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.

How To Make An International Flight Easy

I would love to know exactly how many miles I have racked up flying round and round the world in my lifetime.
Sometimes I can’t even believe how many miles I fly in one calendar year.

Regardless of whether you are making your first long haul flight, or if you are a veteran, there is most definitely a way to make it an easy, (relatively) comfortable experience. I can’t be bothered with jet lag, and at least on my outbound trip I want to arrive refreshed and ready to go.
So here’s what I do

1. Make a sleep kit
Whether you buy one ready made, or make your own, set yourself up to win with everything you need to sleep.
An eye mask to block out the light
A neck pillow (although these days airline seats have head rests that totally support your head, so I almost never bother dragging one around with me)

Earphones. Get noise cancelling if you can afford them, like the Bose QC15 . Look for something that is comfortable and that covers your ears (as opposed to earbuds). Anything that blocks out the hum of the engines and as much of the other ambient noise as possible. If you don’t have noise cancelling headphones, plug in to one of the yoga/zen/rainforest channels that all the airlines seem to have – it will help block unwanted noise and put you to sleep.
A blanket. I’ve traveled with the same giant pashmina for more than 12 years now. Its soft, very very lightweight, but warm. It also takes up no space at all.
Airline blankets can be scratchy, and don’t always keep you warm enough. Some airlines even charge extra for a blanket. I prefer to bring my own.

2. Check Bags

It takes forever for a plane to board, largely because so many people drag on too much cabin baggage. Pack a bag with enough to last you a couple of days in case your bags don’t arrive with you. Be mindful of security rules on sizes of liquids etc. Packing only what you need to get you through the first couple of days in your cabin bag and checking the rest can streamline your experience getting through security and onboard the plane.
Rules change from airport to airport, so rather than deal with any hassles at the xray, I prefer to check as much as possible.

3. Drink Tons Of Water

Probably the most important item of all is to drink as much water as possible. The biggest part of jet-lag is getting dehydrated. You lose an additional 8 oz of water for every hour that you are up there, so its crucial that you drink as close to a glass of water for every hour of the flight.
4. Pack Healthy Snacks
Or at least check the airline’s menu ahead of time. Sometimes there are healthy options – but mostly not.
Pre-sliced fresh fruit, unsalted nuts etc will serve you better than the high carb, high sugar, highly processed snacks and foods on most long haul flights. Be mindful of how much you eat too. Its super easy to overeat when you’re sitting there for 10 or 12 hours.

5. Dress For Success
Wear comfortable clothes that you can layer up and layer down. Be able to work with however hot or cold the cabin is both during flight and also when sitting on the tarmac. Comfortable shoes (and socks!) are a must too. I’m a big believer in flying in comfortable clothes, but also in always looking stylish and well put together. 
Airlines frequently oversell seats and have to upgrade passengers. I always want that upgrade. No matter how much of a model citizen you are, if you’re not dressed nicely you won’t get that upgrade.

6. Sit Down, Shut Up, Powerdown. 
The flight can’t take off until everyone is seated, belted in, and all electronics are powered down.
More so on domestic flights rather than internationals it seems to take forever for people to just sit down and do as they’re told. And there is invariably some tool who feels the need to talk on his cellphone at full volume throughout the process. 
Make it easier on yourself and everyone else by streamlining the process. Once you’re in your seat don’t get back up to get anything out of the overhead bin until the flight has taken off and the seatbelt lights are turned off.