Whether you’re hanging around on a long layover or dealing with delays and cancellations, waiting at the airport is honestly a drag. And though you could easily spend hours just scrolling through Instagram and stalking your ex on social media, there are definitely better ways to fill the hours while waiting at the airport — you just need to be a little creative.
Check out a few of our best ideas on how to pass time at the airport — from getting in your steps to brushing up on your language skills — if you’re there longer than expected.
1. Prepare for your trip
Still need to nail down a few more plans for the trip? Now is the time. Research the best ways to get around, arrange your airport transportation, mark the tastiest food in town, and buy tickets and passes to any attractions you’re planning to see. Organize your time and money now so you’ll be extra prepared when you finally land.
2. Get some exercise
You’ve probably been sitting on a plane for a while and are about to do it all over again. So instead of slouching in those airport chairs for a few more hours, move your body! Get those steps in by taking a nice walk around the airport, which will also give you other ideas for how to entertain yourself. Many airports are full of interesting architecture and exhibits featuring local artists and historical artifacts, but you won’t know unless you explore.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, do a workout video on your phone or a full-on yoga class. You may get some looks but your body will thank you.
3. Go shopping
On an international trip? Miix up your airport walk with a little duty-free shopping. Spritz on some perfume, buy that oversized Toblerone you’ve always wanted, or get some weird souvenirs for your family. Lots of major airports have just as many shops as malls, and if you have extra non-U.S. currency to spend, now is your time. You could get yourself a whole new outfit and show up to your destination looking better than ever.
4. Get a bite to eat
Airport food has improved dramatically in the past decade. Though you’ll still find that sad, cold cellophane-enclosed turkey wrap lurking at kiosks, many famous chefs have opened up delicious spots in airports all over the world. A meal at the airport will cost you, but now is the time to indulge in that overpriced burger. Make some friends and buy the person next to you a beer. Or pretend you’re already on vacation and go big; heck, you can even order dessert.
5. Catch up on your reading
You said you wanted to read more this year, so now is your time. If you accidentally left your book at home, you’ve still got some options. You can download books on your phone, computer, or tablet, read the news, or head to one of the airport newsstands for a juicy best-seller novel. You can even blow through an entire magazine in the store and not have to pay for it. It’s one of the best ways to pass time at the airport.
6. Play games
There are all sorts of games to play in the airport, and we’re not just talking about Candy Crush. Revert back to your childhood and play a good old-fashioned game of tic-tac-toe or hangman with your travel buddy. If there’s a big group of you, try out charades. Or, get really creative and design a scavenger hunt for your travel partner in the airport, or give each other $10 with the challenge to buy the weirdest thing you can find.
7. Brush up on your language skills
Heading to a city where you haven’t mastered the local language? Apps like Duolingo, travel blogs, or travel books at the newsstand can help you brush up on your vocabulary and learn some helpful phrases to use with locals (Hello! Where is the bathroom? Goodbye!).
8. Call your mom
You don’t call her enough, and now you have no excuse. Whether it’s your mom, grandpa, or a list of friends you have been meaning to catch up with, there is no better time than while waiting in the airport. If calling isn’t your thing, write a letter. Send a postcard to your great aunt or write a note to that special someone waiting for you at your destination.
9. Finish up some work
If you realize you’re going to be in the airport for a long time and can access your work, getting ahead of things can make going back to the office a little easier. Prepare a bit more for that meeting than you had intended to, clear out your inbox, or get a head start on a big project. It can also be a great time to strategize and plan for the future without the distraction of co-workers or looming deadlines.
10. Watch a movie
Stream or download movies on your phone, tablet, or computer while you wait for your flight to take off. Watch that obscure documentary your partner isn’t into, or a nostalgic film from your childhood you haven’t seen in ages. Try to keep it light if you can. Watching something dark or violent may not put you in the right mood to endure hours in an enclosed area.
11. Listen to music or podcasts
Put in your headphones, go for that airport walk, and listen to your favorite tunes or podcast. There are so many podcasts out there covering every topic you could possibly imagine. You can catch up on current events, learn about someone’s weird job, or practically get a full-on therapy session. You’re bound to find something to help you pass the time.
As far as music goes, create a fun playlist in anticipation for your trip. And remember to download music while you’re still connected to wifi or you won’t be able to listen to it on the plane.
12. Take a nap
If all else fails, enjoy a little snooze. Traveling is exhausting, and hours in the airport can really wear you out. Prop yourself up on your backpack and doze off. There’s nothing like a nap to help pass the time. Just make sure you set an alarm so you don’t miss your flight.
13. Explore the city
If your layover is long enough, why not go out and explore the city? Take a taxi or rideshare into town for lunch, or get out and see something new. Remember that you’ll have to go through security again, so give yourself plenty of time to get back for your flight.
Get there with Avail
Whether you’re heading out into the city before a flight, or you’ve finally made it to your destination, Avail car sharing is one of the best ways to see the city. You can borrow cars in neighborhoods throughout Chicago and Denver for way less than a rental, and you won’t deal with all the crazy fees.
Need more travel inspo? Check out the Avail blog and get the best travel tips for your next adventure.