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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.
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.
» Learn more: The best airlines for free stopovers
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.
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:
Watch a film at the movie theater in the airport in Portland, Oregon.
Take your kids to the Family Zone, which includes a playground, at Singapore’s Changi Airport.
Get a massage at the Absolute Spa at Vancouver Airport.
Enjoy a Bavarian beer in the beer garden inside the Munich International Airport.
» Learn more: What are layover, stopover and open jaw flights?
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.
» Learn more: Credit cards with airport lounge access
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.
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.
» Learn more: How to navigate the airport
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.
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.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card