Airport Layovers: The Place Where Time Stands Still

Liz’s Note: Ever been stuck with a long airport layover? Yup, we’ve all been there, and it can suck. Unless, of course, you do a little planning and consider the options available both inside the airport and out.

Do you have time to explore the city outside the airport for a few hours? An airport like Logan International in Boston is actually really close to the downtown area, a 10 minute ride on the T’s Silver Line and you are downtown.

Or, check what some airports have to offer, when I was at a layover in Philly recently I noticed they have bedrooms you can rent by the hour, perfect if you want a little nap in privacy.

There are a lot of options, so check out what you can find. But, for a great story on two airport layovers I have yet to have the pleasure of experiencing, once again Erin to the rescue.

The Art of the Layover

Flying 30,000ft in the air. In an aluminum tube. At 500mph. Get it, Science.

But the thought of airport imprisonment makes me shutter.

We’ve all been there, stuck with the airport layover. I feel like I’m going to slip into a scene from “The Terminal” with Tom Hanks and never return.

Enjoying a layover in Germany. Photo: Erin FItch

I just want to get my vacation started, or worse yet, I just want to be home after weeks away. But we bring it on ourselves to save a few bucks, so we have to learn to make the best of it….

From personal experience I can say Narita International Airport, in Tokyo, Japan, is the absolute best place to take a nap.

Last year, I had an airport layover there on my way to Bangkok from New York City and after 14hrs of uncomfortable sleep in a xanax coma, I was quite a cranky passenger. We landed in Narita and the most amazing thing happened, the airport was full of what look like queen size mattresses conveniently located next to the food court. Is this heaven? I stumbled my way over to one, dropped my bags, fell face down and passed out for 5 hours. I’m certain it was the best sleep of my life.

Just a few weeks ago, I was traveling around Europe. I knew the trip would be a little on the expensive side because of the Euro being so much stronger than my USD so I booked the cheapest flight I could find, which included an 8-hour layover in Düsseldorf, Germany.

My trip mates were not happy with this executive decision I made, until I assured them this was the best thing that happened to us.

Enjoy sampling the local cuisine during a layover. Photo: Erin Fitch

We now had a bonus day in Germany! Downtown Düsseldorf is only a 10-minute train ride from the airport, it’s a cute little town by the river and we arrived just in time for lunch. Authentic bratwurst and beer on the water in the old town definitely beats frozen airplane food.

While I scored us a bonus day in Germany, what I failed to do is get us an extra day in Iceland.

Oops.

What I learned the hard way is that Iceland Air offers passengers the opportunity to extend their flight for a stay in Iceland. Instead, my layover consisted of a freezing cold sprint down the jet way in the middle of the night, blowing through customs and screaming what I hoped was the Icelandic word for “wait!!” as we approached our connecting flight to Paris.

My suggestion is to take advantage of this offer and spend a night in Iceland. Seeing the Northern lights as we took off into the night skies really made me wish I had.

The moral of this story is, if you’re stuck with a long layover, do your research and see what the airport and surrounding cities can offer.

If you’re unable to escape to a nearby city, there are worse ways to pass the time than getting a manicure, massage or passing out in the middle of Japan.

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  • Some good tips and stories… I agree that just waiting can be very tedious, but it is preferable to missing your flight.

    When I plan which flight to book I usually look into the facilities available along the route so I can better decide which airfare to book, and also have confidence that there are some options along the way.