Hate Long Layovers and Flight Delays? Here’s How to Make the Most of Them

I was recently traveling to San Francisco from Seattle and my flight was delayed seven times. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper at first. But instead of pout or complain repeatedly to the gate agent, I embraced the fact that even though the weather was out of my control, my attitude was not.

 

I started brainstorming ways to make the most out of long layovers and delays so I could reclaim this free time as a chance to do the things we all often say we’re too busy to do. Here are some activities to keep you busy during your next long layover or delay.

 

Write Postcards to Friends and Family
With the exception of holiday cards, I probably get less than five pieces of snail mail a year that aren’t bills, catalogues, or credit card offers. But every time I do get a handwritten letter from friends or family, I practically break out into song and dance. It’s heart-warming to receive unexpected pieces of mail from loved ones, but Facebook and other forms of digital communication make that increasingly uncommon.  A long layover or flight delay is the perfect time to pick up a stack of postcards and write quick handwritten notes to friends and family. It may seem like a simple gesture, but you’ll undoubtedly make somebody’s day.

 

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(Photo CC/BY: dichohecho)

 

Shop
Airports these days have some really great stores (and, ahem, duty-free goodies). If you have some extra space in your carry-on, a layover or delay is a great time to get a head start on shopping for birthdays, holidays, or “just-because” presents. Most large airports have no shortage of upscale and name-brand stores (some are practically like malls), but even smaller airports are full of boutique and artisan shops where you can find unique gifts.

 

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 (Photo CC/BY: pwp2010)

 

Get Some Much Needed Reading or Writing Done
Most people get so worked up over delays and long layovers that they often don’t end up using their free time well (myself included). Instead of fuming about your long layover or delay, or giving the gate agent a piece of your mind for the fifteenth time (trust us: yelling at them won’t make the time go by any faster), why not look at this downtime as a gift. In today’s busy world, we all complain about the little, enjoyable things we don’t have time to do anymore, like sit down and read a book or work on that short story you always dreamed of writing. Why not seize this as the opportunity to reclaim your busy life.

 

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(Photo CC/BY: Onno B.)

 

Create Your Own Airport Bar or Food Crawl 
If there’s one thing airports aren’t short on, it’s places to eat and drink. Scout out the dinning and drinking options that appeal to you most and set out on an airport culinary tour. You could try all of the pizza places at the airport to determine which one offers the best pie. Or you could make it your mission to find out which bar makes the best gin and tonic (just remember to drink responsibly and hydrate in between drinks, as flying does dehydrate you). The gamification aspect makes the time fly by, and the next time your friends or co-workers are flying through that airport, you’ll be able to impart your new-found knowledge on them.

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 (Photo CC/BY: Jeremy Brooks)

 

Exercise
If you feel like you indulged enough on your trip and want to get back on track, then work out at the airport to kill time. Many airport hotels let you buy a pass for their fitness center and some have workout clothes to rent or purchase. AirportGyms.com is a great resource for those looking for a gym in the terminal or a short cab ride away. Also, many airports are dabbling in the fitness craze, such as SFO, which has a yoga room with mirrored walls and mats in Terminal 2, and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, which offers walking paths in a few of the concourses. Even if you’re stuck somewhere without access to these facilities, who says you can’t take a few brisk walks through the airport or sit off to the side of the gate and practice some yoga or do some calf raises.

 

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(Photo CC/BY: KassandraBayResort) 

Really hate flight delays? Try TripIt Pro to get real-time flight alerts and notifications. Our alerts are often faster than those of the airlines themselves, so you’ll know what’s going on before the person next to you. You can also use TripIt Pro‘s Alternate Flights functionality to search other flights with open seats so you can get home faster.