Stuck in the Middle: How to Kill Time in an Airport

Posted on September 11, 2011

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Nine hour layover in Rome? No problem.

So you’ve booked some super cheap flights on a budget airline — but then find yourself with a long layover in an airport. So what should you do? This article provides advice on how to make the most of long hours between connecting flights. It offers tips on how to pass the time when you get stuck in airport terminals and shows you how to turn long layovers into fun daytrips exploring new cities.
By Hayley Bisceglia

The longest 24 hours of my life were spent in Rome Fiumicino airport, where I found myself stranded with no cash, no phone, and no internet. I learned quickly that airports aren’t designed for extended stays — they’re mostly focused on getting travelers in and out within a couple of hours. You have to be resourceful and go beyond the bounds of convention to entertain yourself. Here are a few tips on how to do just that, and make your layovers a worthy use of time:

  1. Escape for an impromptu daytrip.
    The Terravision bus from Rome Ciampino to the city center takes 40 minutes. The train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris takes about 50 minutes. Depending on how much time you have to kill, you might be able to leave the airport and check out a major city that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to visit. Do a little research beforehand to find out which cities are nearby, how long the transfer will take, and how often the buses or trains run, making sure to budget time for delays. Most airport transfers will only cost you €5-15 each way. Traveling with heavy bags can be a hassle; instead, store them at the airport for a nominal fee while you explore.
  2. Catch up on sleep.
    If you haven’t enough time to escape for a daytrip to a nearby city, then a nap is probably the best way to eliminate a few hours. Just remember to set an alarm so you don’t sleep through your boarding call. For more tips on how to snooze safely, check out our article on Sleeping in Airports.
  3. Come prepared.
    If you know you’re going to be internet-less, plan accordingly. Pre-download a couple movies or episodes of your favorite TV shows, or fill your web browser with more productive things like Craigslist job postings. No laptop? Other options include packing books, a journal or your (fully charged) iPod. Once you’ve burned through that, head into the airport bookstore, where you’ll surely find an English language section to keep you busy.
  4. Grab some food.
    Airport restaurants usually have some form of local cuisine, so you can at least get a taste of what the country has to offer. Airports are also a great for people watching, so grab a cappuccino, pull up a chair and check out passersby from all corners of the globe.
  5. Buy internet. Internet is the major time-waster of our day. It may not be worthwhile to pay for a single hour, but if you know you’ll be spending lots of time in a particular airport over the course of the semester, then consider throwing down for a month’s worth of usage. For example, it costs £9.95 for 24 hours of Boingo Hotspot (which works in London Heathrow and Rome Fiumicino, among others), and only £11.95 to extend that to the entire month. A lot of airports use the same kind of Wifi so it can carry over from one location to another. It’s an extra expense, sure, but being able to check Facebook will definitely reduce the mind-numbing boredom.
  6. Play time!
    If you’re in a decent-sized group of people, leave one person behind to guard the luggage and play a terminal-wide game of hide-and-go-seek. Break out a pack of cards for a gin rummy tournament. Make up a secret handshake. Play two truths and a lie. You’ve got nothing better to do and a whole airport for your playground – why not let your inner kid take over?

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