Flight delays are just part of life, but frequent flyers know that they don’t have to be a complete drag. And you certainly don’t have to spend all that extra time browsing the overpriced souvenir shops.
Here’s how to turn a waste of time into a great opportunity the next time you find yourself grounded for three or more hours. Manicures and a cold glass of Prosecco, anyone?
Three hours to kill
As long as you can carefully maneuver your carry-on post-mani-pedi, three hours is more than enough time to take advantage of an airport nail salon. There’s no need to worry about your manicurist neglecting you — the pros at places like Xpresspa in La Guardia or Butter London Nail Salon in Seattle-Tacoma are trained to get you in and out in time to catch your flight. Even Toronto’s Pearson Airport has a 10 Minute Manicure shop that’s just itching to glam you up.
Want a more in-depth beauty treatment? The airports in Detroit, Orlando and San Francisco each have their own Aveda salon.
No spa available? Keep an eye out for other relaxing options like meditation rooms and lounges (check with your credit card company to see if you have access privileges).
Eight hours to kill
You could leave the airport, explore for a bit, and then go through security all over again, but why bother when you could take a nap and shower instead? That way, you show up at your final destination feeling clean and refreshed. What is it about flying that make us feel so grimy anyway? Oh yeah: recycled air.
Some airports (like Charles De Gaulle in Paris, Schiphol in Amsterdam, and both Gatwick and Heathrow in London) have tiny, “capsule” hotel rooms equipped with cozy bunks and hot showers that you can rent by the hour.
YotelAir will even deliver a meal to your temporary accommodations — their room service runs 24 hours a day so you can eat in your underwear just minutes from your gate.
If sleeping in small spaces isn’t your thing and you refuse to leave the airport, there are a few other ways to make the most out of your time waiting for your flight. Some airports offer entertaining features to keep travellers occupied while they wait. Incheon Airport in South Korea, for instance, has an indoor ice skating rink, and the Helsinki Airport in Finland features stunning art exhibits to admire. So be sure to find out if there are any notable forms of entertainment in the airport you’re stuck in.
12 hours to kill
It’s been scientifically proven that spending 12 hours in an airport is detrimental to your health (okay, there’s no actual data on that, but anyone who’s done it can attest to the fact that it’s no fun). If you’ve got a layover nearing the 12-hour mark, here are two words of advice: GET OUT.
There’s not enough free airport WiFi in the world to entertain you for that length of time. Use the power of the internet (or ask a real live human) for recommendations on a local site to check out and a great nearby restaurant to have a meal in. Then, using an app like Rome2Rio, map out the most efficient way to get there (in European cities, that often means transit — don’t be intimidated, Rome2Rio will give you accurate prices, schedules and routes).
24 hours to kill
Welcome to your mini (unplanned) vacation. While a delay in getting to your ultimate destination can be a bit of a bummer, look at it this way: you have an opportunity to see a city you might not visit under any other circumstance — so let’s do this.
Most likely, you’ll have the option of accessing your checked luggage (just remember to leave time to re-check it) so you can get what you need for the night. Different airlines have different types of compensation for delays that often include vouchers for meals, your hotel and transportation to and from the airport. With those things taken care of, you’re free to see the sights. Take in a major gallery or museum, or snag rush tickets to a show.