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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Surviving Flight Delays and Long Layovers 12.3.11

Flight Delayed could be the most annoying words ever heard or seen at the airport, overshadowed only by Flight Cancelled. So, you called the airport and your flight was on time and you got there nice and early and just as you check the monitors, you see your flight go from on time to delayed. Now what? You aren’t going to turn around and go home, so it’s time to improvise. If you’re like me, you either assume security lines will be miles long or you want to eat and shop/browse before take-off, so you arrive a few hours early “just in case”. Just in case what? Who knows? But you know you’re prepared. Of course, it’s not quite as exciting to find out that plans have gone the opposite way and instead of security and lunch taking an hour, they take 20 minutes and your flight has been pushed back an hour, two hours, forever. Or so it seems.

Remember to eat! – The food at the airport or surrounding area is going to be way better than what you have to pay for on the plane, so if you have some extra time and haven't picked up a meal yet, then go get something. You'll be happy if you're full (but not TOO full) and will have a better selection to choose from than the couple choices onboard.

Browse the shops – You don't need to buy anything, but there are so many fun things to look at in most airports that you can kill a lot of time by just wandering around and finding unique things...and possibly find a gift or two. If you're going, you can always plan to buy and pick it up on the way back home. Some airports now have gift purchase, where you can buy on your way out and pick up your items when you return. Brilliant!

Get pampered – Find yourself stressed out over how much time you have to spare? Hit up the airport spa and get a pedicure, massage or similar treatment. You're on vacation, so you might as well shell out a little money on yourself. It doesn't have to be a lot. Get a quick polish change or a foot rub to feel a little better about yourself before you (finally) start on your journey.

Hit the bar – That's not me telling you to go get plowed. Get a drink, even if it's an ice tea, and enjoy a game while you wait. Engage with other sports fans and get out some energy and aggression before getting on the plane. You'll be less annoyed about leaving late and probably be able to nap on the flight.

Look at art – Some larger airports (and even some mid- to small-size) have installations that rotate into the terminals. Dallas Ft. Worth is one that comes to mind. If you don't have time to go out and see something in the city during your delay (see more about this below), you can soak up some culture right where you are, from scuptures to artwork to poetry. I have seen some crazy cool stuff at the airport that's worth taking the time to admire.

Charge your devices – If you have email to catch up on or can blog or play a game or surf the Internet or read a book on your e-reader, then you will want to make sure those gadgets are fully charged before you leave home. While you can usually plug in at the gate, those seats aren’t always ideal for charging and using, so make sure you have enough juice for any extra long waits…or a backup battery.

I’m already inspired by Anthony Bourdain’s new show Layover. I often wish that I had some long layovers in cities, so I can explore. Sadly, this rarely happens to me without me planning it that way, but when using frequent flyer miles to purchase a reward seat, it could end up that your connecting flights don’t quite match up. Luckily, even a few meals and a hotel room for the night are still cheaper than paying for your flight, so having a lengthy layover of 12 hours or more isn’t too much of an inconvenience. We had one of these on both ends of a trip to Ecuador and spent the night in Dallas both times. What do you do with that extra time?

Nobody wants to spend their time sleeping at the airport if they don’t have to. If you know you’ll be enduring a layover of many hours (once we had a 6-hour layover and watched two movies on our DVD player), plan accordingly. If you will be waiting overnight for your next flight to go out, look into getting a nearby hotel room. You can sleep in a proper bed and not worry about someone stealing your luggage. Plus, there will likely be available food options, where many dining venues (and stores and services) shut down for the night. No Jumbo Jack for you at 3am. Once you’ve secured a place for your stuff, here are some other ideas for ways to while away the time.
  • Take in a movie – Look up movie times before you leave home to see what may sound good if you can still keep your eyes open after a day of travel. 
  • Check out a museum or other local attraction – If your flight gets in at a reasonable hour and you still have time to do some proper sightseeing, stash your bags, freshen up and go do them. If your long layover was planned, make sure to research some places you want to see beforehand. 
  • Hit up a hot club – Make some friends, try a funky cocktail and get some exercise. Many big cities have hoppin’ nightlife that you may want to experience. 
  • Pre-vacation shop – Are you staying near some unique shopping venues that you can’t resist? Make some purchases and mail them home. It’s like vacation souvenirs from before you actually are on vacation. 
  • Try some local cuisine – Do you love food? I sure do! Find a restaurant that specializes in local grub and order a bunch of appetizers for your travel party. That way you can try a little bit of everything for a little bit less and not stuff yourself. Or if there is one dish everyone says is the thing you must try, order that and enjoy. 
  • Relax – You’re on vacation, so chill. If you don’t feel like doing anything, then don’t. Grab some take away, curl up on your bed and watch TV. Chances are you’ll have to get up bright and early to make your connection, so rest up as much as you can.

Do you hate flight delays and layovers or, are you like me, and think they give you the opportunity to see and do more at the airport? Often you just pass through and don't have time to see what's new or interesting, which can be a bummer for those that like to window shop or try new cafes and restaurants and don't want to spend money to park to do it when they aren't traveling anywhere. Also, don't forget that if you are forced into a layover, because you've been bumped from your original flight, you are entitled to compensation. See what and how much here.

I've decided to join almost all the other online sites in extending their sales through the week. If you want to get a copy (or three) of Shereen Travels Cheap, I’ll give you a code for 20% off! Purchase the book through my page on CreateSpace and use code BBGHV9F8 and purchase an ebook through Smashwords and use code UV82P. I’ve already had several people I know buy two or more copies as holiday gifts, so I know travel is a great gift to give. These codes will be good through Sunday, December 4th.

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