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The airport layover is the bane of any traveler. Yet it’s sadly unavoidable if you have a late night or early morning flight. Even worse is if you’re taking a connecting flight and you have to wait for that next flight. You need some hacks for your next airport layover.
I’ve spent more time than I care to mention spent holed up in various airports around the world. Shout out to Asian airports as they’re a pleasure to spend a layover in. If you ever get the chance to have a layover in Singapore Changi, take it. It’s been named the best airport in the world every year for the past seven years.
As we know, US airports are some of the worst on the planet, along with most Latin American airports.
In my experience, the further east you head on the map the better the airports.
So what should you do if you’re trapped in the airport? Here are my life hacks for making your next airport layover less like a living hell.
Try Not to Go Through Airport Security Until the Last Moment
They often tell you that you should get to the airport three hours before an international flight. Utter nonsense. Unless there’s an incident like a strike or it’s around a major holiday, this is entirely unnecessary. I’ve never taken more than an hour to get to the entrance of the airport to airside.
What I do, if I have to check-in at the desk, is to drop everything off and then I go back outside. Airside is hell for a number of reasons:
- You can’t go outside.
- The food normally doubles in price.
- It’s usually much more crowded.
And for smokers, you can’t smoke. In Asian airports, and some European airports, they still have smoking lounges, but in North America, you can forget about it.
Plus, wouldn’t you rather be able to walk around outside and take in some air instead of roaming the long, crowded, overly air-conditioned airside corridors of the average US airport?
Not much of a life hack, I must admit, but it remains the best way to pass the time. My tip for sleeping is to make sure that you find the secret hide holes available in many airports.
If you’re visiting an airport that has multiple floors, always head to the top floor. It’s like these upper floors are invisible or people are too scared to go there.
In my experience, this is the best way to get some peace and quiet.
Another tip I have is if you do intend on just sleeping then disregard the previous tip and head to airside. In the vast majority of airports, the seating is better airside.
When you get there, look at the departures board. See a bunch of skipped gate numbers? This is where you should go because the chances are few people are in that part of the airport and you’ll be able to stretch out across the seats.
To relax in the airport, I recommend this Portable Memory Foam Camping Pillow. Just roll it out and turn any airport into a bedroom.
If you really want some comfort, try this HiHiker Camping Sleeping Pad. Airport workers don’t have problems with people rolling out these things. I’ve seen plenty of them.
Where Can I Find Outlets to Charge My Stuff?
This is one of the biggest questions people have about airports. Modern airports typically have plenty of charging stations, but older ones (most US ones) don’t have a thing. But if you look carefully you can find these hidden outlets.
First of all, search for any machine that’s using electricity. Snack machines, ATMs, or anything else will suffice. Now, look behind it. Many of these machines are often using only one of two outlets. If you can reach it, just plug your device into the free outlet.
On a side note, I’ve seen people on super long layovers unplug these things out of frustration. I don’t recommend it, but if you’re desperate by all means. It’s not a crime.
My other tip for finding a free outlet is to look at where the cleaning staff are. They need outlets for their devices. Feel free to use these, even if they’re next to a restricted area. The worst thing that can happen is they’ll tell you to go away, but quite frankly most airport workers aren’t paid enough to care.
But to avoid all this I’d recommend buying a power bank. These power banks are charging ports on the go, and most good ones will let you recharge your phone three or four times without fail.
One good option is this Digital Power Bank Fast Charger that I’ve seen on Amazon. It’s affordable and has extremely good reviews.
Where Can You Get Free WiFi?
You would think that WiFi would be a given in 2019. But most US airports are old and their owners are just greedy so they either don’t offer WiFi or you have to pay a ridiculous fee for it.
Thankfully, the rest of the world is far ahead of the US on this and you’ll find free WiFi in many places around Europe and Asia.
So what can you do if you don’t know where to get free WiFi?
The first answer is to find a place like Starbucks. Starbucks and other chain brands often have WiFi for customers. If you really don’t want to buy anything you can always look for a receipt on the table and take the password off of that too.
My other tip is to do your research before you get to the airport. For major airports, places like Reddit are your friend. Users will post the latest usernames and passwords of locked networks, so you can use the staff WiFi.
Unethical? Maybe. But quite frankly if airports are going to be so stingy then who cares? I’ve used this tactic many times to great effect. Take note that this information is unlikely to be available for minor airports.
On a side note, you can get some pretty cheap mobile hotspots. Additionally, depending on your plan you may already have a mobile hotspot available via your smartphone.
How Can You Keep Your Kids Entertained in the Airport?
Now as adults we can sleep, watch the world go by, or just send messages to our friends. Dealing with kids, on the other hand, is far harder. You’re not going to get them to sit still and you don’t want them running off and getting lost in the airport.
So what can you do?
This is the one time when your best option is Dr. Tablet and Dr. Smartphone. Most airports are not equipped for dealing with children.
My advice is to make sure that you have all your devices charged, you know where to get WiFi, and you don’t arrive at the airport too early.
Some affordable throwaway smartphones for keeping the kids entertained include the Huawei Mate SE and the Moto G6. They’re all unlocked and less than $300. They’re not the latest models, but they’re great for entertainment.
My Top Hack for Your Airport Layover
Sometimes it’s worth paying the extra dollars to book the same flight at a more convenient time. Sadly, this isn’t always possible without paying an extra couple hundred dollars.
But the point is that if you plan right you can avoid airport layovers as much as possible. I will purposely go out of my way to avoid connecting flights for this reason.
Last Word – What Do You Do to Get Through Airport Layovers?
How many times have you had to endure airport layovers?
If you have any hacks for your next airport layover, tell me about it in the comments!