Surviving Layovers and Connecting Flights
We’ve all been there…super excited for our trip and anxious as hell to get there but absolutely not looking forward to the layovers in the airport and the connecting flights we have to make! So why is that some people abhor connections and layovers while others (like me) do just fine with them?
There are only two reasons I know that cause someone to have layovers when going from Point A to Point B…. The first reason (or batch of flyers) wanted to save as much as they possibly could on their ticket price and realized that if they made 2 or 3 stops along the way, the flight cost was dramatically reduced.
The other group of flyers are quite the opposite. They will gladly pay the additional money for a direct flight from Point A to B however no direct flights were available so they are then forced into the dreaded layovers that seem to drag on and on.
So why is it that some people are fine with the flight stops and connections while others just want to survive layovers? Well, lets get to the obvious; lost baggage, missing your connecting flight, figuring out which new gate you need to go to in an unfamiliar airport, possibly having to go back through security, trying to figure out ways to kill time as you stare at the clock, etc. Another reason people hate this is they see the connections as time away from their vacation. And who could blame them? That time that could be better spent sitting on a beach or getting some sound sleep in their hotel upon arrival…
For those folks such as me on the opposite end of the spectrum, we just see some money saved and an opportunity to spend some time getting things done while sitting in an airport or even extending that layover for a chance to see a new city.
No matter which side you’re on, here are some tips for surviving layovers and connecting flights:
- PEOPLE WATCH: Find a good seat at your gate to do some people watching. Its another great way to pass the time.
- PICK YOUR SEAT: For your flight, always try to book a seat near the front of the plane. Sure you may be one of the last groups to board the plane but you’ll always be the first to get off. A real important part of making sure you have extra time to catch a close connecting flight.
- PLAN AHEAD: Brush up on the airport you’re arriving to before you arrive. Typically there is an airport map in the seat in front of you that will show the layout and gates within the airport. You can usually find out from the stewardess which gate you’ll arrive into so you can then figure out where you have to go to catch your next flight.
- BRING SNACKS: Preferably bought before you arrived to the airport if on a tight budget. This will minimize your crankiness while waiting around and help avoid getting disgruntled with airport restaurant pricing.
- PACK LIGHT: In the rare instances when you have to ‘run’ or worse, ‘sprint’ to your next flight connection, you’ll really appreciate having packed light for your carry on luggage.
- HIT THE SHOWERS: For those really long flights with additionally long layovers, head for the showers. It sounds crazy but with most airports that now have rentable showers, it can be well worth the money to get rejuvenated.
- DRESS COMFORTABLY: It seems some people still want to get all dressed up for their flight. That’s fine until you realize that you’re in for next 10-20 hours in the same clothes! And that of course is very uncomfortable.
- READ!: Bring one or two books that interest you. The better the book, the faster the time will pass. Please don’t be that guy on the 5 hour plane ride that brought nothing to read and just stares around the plane aimlessly searching for sparks of interest.
- MAKE SMART CONNECTIONS: Always be smart when booking your flight that will involve connections in an airport. You want to allow enough time between flights. In my mind, enough time would be a one hour minimum for domestic connections and an hour and half for international connections. Nothing creates more stress than knowing you have less than 30 minutes to get from one plane to the next!
- CHECK FOR ALTERNATIVES: When checking in for your flight, you can also ask to find out if its possible to rearrange your flight connections to minimize time with your layover (or extend it if needed)
- STAY UPDATED: Check the status of your flight and monitor the boards for any gate changes. Nothing can be worse than realizing at the last minute that they’ve just changed your departure gate and you have less than ten minutes to get there… (Yes this has happened to me)
Yes, it IS confusing… And is apt to change often so be sure to check the flight time and gates often! I’ve almost missed a flight by not following my own advice…
- HEAD FOR ADVENTURE: For those really really long layovers, if you’d like to make the best of it then take advantage of the fact you’ve got some hours to kill and get out of the airport to see a bit of the city or country you’re in. Sure you may only have a couple hours but it’ll be well worth it compared to the alternative. Just make sure you plan your time accordingly!
- SLEEP IT OFF: And of course, if you have a lot of hours to kill but just not enough for an ambitious trip out of the airport, you can always try for some shut eye. Just remember to: set that alarm, put your luggage in a locker or lock it up securely to your chair that is also attached to you.
Hopefully this is some sage advice for any cranky, red eyed travelers out there that will lessen the painful time spent on multiple planes and in airports. Best of luck and happy travels!