airport (a pink neck pillow, a bridal magazine, a puppy, a team member singing to a stranger…). You can make your own or do a quick Google search and find a pre-made list . Just remember to take pics, or it didn’t happen!

12. Would you rather?

Get to know your travel companions a little better by answering, “Would You Rather?” questions. These can lead to some pretty interesting and surprising conversations, and you might find your long wait over in no time. The only rule — you actually have to pick one answer! Here’s a list of questions to try and answer.

13. Try a progressive meal

Get an appetizer at one restaurant, the main course at another and your dessert at a third. Take turns picking your restaurants and enjoy a slow meal with good company.

14. Never have I ever

Each person in the group contributes one “never have I ever” statement (or two if your group is small). For example, “Never have I ever been to Europe.” Take turns sharing these. Every other person gets a point if they have done whatever is mentioned. The person with the least amount of point/experiences at the end of the game will have to attempt an agreed upon activity at your destination (eat a weird, foreign food, bungee jump, etc.).

15. GeoQuiz

Head to the nearest departure board and take turns answering questions about each city on the board. Which country is it in? What language is spoken? What currency do they use? The loser gets to buy lunch!

16. Passenger bingo

Create simple bingo boards with sheets of paper. On each square include things like “someone wearing a beach hat,” “crying baby,” “traveler running to catch a flight.” Cross them off as you notice people walking by and see who wins!

17. Nonsense story

Each person starts with a piece of paper and has a given amount of time to write a few lines. When the time is over, they stop where they are, even in mid-sentence. Then they must fold the top of the paper down until only the last line is showing. Pass the papers and have the next person continue where the story left off. Continue until you have done this several times. The results are hilarious.

18. Lip sync battle

Find an empty gate and hold a lip sync battle with your travel companions. Post to social media and see who gets the “most votes.” You may still get funny looks from passengers hurrying through the airport, but hey, what is travel about if you don’t see something weird on your trip?

How to pass time at an airport

Shawna Levet

Shawna is passionate about helping travel agents grow their business and expand their knowledge as travel experts. She has been in the travel industry since 2011, helping agents and travelers alike find the best negotiated airfare and travel coverage to meet their needs.

In 2012, I left Woodlands in Singapore to go to Changi Airport an hour before my flight back to the Philippines.

Needless to say, I arrived too late and had to buy a replacement ticket on the spot, a mistake that cost me a whopping $300. That experience taught me a really expensive lesson: make sure to leave the house early to make it to your flight!

I took the lesson to heart so much that there were times afterwards that I arrived at the airport too early, as early as eight hours before my flight. Since I mostly travel solo, I had to think of a lot of ways to pass the time at the airport.

If you do find yourself with a lot of time before your flight, or if you have to spend the night at the airport, here are some things you can do to kill time until boarding.

How to pass time at an airport

My Kindle has been everywhere, from Nepal to Europe.

I never, ever leave the house without my Kindle. I have thousands of books in it, and I can theoretically spend days at the airport just reading. I love reading a series. I finished Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series while traveling in Thailand.

If you’re not into e-readers, just bring a novel, and it will take care of a few hours’ stay at the airport for you.

Play games in your phone or tablet.

How to pass time at an airport

The beautiful Terminal 3 at Beijing’s Capital International Airport.

I don’t have a tablet and only have a sucky Samsung Galaxy Y smartphone. The internal memory is so small I couldn’t even install games.

I’m pretty sure you have a tablet or a much nicer phone, so before you leave for the airport, stock up on games. It can occupy you for an hour or two before boredom sets in.

Surf or just watch movies.

If you’re in an airport with a good Wifi connection (unfortunately not in the Philippines), you can easily use your gadgets to spend hours online. Update your Facebook status, chat with friends, email your parents on where you are.

You can also watch movies on your laptop or tablet. Since one movie takes almost two hours, you definitely wouldn’t notice the time pass by. Based on experience, though, I wouldn’t recommend watching Hachiko or My Sister’s Keeper at the airport. They’re a guaranteed tearjerker!

Log in some hours of work.

Since I’m an online worker, it doesn’t bother me to spend some time in an airport, as long as there’s an internet connection.

I loved spending the night at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport, because the Wifi is fast and free. I would sit at McDonald’s, use their power source, and order a meal which would last me the whole night.

Get a massage.

How to pass time at an airport

Massage and lounge at Manila’s Terminal 3.

In airports with bad connectivity, I just choose different things to do. In Manila’s Terminal 3 (4th floor), for example, there’s a massage place for P600 per hour. I tried it once and it was pretty good. They also have a lounge area where you can lay down and take a nap for P250 per two hours.

You can also find massage chairs in airports in Singapore and Thailand. Insert some coins (or bills), sit back, and enjoy the foot massage.

Sleep.

How to pass time at an airport

Loved my nap in the Frankfurt am Main airport.

After all these things, you may feel sleepy, so go to sleep. In almost every airport I’d been to, it was okay to find a quiet corner, lay down on the ground, and go to sleep.

I loved the airport in Frankfurt am Main; chairs with cushions are plentiful and you can stretch out with no one bothering you. Coffee and hot chocolate were free flowing too!

Of course, you should be careful with your belongings. I travel with two backpacks; I use the 45L one as my pillow, and hook my arm around the smaller backpack. I also bought a bicycle lock for this reason, but I haven’t had the chance to use it yet.

I’m pretty sure there are a lot more (creative) ways to waste time at the airport, like get a flu shot or do some yoga. Alternatively, you can also do what the guy below did. He got stuck overnight in Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport and made a music video out of boredom.

How about you? What are your suggested things to do to kill time at the airport?

Christmas holiday is just around the corner. For many people, this means delicious food, family time, packing, and long hours at the airports. This time of year, we travel a lot. Sometimes it takes up to several transit hours at the airport to reach the final destination. And that is when the problems begin. How to spend all of this time without a feeling that you’ve missed your precious hours by doing nothing except waiting for the next flight? Surviving an airport layover is not an easy thing even for those who are already used to those long-hour trips. What options and alternatives do we have?

Today we’re going to talk about 7 most useful ways to spend your time at the airport without being bored or tired. And the first thing we’re going to talk about is your gadgets. Make sure you have your smartphone and tablet fully charged.

How to Spend Time in Transit?

Actually, a transit period can be fun if planned in advance. The following tips and tricks will bring you some ideas on how to spend even the longest layout time at the airport with pleasure. These are the best ways to stay occupied without being bored.

  • Grab a coffee at the bar: Take a huge cup of coffee or tea, sit back, and relax. Meanwhile, you can dream about upcoming adventures, or play something like poker or slot games on your phone. Find online casinos to play and win without leaving the airport. Layout time is a perfect moment to try yourself in blackjack, poker, and the roulette without visiting Vegas. Online versions of all-time favorite casino games count up to 300+ pokies and slots. Online casino games can make even the longest layover bearable for you.
  • Do some math: You can work on your personal finances on your smartphone or tablet with a business application of your choice.
  • Food: Not all airlines offer a free meal. So, prepare in advance. Stock your backpack with some delicious snacks to eat during the day or night in the airport. Grab an apple, banana, energy bars, or whatever you like.
  • Reading: Bring a good book or download it on your smartphone or tablet. Diving into a good book is our all-time favorite method to kill time.
  • Shopping: Of course, we can’t imagine being at the airport without visiting duty-free shops. And some airports have an enormously large zone with products. Sometimes it takes up to several hours to discover each and every shop there. Give it a try.
  • Explore the airport: Don’t be afraid to wander around the airport to discover the surroundings, especially if you have never been in this particular place before.
  • Go out! If you have plenty of time between different flights and a day ahead, just go out and explore the city. Find out whether there is a train from the airport to the city, which can bring you from one place to another in the shortest time. But don’t forget to come back to the airport in time in case you don’t want to miss the flight.
  • And the last but not the least, take care of your luggage, relax, and sleep for a couple of hours. It is a good idea to pay for the waiting room.

By: Jenn Martin – Online Editor

When I was 16, I was stranded in Pearson International Airport for 12 hours. I was given a voucher to cover the cost of my dinner, and politely informed that instead of spending the day in Milan, I would be spending it in the airport. Luckily, I had a group of close friends with me and together we managed to pass the time playing cards and gorging ourselves on Tim Horton’s donuts.

Since then, I’ve spent many hours in various airports and have compiled some useful tips for staving off boredom, since not all airports offer a butterfly garden and a rooftop pool (like Singapore’s Changi International Airport) or a movie theatre, ice rink and extensive gardens (like Korea’s Incheon International Airport).

Here’s what to do if you need to kill time before takeoff:

Buy a pass for the first class lounge

Lounges aren’t just for first class travellers anymore. These magical lands of bottomless drinks and pillow-y seats are now accessible to anyone with approximately $50 to spare. A couple hours are easily and productively spent here, and they are great places to people watch (especially for those who are wondering exactly what kind of people travel in business class anyway). Grab something to eat, have a quick shower and grab your drink (or four) of choice to calm any pre-flight nerves.

How to pass time at an airport

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the British Airways lounge when some important European team plays some other important European team during the World Cup (it may have been England vs. Italy, I was more focused on the bar). But, be prepared to feel a tad underdressed if, like me, you wear your most casual clothes when you air travel (enough to elicit an “oh, I didn’t see you were flying business class with us today” from the girl who checked me in. To her credit, it was a fluke upgrade).

Go into town

Depending on where your layover airport is located and how much time you have to kill, it may make sense to see if you can pop into town for a quick visit. Here is a list of some cities that are an easy commute from their respective airports:

Boston: Logan International Airport – 5.8 kilometres from downtown
Las Vegas: McCarran International Airport – 6.5 kilometres from downtown
Miami: Miami International Airport – 8 kilometres from downtown
St. John’s: St. John’s International Airport – 11 kilometres from downtown
Vancouver: Vancouver International Airport – 12 kilometres from downtown
San Francisco: San Francisco International Airport – 21 kilometres from downtown

How to pass time at an airport

Reminder: If you do go into town, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to go through airport security on the way back in.

This may seem like an obvious thing to do given the reputation of airplane food, but many airports are investing heavily in expanding food options. The Airport Food and Beverage Conference and Awards is apparently a thing, and Toronto’s own Pearson International was highly recommended in 2014.

Sleep

Don’t be bashful. Every time I stretch out beside a window or under the seats in an airport I think to myself, “my, I must look strange.” But that thought is soon eclipsed by sleep. Just make sure to be courteous to your fellow passengers and not take up too many seats.

How to pass time at an airport

Also, make sure if you do decide to catch some zzzs that your carryon baggage is not accessible to anyone else (I use mine as a pillow; better yet, look for a locker to slip it in), and be prepared that while you may fall asleep peaceful and alone, you could wake up with hundreds of people staring at you.

Hit up the WiFi

Some airports have free WiFi that’s free for at least a half hour. You’ll be required to register with your email address, so if you have more than one email to your name you could potentially stretch that to an hour or hour and a half. Also, some airports have tablet stations with free WiFi (though these tend to fill up quickly). Check out this airport WiFi access chart for more details.

Go for a stroll

You’ll never know what an airport offers until you’ve perused a little bit. Vancouver has native art displays and an aquarium exhibit, while San Francisco has a popular airport museum. Plus, just walking around can be entertainment enough sometimes. I spent hours walking between my hotel and the airport in Rome, amused by the moving sidewalks, and this one in the Frankfurt airport made me feel like I was ready to party at a disco.

Exercise

This has never struck me as a sensible thing to do in an airport, but it is a possibility. That’s all I have to say about that.

Window shop

Duty-free shopping is one of the most obvious ways to spend time in an airport, but if you’re only starting your vacation you may be concerned with saving luggage space for souvenirs. Not to fret—you can still have fun while window shopping. Consider putting on a small spot of a free perfume sample if you haven’t had time to shower for awhile (but not so much that it will irritate your neighbours on the next flight). London’s Heathrow airport is a particularly fun place to window shop, especially at Terminal 5’s 11,000-square-foot Harrods.

Play games

If you know that you’ll be spending more than a few hours in an airport, pack some cards or compact travel games to keep you amused. Being a fan of words, I personally like Bananagrams, or I sometimes get creative with games like “stranger scavenger hunt” (looking for other travellers with a certain set of criteria, i.e. a family of four, a teenager with blue hair, etc.)

Plan ahead

This is a great time to hunker down with your itinerary and guidebooks to decide exactly what you want to do on your trip. The airplane is also a good place to do this if you have a long flight, but you’ll also have movies on the plane–so many movies.

What’s your favourite way to spend time in an airport?