When you are a thrifty flyer, a long layover is part of your travelling life. Some of the cheapest flight deals out there involve a layover, or two, before reaching your ultimate destination. They can seem a nuisance; something that is delaying you from getting where you want to be. Some potential passengers won’t choose a flight with a long stop en route and can miss out on real bargains. Make sure that’s not you with our guide on how to maximise your time during a long layover.
Very long layover? Leave the airport
If you have a 10-hour or longer layover you should definitely consider leaving the airport. The layover can be a gift to explore a new city or country and their culture and food. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But if it is feasible for you to visit the city you are transiting in, it may be worthwhile.
Be sure to factor in how long it will take to immigrate into the country you’re transiting through, as it isn’t always necessary to go through immigration if you’re catching a connecting flight. Similarly, you need to think about the time taken to clear passport control and security before your next flight departs too. As such, you may spend hours queueing to enter and leave the country. Six hours between flights may sound a long time, but that can quickly run out.
If you’re happy that you have plenty of time to make leaving the airport worthwhile, check the visa rules for the country where you’re stopping. Some will allow a free transit visa for visits under a certain amount of time. However, in some cases, you may have to pay for a full-entry visa. Or they simply will not allow you into the country for the short duration you require.
To bag, or not to bag
If you can leave the airport, you need to decide whether it’s necessary to take your checked bag (if you have one) with you. It is worth noting that you can ask at check-in from your departure destination for your bag to be checked to your final destination. Alternatively, if it is not possible, or if you have booked flights with separate tickets, the airport can offer cheap short-term storage solutions. In some cities, the central train station can also provide this service.
An unexpected surprise
Regardless of if you have your bag with you, you should now be able to visit a city you may not have ordinarily considered. Make the most of this by getting a feel for what this new location has to offer. Possibly visit a famous landmark if you think you may never return. It may be your only chance! Or if you are somewhere, you’ve always considered travelling to now is a great chance to establish whether it is somewhere you’d like to revisit.
Stay over in a hotel for free!
Some of the better global carriers offer free accommodation and transport when you transit through their primary airport. It is not always clear when booking if this is an option. You can check our post detailing the airlines which offer this, and the cities you can stay.
Explore the airport
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time at your temporary airport home, you may as well get to know it. Stretch your legs and walk around the terminal/terminals. Major airports are HUGE, and you might be surprised by what you find. If visa rules do not restrict you, go-between air-side (i.e. past security), and land-side if you don’t mind going through security again. There may be shops or restaurants on one side that aren’t on the other.
When you are air-side, consider checking out some places you ordinarily wouldn’t. Prayer and meditation rooms can be a place of peace and quiet, even if you aren’t religious. Some smoking areas can let you get outside, possibly watching planes take-off and land. If you are on a layover that isn’t long enough to leave the airport but long enough to run out of places to explore, an airport lounge may be the best choice.
Okay, now that you’re sure that a long layover is going to be better value for you, here is something to consider. It may seem extravagant but think about paying for airport lounge access. If you’ve never been to an airport lounge, you may not know so what is involved. The lounges are typically for the benefit of business travellers. They offer more comfortable seating, generally faster Wi-Fi, sometimes showers, and most crucially, free food and drink.
Nearly every airport lounge will have the option to buy a day pass for access. If you are planning on staying in the airport for a 6 hour or longer layover, you would be spending money on food anyway. Swapping the cash spent on the overpriced meals in the terminal may be better spent for a day pass at a lounge.
The food is usually a buffet selection, and some airports also offer meals made to order. Alcohol is available free of charge as are soft drinks, so getting your money’s worth isn’t particularly difficult if you are there for several hours. You can grab a meal as soon as you arrive, enjoy drinks and snacks while you sit there, and savour a final meal before your next flight.
Live the high life
Food and drink aside, you are generally going to be more comfortable, and it will be less crowded than in the main terminal area. The free lounge Wi-Fi will be less congested than the free Airport Wi-Fi. Now you can stream your Netflix shows and post to your Instagram quicker!
The seating in the lounge will be more comfortable than what you will find in public areas; a great benefit if you are jumping many time zones or had poor flight times and want a nap. Remember that airport lounges aren’t always open 24/7 so don’t rely on utilising one if you have an overnight long layover.
Do that thing you’ve been putting off
Stopping at the airport can be a freeing experience if you have the right mindset. Unless somebody needs to know all details of your travelling, this time represents precious hours when you can be entirely off the grid. Free from the shackles of notifications, emails, phone calls, house chores that delay you from doing that task you want to do. Now is a chance to do it!
Writing in your diary or journal, sorting out photographs on your SD card or phone, listening to a podcast, or finishing a book. Perhaps watching that TV show or movie that people have been recommending for months. Find somewhere to sit, grab a snack and a drink, and get it done.
On the other hand, maybe you have been meaning to catch up with a friend or relative and haven’t found the time at home. Connect to the free airport Wi-Fi and give them a phone or video call on WhatsApp, Skype or similar. Be sure to bring headphones with a microphone as airports can be noisy. You want to make sure they can hear you when you tell them about your travels (and your favourite flight deals website!).
Prepare for the long layover
Unless you’ve got an unexpected delay or flight cancellation, you will know from your booking that you will spend considerable time in an airport on your journey. Preparation can be vital in making this time feel less stressful and tiresome.
Hygiene and staying fresh
Taking a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant with you in your hand luggage can help you feel ten times more human after a 12-hour flight, for example. A spare pair of underwear, socks and a t-shirt in your bag can also freshen you up. Your fellow passengers may appreciate this too!
Download at home
Cleanliness aside, you need to make sure you can kill time effectively at the airport. Enter technology to give you movies, TV, and music! Though free Wi-Fi is becoming commonplace at airports, there is no guarantee. Even if you can connect, the speeds you get may be slow. So make sure that you download the TV shows, movies, podcasts and music to be available offline while you are at home with faster internet.
Strictly speaking, this is still part of the preparing process, but packing is so important it deserves it’s own heading! Put a little thought into your hand luggage items, and you’ll thank yourself while you’re in the airport. Here are some top tips for what to do, and bring with you for your long airport wait.
A water bottle
You can’t take larger liquids through security with you, but you can bring an empty bottle. Re-fill it at a water fountain when you are in the terminal and save on overpriced and single-use plastic bottles.
Gadgets (and back up gadgets)
Laptops, tablets, smartphones, handheld game consoles, iPods, Kindles, headphones… There are seemingly endless digital options to see you through a long layover these days. As much as you love that new Netflix TV series, you might want to switch things up after six episodes straight, so have another option handy. These can weigh your bags down so perhaps don’t bring every piece of tech that you own with you.
Chargers and plug adapters
Charging options can vary greatly from airport to airport. Some have plentiful plug sockets around all waiting areas, some have USB charging stations, and in some airports, power points are like gold dust. Bringing a power bank can ensure your smaller devices won’t run out of charge during your wait.
For your laptop (or a power-hungry tablet) a top tip is to bring a power adapter for the country your long layover is in, plus an extension cable! If there are no sockets available, you can ask someone if you can unplug their device and share your extension cord with them. The extension cable is great when on your trip too, as you’ll need fewer adapters for your electronic items.
If your devices aren’t charged, you’ll want to make sure you can keep yourself entertained in other ways. Books and magazines are a classic option, as are puzzle books (crosswords, word searches, etc.). For something a bit different, consider a pack of cards, a Rubik’s cube, or some other handheld puzzles!
Travel cushions are always a great choice too to help you get comfy. Don’t pack it in your hand luggage and waste precious space though. You can wear it or attach it loosely to your bag without it affecting your carry-on measurements.
Unseen long layover costs vs A higher-priced ticket
We have to point out that with these suggestions, you need to make sure that you consider the costs of a long layover. You are visiting Flynous, after all, where saving you money on flying is our goal! When you book a flight, you will see the total flight cost on the website you are using. But this isn’t the final cost of travel.
When booking a direct flight, there are a handful of additional costs to consider. Airport parking, transport to and from the airport, perhaps a coffee in the departure lounge. If you’re on a long layover, these costs remain, plus you will also need to factor in feeding yourself, entertainment and tourism, and possibly accommodation to the cost of your journey. Be careful of being lured in by a €20 lower price for an 8-hour longer layover. You will almost certainly pay more than €20 in those 8 hours at or around the airport.