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.

Why Teambuild

When deadlines and deliverables are mounting, who can afford an afternoon away from the office?

In a climate where we’re focused on a happy customer, businesses can forget about the happy employee – a company’s most valuable asset! Creating a happy workplace means fostering an environment where the group feels connected, communicates effectively, and trusts each other.

My last workplace put a huge emphasis on out-of-office activities and even made after-hours teambuilding a mandatory affair. These outings were a chance for team members to connect with co-workers in their own departments and other areas of the business. They also provided excellent networking opportunities where you could learn about different departments within the organization. But as beneficial and iconic as these meetings became, I felt a few key elements were missing from them. While these frequent opportunities to mingle with your coworkers were valuable, the fact that they were mandatory became a point of contention. Plus, the extended work-life culture wasn’t always seen as useful since nearly every one of these events was hosted in a bar or venue where drinking was the main event. While hosting large groups did limit venue choice, the barrage of drink tickets by leaders and managers often ended the same way – an atmosphere where excess was encouraged or you were isolated from the rest of the group.

Regular teambuilding has a number of benefits for your employees and business, such as encouraging open communication between colleagues, a chance to give back to the community (more on this in a future post) and improve collaboration. Ultimately, these benefits can impact the quality of work and productivity of your team.

Hey, I’m all for a cool beverage on warm and sunny patio. But here are a few tips for your next teambuilding activity so it doesn’t get tiresome:


Have a Goal

Whether it’s to boost morale or just blow off some steam, set a goal for your activity. Have a clear objective of what your team is looking to develop and tailor the activity to match. For example, if your group needs to cultivate teamwork skills, select an activity that features cooperation like a group scavenger hunt that offers an opportunity for communication and collaboration. If your goal is to encourage creative problem solving, an Escape the Room activity can challenge your team’s critical thinking and imagination.


Factor In Your Group’s Capabilities

Part of getting your team out of the office is the opportunity to bond in a new environment. While you may want to push the boundaries of your usual experiences and daily relationships, you don’t want to isolate team members either. If you have a quiet group you might want to skip the karaoke and instead try a team cooking class where the team cooks parts of a meal and then all dine together. Remember to factor in physical abilities, where everyone has the opportunity to participate. An evening playing Ping Pong allows for all skill and fitness levels to join in.

If the opportunity to leave your workplace for a teambuilding event isn’t an option, there are still plenty of ways to connect with your coworkers. Even a simple game of Pictionary over lunch provides an opportunity to network and have fun.


Don’t Forget to Debrief

Don’t let your productive bonding time become nothing more than an afternoon away from the office. At the end of every outing be sure to set aside time to discuss and debrief. Structure some time to review with participants what they’ve taken away from your activity. Take the time to reflect together on the new skills your colleagues gained, their experiences, what they found valuable, what they learned about each other, and how the outing could translate back in the workplace. This insight will help you shape your next teambuilding event.

Regardless of the activity – a simple afternoon bowling or helping make meals at your local shelter – remember, teambuilding should be fun, have a goal, and leave your group better for the experience.

How summer camp proves the value of in-person meetings and events (hint: it’s the experience).


Why don’t they hold summer camp over Skype?

After all, you wouldn’t have to fight traffic to get there. You’d have to deal with fewer bug bites. And you’d probably save a couple of bucks off of room and board.

I was thinking about this the other day as I helped my 13 year-old daughter pack for her first weeklong summer camp. In this age of mobile everything, can’t you make the case for a virtual summer camp?

Well, if you’ve ever been to camp – you know that the idea of camp based on Skype, or Tumblr, or Pinterest is pretty ridiculous.

Because you’d lose the experience, and the experience is just about everything.

I remember my own camp adventure, jammed together with 90 high school students two decades ago. We pitched tents, slept on the cold ground in sleeping bags, hiked, sang ridiculous camp songs, and made our own meals. This week-long incubator full of fun and work taught us more about what it meant to be real people. It affected and changed us.

Lately, I’ve been hearing about organizations investing less in face-to-face events like National Meetings, and more in the virtual experience. To me, large scale virtual meetings sound almost as absurd as virtual summer camp.

Because you lose the experience, and when it comes to meetings, the experience is just about everything.

It’s just not the same. No opportunity to network, share best practices over a cup of coffee, role play and get immediate feedback on that new product, catch up with old colleagues, make new contacts, celebrate great achievements, or collaborate on new plans for the next quarter.

And if you look at it that way, why even meet in the first place? Like camp, meetings are about coming together and leaving an audience changed. It’s difficult to do that by email.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought that summer camp can actually hold quite a few lessons for meeting planners. The events themselves resemble a national sales meeting.

  • Camp theme (meeting theme)
  • The environment and location (hotel, city)
  • Opening ceremonies (or what we call opening plenary)
  • The camp counsellor (meeting host)
  • The food, group meals (meals, breaks, dine-arounds)
  • Activities, crafts and games (training)
  • Outdoor adventure (teambuilding)
  • Final campfire and talent show (closing plenary, call to action and party)

Making life-long friends, learning new talents, networking, collaborating, over-coming challenges, trading stories, getting home sick, staying up too late, getting up too early – all the ingredients for a memorable experience, without all the distractions from home.

Now, imagine all that crammed into an email or delivered as a virtual meeting.

You are making an investment when you plan for a live meeting. But the cost of not bringing your people together for a shared experience could be even greater. Yes, technology can enhance the experience – it just shouldn’t be the entire experience.

Don’t underestimate the enormous value in assembling your greatest assets – your people, your ambassadors – to share company updates and plans, launch a product, learn new skills or celebrate wins. Feeling that you’re part of a team with a shared sense of purpose is a huge motivator for many employees.

You wouldn’t dream of sending your child to a “virtual camp” – which is exactly why you shouldn’t consider sending your most valuable asset to a “virtual meeting.”