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.
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.
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.
SleepingInAirports.net 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
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.