Vacation Travel ~ What You Need To Know About Airport Layovers

Chances are you will fly somewhere this summer. Hopefully it’s for fun and you’re going somewhere fabulous! Regardless of why you’re flying or where you are going, there is a decent chance that you will have a longer layover than expected, or that you will experience airport delays. Weather, more people flying, Murphy’s law all play into it.

A few summers ago I got stuck in Chicago O’Hare airport for hours because United Airlines didn’t bother to send the plane! (I have never flown United since.) While on the subject of United Airlines, if you will be flying with musical instruments or pets, just choose another airline. Google it to find out more…

I buy travel insurance for all my international travels, and sometimes for domestic travel. I base it on how much I stand to lose if my flight gets cancelled or my bags get lost. Normally my domestic flights are either for work or I’m going to see friends, so I don’t need insurance. If I were going to a vacation somewhere here in the USA I would buy travel insurance, because a missed or delayed flight will still have accommodation costs, rental car excess fees – all kids of extra expenses.

I use Allianz for all my travel insurance needs, and have done for years and years. They periodically email me blog posts with travel tips, and I thought this one would be helpful to most of my travel readers.



How to Feel Right at Home During Airport Layovers

Allianz - feel at home during airport layovers

Most of us don’t plan for extended airport layovers. Instead, what was supposed to be a quick 20 minutes of downtime in between two flights grows into a lengthy travel time-out caused by inclement weather, engine trouble or some other undisclosed minor emergency.

But there are globetrotting, budget-minded travelers who purposely take extended breaks in airport terminals and lounges during layovers. They know how to stay safe, maintain a semi-healthy diet and even rest comfortably when the odds and airport security are stacked against them.

So whether you’re hoping for brief layovers or counting on long ones, here are some travel tips and advice to make sure your extended stay manageable – and even enjoyable.

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Protecting Yourself (And Your Bags) From Theft

Safety and security should be your chief concern during long airport layovers.

If you’re a savvy traveler, you already know the basic rules: keep your bags close by, keep your money and valuables even closer – “traveler’s money pouch” sounds much better than “fanny pouch” – and be wary of suspicious folks and even friendly strangers, especially when you’re tired or spending a lot of time at the bar. (Note: If you choose to drink on your layover, balance out the alcohol with water to stay hydrated).

One potential threat you may not expect comes from airport personnel. In recent years, there have been a number of luggage thefts committed by everyone from baggage handlers to TSA agents. There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from this threat within, including securing your bags with TSA-approved locks, heading directly to the baggage claim after your final flight, and even choosing brightly colored bags, which have proven to be a theft deterrent.1

Protecting yourself and your property during long layovers is more about common sense than sophisticated security protocol. But this becomes more difficult when you’re travel weary – and almost impossible when you’re sleeping in a stiff terminal chair.

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Finding Comfort and Zzzs During Long Layovers

Airports circling the globe have done a better job of meeting the needs of today’s tech-savvy travelers. Phone charging stations and Wi-Fi access are the rule more than the exception.

But airports are incredibly inconsistent when it comes to acknowledging and providing for travelers with onsite accommodations for a cat nap or a comfy overnight slumber. Some roll out the cots, and others roll out security personnel to ensure fliers aren’t closing their eyes in a reclined position. No joke. is a site dedicated to the global community of travelers who intentionally make slumbering in airport terminals part of their travel plans. They offer well informed advice: a bit of Vick’s Vapor Rub under the nose can cover up smelly terminals, sunglasses are important for airports that ban napping travelers, and disinfectant wipes are critical for clearing off your space before stretching out. The site also ranks the best and worst airports at accommodating sleeping fliers. Singapore Changi airport wins top honors for the 17th straight year with specially designed relaxation zones featuring cushioned and reclined seating, a movie theater, 24-hour massage and spa facilities, and even warm showers to help prep the body for extended rest.

And the worst? Italy’s Bergamo Orio al Serio is notorious for being cold, overcrowded and booting sleeping travelers when the cleaning crew arrives in the middle of the night.2

Here is one more tip: If you can’t find a safe and comfortable place to rest or even sleep, look for a chapel, which most airports have. Also, unbeknownst to many fliers, many airline clubs offer one-day passes that give you access to comfortable seating, showers, food, drink and Wi-Fi.3

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Don’t Leave Your Diet Up In the Air

Airports make it easy to grab a bite when all you care about is getting something quick and easy. But when your layover, planned or otherwise, takes place over the course of several meal times, fast food and salty snacks can play havoc with your body.

The good news is that 76 percent of restaurants at the nation’s 18 busiest airports offer at least one healthy, plant-based meal, according to The Physicians Committee’s 13th annual Airport Food Review. This is up dramatically over the past decade plus; only 57-percent of airports offered this healthy option in 2001. Denver is ranked as the top airport offering healthy dining options, while Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ranks last and Las Vegas McCarran International airport took a dive from second to 12th.4

Once you hone in on the best options, don’t be afraid to ask for some extra veggies for that sandwich and try to eat several small meals rather than a few big, dense meals.5

With the right planning and solid on-the-fly decision-making, you can make extended airport layovers safe, comfortable and healthy. After all, you don’t just want to simply arrive safely at your final destination; you want to arrive well rested and rejuvenated, satiated and with everything you began the flight with.

How To Survive An Airport Layover

How To Survive Airport Layovers

Airport layovers can be a blessing or a curse.
There are basically 4 types of layover – 
1. the planned or unexpected domestic flight layover 
2. the domestic to international layover 
3. the trans-world layover and 
4. Chicago O’Hare.

I spent endless unplanned hours in the purgatory of Chicago O’Hare airport during delayed flight layovers this summer. As in every single time a plane I was on touched down at O’Hare I was hit with 3+ hour delays. 50% of it was courtesy of United Airlines, 50% of it was due to weather. 
A word to the wise: If you have a connecting flight that you desperately need to make, avoid both United Airlines and Chicago O’Hare like the plague. Each are bad enough on their own, together they are a nightmare.

Some survival tips for layovers:

Endless sitting around doesn’t do you any good. Taking a walk around the terminal not only gives you a chance to see what’s on offer, but also stretching your legs feels great after hours of being cooped up on a plane.
The United Airlines/Chicago O’Hare axis of evil took care of that for us this summer, by changing the gate every half hour or so. An entire plane full of passengers waiting at the gate would have to up and walk across the terminal to another gate, which I suppose kept us busy and stopped us from rioting.

Go To The Club Lounge

KLM Club Lounge, Houston

Airport Club Lounges are wonderful. The are peaceful, well equipped for the business traveler with places to work quietly and to charge up your electronic devices. Some have showers and places to take a nap. Generally they have coffee, tea and cold drinks for you, some have alcoholic drinks as well. Depending on the airline there are also a variety of food options, the international club lounges offering more.
If you are not a member of the airline’s club lounge you can often buy a day pass for around $50. If you have a sizable layover it’s money very well spent.
The Lounge Buddy app lets you look at airports all around the world and see what amenities the various club lounges offer, plus the cost to go inside if you are not a member. It also tells you where in the terminal the lounge is.

Bring Healthy Snacks
Airport food tends to be heavy, salty, fatty, sugary – all the things you don’t want at the best of times, and things that will only leave you feeling really crappy when you board that next flight.
Instead pack fresh fruit, protein bars, raw unsalted nuts or any other good, healthy food from home.

Pack Something To Do
Having a great book to read, emails to take care of, movies to watch on your iPad – anything to break the boredom.

Check Out
The Amenities

Part of walking around the terminals is getting to see
what’s on offer in the beauty/relaxation/health departments.

Plenty of airports have kiosks where you can get mini chair
massages or reflexology, which are an excellent way to burn money during a
layover – they relax you and also get the blood flowing, especially after a
long flight, making them the perfect precursor to the next few hours of flying.

Oxygen Bar McCarren Airport

Some airports have oxygen bars, which are always fun to use.
Doctors will tell you there is no scientific research to prove them beneficial,
but if you try one out, especially after a long flight, you will find you get
improved mental clarity, they calm your mind and stabilize your nervous system,
you feel re-energized and your body seems to recover much more quickly.

Luminotherapie Charles De Gaulle Airport, Paris

Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris has a Luminotherapie
machine that uses white light to rejuvenate you. Auckland International Airport
in New Zealand has calf massaging chairs, which get the blood flowing, shrink
down swelling of calves and ankles, and are a slice of heaven after a 12 hour
flight.  I am convinced they are a huge
part of how I avoid jet lag when I fly there.

There are all kinds of great escapes to be found without
leaving the terminal. They not only rejuvenate you physically, but the mental
break can work wonders too.

For Really
Long Layovers…

If you have a really long trans-world layover, check out the
airport ahead of time, as some have some pretty cool features. For example
Singapore’s Changi airport, New Delhi Indira Ghandi Airport and many others have transit hotels -without going through
immigration or leaving the transit area, you and your cabin baggage can check
in for a few hours, take a shower, have a sleep in a clean bed and get a
reliable wakeup call, make yourself a coffee, do any work you need to catch up
on, and then head back to your connecting flight feeling completely refreshed. 


Transit Hotel room Eaton Smart Hotel, Indira Ghandi airport, New Delhi

Other airports (especially the European ones) have great public
transport, so you can buzz into town and wander around for a few hours, see
something new, give yourself a mental break.

 One of my very dear
friends flew to Cape Town recently and had a 10 hour layover in Munich, so she
blew into the city, had a good look around and got to eat a great meal before
heading back to the airport feeling completely invigorated. 

The worst thing you
can do with a really long layover is just stay inside the terminal, waiting at
your gate. You will feel ghastly by the time you catch your next flight.