5 Tips for Long Airport Layovers

Some airports have amenities like pools, gyms and even movie theaters that might be worth exploring while you wait.
Josh Garber
By Josh Garber 
Edited by June Casagrande

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Sometimes a great airfare comes with a catch: a long layover. Faced with the prospect of a 4-, 8- or even 12-hour wait between flights, you may be tempted to buy a more expensive ticket or change your travel dates. But actually, a long layover can be a blessing, depending on the amenities that are offered at (or near) the airport.

Here's how to turn your airport layover into a memorable part of your trip.

How to make the most of your layover

1. Leave the airport to explore

Can you leave the airport during a layover? Short answer: It depends.

Make sure you’ll have enough time to store your bags, clear immigration (if needed), go back through security and be on time for your next flight.

🤓Nerdy Tip

As a rough guideline, you need at least four to six hours on a domestic layover or six to eight hours on an international layover before considering this option.

If you can make it happen, exploring a city is a wonderful way to spend a layover. You can check out the city’s architecture, visit a local bar or restaurant, or even sit in a park and unwind after a long flight.

Some airports offer free tours for passengers on long layovers. These include Changi Airport in Singapore, the Istanbul Airport and Incheon International Airport in Seoul. Before you arrive, research your options and ensure you have enough time to leave the airport on your layover.

2. Use unique airport amenities

If you have a long layover, check the airport’s website to see if the airport offers any unique amenities. Below are some examples.

Swimming pools

If relaxing by the pool sounds like a great way to spend a layover (and we know it does!), you’re in luck if you have a layover at:

  • Hamad International Airport, Qatar.

  • Changi Airport, Singapore.

  • Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.

You’ll pay a fee to get in. At Hamad International Airport, entrance to the Vitality Wellbeing & Fitness Centre, which features an indoor pool, will run you just under $50 (175 QAR). At Changi Airport, access to the pool will run you about $13 (S$17.00). In Bangkok, the pool at the airport is at the Novotel Hotel, where a day pass to the fitness center including the pool costs about $30 (TBT 950).

Gyms and wellness centers

Some airports have gyms and other fitness facilities that are a great way to pass the time and release travel-induced stress. Below are fitness facilities that you may be able to use on a long layover:

  • Yoga room at San Francisco Airport.

  • Hilton Health Club at Chicago-O’Hare.

  • G-Force Health Club at Dubai International Airport.

  • ROAM Fitness at Baltimore-Washington Airport.

Other unique amenities

Not interested in working out or swimming? Other unique airport amenities can make your long layover a breeze. For instance, you could:

3. Relax in a lounge

A tried-and-true way to pass the time on a long layover is by spending your time in a comfortable lounge. First, find out what lounges you may be able to access for free based on your ticket class or by holding a credit card that comes with complimentary access to Priority Pass or other lounges. If you don’t have free access, check your airline’s lounge at the airport to see if they sell day passes. Read reviews of the lounge to find out whether food and drinks are offered (and if they’re complimentary) and be sure to check if there are limits on how long you can stay.

A lounge can be a great way to pass the time on long layovers since they’re often much less crowded and quieter than the general terminal, giving you a chance to relax, work or even nap between flights.

4. Get exercise by walking around the airport

If you’re not in an airport with a gym but you’d still like a workout, spend time on your long layover getting exercise by walking around the airport. Flying can affect your body, including causing dehydration and draining you of energy, and going for a walk can be a great way to help counter some of those negative effects.

Some airports that are particularly large, offering great walking opportunities include:

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

  • Los Angeles International Airport.

  • Tokyo-Haneda Airport.

  • Hong Kong International Airport.

Even if you’re not trying to get your heart rate up, walking around an airport can be great for people watching — especially when you’re in an airport in an international hub, like Hong Kong or Istanbul, where you can see people from all over the world.

5. Binge-watch your favorite shows and movies

If you’re on a long layover in an airport that doesn’t offer any fun amenities, a laptop or tablet computer (along with some noise-canceling headphones) could be all you need to pass the time. Bingeing favorite movies or shows can keep you thoroughly entertained between flights.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Download your shows or movies before you travel. Airport Wi-Fi might not be strong enough to support streaming.

If you have a long airport layover

Depending on the airport, a long layover could be a blessing in disguise, giving you a chance to explore a city, relax in a spa, get some exercise or even take a dip in a pool. Before you fly, research the services and amenities offered by the airport where you have a layover. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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