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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

7 Things to Do On a Layover

Most people hate the airport, and I get it, but I also know it's a necessary part of a vacation, so I always love to explore new airports. I will plan what I want to do and where I want to eat at airports long before we even travel. I have Gate Guru downloaded to my phone, so I can see what art and other cool stuff there is at the airport. If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.

If you hate the travel part of traveling, here are ways to actually enjoy the airport.

Why do I enjoy the airport so much? It could be that we have one of the best airports in the country (Travel + Leisure has awarded it six years running), but I like most other city's airports, too. I'll tell you why: Viewing the airport as a part of your trip makes it seem way better than just a waiting room to get into a smaller waiting room to get to where you really want to go.

It's like a mall that also has a portal to another destination! (Yeah, I actually hate the mall, but it's the best comparison.) Once you start thinking this way, you might feel differently in the future too, not be one of those annoyed harried people who look at the route monitors with a permanent scowl. Listen, you'll eventually get to where you want to be, so chill out and enjoy yourself. Get  a snack or a beer, buy a new magazine and go check out what the airport has to offer.

I love these new pieces at PDX. They're crochet!

Art collection

All airports now have some sort of art collection. Some even have their own galleries for those travelers who have quite a bit of time to kill. I always like to see the different things on display at different airports. Take some time to wander your terminal to check out the exhibits available. One of my favorites is the History of Flight "museum" in Harry Reid Airport in Las Vegas. They are remodeling, so we'll see what it looks like in its new home.

Play area

Travel with kids can be trying and, after having to sit for hours without getting to flail or even stand up, jumping around and annoying people near the baggage carousel is not a fantastic way to burn off energy (or make friends). Head to the nearest play area, which almost all airports have, and let them climb and run and yell and whatever else so they can be ready to fly or for the next leg of your journey. Bonus is that they are usually airplane themed and lots of kids love pretending to be a pilot. 

Workout rooms

These may be few and far between, but if you're lucky enough to go through an airport with some, pack some shorts and a tee in your carry-on to do some running or strength training. Getting some exercise is a great way to stay alert and get moving after a long flight of being folded into a tiny space. If you normally get a workout in during the day, then you're not missing out by sitting on the plane.


You're probably bringing your laptop or tablet, so why not download some movies or TV shows to watch if you have 90+ minutes to spare on your layover. If you're lucky, you might be in one of those fancy schmancy airports that have an actual theater for travelers and you can see a new movie or short indie films on a big screen.


Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure of something else a little luxurious. I've been lucky enough to get a manicure at the Butter London location in Seattle, but we've also hit up the XpressSpas on trips as well. They do their best to make your treatments short and sweet, so if you have a tighter connection, you can still catch your flight.

Specialty souvenir shops

Bring home gifts to commemorate your trip for yourself or others. If you're just passing through, this is also a great way to sample some of the local flavor, whether it's candy or beer or whatever else. Fair warning, when you go through Portland (PDX) and think Oregon Rain sounds like a fantastic water choice, just don't.

Go sightseeing

If you have a fairly long layover, don't think you can't get out and enjoy your stopover city a bit. Last year, we had 8 hours in Baltimore on our way to Paris, so we stored our luggage and made a fun day out of it. On our way to Philadelphia, any flight we chose out of PDX had a layover in SFO and the outgoing flight from there wasn't until 10:30pm no matter when we flew, so we took the earliest flight, had 12 hours there and met a friend for some sightseeing and catching up. We went to lunch, the zoo, the wax museum, the San Francisco Dungeon and finished up with dinner at Pier 39, then went back to the airport and had a nice sleep overnight on the plane. 
Or entertainment. My favorite new shops are the 24-hour kiosks in airports. You can buy everything from travel-sized makeup to fancy noise-canceling headphones to an ebook reader. You pay full price, but if you forget that sunscreen you love from Supergoop! or the best ever Benefit foundation, or even a toy for your dog, you can get them at whatever time you're stuck at the airport.

What do you like to do to pass the time at airports?

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