The Dreaded Long Layover: 5 Ways to Pass Time at the Airport
Leah Walker June 15, 2018

In May, I spent 15 mind-numbing hours at the Muscat International Airport. After a wonderful week in Oman, this wasn’t the ideal way to wrap up my trip. I was so early that I couldn’t check my suitcase and there was nowhere to store it. I considered spending time in the city, but the thought of dragging around my bag and backpack full of electronics put me in a foul mood, especially with temperatures topping 105 degrees. Thus, I sat in the public part of the airport for seven hours, with nothing but a Tim Hortons and three hours of free Wi-Fi. Now, I like donuts and coffee, but about three hours in, I was on a sugar and caffeine high. Finally, I was able to check my bag and pass through security eight hours before my flight. You’d thought that I’d found nirvana. Though I was rebuked at the Oman Air lounge, McDonald’s, duty-free shops, and three more hours of free Wi-Fi were there to lift my spirits. If you happen to ever be in my unfortunate predicament, I’ve got five ways to pass time at the airport.

5 Ways to Pass Time at the Airport

The Dreaded Long Layover: 5 Ways to Pass Time at the Airport by Leah Walker
Airport waiting doesn’t have to be a waste of time.

Go to the Lounge

I’m permitted to enter any Star Alliance lounge, but that wasn’t an option in Muscat. I did, however, have the opportunity to purchase a daily pass at one of the independent lounges. For about $50, anyone can buy his or her way into a lounge at most every major airport in the world. For that price, you’re invited to enjoy comfortable seating, food, drink, Wi-Fi, business amenities, and even shower facilities. And I highly recommend taking a shower {the Lufthansa lounge is Munich is like a spa}, especially if you’ve just gotten off an overnight flight or are about to take one. Does $50 seem steep? Just consider the cost of the food, drink, Wi-Fi {if the airport’s isn’t free}, as well as the junk you’re going to buy to entertain yourself. Odds are that you’ll likely come out ahead with the day pass. And depending on your credit card, you just might have lounge access and not even realize it.

Play Games

The Dreaded Long Layover: 5 Ways to Pass Time at the Airport by Leah Walker
Escape with an electronic game like Gambino Slots or go old-school with a deck of cards.

The world is my office, and I don’t have set work hours. This means that I usually have my nose buried in my computer or iPhone working. Sometimes I need a break, especially during a long travel day. That’s when I open up Gambino Slots and get to spinning. I do absolutely love gambling in Vegas, but these games are just for fun. With 80 different casino slot games, you’ll get sucked into the high definition graphics and vivid animations leaping from your computer, tablet, or smart phone. The sounds transport you from whatever airport you’re sitting in to the MGM on the Las Vegas Strip. There’s also a social community aspect. I play on Facebook, but Gambino Slots is also available in the iTunes, Amazon, Windows, and Google Play stores. If electronic games aren’t your thing then pack a deck of cards. There are a multitude of games at your fingertips, plus a deck doesn’t take up much room when traveling.

Get Moving

The Dreaded Long Layover: 5 Ways to Pass Time at the Airport by Leah Walker
No gym? No problem! Climb stairs at the airport for a workout.

Instead of setting up camp at Starbucks, get your rear in gear. Sure, you can exercise by climbing stairs and dragging around your bags, but if you’re looking for a real sweat session, there are gyms located in various airports around the world. Baltimore-Washington Airport has a 1,200-square foot gym with a day pass costing $40 per day. Pearson International Airport has a 10,000-square foot gym, where you can even rent shoes and clothes. If you’re passing through Munich, look into Kempinski Hotel Fit & Fly Spa. Beyond the exercise equipment, there’s also a pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and massage therapists. Arguably the best airport in the world is Singapore Changi Airport, which features three gyms. San Francisco and Dallas-Fort Worth International airports have yoga studios for serenity and sweat. All of these also offer shower facilities, so you’re not stinking up the plane. A workout is certainly the healthiest of ways to pass time at the airport.

Go Shopping

Many airports look more like shopping malls.

Nobody says you have to actually buy anything, but shopping is one of the best ways to pass time at the airport. In fact, some terminals feel more like malls than airports. Try on sunglasses. Smell perfume until your head pounds. Study the alcohol selection. Check out the local specialty foods. Indulge yourself by walking into shops that you might not normally visit. Throw that Gucci bag over your shoulder and strut around the store like it’s yours. In short: Go into every shop, and inspect every item. Time will fly!

Leave the Airport

In Nice, you can ditch the airport and be on the beach in minutes.

Provided you aren’t weighed down with luggage, consider heading into the city if your layover is long enough. Just keep in mind the time back to the airport, as well as to get back through security. Also, make sure you don’t need a visa to leave the airport. Some cities are relatively close to their airport and/or also have efficient and economical public transport. Las Vegas, Miami, San Diego, Boston, Mexico City, Honolulu, Nice, and Lisbon are just a handful of places where the airports are convenient to city centers. If you’re at Changi Airport in Singapore, Narita in Tokyo, Incheon in Seoul, Taoyuan in Taipei, Ataturk in Istanbul, Doha, or Salt Lake City then you’re in luck. These airports offer free tours of their respective cities. Be sure to check on visa requirements and layover time needed before making any plans, however. Leaving the airport and taking in the sites is easily one of the best ways to pass time at the airport.

Whether you’re kicking back with a glass of wine in a lounge, shopping for something you’re never going to buy in duty free, spinning away on Gambino Slots, or eating black pepper crab at a hawker stand in Singapore, you’ll never look at long layovers as an inconvenience again.

This post was brought to you by Gambino Slots. All opinions are my own.

Featured photo, credit, credit, credit, credit

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for three years, and was recently awarded another four with a Passeport Talent visa renewal. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.

11 Comments

  1. I know what you mean. Those long hours at the airport can certainly be exhausting. I always have the feeling of loosing so much time just by vegetating around. 😀
    Going to a lounge sounds good and you’re right, when you put together all the costs, it doesn’t even come expensive. But actually one other thing from your list got my attention. 😉 Being a bit of a fitness freak, I’d probably enjoy those vast gym spaces. Can’t believe that I didn’t consider going to one at the airport earlier. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

  2. Being on this trip with you, unfortunately there wasn’t much you could do in the situation. If you knew more than a few hours before you were in the situation, organizing a private day tour where your luggage could have stayed in the car would have been a great option and opportunity to explore Muscat a bit more. And it stunk that the airport was so new that the lounges weren’t all open yet.

  3. I’ll be at the airport in 3 days for a red-eye flight so this definitely came at the right time 😛 I especially love the “get moving” tip! Will bookmark 🙂

  4. AARGh, I hate airports. They always seem like such a waste of time for me, especially when you have a long layover. My solution is to wander through the shops. I hardly ever find anything that I want, but it does help to pass the time.

  5. I hate shopping. I usually just grab a book and spend time in the lounge. If I get a chance to step out of the airport, I will gladly take it. Good to know that Las Vegas, Miami, San Diego, Boston, Mexico City, Honolulu, Nice are close to city centres.

  6. I’ve never actually got lounge access but for a long layover it is very tempting, and worth it if you end up having 2 meals at the airport! I spent about 12 hours in Bogota airport last year and spent a lot of time napping! Luckily they had a comfy chillout area with wifi so I watched a couple of films and got some sleep 🙂

  7. I have definitely hit a lounge with long waits at the airport. Worth it and it doesn’t feel like you are sitting at the airport. I have always walked around. Especially when you are at a big airport that has a lot to see or do.

  8. Nice set of tips to pass time on long layovers. My own favorite is leave the airport and explore the city, when ever their is enough time and preferably with a direct train to the city. 🙂 I do a lot of window shopping too and curb my urge to buy stuff that are generally over-priced in the airport shops.

  9. Yes to all of these although I would most likely do window shopping instead of actually spending haha I would also probably grab my camera and take random photos of airports, especially the large ones with interesting architecture details.

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