1. Be On Your Feet.
You just got off an (insert overwhelmingly long number) hour flight. Get up and stretch. Even better: go walk around the airport. Avoid those goofy people movers. A lot of major airports have designated walking routes –almost like trails– set up if you’re looking to burn off those airline “food” calories. I once walked 4 miles, while waiting in Atlanta-Hartsfield for a connecting flight. Great workout.
2. Educate Yourself
Airports aren’t just massive collaborations of airline boarding gates, restaurants and the TSA goons who pretend to save the world; every airport I’ve set foot in has taught me something. Huh? Many terminals offer a lot for the craving mind. Museums, art galleries, and even bookstores. As you stand on that slow moving walkway, keep your eyes open for paintings, photographs or sculptures around the airport. Chances are there’s a placard or display eagerly awaiting your interaction.
3. Flip the Pages
Read. Not on an iPad, not on a Kindle and not on your smartphone. Invest in a good book or two, or relevant magazine. It’ll make the time fly by faster than you know, and it allows you to set goals as the pages turn by. I need to get to chapter 5 by the time my next flight boards.
If you really do have a lengthy layover, I’d say of at least 6-7 hours, go out of the airport and get your feet wet in the local surroundings. Obviously, if security leaving/entering the airport terminal seems overwhelming, I wouldn’t take the chance but use your best judgment. If you can sneak away into the city to grab a quick lunch, see a few sites and hurry back in time for your next flight- do it. If you have an extended layover in an unknown country, apply for a short-term or day-visa and exit the airport. A few years back while flying home from Vietnam, I spent nine hours at Tokyo Narita Airport. Within an hour of landing I was easily able to attain a short-term visa from the Japanese customs and catch a bus into town. I walked around Narita, checked out a museum and had lunch. It was a bit of a sudden culture change combined with a mandatory time limit, but I was able to experience Japan for a bit and break out of my comfort zone. There are plenty of blog sites out there with set itineraries if you can only spend just a few hours in a city while layovered.
5. Live It Up
There’s nothing wrong with pampering yourself while on the go. Splurge on an expensive glass of wine or over-priced craft beer from that bar across the gate. Check into a massage spa and reward yourself with thirty minutes of pure relaxation. Bigger airports even have these things called day rooms or sleeping suites, where you can pay a reasonable rate by the hour for a private, mini hotel room with comfortable bed, hot shower, TV and plenty of amenities to freshen up as you continue your long journey home. Trust me, this is totally worth it.
Just talk to people. Don’t stare aimlessly at your phone, refreshing those social media feeds every four minutes and playing Candy Crush until your eyes fall out. Get up and meet someone new. Maybe you’ll run into an old colleague, flirt with what could be your next significant other, converse with a college professor who teaches a topic that interests you, ask a pilot sitting there reading the paper what he enjoys about his job or just smile at that smoking-hot European flight attendant waiting for her next shift on that Red Eye flight to Frankfurt. Nothing is more enjoyable and satisfying than engaging in a quality conversation, with someone new. That’s how connections are made and relationships start. Even when on the go.