15 awesome ways to pass time at the airport

When it comes to airports, it seems we’re always either short on time and rushing to clear security or left with infinite hours to kill, mulling about aimlessly until our flight is ready to board. If you find yourself in the latter camp with an extra-long layover, there are a number of ways to transform that boredom into a time of excitement, relaxation and wonder. Read on, weary traveller, for here are 15 awesome ways to pass time at the airport. You may even wish your layover was longer 😉

1. Conduct your own food tour

You’re possibly starving after skipping the warmed-up airplane food, so why not conduct your very own food tour of the airport? Many airports are home to outposts of popular local restaurants, so this is your chance to sample the local cuisine – even if there isn’t time to head into the city. Sydney Airport’s Kitchen by Mike, featuring a seasonally driven menu by Sydney chef Mike McEnearney, is one great example. And be sure to Instagram it all, as you might find a new calling as a food blogger. But even if not, you’ll have had a good (although possibly expensive) feed.

2. Get a massage

I don’t suggest asking the person next to you on the plane to do this, but airport day spas are becoming more common. Relax those super cramped muscles or enjoy the bliss of a soothing facial.

Who says flying is stressful?

3. Become a YouTube sensation

Do you remember the guy who propelled to YouTube fame with his hilarious Celine Dion rendition of All By Myself during his own “boring” layover? You won’t remember his name, but you’ll remember this YouTube clip. Why not skyrocket to fame with your own airport music video?

4. Shop until you drop

Airports are known as the place to pick up kitschy last-minute souvenirs, but many now host popular stores, where you can peruse locally made or designer clothing, accessories, and gifts. For example, Sydney Airport is home to Coach, Oxford, Witchery, Seed Woman, Rip Curl, Victoria’s Secret, Tiffany& Co., Kate Spade, JB Hi-Fi, Lorna Jane, M.A.C Cosmetics, L’Occitane, and more. If you’re interested in Duty Free products, airports such as Auckland even have a “buy-now, pick up later” policy that allows you to make purchases, then pick up your goods when you arrive back on your return journey.

5. Explore with a scavenger hunt

Yes, you could wander aimlessly, window shopping along the way, or you could make a list of random objects and hunt them all down in a scavenger hunt. Kids especially love this one and may just get sidetracked at the play area, giving you a chance to catch your breath.

6. Get some exercise

While you’re in transit, you’ll probably spend a lot of time sitting around. Get your energy back up with a little exercise. Many airports now have yoga studios, while you’ll find ice skating at Seoul Incheon Airport, and a swimming pool and squash courts at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Brisbane International Airport even has Charge Bikes – exercise bikes that use your pedal power to recharge your phone!

Yoga at the airport? Yep, it’s a thing!

7. Pretend you’re a VIP

Nothing says VIP like entering the guarded gates of an airport lounge, where you can sip on free beer and snack on delicious hors d’oeuvres. Some high-end airport lounges even have showers, putting greens, and movie theatres. Remember, you don’t have to fly first class to feel first class – anyone can purchase lounge passes for good airports worldwide via web sites such as LoungeBuddy.

8. Get some sleep

After sitting upright in a plane seat for hours, nothing feels as good as stretching out in a comfortable airport lounge chair or a hotel bed. If your layover falls over a late night/early morning, think about treating yourself to a stay at an airport hotel. Not only will you get a bed, but access to the hotel’s amenities (like its pool or fitness centre) as well. Just make sure your watch is set to the right time zone and the alarm is on. Because even sleep doesn’t feel as good as making your flight.

9. Discover hidden gems

You’d be surprised what you can discover with a little extra digging. Did you know, for example, you can access an observation deck at Sydney Airport via an elevator inside the Volare Bistro? Meanwhile, in Fiji, about five minutes from Nadi International Airport, you’ll find the Essence of Fiji Rejuvenation Centre – a transit lounge offering a rooftop patio with views of the Sabeto Mountains, a hair salon and a day spa featuring natural products made on site with local ingredients. The rejuvenation centre’s an especially great pick for families, with its outdoor children’s area – complete with nanny care – featuring a jumping castle, trampoline, ball pit and more.

10. Be social

No-one likes a Chatty Cathy on the plane, but they sure like them at the airport, especially at airport bars. Your social streak could also extend to the bored airport staff behind the desk or your mother in another time zone – either way, you’re sure to find someone who will want to hear about your travels so far. And, hey, you may end up with an upgrade – either from airport staff or just in your mum’s eyes.

11. Discover airport entertainment

Okay, not every airport is going to be decked out for you to enjoy your layover, but plenty of them are getting there. Singapore’s Changi Airport – with its three free screening rooms, an entertainment area with free video games and music-listening pods, and butterfly sanctuary – is one of the best places to pass the time on a layover. Plus, they recently installed a four-storey-high slide!

Butterfly at Singapore Changi Airport

12. Do something you’ve never done

Nothing passes the time like learning something new. Learn the language of the country you’re visiting. Try your hand at juggling or practice your poker face with some cards. Teach yourself some basic hip-hop moves… Just be sure to wear headphones. Your fellow travellers might not appreciate your dance track.

13. Indulge in some international people watching

Airports rarely lack people, so why not spend some time people watching? Guess where people are coming from or going. Grab some tissues and watch emotional reunions at the arrivals gate. Airports are melting pots of religion, age, culture, and gender, so you are sure to make up some amazing stories about the people you spy. Maybe we’ll be reading your book next year!

What’s their story?

14. Get comfy

Those airplane toilets are almost impossible to sit in, let alone change outfits. So take the time to change your clothes, brush your teeth, do your hair and touch up your makeup before boarding again.

15. Get out

If your layover is long enough (I recommend at least five hours), then leave. Many airports offer day trips or have direct train service into town. Beautiful Singapore’s Changi Airport even offers free two-hour tours!

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