Travel 101: 5 Tips for Not Going Insane While Stranded in an Airport

Traveling is no luxury like it used to be – no blankets, no pillows, no nice hot meals with branded silverware. Security lines go on forever, delays happen more and more often and crazy weather appears out of nowhere. Direct flights have become a treat and sometimes you just need to hang about for a few hours just to save a buck.

Getting stuck in an airport can happen to the best of us and sometimes there’s little choice on what you can do. Booking a hotel doesn’t come cheap and neither does heading outside or even buying a one-day pass to a fancy VIP lounge. Your best shot at catching your next flight is sticking around and making the best of the night or day until it’s time to head out again.

Don’t get frustrated! Be happy, positive and patient, you’re heading somewhere wonderful, do your best to enjoy the ride.

Here’s some tips on keeping busy when stuck long hours in an airport:

Tip #1: Prepare!

Before you leave, make sure you’ve packed a few essentials in your carry-on. You never know when you might face delays so it’s better to be over prepared. Always include a sweater or small blanket, deodorant, basic toiletries and other items such as chargers, books and your basic electronics. If you can fit an extra set of clothes, go ahead and do that too.

Once you’ve dealt with the airline and booked your next flight, take a walk, get to know your surroundings and find your next gate.

Two people relaxing in chairs at Boston's Logan Airport
Bored at Logan Airport, Boston © James Arnott

Tip #2: Location, Location, Location

If you’re in for a long day or even for the night, “the spot” is the one thing you need to focus on at this point. It’s tricky but it can be done! Find a place that’s close to the bathroom, has little traffic and is not too far from your next gate. Make sure you have floor space in case you want to take a nap and hopefully a plug nearby too.

Another thing to look for is internet access, check quickly to make sure there’s a free (or cheap) wifi hotspot close by before you settle in for the wait. There’s no rules on what to do, feel free to head out for a walk, you can always head back to your spot when you’re ready for some chill time.

Central Japan International Airport.
© MIKI Yoshihito

Tip #3: The Right Entertainment

I’m always working when I travel so internet access is essential for me. Long hours with nothing to do give me time to catch up on work, organize e-mail, clean up my desktop, research about my trip and even work on my bucket list! If you love to read, this is the perfect moment to curl up with your book, entertain yourself with a cheesy celebrity magazine or even write in your journal or work on your to-do list. Are you the artsy type? Go ahead and work on your sketches.

Music makes a long wait more enjoyable as well as a good movie if you have any on your computer or your tablet, just make sure you have that plug nearby.

Ever seen those little airport spa nooks? This can be a great opportunity to visit those, get your nails done or catch a quick nap on a cozy massage chair.

If you get restless, try to stay active, if you’re into yoga, go ahead and strike a pose!

People-watching is among the best airport entertainment in my book – there’s always lots of fun and funky people walking around (this is where you can bust out that sketch book!).

Tip #4: The Right Food

If you’re traveling at night, grab some grub before all the food stalls close, stock up on enough supplies that will get you through the night. If you’re too hyper to stick to “the spot”, try exploring and eating small meals here and there, it will give you new locations to enjoy and new people to watch.

Try to stick to healthy meals instead of going for that big fat juicy burger, last thing you want is nasty stomach issues. If you’re really bored and need some company, go looking for the nice noisy bar, find a stool and grab a beer (just don’t overdo it!)

Sleeping With Style @ Changi Airport
Sleeping With Style @ Changi Airport © Robertus B. Herdiyanto

Tip #5: Get Your Z’s

If you’re in for a huge delay, do your best to get some sleep. If you can find a couch then go for it; if not, try a nice soft bench or quiet corner on the floor. Don’t be shy to make yourself comfortable, people sleeping in airports are not considered hobos anymore! Grab that warm sweater or little blanket you packed and roll your bag into a pillow. Set an alarm to make sure you don’t oversleep and miss your flight.

Also, make sure you hide your valuables, stay safe and have your flight info at hand in case airport security comes knocking.

The Bottom Line

All in all, time will fly by (pun intended) and you’ll be on your way before you know it. Just try to make the best of the situation and stay positive. Stay safe at all times and follow all airport rules, don’t forget your deodorant and your etiquette, always be kind and friendly.

What’s been your worse experience while stranded at an airport?

3 Responses

  1. Kay

    This is awesome advice…I always get super unlucky with these kinds of things and have to camp out at airports fairly regularly. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  2. Tru

    This has got to be a joke. To sleep in an airport, “roll your bag into a pillow”? Yeah, those rolling suitcases roll up into great pillows! You also neglect to mention the most important necessities for sleeping in the average airport: a sleep mask (to block out the blindingly bright lights) and earplugs (to drown out the constant blast of pop music from the ceiling and CNN on every screen). Enough of that will, indeed, drive you insane. I’ve heard some airports actually have quiet spots with comfy lounge chairs you can get a decent rest on, but not the one where I got stranded. Had I not been able to find a couple of benches I could push together in a relatively quiet corridor of the (booked solid) airport hotel, I think insanity would have indeed claimed me. I was almost willing to act horribly enough to get myself arrested; at least then I’d have a quiet cot to sleep on.

    Reply

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