If you’ve ever had a lot of hours to kill, you’ll remember the smell of ‘all the perfumes,’ says Jenny Stallard.
A woman in the international airport looking at the flight information board
For many of us, the time spent at an airport is usually restricted to a few hours at most, as we wait for a long-haul flight after check-in. But for others who choose or need to change planes, it can mean a layover – where you are in one destination for many hours.
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If you have ever had a long layover, these are the stages you’ll know all too well…
1. Duty-free shopping
Sooner or later, you will succumb. Before you do, you try one perfume, then another… eventually, for 10 hours, you smell more Moulin-Rouge-the-morning-after than eternal youth.
2. Thinking the airport hotel is fancier than it is
should I leave the Heathrow airport to sleep in the city for a connecting flight in the morning or live in the airport for 14 hours? the idea of customs and luggage and hotel check-in and drive time to sleep…bah
It’s so exciting if you plan to stay in a hotel near the airport for your layover. How exotic, being so close to a transport hub. All the planes outside are carrying hundreds of people all over the globe, and you’re there, in the center of it.
No matter what, the toiletries aren’t fancy, and you can’t unpack: This is living on the edge, and somehow the minibar feels more accessible than even in your fancy hotel room you just left in your holiday destination…
3. You will end up in one of the restaurants even when it’s not mealing time…
No hotel? Well, that means it’s restaurant time. Even if it’s not mealtime, with so many to choose from, you might find yourself running the gauntlet of everything from noodles to the caviar bar. Just how long can you stay at the table eking out that carafe of water or coffee, you wonder.
Add to that the time you spend in the bar – hey, if your layover is long enough, you might end up having one too many, getting through a hangover, then having a fry up. We don’t recommend spending a whole layover drinking, though, for obvious reasons.
4. You could read a whole book, and you’ll play games
When did you last finish a book in one sitting? Exactly! Airport layovers are great for reading, and the best thing is, there is always a shop to buy a new tome if you finish yours too soon and want to start another. You might get lucky and find a book swap recruit somewhere – scanning the other travelers for someone who is about to finish their novel, too.
When the reading’s all done, you turn to that most trusty of pastimes, cards. You might even go so far as to buy a travel Scrabble or Uno. After all, if there are arguments over who’s the winner, you have time to make up before you board the plane.
5. You consider paying for a posh lounge
At first, it’s too expensive. Five hours in, you’re wondering why you haven’t done it. You either a) go for it or b) hesitate again then truly regret it another two hours in. Is it too late now? You spend another half an hour debating this.
6. Wondering if you could do some sightseeing
Many people manage this, and it can be a fabulous way to spend layover time. Were you stopping in LA on the way home from New Zealand? Time to head to Hollywood Boulevard or Rodeo drive for a speedy lunch before your flight back to blighty. It can involve some planning – such as leaving your bags somewhere safe and not losing track of your new check-in time.
7. Wishing you’d brought a better travel pillow
And then buying one… and falling asleep on a chair akin to a concrete torture instrument. How much was that lounge again…?
Yes, some people will consider exercise, and some will even manage it. At one hotel in Changi Airport, Singapore, there’s a rooftop pool where you can do some lengths and watch the planes take off. Much better, some might argue, though, is riding the airport trolleys (stay away from the baggage carousel!). You decide to try and have a race in the middle of the night and find you’re pretty good at going around corners.
9. The dash to the boarding gate
Despite having hours to get there, somehow the long wait means you end up racing through the shops buying magazines, water and legging it to the boarding gate with hardly any time to spare.