Don’t let long transit hours discourage you from booking your “dream vacation”.
5 hours between your first and second flight can be nerve-racking if you don’t know what to do.
Some people sacrifice more money to get a direct flight to avoid 6 hours ++ transit in an airport. However, if you are well prepared, those few hours could be a memorable experience and a value add to your character.
Why long transit?
As a professional/solo traveler, I used to look for cheaper flights and near-in-proximity terminals for any airport restrictions.
let me tell you why
1- I might need to exit the airport to go to terminal x, and in that case I might need a visa for that country, and what if I don’t, well… complications.
2 -I love big airports, and some cities have more than one, and some others have relatively smaller airports that sometimes you feel very suffocated.
However ,that is not the topic.
This article is all about surviving looooooooong airport waiting hours to board your next flight and still be excited for your dream vacation.
You don’t have to pay hundreds of dollars to be able to enjoy your experience. And you don’t have to break the bank and come back in debt because you could not sustain the suffering of 11 hours airport wait. Also, you don’t have to have a first or a business class boarding card to be entitled to access any lounge.
Transit over 5 hours
What is a transit?
Any two connecting flights fall in this category. Your transit hours start from disembarking the first plane to the airport terminal, then waiting for a few hours till boarding the next one.
What is a long-haul flight?
Any flight that is over 7 hours usually considered a long haul .
What about a layover?
A layover is any amount of time usually12+ staying in a place, over night.
Many people usually use those 3 terms interchangeably. Referring to long waiting hours in an airport as transit hours, long haul, or a layover is correct.
But over here, we will stick to the term “transit”; we will explain layover and long haul in the coming posts.
What to do if you have 6 hours + transit between your flights?
Here is a complete guide on what to do in an airport and how to enjoy your time without going beyond your budget.
But first things first, there are few things you must have to have a wonderful airport stay.
You need a very comfy outfit and a backpack or a big handbag i.e. Longchamp’s. Plus your carry-on , and it is a big recommendation.
But why a backpack? To keep all of your essentials in one place, and the bigger, the better.
Your carry-on bag. It is usually the 7 kg trolley bag, which you keep in the overhead compartment; each passenger is allowed those 2 bags, so you don’t have to pay for allowance.
What should be in your backpack?
Sunglasses: if your long hours are during the day, then you definitely need to protect your eyes as some airports are very bright during the day.
Disposable socks, eyeshades, and ear plugs: don’t leave the ones you received in your previous flight behind , you are gonna need them. Use them again, or even ask the flight attendant to give you another pack if possible.
Disposable travel dental kit :you can keep your amenity bag from your previous flight if the airline distribute them, or buy a travel kit from the airport, it’s approximately between 8 to 10 dollars.
Neck pillow: sleeping seated, on the floor or even in three seats together ,you are going to need it.
A book/notebook, pen: usually some brilliant ideas come unexpected and in those long waiting hours the brain sometimes has nothing to do but to generate ideas nonstop. You need to have a place to store them, you never know when will your one million dollar idea will hit you.
iPad, or laptop: your portable entertainment system; very important in the very boring hours during the night when the airport is not that busy. Dive in your screen and watch that long movie you always wanted to watch.
Fully charged camera or phone :you can’t miss on a wonderful pic of a take off, or a sunset landing. Keep in mind some times the charging stations in airports are always busy, and sometimes they are malfunctions.
Travel wallet: you don’t need the whole massive wallet of everyday life when you are home, you don’t wanna lose that one either. A small one with the travel essentials is more than enough. However don’t forget your loyalty cards of your favorite chains of coffee shops, you might get one on the house.
Another T-shirt: you never know when you sweat too much, or drop something on your t-shirt. you need a quick fix.
Your trolley bag should contain:
A blanket: you will definitely need it, you will never know when and where you are going to call your bed for the night.
Some under ware/another outfit: for accidents? kidding! take it from a pro, airlines lose bags, no matter how famous they are. It’s better to be prepared than sorry, or to pay triple price for something you already have many of or for something you don’t like but you have to buy.
Small toiletry kit: you will need that to freshen up. Get the right travel size, otherwise consider them gashed already.
A pair of flip flops: even if you are travelling with the most comfortable shoes ever, sometimes feet get swollen from pressure, water retention, or even lack of rest. Don’t put so much pressure on your feet, and go Hawaiian in the airport if you need to.
Wipes: there isn’t bathrooms next to each gate. So why pay a visit to the bathroom and walk for 10 minutes with all your belongings each time you wanna wash your hands? You might lose your small colony for the next few hours for another airport settler.
Travel adaptor: this is your most important time machine equipment. Don’t go cheap on this one. Get the international one with all the sockets possible. Whether you go east or west, you will need it.
Power bank :as you already know by now charging stations almost always full, and many people are hogging the station with all the gadgets they have for the night. Remember there is no space for everybody’s device in the airport and not all of them are working anyway even in the highly equipped airports, so you definitely don’t want your phone to die. Have a backup, get a power bank.
What to do? the full guide of 6-7-8 hours
1- Make friends: talking to strangers in airports is the easiest and the most fun thing to do. You will never imagine how people are quite friendly when they are bored. keep the conversation going by asking where they are going and what they are going to do when they reach their destination. Have a coffee and exchange some social media accounts. It’s super super cool to look on each others Instagram accounts later and check the places you have told each others you would visit. Stay in touch with them, their home could be your next couch for your next vacation.
2-Talk to the flight attendants :they are cool and they will tell you things you need to do, and things to see when you arrive to that specific destination. They are the ultimate guide for 24 hours trips. They have a fully packed agenda with a lot to do and things to avoid. Take notes.
3- Work out! Whether you are too shy to do 20 squats or a downward dog in public or not. But even if you are, do some chair yoga , and some neck stretches. Airports have sports for everyone; read the panels and check how many minutes walk to a specific gate and come back to yours. You will discover few things in your small gate to gate trips.
4- Write a blog: write down some notes of your next time in a long transit. What shall you do and what have you forgotten and what are you going to do if you are here anytime soon? Also, write down who you met, draw pictures of people around, but don’t be creepy ,people don’t like it when you stare. start journaling and write down your thoughts with a good coffee and a croissant.
5-People watching: especially children , they are the best in creativity in airports, have a laugh and try to help a parent with his child. You can also look out for any familiar faces ,or a celebrity passing with her 2 toddlers riding their trolleys while the famous actress/mummy is pulling them, that is priceless thing to see.
6-Treat yourself for some lounge food: try to check some apps to get you some deals and discounts. Believe me it works and it feels wonderful to get a deal in airports. Ask the ground attendants at the lounges about those apps . They meet thousands of passengers from around the world and they have a sea of information about some credit cards deals like “the entertainer”. Remember if you don’t ask, they won’t tell you.
7-Sleeeeeeeeep: we didn’t pack a blanket for nothing. Feel cozy and get a bunch of 3 seats together and have a 2 hours of sleep. Don’t forget to set an alarm. If there is NOT a reclining chair or a bench or even some seats together, go Japanese and drop down to the floor it is not that bad. Always hug your bag or use it as a pillow. You don’t wanna wake up having nothing but 2 hours of rest.
8-Watch a movie: your iPad/smart phone/laptop would be your besties in long transit hours. Watching a movie is one amazing technique to kill 2 or 3 hours. Don’t forget to pack your favorite headsets too.
9- Read a book: or swing between two of them. Let your mood take you from one book to another. Sometimes you just can’t continue reading the same book and you just need to have a different one. I recommend to pack two different books of 2 different genres. Or head towards WHSmith and get a new one.
10-Facetime a friend , but be mindful of the time zone.
11-Chech the duty free and see what is the latest offers and deals: sometimes there are few brands and products exclusive to duty free. Don’t spend so much money and know your allowance .Avoid perfumes over 100 ml, otherwise it will be confiscated at your second gate of boarding.
12-Reply to some long abandoned emails ,clear your full inboxes, clean up your phone, and get rid of some dormant apps.
13-Go for foot message or get a pedicure: we packed a pair of flip flops ,time to use them now.
14-Meditate:sounds weird? Absolutely not.
YES! You will hear announcements every few minutes. But it doesn’t have to be an hour long of meditation. Take few minutes and close your eyes and take few deep breaths.
15-Have some late night meal: go for a sandwich or some salads. Have some dried fruits or some nuts while watching your movie. Avoid candy bars and sugar, you will be irritated and agitated faster than you imagine, thanks to the insulin spike.
16- Update your Instagram: all of us must have an airport photo. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Don’t forget to write a nice caption. You will always remember that moment and will always be fond of it.
10 hours + of transit
I have to admit 12 hours of transit is toooooo long. Many reasons behind that, like some cancellation of flights due to technical issues, or even because of weather conditions.
I, for once got stuck in an airport for almost 16 hours. Thinking about that now makes me CRINGE.
Back then I wasn’t so educated about what to do. Airline also lost my luggage and I got stuck with my hand bag which didn’t have much. I needed my suitcase for some necessary things to make me survive the night, that’s why I wrote above it is absolutely necessary to have a small replica of your suitcase, in case you lost it.
12 hours, holly molly what shall you do?
1- Consider leaving the airport for a quick tour of the city and be mindful of your timing. Some airports are quite far from the city and exiting the airport to head downtown is a hassle itself and sometimes is not even worth wasting your precious time and eventually missing your flight for.
2- Have a good night sleep in the airport hotel: bear in mind that if the long transit is due to bad weather or some technical issue and that led to cancelling or delaying the flight and that delay is longer than 11 hours then you are entitled for an accommodation or a hotel and airline is responsible for that- Check the airline policy, and don’t be shy to ask.
Long transits don’t have to be a suffering. If you know what to do and take it very easy and consider it an adventure it will be one funny experience. Remember Tom Hanks “Victor Navaroski” stayed in the airport for 9 months. So, 12 hours is not that bad , not just that we can enjoy them.