How to Make the Most of Your Airport Layover

Travel can be a lot of hurry-up-and-wait. Every frequent flier, jetsetter and business traveller has found themselves stuck for hours on end at the mercies of an airport food court, or the harsh hospitality of an airport gate. As intrepid travellers, we’ve picked up a few tips from the road which you can use on your next airport layover.

Going to the Chapel

After getting off a plane full of crying babies, or watching your blood pressure rise as the person behind you prods the seatback TV, you might be craving some peace and quiet. However, a secluded spot in a crowded airport won’t be easy to find. One of my favorite secrets of every airport is the chapel. It’s usually a non-denominational peaceful space set aside for prayer, meditation and quiet reflection in an otherwise hectic environment; just remember to keep your laptop and phone stowed away when visiting.

Head to the Clubhouse

One of the fantastic parts about travel is the multitude of clubs you can belong to. A veritable frenzy of frequent flier fraternities compete for your affiliation. Airports offer a multitude of options when it comes to loyalty programs and with them come in-airport club houses.

By joining frequent flier programs, using alliance credit cards or even purchasing lounge access along with your flight you have access to some of the prime real-estate of the airport. Airport lounges have come a long way from the complimentary coffee and cold finger sandwiches. Nowadays, airport lounges have everything from wine cellars to pool tables, spas, a la carte menus, and most important sweet, sweet free WiFi. Some lounges like the No. 1 Traveller Lounge in London offer full bedrooms for rent if you have a long layover or extreme jetlag and cost less than an airport hotel (and come with free meals and snacks that beat room service!)

Savvy travellers get to know their airline alliances – many airlines partner with each other and this allows you to share rewards across airlines. For example, just because you’re a regular Delta passenger in North America doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits in Amsterdam (their local carrier KLM is partners with Delta and loyalty members share a lot of the same privileges!) For the best coverage no matter which airport you arrive in, have a membership with at least one airline from each of the big three alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam) and always carry your loyalty card when you travel.

Amazing Race It

Once you’ve brushed up on your airline alliances, you’ll soon become a pro at airline hub cities. You can find these at major airports where an airline will ‘hub’ or park their planes. These airports are probably familiar to most travelers who have ever had to connect through a seemingly random airport before connecting to their next destination. Because this is where an airline ‘parks’ the planes, it also means that there are often various flights departing a day to your next destination. Knowing these hubs are the hotspots for certain airlines, you can actually use your connecting flight for quick layover visit.

Some examples of hub cities include:

Air Canada: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver

Delta Air Lines: Atlanta, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Boston, Tokyo, Seattle

United Airlines: Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco

Qantas: Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai, Singapore, Los Angeles

Most travel agents and airlines are able to tell you the minimum amount of time needed for a quick layover between connecting flights, but always reserve the two-to-three hours needed to return through security upon your return to the airport. However, for most layovers of over five hours there is more than enough time to get into the heart of the city for a great local meal, an opportunity to see a major landmark, or a quick stroll through a must-see neighbourhood. And it’s always an easy choice when it comes to the opportunity to have lunch at Kat’s Deli or spend another five hours in LaGuardia.

Let’s face it, layovers can be the most annoying part of your trip, but with these tips you can make the best of your next trip to the airport.