14 Things to Do During an Airport Layover

Airport layovers can sometimes leave you with a lot of time that might seem hard to use well, especially in a place you don’t know. This list of things to do during an airport layover will help you bust the boredom and make the most of your layover. You might even enjoy it! 

Kick back in an airport lounge

While waiting for your next flight, a great way to enhance your layover is by spending time in an airport lounge. Lounge access can provide a comfortable and quiet environment away from the noisy and crowded terminal.

Lounge privileges often include complimentary food and beverages, good Wi-Fi, comfortable seating with plenty of charger access, and sometimes even showers. 

Here’s how you might be able to access these lounges:

  • If you’re a frequent flyer, check if your status grants you free entry.
  • If you don’t fly often, you can still buy a day pass for the lounge. These passes are pricey, but they may be worth it for a very long layover.
  • Some credit cards offer complimentary lounge access or discounted entry rates as a perk.

Our Chase United Mileage Plus Explorer card gives us two free United lounge passes each year. We’re always happy when we get a layover long enough to make good use of them.

Woman in silhouette with a cup of coffee and a rolling suitcase, looking out a window at airport buildings and a plane flying by.

Enjoy a sitdown meal

When you’re dealing with a lengthy layover, why not treat yourself to a sit-down meal at one of the airport’s restaurants? At a full-service restaurant, you can take a breath, unwind, stretch your legs, and enjoy a leisurely meal before the next leg of your journey.

Check the airport directory to find a list of dining options. You’ll usually find a diverse range of dining locations catering to different tastes. I only travel with carry-on bags, so I choose restaurants with space between or under tables to store them easily.

Do some shopping

Consider exploring the world of airport shopping. Airport terminals often have a variety of retail stores, from luxury brands to local products that make great souvenirs.

Airport shops are also great places to find:

  • Your next great airplane reads
  • Electronics and gadgets
  • Travel essentials like pillows or toiletries
  • Snacks, bottled drinks, and packaged foods you can take on the plane so you don’t go hungry.

Get some exercise

During a long layover, getting your body moving is a great idea. It ensures you’re not stiff and groggy for the next leg of your journey. Staying active not only helps physically but also improves your mood by releasing endorphins. You can keep active by walking around the terminal to explore your food options or peruse the shops

young woman with a carry-on bag in an airport

Take a nap

Are you feeling exhausted from your travels? Your long layover in the airport is the perfect time to try to get a nap. If you’re tired enough, an empty departure gate seating area might be all you need to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. Set an alarm so you don’t miss your flight’s boarding time.

If you need privacy, look for nap pods to rent at the airport or check lounges for nap rooms. Some places might let priority guests use these rooms for an hour at no cost.

Look for art

When you’re walking through the terminals, keep an eye out for art installations. Airport art exhibitions can range from sculptures to photography that showcase local or international talents.

Check the airport’s website for details on public art installations and their locations to find them easily.

View of an airplane through the window of a airport gate waiting area

Spend some time with your travel journal

Your travel journal can be your perfect layover companion. Since you have extra time on your hands, you can grab your journal, your pen, and a cup of coffee and get caught up on recording your travel memories.

If you’re not sure what to write about, I have free travel journal prompts you can use to get your writing juices flowing.

Don’t limit yourself to just writing about your experiences. Consider sketching something that caught your eye, even if it’s just a rough doodle. Your travel journal doesn’t judge; it’s a safe space for your creativity.

Watch a movie

While waiting for your next flight, getting lost in a movie is a great way to pass the time. If you have a laptop or a smartphone, accessing your favorite streaming service is a breeze. Make sure to pack your headphones to avoid disturbing fellow travelers.

I recommend that you plug in your device while you watch so it stays fully charged for the next leg of your trip. To prevent viewing interruptions from slow airport WiFi, download your movie if possible.

Catch up on your reading

Disappointed with yourself for how little you read on your flight? Your long airport layover is the perfect time to catch up.

Airports can be stressful. Immersing yourself in a book can provide a much-needed retreat. If you’re not trying to escape, grab that business book you’ve been toting around and finally check it off your “to read” list.

Before you even leave home you can load up your e-reader, phone, or tablet with books. And you might not even have to pay a penny. See what ebooks are available for you to check out through your local library.

Sometimes, you might want to close your eyes and rest. Audiobooks are perfect for that; just plug in and relax.

Not sure what you want to read next? I have some great ideas for your next read.

Girl at the airport window

Review your itinerary

While you’re waiting for your next flight, take a moment to go over your travel plans. It’s a perfect time to double-check your flight details, accommodations, and ground transportation

And your itinerary isn’t just about places to stay and transportation.

  • Look at the activities you’ve planned, and make sure you know what the costs are and the hours.
  • If you’ve booked guided tours, make sure you know the meeting place and time. Some require check-in in advance. Showing up on time may not cut it.
  • Don’t forget to confirm any dining reservations you may have made or take a few minutes to look for additional dining options.

Charge your devices

A layover is the perfect time to make sure all your devices are fully charged before you take off on the next leg of your trip. Most airports have charging stations or outlets throughout the terminals. 

Keep in mind that the FBI warned in 2023 against using public charging stations. They said that bad actors had figured out how to introduce malware on devices using those stations. For your protection, using only standard outlets to charge your devices is probably best.

Hopefully this goes without saying, but it’s also important to not leave your devices unattended while they’re plugged in.

Go over your photos from your trip

When you’re sitting in the airport, it’s the perfect time to sort through your trip’s photos. Grab a coffee, relive those memories, and organize your images.

I like to start by eliminating any duplicates or blurry shots. This declutters my gallery and saves space. Then I like to do some cropping and editing. I’ll apply easy filters or adjust the brightness. Editing now saves time later when I post these photos on social media or include them in travel guide articles.

Catch up on emails

Some quiet time in the airport is a great time to declutter that email inbox that’s been filling up while you travel.

  • I start by deleting everything I know I don’t need, and unsubscribing from those I routinely delete without reading.
  • I quickly reply to and then delete each email that doesn’t require much time to answer.
  • Then I move on to emails that may have content I want but can be skimmed quickly. These are usually roundup-style emails from sites that publish a lot of content daily or weekly.
  • Finally, I move on to the emails I want to read fully, favorite newsletters, and such.

At the end of the process, I have a tidier email inbox with only emails that I’m saving for a particular purpose or that need a little more thought before replying. Plus there is less for me to do once I land.

mockup image of a free printable travel planner

Call a friend to catch up

While you’re waiting for your next flight, why not connect with a friend or family member? A layover is the perfect opportunity for a long juicy chat. A hearty conversation can make time fly by.

Be aware of others around you by using headphones, speaking quietly, avoiding speakerphone, and keeping personal conversations private. And if your conversation gets sensitive or highly personal, move away from others.

Final thoughts on airport layovers

When you find yourself with time to spare between flights, remember that a layover can be more than just a waiting game. View it as an opportunity to get creative with your time and enjoy a mini-adventure or a well-deserved break. Grab a meal or just a snack, do some exploring, or catch up on some reading or emails you’ve been meaning to take care of.

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