Stuck in the Airport
How to get to the airport—or from the airport downtown—and ways to pass the time during long layovers, early arrivals, and flight delays
We all spend time stuck in airports, whether due to long layovers, departure delays, transit strikes, or simply arriving three hours before your flight as instructed only to breeze through check-in and security in 20 minutes.
Here are ways to kill time in the airport, from shopping to sleeping, as well as the best resources for getting to and from the airport and between airports (many cities have one airport for international, another for domestic flights).
Of course, the best defense against airport boredom is a good book.
Go straight to the source—Airport web sites
Probably the best spot to start learning about an airport is the airport's own Web site, which you can find listed at the Atlas Navigator (www.atlasnavigator.com), a database of direct links to the Web sites of airports around the world.
Most airport sites—in addition to providing the usual data on flight arrival and departure times—have loads of maps, directories of businesses and dining options, hotels that are attached to or nearby the airport, and precise info on how to get to and from downtown.
You can fight off the enforced lethargy of air travel before you even get on the plane by turning your downtime waiting for a flight into workout time. Even if you only have 15 minutes, don’t just sit there waiting to board the plane. Use the time to get fit.
- Do laps of the terminal. Just make sure you keep swinging by your gate to check if anything has changed about your flight.
- Do sitting crunches. Pull your bellybutton to your spine while exhaling; hold; release while inhaling; repeat.
- Do curls with that carry-on. In fact, you can use it as dumbbells for most arm exercises. Hold it backhand over your shoulder against your back and thrust your arm toward to ceiling to work those triceps. Hold it by your hip and, stiff-armed, raise it up and out to the side to work the shoulders. If nothing else, a good set of two reps of ten for each of these exercises will teach you to pack lighter.
- Do air squats. If you want to avoid the curious stares of your fellow passengers, repair to a bathroom stall to work your quads and glutes in private.
When you're stuck in the airport
There are two fine resources for when you have time to kill in an airport during long layovers. The first is brilliantly titled Stuck at the Airport (www.expedia.com/daily/airports)—actually excerpts of 65 major airports from a book by Harriet Baskas. The other is:
Sleeping in airports
This is sleeping as an extreme sport. You need good humor and really long layovers to view sacking out in an airport as a viable option—though with flight delays and missed connections, often the choice isn't yours anyway.
Some of the most ardent posters at SleepingInAirports.com (www.sleepinginairports.com) actually head to airports to catch some Zs even when they don't have a flight. Kooks. Terminals are ranked into three categories: "Hell," "Tolerable," and "Excellent, considering it's an airport."
There's more on this strategy and this site in the ReidsGuides.com section on techniques for Sleeping for Free.